Potty Training: What’s the Problem?

Potty Training:  We are finally reaching the end of this milestone in our house – hurrah!

Potty Training

We can go days now without accidents but it has been a long time coming.  The boys are four in a few months and I first introduced the potty two years ago.

Potty training is a frustrating time.

Just when you think you have it nailed, you get a day full of accidents and little, or no, successes.

On days like these you feel like you have asked whether they need the potty one-hundred times.  On days like these they always reply “no”.  On days like these they are guaranteed to have an accident just after this exchange.  Most likely, they are standing right next to the potty when this happens.  I am pretty sure that the only reason they had an accident is because you have reminded them about their bowel movements.

Even more frustrating than this is when you are due to go out.

You have two scenarios here.

You are due to leave, almost certainly running late for work/kindergarten, when despite going on the potty five minutes earlier you hear: “I need to potty!”  You have no choice but to admit defeat and let them go for it.

More frustrating still, you sit them on the potty for 30 minutes – yes, I had a recent experience of this – to be greeted with nothing in the potty.   You think you are safe.  They can’t need to go or surely they will have done it by now.  You get in the car.  Five minutes later you hear those dreaded words: “uh oh”.

Nighttime; now this is the single most frustrating event you can get.  It is the moment your little monkey realises that ‘needing to potty’ can delay bedtime.  This is a golden moment for little ones.  You can’t say no.  Hands tied, you sit, waiting for them to finish.  Every time you ask if they are done, you are told “not yeeeeet”.

All I can say is thank goodness for chocolate…and wine…

Every child is different

I know that people say “every child is different”, but trust me there is nothing more guaranteed to bring this home than having twins (or more).

Two boys, the same age, reaching milestones at completely different times.

In our house we had two very different experiences.

The Over-Nighter

D refused to even sit on the potty until he was just past his third birthday. He would kick, scream and work himself up into a frenzy.  He hated going nappy free.  I mean, really HATED it.  Then one day, around a month after his third birthday, he said: “I not need a nappy anymore mummy”.

And that was that.

I know it seems too good to be true, but, overnight he was dry.  He can even go for a nap without having an accident.  I don’t have to ask him if he needs, he just takes himself to the potty.

This can be a little embarrassing if you are in the company of someone you don’t know that well.  He is likely to grab his potty, plonk it in front of said stranger, pull his pants down and settle to do a number 2.  And, yes, this has happened to us on more than one occasion.

Seven months later, I can count on my one hand how many accidents he has had.

The Reluctant Learner

L was a very different experience.  He was happy to go without his nappy from around the age of two.  He didn’t mind being sat on the potty. Providing you sat him down at regular intervals, this worked.  But he most certainly was not ready to feel for himself when he needed to go.

He had multiple accidents; by this I mean some days only accidents.  We tried everything: reward charts, bribery, ignoring it…

Nothing worked.

18 months later, he was home sick from kindergarten.  This week I was more concerned with nursing my poorly baby back to health and didn’t push the potty on him.  By the end of the week he just started to go to the potty on his own.  After years of trying to train him to use the potty, he just did it on his own.

He still has accidents but on the whole I would say this box is now ticked.

Different cultures, different rules

On reflection, I wonder if we have the wrong attitude towards this milestone?

We are Brits living in Germany.  Over the years we have noticed lots of things that differ between the two countries, despite sharing many similarities.  One of which is the attitude to potty training, which is vastly different.

For British preschool, it is frowned upon to rock up to preschool in nappies.  In fact, a quick google search finds various threads from frustrated parents on this issue.  In some cases, places being revoked at preschool due to children not being potty trained.

Furthermore, potty training is considered just that.  Training.  The emphasis is on the parent.  Your child isn’t potty trained?  You, the parent, are doing something wrong.  I know people in the UK whose children are not ready to make the transition from nappies but have no choice but to send their children to pre-school in pants.  It was that or no pre-school.  It strikes me that this risks creating anxiety around learning to use the potty.

When looking online, I find it hard to find out what the law is around that.  I have read that pre-schools cannot reject pupils based on being toilet trained, yet it seems to happen.

The NHS Website recommends: “Using a potty is a new skill for your child to learn. It’s best to take it slowly and go at your child’s pace”.   So why does this seem to be lost along the way at some schools?   The NHS website recommends that most children will be nappy free by four. Yet this rule is sometimes enforced at three.  It is a contradiction.

German kindergarten has a completely different approach.  When I sent L into kindergarten in pants for a few days, he was sent home with bags of dirty clothes.  Accident after accident.  The teacher pulled me to one side and said: “Let’s put him back in pull-ups.  Children do it in their own time, no need to pressurise him.  It will happen when he is ready.”

L was getting very distressed at kindergarten when he had an accident and the teacher was concerned that this was just delaying things.

I was dubious about this.

After all, I had been told on a few occasions that I needed to hurry the boys along.  That really, by this age, they should be out of nappies.  Yet, instinct told me the kindergarten teacher was making sense.  “All children are different” the teacher said.  She was so right.

We had a new tactic. Pull-ups in kindergarten, pants at home.  This way, at home, he could have anxiety-free accidents.  The teacher was spot on, fast-forward a month and he was nappy free at kindergarten too.  No stress.  No anxiety.  No trouble.

This whole experience makes me think, maybe it should not be called ‘potty training’.  Maybe we should just see it for what it is.  A milestone that, like all other milestones, will happen in their own time.  When they are ready.  Something that just requires calm and reassured consistency from teachers and parents.

Let’s drop the ‘training’ and change it to ‘supporting’.

Tell me about your experience of potty training in the comments section below.  What age were your children ‘trained’?

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  1. May 10, 2016 / 4:45 pm

    It sounds very similar to Sweden – they take kids in daycare here from a year old and are more than happy to change their nappies. I think we were relatively lucky where toilet training went – neither of them would sit on a potty and my eldest was still in nappies at three, but all in all, it wasn’t too horrific! You are so right, all children are different!

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 10, 2016 / 7:35 pm

      That is interesting to hear how they do it elsewhere as I can only compare between the UK and Germany. It just seems so relaxed here, no stress or judging. xx

  2. May 10, 2016 / 5:40 pm

    We were lucky in that our preschool was quite happy with Jessica still being in nappies – we tried a couple of times to potty train before I decided to trust my instincts and to wait until she really was ready – in the end, she potty trained very easily a month before her fourth birthday. Six months on, she’s dry at night and we’ve had very few accidents. I’m planning on trying to potty train Sophie this summer (she’s 3 at the end of October) but if she’s not ready, then I’ll just hold off until she is. It sounds like your kindergarten in Germany has the right idea – the pressure on parents to potty train before preschool seems to cause a lot of stress.
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    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 10, 2016 / 7:33 pm

      I think if they are ready then it so much more straightforward. Good luck with Sophie hope she has a stress free time with it xx

  3. May 10, 2016 / 6:09 pm

    I’ve had the same experience with my little girl. The more I tried the slower the progress. She did things in her own sweet time with no input from me x

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 10, 2016 / 7:32 pm

      If they are ready they will do it. I hated seeing L get upset about it all, not nice to see xx

  4. May 10, 2016 / 6:13 pm

    I agree with the German teacher’s philosophy, unfortunately I don’t think most English pre-schools would have the staffing levels to change nappies all day. I hate the term “potty training” – training is something you do to dogs not children, I like your term of potty support
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    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 10, 2016 / 7:31 pm

      I agree that is part of the problem. I think some don’t have the changing facilities either. It’s a shame, feels like we ask so much from young children sometimes and then we wonder why they grow up so fast X

  5. May 11, 2016 / 5:51 am

    My tot’s next school states they prefer kids to be potty trained in pre-nursery which is from aged 2. Oh crud. So have we’ve had no joy and i don’t want it to be a stressful thing for both parents and tot. If it doesn’t happen by August we’ll be in nappies. Sod it.

    PS. A brave opening statement, hope Murphy’s law doesn’t get you.


    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 11, 2016 / 10:48 am

      Ha ha, I hadn’t thought of that! I hope it doesn’t get me either 🙂 x

  6. May 12, 2016 / 1:46 pm

    I was part of a hideous mums group when my son was younger, and felt immense amounts of pressure to toilet train as soon as possible. My son was just not into it at the same time as everyone else, and that was ok for me, as I wanted it to be as relaxed an experience as possible. My sons nursery were great about it, they didn’t pressure at all. But then they were being paid extortionate amounts to look after him so I guess it came as part and parcel. I can say for definite though that the slow approach worked best for us, and at the age of nearly 12 he is thoroughly trained!!!

    My daughter on the other hand, just decided one day that she no longer wanted nappies, and that was it. No dramas, just dryness.

    I wonder which example the baby will follow!!! xx

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:58 pm

      Ha ha the baby will probably do it differently again :). I would have hated to be apart of that mums group..x

  7. May 13, 2016 / 6:13 am

    Oh wow, having twins potty training … I take my hat off to you. I have been trying with NG since she was just over two (having seen all my NCT friends do it relatively easily) and she will be three in July and there really hasn’t been much progress. The worst thing is she is quite sensitive and gets upset about accidents. We are going on holiday next week and I plan to pretty much let her ‘go free’ but I have also decided not to stress about it. She will do it when she wants to (I hope!) But goodness it’s stressful! #bloggerclubuk

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:56 pm

      When they are getting stressed it is not nice to see. That is what I didnt like with Bob L, it really upset him. Good luck, summer is a good time to try xxx

  8. May 13, 2016 / 10:02 am

    Potty training twins must be hard! Go you!! My eldest son was potty trained way before his second birthday, super fast, super easy, but then as an only child I had all the time in the world to dedicate to it. By the time it came to potty train my daughter she was just over two and we waited for a sunny weekend, let her run around butt naked and she had cracked it within 48 hours. Again, not that difficult. Next came my youngest daughter who we assumed would train quick with only being 15 months younger than her sister and super keen to copy, but all of our efforts failed miserably and in the end, I hate to admit, we gave up! One day about a month ago, aged two and three quarters, she took off her nappy while we were out for the day and never put it back on!! It was like she just decided that she was ready and she’s never worn a nappy since!! Very odd but a huge relief! Just one more to potty train and we will finally be rid of nappies, watch this last one be our most difficult!!!! #effitfriday

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:53 pm

      Nearly there!! It is a huge relief when they just decide, I was certainly worrying about it. xx

  9. May 13, 2016 / 11:06 am

    I’m dreading potty training second time around! I’m told it’s easier with your second? Here’s hoping!
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:52 pm

      Good luck!! xx

  10. May 13, 2016 / 8:52 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! I’m going to move to Germany. I completely agree that it has to be when the child is ready. That seems to make more sense to me, and yes, as a parent you have to be there to help them along, but it cannot be forced before the child is ready. That is also the same way I feel about breastfeeding. Unfortunately my mother (who I live with) sees things differently, and we are frequently at loggerheads over it! #FabFridayPost

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:51 pm

      I think it is the same for all of these things, it works or it doesn’t. It is all up to the individual child. I have been following your blog, must be incredibly hard. I am a control freak and really don’t like being told what to do, even from my own mum. xxx

  11. May 14, 2016 / 2:23 am

    Potty supporting, I like it! We just recently introduced the potty to our son since he has shown interest. But he’s so young still so I’ve been taking a very relaxed approach to it. It’s so true that every child is different and will learn when they’re ready. We don’t pressure them to walk before they’re so why push this, right?

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:47 pm

      That is so true, we wouldn’t pressurise them to walk. Thanks for reading xxx

  12. May 14, 2016 / 9:13 am

    Great post, I agree in letting the child take the lead and will very much be using this approach for my daughter. My first was potty “trained” at 2years 5months but that was a week or so of going cold turkey, we barely left the house and when we did it was with a plastic bag under his bum on the car seat/buggy! Germany sound like they’ve got it all figured out and I will certainly be more laid back this time around.
    Thanks for sharing! #fortheloveofBLOG

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:47 pm

      Oh plastic bag is a good idea, we spent a fortune on those pamper pads. xx

  13. May 14, 2016 / 9:11 pm

    So interesting. My just turned 3 year old shows no interest in using the potty and doesn’t appear to know when she needs to go. She has generally been advanced with everything, and her language is extremely sophisticated, but she will not do this. As you say, you start to feel that you should have got them trained by now. But I spoke to the Health Visitor & she actually said the same as the German professionals – leave her alone, she’ll do it when she’s ready. She said that given her comprehension levels the chance that she does not understand what we are telling her about it is slim, and therefore as she is not doing it she probably physically does not have the neural connections to know when she wants to go yet, which can develop any time up to around 4. She said wait for her to show signs of readiness herself and she will probably grasp it very quickly, but forcing it often causes more problems in the long term. She also highlighted that nursery schools cannot refuse children due to potty training, though my daughter is not due to start nursery until September. #anythinggoes

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:46 pm

      That is what I have read so I was surprised to hear it happens so regularly. I would imagine if a parent pushed it they would get a place. Although I do know one person who was declined a place as there were no changing facilities. She thinks that is how the nursery got around the legal issue. x

      • May 23, 2016 / 10:22 pm

        Yes, I think that nursery schools attached to actual schools really prefer not to deal with children who are not potty trained, because they don’t have so many staff, and because schools have such nightmares about dealing with anything requiring touching a child. Private nurseries and daycares that take babies right through to pre-schoolers I think are often less concerned, as they have more staff and are doing changing there, albeit usually not in the pre-school room so much. I suspect that therefore some nursery schools do try to imply that children must be toilet trained, and hope that parents don’t know better & force the issue. Obviously some kids, for various reasons, will not be trained even when starting school. My mum, who was an infant head, said that schools get parents to sign waivers regarding the physical contact necessary to change the child, but if they refused, they would have to agree to attend to change the child themselves, if necessary. I can see why it is a complication schools don’t want, but they do of course have to accept it, as not all children are the same – some train late (or, if there are other issues, not at all) & should not be discriminated against. I would think that claiming no changing facilities probably isn’t a valid excuse either, but I don’t know for sure! Thanks for linking with #PasstheSauce

        • Double the Monkey Business
          May 27, 2016 / 4:52 pm

          There was an article on the Huffington Post about this today strangely, a mum was told she couldn’t send her little one to pre-school and he wasnt ready to be potty trained. I am not really sure how they are getting around the legalities of it. I would imagine if parents pushed back they would have to do it? x

  14. May 16, 2016 / 7:58 pm

    We are nowhere near the potty training stage yet with our little one, she’s only 10 months, but just reading your post shows how hard it “could” be. I’m sure that it will be challenging, and have its up-and-downs but we will get through it. Reading your post it’s amazing how different the boys attitude was to potty training, and also how the attitude varies across different countries, I think the attitude her is to do it quickly and early. I’m pretty sure my Mum said to me to do potty training once she’s turned one! That seems a bit ridiculous, she can’t talk or walk yet Mum! Thanks for linking up another post at #fortheloveofBLOG, hope you can join us next week. Claire x

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:38 pm

      It certainly feels like the earlier the better for potty training in the UK. I wish you lots of luck when you start. Look forward to hearing how you get on xxx

  15. May 17, 2016 / 7:27 am

    I’m about to dip my toe into the whole potty training thing (I know, I hate the term training too, what’s that all about?) and I won’t lie, I’m nervous. Sometimes I think my son is ready, other times he’s not and I get paranoid I’m going to miss this window of opportunity I keep hearing about! #bigpinklink

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:34 pm

      I kept hearing about this window of opportunity too, on hindsight I am not sure if it exists 🙂 x

  16. May 17, 2016 / 3:58 pm

    Potty training is the bane of my existence too these days so I understand the stress of ‘accidents’ and insisting ‘no!’ when they usually have to go! I swear sometimes it reduces me to tears, which I then find funny (that I’m crying over my kids bowel movements) so I end up cry-laughing which is a scary sight to see >.<


    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:33 pm

      I know the cry-laugh, I can sympathise ha ha ! X

  17. May 17, 2016 / 10:41 pm

    This is very interesting and interesting on how it is done in Germany too. Both of my kids wears cloth nappies/ eco nappies – whatever you want to called it. Ethan wore it in combination with normal disposable nappies. I also started Infant Potty Training around about 18 mths. He was also nappy free at home and in cloth when we go out and about. For night time, I decided that I would try him being nappy free when he was 22 mths and it seem to have worked. Sure there would be some accident here and there but in general he was pretty good all round.

    With Evelyn – I decided to just use cloth and start Infant Potty Training straightaway. It was really hard – she would need changing a lot throughout night. At 18 mths she has become nappy free at home and in cloth when we go out and about. She is now 2.1 yrs old and she is pretty much nappy free during the day in or out side of the house – but she still wears cloth at night – usually 1 change a night now. So she is getting there… slowly but surely.

    I totally agree with you on the drop the training and give them support instead.

    Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost x

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:26 pm

      They are all so different and will do it in their own time. I do believe consistently supporting will help them grasp it quicker. Thanks for reading and thanks for hosting #fabfridaypost xxx

  18. May 18, 2016 / 3:57 pm

    Such a good post. I really don’t see why the teachers would rather have accident after accident to deal with rather then nappies until they were ready. Makes no sense to me. Well done to both your boys for cracking it. Another milestone past! Thanks for linking up! #bigpinklink

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:24 pm

      I agree. I have to say I would rather not have to deal with frequent accidents. xx

  19. May 19, 2016 / 3:54 pm

    We still have days with accidents but here in Dubai it’s the same, school means being potty trained. And they start at 3 (so basically pre-school) the pressure is immense. I just asked every time he started pooing if he wanted to do it in the potty. One day he did. Hasn’t stopped the accidents!!!! Well done to your boys, I totally agree in their own time!

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:16 pm

      That is interesting to know, I have heard from a few people now who have said it is the same where they live. I suspect accidents will continue to happen, which is fine now it is summer and they are playing outside more. Saves my carpet ha ha! x

  20. May 20, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    this was interesting reading for me because my 2 year old is refusing to be potty trained he is verbal about everything else but just completely refuses. so it was good to reset my think ing thank you so much

    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 21, 2016 / 7:15 pm

      I felt the same when both boys were 2. It turns out they were a long way off from ready, I just wanted them to be ready. Good luck with it. Let me know how you get on. x

  21. May 27, 2016 / 5:45 pm

    I literally lol at the thought of him plopping his seat and going #2 in front of guests. If your guest didn’t lol at the time you should no longer be friends with them. That’s hysterical. My boy would always pee ANYWHERE outside. I’d be loading groceries in the car and turn around to find him watering a parking lot tree with his glorious pee. Thanks for linking up with #momsterslink :))
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    • Double the Monkey Business
      May 27, 2016 / 5:57 pm

      Oh yes the other one did that in the park today, poor tree lol. Luckily I have never had anyone bat an eyelid as his potty antics, as you say they would no longer be friends afterwards ha ha! x

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