When Potty Training Goes Badly

When Potty Training Goes Badly

Potty training is an emotive subject at the best of times. But a story in the news today about increasing numbers of children not being properly potty trained by the time they start school has been provoking quite the discussion on social media today.

Apparently recent research found that 70% of primary school teachers say they've seen an increase in the number of children aged between three and seven years old having toilet accidents during the school day.

Don't we all, at some stage, fear that our kids might not suss toilet training by the time they start school? Unless your child sailed through the potty training stage, of course, in which case you probably won't understand why some of us cringed into our coffee when we read this story in the news today.

It was a topic of some discussion among the Playpennies team today, with some of us feeling that the pressure to nail getting your child out of nappies is challenging enough, without articles like this making us feel like we're somehow failing if our tots aren't burning the nappies and demanding pants well before their third birthday.

On the other hand, there's an argument which says that not having your child properly potty trained by the time they start school is akin to lazy parenting.

Ouch. I can't get behind that line of thinking because I've had one of *those* potty training experiences with a child which, well, let's just say it involved a lot of laundry and lots of time spent weeping into the bath as I hosed down my little darling yet again.

So no, I don't think increased numbers of kids having toilet accidents at school simply comes down to lazy parenting. Come to think of it, I spent the best part of a year trying to get to the bottom (no pun intended) of why potty training just wasn't plain-sailing for one of my kids, so I hardly think our trouble could be written off as laziness.

Maybe we started too soon, maybe I made it harder by how I reacted when it went badly, maybe there was too much else going on in our lives. But I've also had a child who literally took potty training matters into their own hands, demanding pants and ditching nappies with zero input from me. And yes, that was also well before they were three.

So I wouldn't like to hazard a guess as to why increasing numbers of kids are struggling to nail toilet training in time for starting school. The papers are full of parenting experts sharing their theories on this - everything from nappies being too good and too affordable, making potty training harder for kids and disinclining parents to 'bother' with potty-training, to working parents having too little time to devote to tasks like potty training.

All I know is this. None of those arguments feel good if you're in the grip of potty training trials. It can feel like this stage of difficult parenting will never end, and the last thing you need to feel is further pressure to get it sorted for fear of your kid being a pariah in the school playground.

But one day, quite literally almost overnight, my 'tricky' potty trainer just suddenly sussed it and we never looked back. Yours will too.

We'd like to hear your views on this story. Feel free to share your potty training success stories - or indeed poo trials! Leave a comment below or head over to our Facebook page.


  • Rikki P.

    We had a hell of a time but we got there in the end (had to remove some things from his diet). Best tip I read was to have a spare quilt (ready made up), sheet, PJs and mattress protector close to the bed for night time accidents once you've moved onto night training (obviously only if you can manage the extra expense). Also keep spare clothes in your bag, car etc

    • Rikki P.

      It's the worst time, isn't it :(

    • Jacqueline S.

      My son was hard work. The toughest thing about his early years. You tell yourself they all get there in the end but thats hard to remember as you clean up yet another "accident".

    • Rikki P.

      Oh I really agree with that Jacqueline!

    • Lisa G.

      Feel better reading your comments. My third son isn't getting the idea at all, he's 3 in January and will not use the potty just stands next to it and says oops! My other children were dry much earlier and easy too. I know we will get there but the piles of constant washing :disappointed:

      • Staceylouise

        My son is also 3 in January, he uses the potty if he has no clothes on his bottom half at all but as soon as he's wearing pants/pull ups he treats it as if it's a nappy. It's good to know it's not just my boy refusing 

        • Tara93

          My son does exactly this! He turned 2 in june and he spends most of his days half naked and uses the potty or the toilet perfectly, as soon as I try pants on him he just does his business and isn't phased at all by what's trickling down his legs!

    • Rikki P.

      They all get there in the end. It's like crawling, walking, talking etc. At the time it's so difficult, but you will get there soon . My daughter was so easy (14 years ago ) so the second one was a big shock when it took us so long!

  • Leigh B.

    I waited 2 months before my daughters 3rd birthday and within 2 days she was using the potty and the toilet no problem.........so far, we've been accident free too. I do still put a pull-up nappy on her at night but they are never wet in the morning.

  • Kirsten R.

    My 3 yr old was a bit of a nightmare. Up until as little as 2 months ago we were still packing pull ups for trips out because she would pee thru every set of clothes we took until we put her in one. She still has her odd days where it feels like I'm washing everything she owns but much better since nursery. Only problem there is she holds it til she gets home!

  • Nichola G.

    you might pick up some wee tips here xx

    • Bee R.

      Thanks nic! He has seemed ready the last few weeks! Started today and he is refusing to sit on the potty :see_no_evil:! Not giving up just yet tho! B x

    • Joelene W.

      My daughter has just turned 3 and she has been in knickers for about 3 months now. Wee has not been the issue. She prefers to poo her knickers than sit on the toilet or potty. I've tried all sorts of different reactions but to no avail. I still put her in pull ups at night and up until a week ago most mornings she was completely dry. We've started putting a potty in her bedroom at night for her to use. She starts pre school next week and I wanted her to be pooing on the toilet by then. My daughter is behind on her speech but she does understand everything. Any tips would be appreciated X

      • ChristineB

        This is exactly like my daughter. She's 2.5 but has been dry from any wee accidents for 6 months, but still refuses to number 2 on the potty! She insists on doing them standing up! Nursery have been really reassuring though saying not to worry and it will pass eventually. I'm just looking forward to not having to carry spare clothes everywhere just in case.

  • Jill G.

    Dry day and night just before he was three didn't rush him just happened in his own good time

  • Lynsy J.

    Tried when she was 2 and it just wasn't happening she had zero control. She was 3 at the end of march and I was embarrassed that she was still in a nappy for nursery when others weren't. I planned to spend the entire month of august to potty train her ready for going back to nursery nappy free and in big girl knickers. Well.... I was totally shocked!! She got it straight away day 1 and was dry at night too! She can go 5-6 hours in the day without needing to go, I have to make her go, she's got an iron bladder now. Complete opposite to last year. Everyone kept sympathising telling me they're ready when they're ready but I thought they were just saying it to make me feel better but I really do believe that now. Trying at 2 was a nightmare, wasn't the right time at all. "Trying" at 3 wasn't trying at all it just happened and was even more shocked that she has been dry every morning and not even bursting when gets up either I have to make her go on a morning :joy::joy::joy: totally ready when they're ready for sure! X

    • Charlotte H.

      This was exactly same with my little girl x

    • Louise M.

      This makes me feel better my son is 26 months old and we tried potty training and it was a disaster. I hope waiting works for us. He looks like he is 4/5 years old and people are so judgemental when they see him still in a nappy.

  • Holley J.

    My daughter will be 3 in Dec and happy to do all her number 2s on the toilet but floods her clothes for every wee. Some days she is great then she will have a few weeks of not caring

  • Alison P.

    I have a nearly 4 year old who's refusing and a 6 year old who still struggles.They have sensory processing disorder.Im not expecting the 2 year old to be quick either.

  • Shelly J.

    My son strugged/ played silly sod *Stood next to potty and just wee'ed on the floor* he was 3 at the time but we got it, even for nursery, over the summer he mastered going on the toilet himself not even needing to ask, he turned 4 on the 26th of Aug, started school yesterday and had accidents :*( I felt so embarrassed and ashamed of myself.

    • Claire S.

      Aw don't feel ashamed or embarrassed. Teachers are used to it and it's certainly not a reflection on the parents or the child. Starting school is such a big step, he probably was either having too much fun and forgot to ask to go, or maybe was a little bit worried about going somewhere different without mummy around. X

    • Shelly J.

      Thank you (Nice to hear from someone other than my mum or other half lol. He seemed to be ok today, did a wee before we left school but was dubbled over in pain cause he held in poo all day.

  • Lauralou

    My 3yo (little girl) has mastered being dry during the day but WILL NOT poo unless she has a nappy on she says she is scared to do so on the potty or toilet. I don't know how to overcome this

  • Katie M.

    We just left the potty around from him being 18-20 months and put his teddy on the potty and then around 2 he started sitting on the potty in his nappy to do his wees then a month later he took his nappy off and started using it properly at 2.5 he was dry day and night. He basically did it himself with a little prompting from us.

  • Sally W.

    My elder with be 3 in November. She's fine for wee's on potty or toilet, have to remind her if she's busy playing sometimes. It's pops that's the problem, trying to encourage not to withhold it. Done her a poo book, small diary for stickers so we'll get there eventually. Main problem is she scared of electric hand dryers so won't use public toilets, I'm sure she'll grow out of that too :-/

    • Helen C.

      our little boy is scared of the hand dryers as well - think its the noise

  • Claire B.

    Iput a waterproof sheet on the mattress then fitted sheet then another later of waterproof and sheet. If they do wet the bed you just take off the top layers and have another set underneath.

  • Joelene W.

    My daughter has just turned 3 and she has been in knickers for about 3 months now. Wee has not been the issue. She prefers to poo her knickers than sit on the toilet or potty. I've tried all sorts of different reactions but to no avail. I still put her in pull ups at night and up until a week ago most mornings she was completely dry. We've started putting a potty in her bedroom at night for her to use. She starts pre school next week and I wanted her to be pooing on the toilet by then. My daughter is behind on her speech but she does understand everything. Any tips would be appreciated X

    • Helen C.

      our little boy is young for his age (he has just turned 4) and he has been using the toilet for a wee for about 7 months but refused to do a poo on toilet for ages - we even gave up putting pull ups on as thought it was confusing him. A professional suggested putting a box under his feet when he sat on toilet so he felt secure when sitting - we did try this. He did a couple of months of pooing on toilet and then pooing in his undies - know it sounds naff but we used stickers on a sheet of A4 of the fridge - he chose which sticker he wanted and he stuck it on his piece of paper - if he didnt do it in the toilet he didnt get a sticker. I know its hair pulling out frustrating but dont feel pressured or rushed - we thought Sam would never do anything but he just clicked one day and loves going to the toilet now and getting a sticker. Just keep taking her to the toilet especially if she looks like she is having a poo and even suggesting using the toilet at intervals (I am sure you are well aware of this :) ) ... Nursery also used little cards with a toilet picture on and they said if a child was not great with speech they could get a picture card and give it to one of the teachers and they would take them to the toilet :)

    • Joelene W.

      Thanks for your response Helen, it all helps to hear other tips and stories. Although we have tried stickers we haven't for a while so I think we will try again. The thing is she knows poo should go down the toilet or potty but for some strange reason she poo's standing up where ever she might be sometimes it's straight after she's put herself on the potty or toilet for a wee. When we were potty training in the very beginning at home when she would have no clothes on from waste down she would do her poo on potty. It's only since she has been dry from wee's and wearing knickers and clothes and it's mainly at home she poo's, it's very rare that we would be out and about (which is one good thing). We've started saying that if she poo's on potty or toilet we would give her a lovely surprise which she says ooh yeah to, but no she then later poo's her knickers. Arghh. The health visitor said don't worry she's still young but it's frustrating when you know she is quite capable of using the potty or toilet herself. Watch this space X

      • Katep

        my daughter would only poo in a nappy standing up at home until she started school  Age 4. Due to this she suffers from constipation and is on paediatric movical. We tried everything that the health visitor and hospital advised. Blowing bubbles whilst on the toilet as u use the same muscles, reward charts, gifts etc. After being at school for a week and being severely constipated from holding it in all the time she suddenly decided she wanted to be like everyone else. Ever since that day she has had no accidents. It will happen x

  • Rachael M.

    My son was potty trained day and night in 3 days and he was only 2, my daughter has been dry during the day for 5 months but won't poo on the potty and isn't dry at night either :pensive: any tips on this would be greatly appreciated or do I just keep doing what I'm doing? X

    • Stacy R.

      I'm not an expert but my daughter was the same recently. She was dry in the day at 2y11m in February but wouldn't poo on the toilet until about 6 weeks ago and now she's finally cracked it so keep just going along with it and it'll click eventually.

      I just kept reminding her that next time we'd go to the toilet and made a big deal of it when she finally did!

      She's still in pull ups at night but I'm fine with that until she's ready :)

    • Rachael M.

      It's the poo thing that's bugging me it's like she's terrified of doing it, she's held it in for a full day because I wouldn't put her a nappy on to poo I gave in and put her one on because there's nothing worse than wind pains and tummy ache, she's 3 in January so she's not doing too bad considering but I thing if we can get over the poo thing it will help with the bedtime too as she's dry for nap time x

    • Edwina A.

      Is she constipated? Could u get lactalose from the doctor to just make it less of a strain or worry for when she's on the potty. Other than that I would suggest just never give in. I know it's so hard. My youngest is 2 and I'm dreading starting! Have you watched Mr poo goes to poo land as well? It's on you tube and I think u can get it as a book too x

    • Edwina A.

      Like for her to watch I mean ha!

    • Tanya P.

      My 3yr old wont willingly poo in the toilet either. I have to hover about her then whisk her through to the bathroom at the last min. I think its pretty common so am just keeping on doing what im doing and praising her when she does it. Still in pull ups at night but that doesnt bother me in the slightest. Bladders are still weak at that age.

  • Mom23grlz

    my daughter is five and still refuses to poo in the toilet she says she's scared and cries for me to put a nappy on her 

  • Emma G.

    Wait until they are ready even if it's longer than their peers, if they don't want to do it you'll just stress both yourself and your child out by persisting. My lo decided she wouldn't wear nappies anymore and that was it, no accidents and no stress.

  • Jenny H.

    All in good time. Its taken a year to get poo in the potty/toilet for my nearly 4 year old and the penny dropped overnight. I did bribe with milky stars too as he's got to the age to be able to negotiate! Everyone said it would just happen and I didnt believe them. I was wrong!

  • Ally H.

    I have a 3 year old who is refusing point blank and it's so frustrating. I take his nappy off and he screams blue murder. My others took to potty training no problem. We'll get there in the end but I really thought he would be sorted by now

  • Alex P.

    We decided on a relaxed approach with our little boy and decided early on we would just follow his lead. He started to tell us at 16 months he needed a poo so we put him on the potty to do his business. This followed 5 months later at 21 months that he started telling us he needed to wee. After a week we took nappies away and he's been dry ever since. We were very lucky and it was very easy thank goodness :grinning:

  • Monkey1234

    we are currently potty training/playing. No stress just positive when she goes. I have a potty up stairs downs stairs and out side. We have a reward chart where she gets a small sticker for a wee and a big sticker for a poo. We praise her every time she goes. She goes by her self and tells me she need a wee wee or tu. Tu. She's improved each day and even did a wee at a play group potty. She still does a couple of wees in her pull up nappy at groups but it's a positive step and in the right direction. She's two at the end of the month. We have had a potty out since she could walk and always say on it before bath time and caught an odd wee or poo. So she's not scared and even gone on a loo once or twice. X port a potty is what we are going to try next X. 

  • Tracy P.

    We started potty training my daughter in July age 2 1/2 she is so good on the potty poos and wee. No nappy at night too. But can not get my daughter to do anything on the toilet. She is so scared. You can see the fear in her little face when I can get her on the toilet. I have tried stars, Percy pigs even picking a reward out of a box but nothing is working. Dose anyone have any ideas what else I could try? Thank you :)

    • Lisa B.

      Is there a potty in the bathroom ? She needs to know that it is the place to go to the toilet. Let her see you use the toilet and perhaps try a children's toilet seat when she is feeling more relaxed about it.

  • Sarah G.

    I was having issues then we used a Bemis next step toilet seat in a public toilet Lucy was so comfortable with it I bought one and within 2 months we were sorted during the day, we were still using night pull ups but Lucy pulled a fast one (waited till I bought some in bulk and then went cold turkey!!!) Such is life

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