Late Potty-Trainers & Why You Shouldn’t Worry

(because sometimes you just need a snack while potty-training)


I’m super duper lucky with the kiddos I got, in so many ways. They’re all fantastic eaters with adventurous and hearty appetites. They’re all fabulous sleepers who go to bed without question and almost never come out, save to use the bathroom. They’re well-mannered and kind. They get excited over the simplest things in life.


They’re awesome, if I do say so myself.


But you know what they’re NOT????


Good at potty training.




Okay, G. will be excepted from this one, because she fully trained of her own volition by the time she was two, but the other two? Hoo boy. And even G. just recently was able to ditch the night dipes. What can I say? That’s the downside of good, deep sleepers.


So, while I am totally NOT the one to go to if you’re interested in the “how-tos” of getting your baby or young toddler diaper-free, I might be a good one to offer up some suggestions if you suspect your child might be a later trainer. So here you go:


Don’t fret.


People are fond of saying “no child goes off to kindergarten still in diapers” as some kind of comfort. The reality is that very few children go off to kindergarten in diapers, but some do, and typically for very legitimate reasons. The odds are very, very good your child will be trained well before kindergarten, but it doesn’t always feel like it when you’re pushing birthday number four or even pass it. Don’t fret. Really. And don’t feel bad if you don’t find comfort in that trite saying.


Don’t compare.


Seriously. This goes for almost all aspects of child rearing, but do not compare your child to others. It doesn’t matter one whit if little Johnny used the potty at 18 months or your neighbor is an “elimination communication” master or people have told you since the dawn of time that girls train earlier. All of these things may well be irrelevant for your own kids. It is not a contest and there’s no reason to feel like a failure if your child is still in diapers when his peers are trained.


Factor in legitimate challenges.


My oldest child didn’t say a single word until he was almost three. Nothing. This didn’t stop me from investing in a potty chair when he was two and thinking we should get moving on this thing already. Really? Ask me how that went.


My next child was born extremely prematurely and she is, to this day, teeny tiny. Doctors have since told me that her bladder is incredibly small and it’s unlikely she’ll go a long stretch without needing a bathroom anytime soon. Her speech was also a bit delayed (though not as severely as our son) and she simply couldn’t physically hold it when she was a young toddler.


Once I realized that I was fighting a losing battle and waited for their own developmental levels to be in appropriate places, we had a much, much easier go of it.


Know that you are NOT alone.


People tend to broadcast when their 18-month-old asks to wear underpants and then successfully uses the potty with no issues. People do not like to talk about their fears, struggles, and frustrations quite as openly. That doesn’t mean they’re not there. 


I am going to tell you all right now that my first two children were not fully trained until age four. FOUR. And by “fully trained”, I just mean daytime. Yeah. And you know what???


It’s okay.


It really is. My oldest is big and brilliant and gentle and loving. My middle child is teeny and determined and feisty and compassionate. They’re great kids. They do well in school and are well-liked by their peers. No one cares that they weren’t potty-trained at age two. Honest.


So, there’s my dirty little secret:

I raise late potty trainers.


And I just want you to know that that’s okay.

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15 comments to Late Potty-Trainers & Why You Shouldn’t Worry

  • Becky

    I’m right there, too. Mine turn four at the end of this month (adjusted, it would be 4 in the summer, but the powers-that-be say not to adjust any more :) ) and are JUST NOW daytime trained completely. Nights just aren’t happening right now, and I’m ok with that!

  • mlearley

    I appreciate you sharing this honest post. I’m finding more and more moms are coming out and saying it’s ok that your kid isn’t “on schedule” or whatever the case maybe. As a first time parent, I know I was consistantly comparing my child to the norms but with child #2 I’ve found that it’s ok if she’s not doing things at the same pace as other kids, she’ll eventually get there. Every kid is different and therefore we need to adjust our parenting style differently for each child.

    With our oldest, we read to her EVERY night in her rocking chair and she loved it. Some nights she’d ask for a second book. However, our toddler does not want to mess around after bathtime she wants to go straight to bed. We tried for months to sit in the rocking chair and read her a book but she’d scream and fight with us. One night I decided to just lay her in her crib and then try to read to her…it works! She loves stories now and even points to things on the page. Unlike her older sister, she felt more comfortable laying in her bed to hear her story. Same results (quality reading time) but different approach.

  • Susan

    With a super preemie, I was worried about everything, mainly having him live at the beginning. I was told he would be delayed in everything even when his teeth would come in. We were worried about when he would turn over, crawl, walk etc. I hadn’t even thought about potty training. You are right, the little ones need to be developmentally ready…and yes, it all happened when he was ready. Although to be honest, I thought he would never learn to wave…now, he’s worried about learning to drive a car.

  • Janet

    All 6 of mine trained just after 3, though with the first I tried to force it at 2 and that was a complete failure. Her pediatrician told me MANY children don’t have the bladder control for training until 3.

  • Courtney

    Definitely chiming in on this one! My son had NOOOOOOOOOOOO interest in potty training until he was almost 3 1/2!

    However, when he WAS ready, he was fully potty trained in less than a week. Stopped wearing Pullups at night about a month later. He’s 6 now and has had only one accident at night.

    It’s just one of those things you can’t push- otherwise, it can totally backfire on you. We tried every.single.trick in the book and nothing worked until he was ready for it.

    My advice to parents thinking about or struggling with potty training is to NOT STRESS. It will happen and when it does, your child will most likely breeze right through it and you pass that diaper aisle with a big smile on your face! :)

  • Darcey

    My first babies were twins. I stressed about the potty training for over a year. Then the spring after their 3rd birthday, they went over to a friends house. We had a going potty party. If they went to the potty they all got a chocolate kiss. My friends little girl was 3 also. It took my twins a week to be free of diapers during the day. My next child, I waited to really train till he was 3 and again it was alot easier. Now, night time is another thing altogether. My oldest son was 5, my oldest daughter was 8 and my 6 year old son is still wearing diapers at night. It will come when they are ready. Thanks for the post.

    • Night time was a whole different thing altogether for us too, Darcey. So many people I knew trained there children for day and night simultaneously and I thought we were doing something so wrong. But kids are all different! And you’ve got to do what works– I totally agree with you: “It will come when they are ready.”

  • Sonja

    My oldest starting waking up with a dry diaper at 18 mo & asking to go to the potty. Imagine my surprise when it took him til almost four to get the hang of daytime! My second son was potty trained by my sister at 2 1/2 while I was recovering from delivering my 3rd. When my sister went home, he declared he only went potty for Auntie! After two weeks of total frustration on both sides, I put him back in pull-ups. When he turned 3 he decided he’d had enough of that & never turned back. I decided to wait with my third til he brought up the subject. He trained overnight at 2 1/2 on his own. My youngest (a girl) is totally unpredictable! She’s 2 1/2 and I’m letting her lead, which means some days she goes in her diaper every single time & other days she stays dry all day. Unlike my boys at this age, she rarely stays dry at night. It really helps to individualize parenting to each child! Thanks for the reminder!

    • “He only went potty for Auntie”– oh, this made me chuckle, Sonja, only because it is SUCH a kid thing to say! It seems so baffling to we adults, but I’m sure it made total sense in his head! :)

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