When your child is late to potty train

My daughter didn’t potty train on her second birthday. She didn’t potty train on her third birthday. Now it’s a couple months into her third year, and Mama is nervous. Learning to use the toilet is an important milestone. Most children start working on this skill between 18 months and 3 years of age. 

But my 3-year-old daughter is showing no signs of potty training readiness.

  • Waking up with a dry diaper
  • Showing interest in the potty
  • Letting you know when he or she has a wet or poopy diaper
  • Letting you know when he or she is going to pee or poop
  • Talking about the potty
  • Going to a corner or stopping an activity and squatting to poop
  • Expressing diaper discomfort

She’s not ready, but Mama’s ready! I want to kick that diaper pail to the curb. What if your child is displaying pretty big signs that you should wait to potty train.

  • Crying when you mention potty training
  • Yelling “NO” when you ask them to use the potty
  • Delaying using the potty and having an “accident” right after trying
  • Withholding pooping because he or she doesn’t want to use the toilet

Why do I continue to potty train her if she’s not ready? It’s because I’m so afraid of having a 4-year-old who isn’t potty trained. Everyone else was done at three. Most children are able to control both bladder and bowels and leave diapers behind sometime between 3 and 4 years old. We need to be done at three! What will people say or think? I’m ashamed for feeling this way.

When my kid doesn’t hit a milestone, I feel anxiety. I feel like a failure especially since I’m a stay-at-home mom, and this is my only job. Why can’t I get this right? I compare my kids to others and my mothering. I spiral into anger, confusion, and anxiety. Very un-Stay-in-Bed-Mom-like. This is a trigger that I’m conscious of in my life.

I feel resentful of other moms who have success with their sticker charts and have kids who proudly proclaim, “I go potty.”

But here’s the reality. Having been a former school teacher, I know kids are on their own schedule. There’s no “typical” schedule. Potty training is no different.

According to a 1999 article in The New York Times, only 60 percent of children have achieved mastery of the toilet by 36 months, the study found, and 2 percent remain untrained at the age of 4 years. Phew.

This isn’t my failure. It’s not my daughter’s failure.

Since the Second World War, kids are taking longer to potty train. Why should mine be no different?

Potty training isn’t up to me, the parent. I don’t get to choose the timeline. I’m not in control of how this all goes down.

Above all, it’s important to stay positive. An article on Care.com states that “Children late to potty train can sense disapproval” and that it’s imperative to “instill confidence in [children] that they will indeed become potty trained.” They need to feel they can do it. “It’s a relief to them a feeling that they are on the right path,” the article quotes.


A Final Thought – From the Pillow

My daughter is on her own journey throughout childhood.

So it’s my job to be a positive partner in it.

Do you have a late potty trainer? How do you deal?

6 thoughts on “When your child is late to potty train

Add yours

  1. I feel you momma. Both my kids were late to train. My son was partially potty trained at 4 (pee in potty) and almost 5 before he really was consistent with pooping in the potty. My daughter was 4 when she got it down though she is still not night trained. I know we’ll get there though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jennie, for sharing about your little ones. It’s encouraging to know that they’ll get there. It’s just hard when you’re going through the process. You made me feel better! Thanks for commenting and visiting the blog.


  2. My now 6 yr old wasn’t potty trained by the time she was supposed to go to pre-k 3, which was a bummer because I really tried to get her ready in time. Her daycare didn’t start working on potty training the kids until 3, which my other kids had been in centers that started at 2. I can’t recall when she was finally all potty trained, but I know she was before she was eligible for pre-k (which she didn’t get to go to either because there weren’t enough spots). Today, she still wets at night and wears nighttime training pants. My older daughter wore nighttime training pants for a while, too. My youngest, she turned 2 in August and I honestly forgot that she was at that age where it’s time to train. I’m going to just blame it on COVID times. Lol. Anyway, now that hurricane season is over and we should have a stable routine, I’m going to start training her soon. All that to say that your daughter isn’t the only child late and you are an awesome mom no matter when she’s trained. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hang in there, mama. I have an almost 2 y/o who screams and cries when we even talk about using the potty. I’m not sure what to do that won’t traumatize him so we are just going to wait until it feels right and he loses some of his fear of the toilet. Best of luck with your little one. You definitely are not alone in this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you for sharing. I have to remember it’s about my daughter being ready and not me being ready haha! It sounds like you’re doing the right thing waiting a little bit (my pediatrician suggested a month), then trying again. Best of luck. Thanks again for stopping by Stay-in-Bed Mom Blog.

      Liked by 1 person

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