elevating child care

3 Reasons Kids Don’t Need Toilet Training (And What To Do Instead)

As a parenting teacher and writer, my intention is to support, encourage, and answer questions. So I feel a teensy twinge of guilt when I’m asked for advice about toilet training, and my response is, essentially, don’t.
Kids don’t need adults to train them to use the toilet. They do need attuned, communicative parents and caregivers to support and facilitate the toilet learning process, a process that is individual to each child.
These are the 3 main reasons I don’t recommend adult-led toilet training:

It’s unnecessary
I have no recollection of my younger two children learning to use the toilet. I vaguely remember the beginning of this process with my first child, but only because I was flabbergasted when she initiated an interest at 18 months and had completed the process by two years old.

My experiences illustrate the normal, natural, ho-hum process that successful toilet learning can be when parents don’t invest in it. Hundreds of parents I’ve worked with over the years have reported similar experiences.

This begs the question: why would we add toilet training to our already overloaded job description when doing less works just as well, if not better? Why risk the headaches, power struggles and resistance, frustrations and failures? Why be a taskmaster when we can relax, enjoy, and take pride in supporting our child’s self-directed achievement?

It’s risky
Toddlers have a developmentally appropriate need to resist parents, and if parents have an agenda around toilet training, healthy toddlers are inclined to push back, even if they might have been otherwise ready to begin using the toilet.

Child specialist Magda Gerber noted three types of readiness children need for toilet learning:

1. Physical:  there is bladder and bowel capacity and muscle control.

2. Cognitive: children know when they need to eliminate urine and feces and are fully aware of what they are supposed to do.

3. Emotional:  children are ready to let go of a situation they are used to and comfortable with (urinating and releasing feces into a diaper whenever they feel like it), and also let go, literally, of these waste products, which they perceive as belonging to them.

The emotional readiness factor usually comes last, is the most fragile, and also the most powerful. Bright, sensitive, aware toddlers can readily perceive a parent’s agenda. For some, the subtlest nudge toward the potty or being diaper-free can cause holding of urine or feces, delay toilet learning for months or even years, make toddlers feel ashamed, lead to severe constipation.

In this video, mother of twins Suzanne Schlosberg shares her cautionary tale about adult-led toilet training:

In It’s No Accident, the book Schlosberg coauthored with pediatric urologist Steve Hodges, parents are urged to slow down toilet training and informed that constipation — caused mostly by early/rushed potty training and poor diet -– is the root cause of virtually all bedwetting, toileting accidents, and recurrent UTIs. Schlosberg and Hodges also created this infographic (available as a free download) to increase awareness about constipation:

croppedresized 12 Signs yPJG

According to Schlosberg, “Most parents don’t know the signs of constipation (assuming it means “infrequent pooping”), it goes unrecognized, and kids suffer.”

I’ve learned over the years working with parents that toilet learning is nothing to mess with. I even cringe when parents tell me they’re “working on it,” because I’ve seen this attitude lead to problems all too often.

Granted, I hear mostly from the parents who are struggling and anxious. There must be many for whom toilet training techniques work. Why else would there be such a proliferation of toilet training books and products? Hmmm… marketers wouldn’t try to convince consumers they need something they really don’t, would they?

Kids deserve to own this accomplishment
There isn’t a long list of accomplishments toddlers can achieve. But they can do this, so I see no reason not to let them master this skill. There is no more powerful, confidence-building affirmation for toddlers than “I can do it myself.”

Toilet learning happens naturally and easily when we:

Invite children to actively participate in bathing, diaper changes, and other self-care routines from the time they are born. We invite active participation by communicating each detail respectfully: “I’m going to lift your bottom now so that I can wipe you. Can you help me lift?” Be careful not to transmit negative messages about body parts or feces and urine (“stinky, dirty”, etc.).

Model toilet use. Children naturally wish to do what parents and older siblings do.

Never force or even coax children to use the potty, but give clear  behavior boundaries in general so that children aren’t tempted to use toilet learning as a testing ground. This sensitive and complex area of development needs to remain free and clear of power struggles.

Make a potty available. Some children like a small potty that allows their feet to reach the floor, while others prefer a seat that fits into the regular toilet.

Observe. Become a practiced observer. When children seem to be signaling an urge to eliminate (by touching their diapers, pressing their thighs togethers, etc.), ask matter-of-factly if they would like to use the potty. Calmly accept no for an answer.

Offer the choice of diapers or underwear when you sense children might be ready for toilet learning, always fully accepting their choice to stay in diapers.

Trust, trust, trust. As Magda Gerber advises in Your Self-Confident Baby, “Learning to use the toilet is a process that takes time. Rather than push or manipulate your child by giving him treats such as candy or a special reward for something that he will learn on his own, trust that he will learn it when he is ready. Respect is based on trust.”

For more support, here’s a podcast I recorded in response to a parent struggling with toilet training:

I share more about this respectful approach in

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting

 Recommended reading:

Toilet Learning Made Easy by Lisa Sunbury, Regarding Baby

A Doctor Responds: Don’t Potty Train Your Baby by Steve J.  Hodges, M.D.

It’s No Accident: Breakthrough Solutions to Your Child’s Wetting, Constipation, Utis, And Other Potty Problems by Steve Hodges, M.D. and Suzanne Schlosberg

In the Toilet and Toilet Troubles (on this blog)

(Photo by Russ on Flickr)

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237 Responses to “3 Reasons Kids Don’t Need Toilet Training (And What To Do Instead)”

  1. avatar Alex says:

    My son is 15 months. He’s not showing signs of being ready to potty train but I know between 12-18 months is a sensitive period for potty use. He’s happy to sit on his potty and read books and I’ve tried EC. When he’s going to poop I ask if he wants the potty and I have set him on it (so he knew what I meant) and he’ll happily sit and read books on it but will end up pooping later in the day. Can you give me specific ways to know when he’s ready and how to ask if he wants it? I don’t think he understands the point of a potty yet, although he sees me using the big one and I explain what’s happening. I just don’t know. I don’t want to rush him but I don’t want to somehow miss him being ready and I really don’t want him in a diaper at 5 years old. Any specific advice or experiences would be wonderful. Thank you!

    • avatar Ter says:

      The child needs to be dry for long periods of time during the daytime such as two to three hours.

      The child needs to be able to undress with minimal assistance.

      The child needs to be able to sit on the toilet quietly for moderate periods of time such as five to ten minutes.

      The child needs to show an interest in use of the potty-chair or toilet.

      The child needs to have a desire to please parents by participating in toilet training.

      The child needs to notice or feel uncomfortable with wet or soiled diapers.

      The child needs to have basic language skills necessary for understanding and expressing the need to go.

      Many children show signs of readiness between their second and third years.

    • avatar Relaxed says:

      Not sure where you got the info , but I have read on many websites that vast majority of children are not ready for potty before 18 months, and many of those not before 2-3 years, so to me it seems like you are asking your son just way too early. My daughter is 24months, I have been gently encouraging her to sit on a potty, she still is not ready and I feel very relaxed about it. TBH I am not even sure why people are in such rush, nowadays most of us use disposable nappies, no extra labour there from what it used to be, ok a bit of extra cost but manageable, so I dont see a problem. I cannot imagine going round the town with my child and desperately searching for toilets for example. I am actually quite relieved she has the nappy and there for one less worry 🙂

  2. avatar Lisa says:

    I just want to note (as a work at home mom myself) it is not a reasonable expectation to ask Janet to help with your child’s every toilet learning difficulty in detail when you are not giving her anything in return. If she was paid for this work as her job, she would likely make well over $60/hour. (That’s $10 for her to consider your question for 10 minutes, just as an example).
    Please consider this and those who have serious difficulties maybe contact someone who is actually looking for this work?

    • avatar Chantal Bryant says:

      My daughter who is almost 2.5 years old goes to visit her grandparents and father every weekend. The remainder of the time she is with me (her mother), and attends daycare twice a week as well. She started to want to go to pee on the potty quite early, at 19 months, wat 21 months. This is when i decided to talk to her grandmother in hopes of everyone being on the same page and to eliminate as many possibilities for her to run into any negative potty related incidents. I explained to her that her son should get a potty soon or i could give them one so she isn’t thrown off from wearing diapers/not even having the option to use the potty even if she wished at their place and then totally potty friendly at my home. (I wanted it to be as easy as possible as opposed to making it difficult for her due to confusion, lack of consistency and whatever other barriers that could/should be easily eliminated by the adults in the caretaker roles. She flat out said to me “She’s too little to be potty trained, they have to tell you they have to go before you can train them”. I repeated that she had already did this several times and even succeeded in going to the potty twice all by herself. As her mother I knew she was ready… Beyond ready at this point. She said she was too little and that she would not participate in the potty training process. (Meaning strictly diapers when she is with them). My daughter returned the next evening and suddenly wanted NOTHING to do with her potty?! Her excitement was non existent and she wouldn’t even sit on it. She was done with it from that evening on and I didn’t make anything of it. I figured she would get back to it when she was ready. Her grandmother dropped her off this morning, and said she had potty trained her in the past day and a half. That she had worn a diaper to ballet class and the remainder of the time she was in underwear with zero accidents. Now if this is to be true,,, Great! Wonderful! Amazing! She told me that she just uses the regular toilet not a potty cuz she doesn’t have one and doesn’t ever intend on using one. I threw out the option of the seats that can be put on top of the regular toilet seats “just so she’s safe and feels comfortable”. To which she started again!!! Saying that she’s always with her and there should always be an adult with her while she’s on toilet. To which I agree and undertand but think it’s best to be safe rather than sorry! She’s only little and accidents happen, she could attempt to use a toilet and fall through and then be afraid to resume with her potty training or worse actually get hurt!! It’s very obvious that it’s about control and not a potty or a seat to put on her toilet seat. Am I wrong to feel like my daughter should at least have a little seat on the regular toilet seat? She said her toilet seat is more narrow then others. Which even more so means she should have a little seat, of course my daughter will automatically assume that all toilets will fit her the same? I realize this is petty and ridiculous. However, she has no respect for what I would prefer for my daughter. If I say stop she says go… And of course I go. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I may explain it to her nicely and perhaps factual (if their are any facts demonstrating that it’s a safety concern for toddlers to train on a regular size toilet without anything smaller on top?) it’s getting to be too much. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

      • avatar Experienced says:

        I don’t know how old these comments are. If your daughter is willing to sit on the toilet without an extra seat, then I’d let her. I’ve assisted many kids in the restroom. No one has fallen in and been stuck. It’s easier this way then to have them dependent on something else. Once you’re out and about she won’t have that unless you’re carrying it everywhere.

  3. avatar Ashley says:

    Janet, my son is 3 and uses the potty to pre but not poop. He has been popping on a diaper at night exclusively since he was about 18 months, well before using the potty to pee. He is up everynight because he’s pooped and so are we. Any suggestions?

  4. avatar Mary says:

    I agree with most of this, but I think that this part is setting up unrealistic expectations: “but only because I was flabbergasted when she initiated an interest at 18 months and had completed the process by two years old.”

    If you’re going to go this route, there is a good chance your kid is going to be in diapers (as mine were) until they are three or almost three. Which was totally fine as far as I was concerned. But if I were expecting this to happen at 1.5 to 2 years, I’d have been totally frustrated.

    Also if you find that your kid is three before they get around to figuring out how to use the toilet, “fully accepting their choice to stay in diapers” also seems a little unrealistic. They only make diapers so big! And some kids are just resistant to change. There is going to come a point when they need to give up diapers whether they want to or not.

    Finally I think this article needs to let parents off the hook a little in those cases where toilet learning is not happening naturally and easily, even though the parents are doing everything “right.” Some kids develop bladder control later than others. Some kids sleep deeper than others and won’t be able to wake up to pee at night until well into elementary school. None of that is the parents’ fault.

    • avatar Erin says:

      Great points.

    • avatar Elizabeth says:

      My daughter started this week asking for pee… went to the bathroom, pointed to the toilet and touched her diaper. We took it off, asked her to pee and so she did!!! Before going to sleep I ask her if she wants to pee and so she does. I didn’t expect that to happen, she is 17 months old… we have always peed in front of her ant talk about it naturally, but never potty trained her, i was going to do it before she turned 3. I really believe giving them what they neef is the key, don’t force them… they have different needs.

  5. avatar cheryl says:

    i need help, my 4yr old knows to use the big potty to pee, but when it comes to poopy, he does it in his underwear everyday after after dinner, and i dont know he does it after it happens. and i cant pin point the time because it isnt always the same time. he holds it in while at daycare and only does it at home. on weekends he can go 2 times, in the AM and PM. but he knows to potty for poopy but wont do it. i dont know what to do

    • avatar Ter says:

      My daughter was fine with urinating in the toilet, we never used a potty chair, she had a stool for her feet. But, when it came to poopoo she held it. She was so constipated! After crying for a diaper for the next few months so that she could poo and holding her while she cried as she passed this hard lump into her diaper she discovered – on her own – that the poo was going to be okay in the water. She’d tell me, “They’re going to be with their friends”, as she flushed them down the toilet.

    • avatar Sue Clark says:

      My son was almost 4 and would not poop – it finally came out that a friend had told him that if he sat on the toilet, the Ninja Turtles would suck him down into the sewer….You never know what is in their little minds.

  6. avatar laiza says:

    Hello, when my son was 18 months old he was very interested in using the potty. Every time I took his diaper off he would pee on his potty. I started working and later on found out I was pregnant, I was feeling very nauseous and tired from work so I kind stopped incentivizing him to use the potty and my husband never really helped in potty training my son. My son is 2.5 now and I am trying to motivate him to use the potty but he has no in interest in it. I think I missed his sensitive period for using the potty. Do you any advice to help my son regain interest in using the potty?

  7. avatar Eden says:

    My daughter is 4 years 7 months. She is extremely sensitive emotionally and still very dependent. She is constantly seeking attention. She will not do most things for herself which she is supposed to be able to do. I am trying to be extremely patient with her, but it gets difficult sometimes. She was ahead of her age-group when she was two years old. Her father and I went through a rough patch when she was just over two. We didn’t disagree in front of her, but I am sure she picked up on the tension, because she completely regressed in her development to the point where she tested to be two years behind in her development and a speech therapist suggested she might have asperger’s syndrome. She has also regressed several times with peeing on the toilet. The first time she was 2 1/2, it was because her brother was born, the second was when I took in another baby to care for during the day for extra income ( I am a stay at home mom). The third time she wanted to visit her grandma on her own for 4 days. That was about 4 months ago. The fifth time was when I tried to teach her to be more independent on the toilet (I had to take her there, pull down her pants, place her on the toilet, wait for her to pee, wipe her, and pull her pants back on) the only things she did herself was flushing and washing her hands. The last time, her dad wrongfully accused her of wetting herself about a month ago. Since then I have successfully taught her to be a little more independent. She can dress herself now and go pee on the toilet on her own, but still won’t pull up her own pants afterwards. The real reason I am writing this, however, is because she cannot or will not go no.2 on the toilet. She refused to use a potty to train right from the start, I since figured out that she was scared of the potty, so I put her on the big toilet with a seat. That helped with the pee, but not the poo. She has been struggling with chronic constipation since she was 3 months old. She went through a stage where she had to be held down for me to clean her, saying that her poo were her babies. She would actually cry and try to stop me when I flushed it down the toilet. We took her to a psychologist in November and he said that she is an extremely anxious child with beginning signs of ADHD and some markers of asperger’s which she seems to be outgrowing. He said that there is medication available for the anxiousness, but he would not recommend it. He also suggested she would be greatly advantaged by a pre-school. I have since enrolled her in the only one in our neighborhood, but now I have to get her ready by teaching her more independence and pooing on the toilet. Do you have any advice or suggestions? Anything at all would be greatly appreciated.

    • avatar Lucy says:

      Hi Eden,
      It all sounds quite stressful and whilst your situation is quite different to mine I have experienced the guessing journey to address long term severe constipation (in both our children with very healthy diets and reasonable water intake) and the mix of emotions that go with that, incredibly traumatic bleeding inducing poos, doctors who dont seem to be able to appreciate the regular trauma of an infant with very painful pooing, altered behaviour pre-poop and then of course theres a vicious circle of anxiety induced withholding (a major factor in childhood constipation as if the poo doesnt come out of the rectum and is held in then it dries out, so when they eventually go its hard and sore). In hindsight for a long time my own emotions (compassion for the hurting child, guilt re what could i have done/fed them to create this situation, frustration at times when the child is older and you think its within their capabilities to do it etc etc) made things worse for my sensitive girl as this emotional involvement intensified the situation. I learnt from these mistakes with my second child, who had similar constipation but a very different journey.
      For your girl it sounds like the number one thing that you can do is to avoid adding fuel to her anxiousness, so I’d avoid anything that says “we need to do this or xxxx bad thing will happen” e.g. You cant go to school or you might dirty your clothes. Keep things as positive and if possible as lighthearted and funny as possible. Below are some things I mentioned to another member:

      1. An early break approach with my nervous girl was “personifying” the poo! I had read about it as a suggestion and thought, what harm can it do?! So when she looked like she needed to go i’d ask about Mr Poo Poo. Whilst sat on the toilet if things seemed hard i’d encourage her to talk about it, tell him its time to get out of my tummy now Mr Poo Poo (giving some sense of control over the situation. Tell him to get out! Gross I know, but we were desperate at that stage). I see that you mentioned your girl called them babies! Funnily enough my girl says “the poo poos have turned 5 now so they have to go to school” i.e. They re ready to come out into the toilet.
      2. We’d have a long running toilet sitting game where I’d ask “is he going to go…..(insert ridiculous whizzy noise often with actions) or will he go ‘plop’ into the water? This developed into a popular game of silly noises but was handy for my anxious girl and touching on the issue of it will make a noise in the water and thats normal.
      3. If you go for the reward approach make the first one a relatively big ticket item that she knows you have bought for when she poos in the toilet but mention it only once and if possible keep it in sight but out of reach (if u can safely do so). Take a blaze, i dont care if or when you do, approach but this reward is here for when you decide to do it. No pressure, up to you if you want to. You can go in your nappy instead if you like. I found taking this pressure off flicked her focus over.
      4. If she is into princesses etc you could try a pair of pants that she can wear but she has to keep them clean. if she gets them dirty she has to change into the B pants that she’s not keen on. Again I’d suggest a “no judgement” approach. “Never mind” you can try again next day or next week.
      Not sure if any of those things will help, but its some of the things we looked at. As i said below, finding her food combination that helps reduce constipation very helpful. Natural licquorice (black soft eating with extract in) helps ours plus eating pears instead of apples. Everyone is different though and yours might love figs or something else entirely.
      Good luck. I am sure that she will find even greater independence once she is in an environmeny like pre-school. She’s going in the right direction with everything, they rarely progress in a straight line fashion, they seem to shoot ahead in some areas, slow down, regress and shoot ahead in others!

    • avatar Anne Fleck says:

      I have no idea how old this comment is, but just in case I thought I’d reply. There’s a pretty good chance that you’re not dealing with a potty training issue but trauma. Having a sibling or feeling that there’s something not quite right in the family can cause a child to feel helpless and powerless leading to psychological trauma. What your describing in her behavior overal sounds a lot like post traumatic stress. I recommend the book “Does my Child Have PTSD?” The symptoms of PTSD, especially in children often go unrecognized by mental health providers who don’t specialize in trauma. It is often misdiagnosed as ADHD and/or an anxiety disorder.

    • avatar Jo says:

      Eden, sorry to hear this but it is not uncommon unfortunately after the MMR vaccine for this to happen, was she vaccinated around this time? If so then you can feel confident it wasn’t yours or your husband’s fault but she has a sensitivity to the vaccines. Please very carefully look into this before giving her any more (my advice don’t at all) and look at her diet (ie gluten free often really helps, also no artificial colourings or flavours) & a gentle detox which might help. Good luck xx

      • avatar Ash says:

        This comment should be removed by the moderators, recommending not vaccinating children as well as “detoxing” them is extraordinarily dangerous, irresponsible advice.

    • avatar Rebecca Fitch says:

      Hi Eden,

      I have no idea how old this comment is, but I did want to tell you some things that might be helpful. I have my MA in Early Childhood Education with a Credential in Early Childhood Special Education. I have been working with young children with special needs for many years.
      1. You need to take your daughter to be assessed at your local school district. Children ages 3 and up can be served through the school district. They should do a comprehensive developmental assessment. I’m surprised, given that your daughter has gone through other assessments, that no one has mentioned this. If she has difficulty with communication (which it sounds like she does or did because of the speech therapist that you mentioned), toileting will likely take much longer than it does for other children. You can consider using visual cues (pictures) to communicate the toilet routine. You might need to go over the routine many many times.
      2. Children who have autism (which is what aspergers is now classified as) tend to experience big periods of regression, typically around 2 year old. This has nothing to do with vaccinations or nutrition at all. It could be that she had some trauma, but know that this regression is typical for children with autism. Children with autism are extremely sensitive, by and large, to change. Any change in routine can be extremely upsetting. And at the same time, they might have more difficulty following simple self help routines. You should get a full autism assessment through a referral from your pediatrician. If your daughter does have autism, she might be able to qualify for behavior therapy, which can be a godsend.

      This can be a difficult journey, I hope you have been able to find the help and support your family needs.

  8. avatar unknown says:

    I am having severe problems related to my kid being potty trained. I m in need of help as my frustration and stress level is going higher day by day.
    I introduced my boy to potty when he was 18 months for first 6 months he never did pee or poo in potty. I gave a break of 6 month and started again. I kept this trainong on and off until he was 3. Then i shifted him to toilet seat. Luckily now he starts to pee. It has been 6 months now but he keeps having 1 or 2 accidents everyday. For pee he has a control but he has no control over his poo. He doesnot like to make communications about it. He gets aggressive and throws things in washroom. Most of the times he considers washroom a play area. He never tries to poo despite all the treats and bribes. He would pee right away but everyday his poo is out and he shows this face to me like he regrets it.
    I m a bi polar. And i have started to get frustrations of cleaning it and not able to get response from last 6 months. He usually doesnot talk when u ask him any question. He is not even trying to speak a lot though he knows all the words and vocabulary but 8 out 10 times he shouts to get his things done
    Plz advice me what to do.

  9. avatar Gwen says:

    I read this whole article but coming away I simply see a lot of what the author doesn’t like and doesn’t recommend. Not a whole lot of details about what they suggest. Vague suggestions aren’t helpful when working with toddlers. My three year old is ready and able but I am not. I need help on how to move forward but this is only telling me what not to do. Not helpful

    • avatar janet says:

      Right, Gwen. This approach is about allowing your child to initiate a process and then facilitating that process. If your child is ready, then I would simply be open and accepting and helpful.

  10. avatar Erica says:

    Many preschools (all in my area) won’t allow kids to start unless they are potty trained. I didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity. I just trained my 2.5 year old in a few days (to make him more confident for when he starts at three). I guess I am just not seeing the argument. To each their own, though! Unlike the author of this article, I see validity in both sides of the argument and support either parenting choice. My friend trained her 20 month old twins in 24 hours. Hardly damaging in any way, I think. 😉

  11. avatar Carol says:

    I so agree with waiting until the child is ready, but what happens when your child is nearly four and still won’t use it at all (even though she knows how to) My daughter is the only one in her church class that is still in diapers and I am required to provide pull-ups for her (which I do not want to use on her) because there is no diaper changing station in the 3-4 year old class, of course. She knows the entire routine of using the potty but she just keeps telling me she’s not ready. I am hoping it is soon because I am worn out – I never though I would be diapering my child for four years and I am close to giving up.

  12. avatar Suzanne says:

    So what’s your take on elimination communication?

    • avatar janet says:

      Personally, I don’t recommend it. Here are some of the reasons: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-hodges-md/potty-training_b_1424826.html

      • avatar Nina says:

        Hi Janet and all the lovely peeps who post on this thread. Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks for your time, effort and care in sharing your experiences and knowledge! I have a bit of a ramble in regards to EC:

        It seems odd to me that a practice that appears to tick so many of the RIE boxes (improved communication, baby-led, observational, unrestricted movement etc) is disregarded because of problems that are not exclusive to that practice – they are problems shared by nappy or nappy-free babies! How can it be said that EC shouldn’t be practiced because babies hold elimination movements, when this is a regular experience of nappied babies (as evidenced by so many of the posts in this thread)! Isn’t that a bit pot-calling-the-kettle-blackish? What also seems odd to me is that the intention of EC is not to teach babies to hold their elimination movements, but for parents and caregivers to be able to understand and respond when a baby gives an elimination signal. If I am observant and listening, I understand the signal and can respond and help my child eliminate his waste outside of his nappy. If I’m not listening, I miss the cue and he still does his business. There’s no holding on. It’s still a child-led process.

        I can completely understand that it might create anxiousness and ‘holding on’ in my child if I were to put him in daycare and he is in an environment where he is not used to eliminating and other people to attend to him that he is not comfortable communicating with. But again, isn’t this something that nappied babies also experience? There are posts here of people telling stories of their child holding on until after daycare. So again, the effect of new environments and situations on a child’s eliminating process can be subject to the same problems – nappy free or not!

        With this being said, isn’t the approach to how you interact with your child more important, rather than the practice that this approach works around? Whether my child is nappy free or not, it still requires good communication, clear boundaries, respect, observation and child-led directions. For me, coupling the benefits of RIE with EC has been a very positive experience. I’ve also read stories here of parents who had a positive experience with baby-led toilet training from nappies at an older age. Could we instead focus on that rather than dissuading any particular type of toileting practice? I just didn’t find the article that you provided on the disadvantages of EC to be particularly well founded and in my experience (and my baby’s experience) the benefits of EC have been wondrous. His level of happiness, independence, physical movement and good bowel movements increased so dramatically when my husband and I started EC that it was astounding. Of course, this may change, but that is the joyous challenge of parenting! Much love,

      • avatar Simone says:

        Hi Janet,
        To be honest I am shocked that you don’t recommend elimination communication. You promote everything else natural in baby development, why not the most natural thing of all, to eliminate?
        The article you are quoting lists the perfect reasons why western children might get constipated, e.g. bad diet, nursery settings, school schedule, use of toilet not squatting. So it doesn’t say that infants aren’t born with the instinct to eliminate but that we as a society make it impossible for them to learn pottying naturally from birth.
        Interestingly, your recommendations regarding child behaviour or movement aren’t always convenient for parents either but it’s still ok to promote.
        To me it seems like you have fallen prey of the nappy industry that is now branching out to the countries that practise elimination communication (Asia, Africa, India). Do you know how they convince parents to use nappies? Not by telling them that babies aren’t ready to potty train from birth, no by telling them that wearing a nappy promotes sleep, is more civilised and hygienic (https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2012/1129/Disposable-diapers-or-bare-bottoms-China-frets-over-potty-training).
        So please take another look at your conviction, visit Asia or talk to local people that practise elimination communication.
        My first son was out of nappies at 14 months and my second son is 10 mths old and only poos on the potty. He crawls up to me and looks at me in a certain way when he needs to toilet. It’s all about parents tune in to their children. Nappies have only been around for 50 years or so. Please don’t be fooled by industry interests!

  13. avatar Ettina says:

    That doctor in the ‘don’t potty train your baby’ sounds like a quack. Seriously, he’s never seen a kid in diapers with a UTI? Those kids are at *higher* risk of UTIs, not lower, because their urinary tracts often come in contact with poop in their diaper. If he gets that wrong, I seriously doubt he has any real qualifications.

    • avatar Lili says:

      I do agree with him. Yes, there is contact with poo in nappies – that’s why they should be changed regularly but holding it can have more damaging and long lasting effect. In many hunter gatherers societies they don’t use nappies at all but they hold their babies almost all the time and because they are very attuned to them they let them eliminate as soon as they need to. That’s different then making your baby to hold it.

  14. avatar sarah lee says:

    my child is 4 and has been in Special School District preschool since the age of 3. He will be 5 in January and start kindergarten the next year. He is still in diapers the sight and smell of of his feces and urine makes him vomit. I’m definitely thinking there’s some cognitive issues and have begun seeking therapy for them but so far have not gotten any responses. Anyone else have a problem with this?

  15. avatar Callie says:

    This is very encouraging. We are doing pretty much all of these things and our daughter does enjoy going to the potty and she knows what to do; however, she doesn’t seem to be interested in fully making the transition to panties. We have had her wear panties but she always ends up with accidents and I feel like that isn’t ideal so we have put her back in pull-ups. She can pull-up and do it herself but she also still will go several hours without actually going to the bathroom. She seems to be at that point still where she’d rather play and sit in a wet diaper than actually go the potty consistently. Do you have any recommendations to get her more consistent with going to the bathroom? She is 3 and half years old. She has had a history of delayed gross motor skills and hypotonia due to CHARGE syndrome. Which is why we haven’t pushed it too much with her and just have continually guided her in the process until she got strong enough to do it herself.
    This article encouraged me because I keep asking myself if I’m not dedicated enough to getting her “potty trained” and if I needed to push more than I do.

    • avatar Amy says:

      PullUps feel like diapers to kids. Let her wet her underwear. At some point, she will dislike wet underwear and start using the toilet. She may need a small toilet you put on the floor or a seat that is solidly attached to the adult seat (homedepot $55).

  16. avatar Amy says:

    This is the worst advice I’ve ever read on potty training. It WOULD be easy if your child initiated by 18 months old. My second is potty trained except for pooping. He is 4 years old next month and refuses to poop in the toilet. He is afraid of falling in. The advice is to not even tell him about using the toilet? I should just let him “hold it in” until after school every day? That is not healthy. I have not said much to him about pooping on the toilet, but will start. He has stomach aches and needs to know that he can do it and he will be ok. Our kids need emotional support and belief in them that they can do it. There would be many things they would never attempt if we did not lovingly push them to at least try.

    • avatar janet says:

      But the problem with pushing (in this particularly delicate aspect of development) is that it causes children to push back.

  17. avatar Mari says:

    Okay I have a question. We have almost 3 year old triplets. Both girls use the potty independently but our son is still in diapers most of the time. The issue is that he says he wants to wear undies and is going be responsible with his pee. And sometimes he is and can go all morning diaper free. Other times he will just pee or even poop in his undies and not say anything unless/until I notice. I want to trust him and support his desire to be like his sisters, but he’s so inconsistent!

  18. avatar Suzanne says:

    I don’t understand : “Be careful not to transmit negative messages about body parts or feces and urine (“stinky, dirty”, etc.).” we joke that it stinks and they need to know it is dirty and don’t think it’s ok to smear it on the walls or put their unwashed potty hands in their mouths.

  19. avatar Joy says:

    My daughter has been diagnosed first with aspergers now it’s considered autism, even though she’s high functioning she still refuses to use the toilet or wear underwear. I’ve only known the potty “training” methods and have never heard of the learning ways till now and was wondering if autistic children are capable of learning this way as well.

  20. avatar sarah says:

    Do you have advice for us in supporting our almost 4 year-old who is still in diapers (day and night)? I’m pretty sure she can tell when she has to go to the bathroom but she is very upset by the idea of not wearing a diaper. I was taking the ‘wait until she’s ready’ approach but it is starting to feel as though that may never be the case…
    Thank you!

    • avatar April says:

      Sarah, I have no advice, but we’re in a similar boat. My daughter is almost 4. For a whole 10 months, she was in panties and occasionally had a small pee accident but would immediately go to the toilet to pee the rest of it.
      Well. She started having full bladder pee accidents, and refused to sit on the potty even as her legs were pressed together and she was doing the dance. She’d have a big pee accident and then not want to change her clothes.
      So we’ve been back in pull ups for about 4 months (we always give her the choice). She’s such a smart kid, that I’m worried she’s figured out that it really is easier to just pee in a pull up. I’m not sure she’s going to ever be naturally ready to potty train, she might want to be in a pull up just for convenience. What’s the natural benefit to her of peeing on the potty?

  21. avatar Kona says:

    This is the most backwards article I have read regarding potty training. While I respect personal opinions, this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read and goes against everything else recommended.

  22. avatar Isa says:

    Hi, I’ve applied these principles but my baby is now 3y1m old and does not wish to give up diapers. He occasionally uses the toilet successfully, but never requests it. He sometimes wants to wear panties but acts as if they were diapers 🙂 Tried not to force him, but now I’m becoming concerned because there’s no sign he will give up diapers anytime soon. Any advice please?

    • avatar janet says:

      Can you share a little more about how this process has gone? When you say “tried not to force him”… what does that mean?

  23. avatar Kristi says:

    My two oldest Sons didn’t potty train until they were three. When my third son came along I decided I wouldn’t do anything till he was 3. When he was about two and a half, when I was changing his diaper, I would tell him he didn’t have to wear those anymore when he turned 3. The day he turned 3 I told him he was 3 years old. He jumped out of bed took off his diaper and said I don’t have to wear these anymore. He even stayed dry at night there are only a couple of accidents it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done!

  24. avatar Dixie says:

    My almost 5 years old “is working on getting better at doing no1 on the potty” (in her words). She goes for no2 on her own with no problem. We are doing dance and she had one accident in the 2nd class. For the following 2 classes she had diaper. Since she excuses herself from class for potty witch is great. I only wish she would do the same the rest of time. she’s quite independent most of the time. I run out ideas .. any ideas/suggestions!??? and her 3.5 year old sister fully trained herself at 1.5 years.

  25. avatar Anum says:

    Hi, would eliminating diapers all together be considered coaxing your child because if they are wearing diapers they have the security of being able to go without having to stop their activities. I’ve heard of the “3 day method” where you eliminate diapers all together Abdullah the child learns if they do not go to the toilet they will be wet. I would much appreciate your input. Should a child be allowed to continue wearing diapers if they choose to out of security?

  26. avatar Fatima says:

    I dont completely support this article.over the fact that every child is different and has its own capabilities in which way works for them to learn..training has never been a piece of cake some parents struggle alot untill they accomplish and some just give up v.often but when you get signs from your child always give it a try .it takes time and alot of paitience but it works..and appreciating them in which ever way you can is always positive.i trained my son at two years even he could talk at tht time it took me a month but then he was completely potty trained for day n night never used pull ups.there is no big deal as parents are too lazy to train them they stay happy with the diaper but whenever you put a effort on ur child its worth it

  27. avatar Ana Maria says:

    This is a recipe for ending up with a 3.5 yr old in diapers. I frequent WIO circles and I often see discussions about older toddlers who were supposed to be leading the way on potty training, but they are not interested. It gets really stressful for parents who want to send their kids to school.

  28. avatar Daniele says:

    This article was interesting to consider as an early childhood educator. We hear many different techniques from parents and the pros and cons of each. This article makes me consider all the possibilities in potty training and the unknown of what is best. There may not be a best way but rather many ways in which people find to work best for them and their culture.

    Potty training is one of those pivotal moments in a child’s life where they are taking a step further into their autonomous being. At least, that is the majority view in the United States, however, in other cultures it may not be seen as a major step but rather a natural developmental learning period which happens at any point in infancy/toddler hood.
    Elimination communication has been a recent topic in the U.S. It is used by some when their infant is really young. It’s used in North America more recently but has been a traditional method for many cultures around the world for centuries. This may be more commonly used in third world countries, as it is more relevant to their daily lifestyle and culture in some countries in which they do not have as much access to bathrooms and spend a lot of time outside. It is not only a method for potty training but also for creating bonds between the infant and caregiver, allowing the adult to understand the infant’s needs and communicate on a nonverbal level. This could be a difficult routine to follow in a childcare setting, as the infant would not be able to go without diapers per licensing regulations. However, it could open up more communication among the teacher and infant if the teacher takes time to understand the way the parent and infant communicate at home about elimination.

    In China, they use a split bottom pant method, so the infant/toddler is easily able to go to the bathroom when needed and can learn when their body needs to go. This may be hard for people in the United States to understand, because it is not culturally acceptable for toddlers to relieve themselves in public, however, in some cultures this is common and just a part of how children learn on their own. The differences in this developmental learning period is fascinating to compare across different cultures.

    One can even see differences by simply looking into different cultures within the United States. There are many methods being used just within the United States, such as, rewards, training pants, reinforcement/reminders, praise, no pants 3-day method, etc. As a teacher, it’s important to realize that although this is a common developmental stage, potty training can be a really stressful time on both the parent and child. Taking time to understand and listen to the techniques parents are using at home and how they can be transferred to the school environment would be helpful for all parties involved, and potentially make for an easier transition into using the potty autonomously.

  29. avatar Rebecca says:

    Hi, My son is also 15 months and is showing some clear signs of communicating that he is peeing or pooping…while he is doing it and sometimes right before he points down at his diaper and goes “mmm mmm” to me getting my attention. I acknowledge it, saying you are “peeing or pooping…” nodding my head. Sometimes ill ask him to “show me what he means” and he walks to the bathroom/toliet…he has done it some times in time for us to “catch” his pee or poop. We had done EC for months until he was about 11months and then he was not interested (he learned how to walk) so he is familiar with the potty. He can get up on his own with a stool but he can’t get his diaper off or pants off by himself.

    I don’t exactly want to potty train him… but…what should i do to be respectful of what he is communicating to me? and what he wants? (unclear to me…but i think he doesn’t like being wet/pooped) so i can change his diaper. Can stay dry during nap is when I’ve noticed it most. but he will have to pee right after he wakes.

    Interestingly, when he was younger, 6 months etc, while breastfeeding he would “tell me” he had to poop. He would get off the breast and babble/make a noise and i figure it out that it meant he had to poop.

    i want to make this transition for him as respectful and stressless as possible. Thank you 🙂

  30. avatar Sara says:

    Sorry but this is horrible advice. It can’t apply to all children. My eldest son has an extremely willful/resistant personality and regressed a lot when my younger was born. At 3.5 he showed zero interest in using the potty so we had no choice but to initiate it. We’ve done it as gently as possible and he’s getting the hang of it but I agree that applying these principles to all children could result in preschoolers in diapers.

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