In The Toilet

The advice I’m reading on the web about potty training is disappointing, to say the least.  Potty training in 3 days? One day? Tips and tricks? Shouldn’t we have a little respect?  Potty training is not something we do to a child, or ask the child to do to please us.  Children don’t need to be bribed with treats and rewards.  Using the toilet is something a child wants to do when he is ready, for himself. It is a natural process that is best led completely by the child with our support.

Yes, I understand parents wondering, worrying and feeling impatient about successful toilet training, even though it is something every healthy normal child eventually achieves. But we can create resistance, distrust, even shame when we coax a child to the potty one moment before he’s ready.   

One problem is the word ‘training,’ which gives us the impression that we must be proactive in a process that is best advised to happen naturally. When children are ready, they train themselves. If we are patient and create the atmosphere of acceptance our toddlers need to initiate their transition from diapers to toilet, they master the skill easily, and gain the feeling of autonomy they deserve.

Readiness is the key. Children must be ready physically (have bladder and bowel capacity and muscle control), cognitively (be fully aware of what they are supposed to do), and they must be ready emotionally 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.)

Parents lay the groundwork for the child’s readiness when, beginning at birth, we make diaper changes an enjoyable, cooperative time together, and respect the baby by slowing down and talking him through each part of the process.

When the child begins to show signs of toilet readiness (he lets you know he has urinated, wants the wet diaper removed immediately, and then begins to tell you before he urinates), it might be time to have a small potty on hand.  Then, every person who cares for the child are advised to be on board to refrain from asking the child to use the potty, or nudging in anyway. Some children are extremely sensitive to being pushed in this area, and reactions can be as extreme as holding feces in for days, or having to put a diaper on and hide to be able to have bowel movement for years after having been supposedly ‘trained’.

I have seen cases where children began a pattern of resistance when the parent coaxed them to use the potty, and the relationship of resistance continued in other areas into adulthood. Parents must tread carefully when dealing with toilet issues.

It is safest to relax, remain patient and allow the child to tell us every time he wants to go to the toilet on his own. The process of self-training can take weeks, even months. Disruptions in the child’s life (a new sibling, traveling) can cause him to backtrack, even after we thought him fully trained. In those cases it’s best to “go with the flow” (so to speak) and keep diapers or pull-ups available well after training seems finished.

Trusting our child pays off for everyone. The child takes pride in his newfound autonomy, and his self-confidence grows. By being trusted to ‘let go’ when he is ready, he can ‘hold on’ to intrinsic motivation.  After all, if we have to control our bodily functions to please our parents, what can we ever own?





Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. This post totally nails it: I remember the thing that terrified me the most about being a 2’s and 3’s teacher was the realization that I’d have to TEACH toddlers how to use the toilet! How was I supposed to teach something that is so automatic that I don’t even think about it?!
    But as I got into the year, I realized that just as you can’t teach someone to walk, you can’t teach them to use the toilet…the motivation and the skills all come from within. As you say, you simply make the space available and trust that they will do it when they are ready. It seems too simple to be true, and truthfully, waiting and trusting can be *harder* than coaxing or actively trying to “train” your child…but once you really grasp this idea, it makes the whole process so much more relaxed…for both adult and child.

  2. I’ve been wondering since I started reading about RIE what the attitude is towards taking the Elimination Communication route where the child is essentially potty trained as an infant. I’ve known 2 mothers who use this so I know that it’s physically possible. Do you have any experience with parents using this in conjunction with the RIE principles? It seems like it would be a good match as one of the keys to the success of EC is observation of your child for cues.

    1. Hi Annika,

      I don’t know anyone that uses the Elimination Communication method in accordance with RIE principles, because I don’t believe it would be possible. For one, RIE encourages extended periods of uninterrupted play, and for the infant to have the beginnings of some autonomy. If a baby is being rushed to the toilet when the parent believes they will urinate, the baby is going to be ‘unnecessarily’ interrupted quite a bit. And even if the parent ‘gets it right’ most of the time, the parent is taking control of something that the child can and should be in control of when he is ready.

      I admit that I know little about the Elimination Communication method, but I can’t imagine that rushing an infant to the toilet creates the calm, peaceful atmosphere, and sense of security that Magda Gerber recommends. And what happens when the child is left in another’s care? Or does this require the parent’s 24-hour close presence? Annika, if you can illuminate, please do!

      The one benefit I do see is that taking a infant to the toilet requires a parent’s sensitive observation, as you said. So, a parent who was not aware of an approach, like RIE, that promotes tuning in to a baby’s communication of needs would be strongly motivated to do so.

      1. Hi, I just wanted to clarify a few things about elimination communication here. I’ve done it very successfully with my son, now two, and for a year and a half I was a volunteer for an EC awareness group.

        First and foremost, elimination communication is about communication. The baby communicates the need to relieve him or herself, and the caregiver communicates when the child is in an appropriate place to go. I only rushed to the bathroom with my son when HE seemed urgent about it. And this was most often in the newborn stage. (I actually recommend having a potty bowl or flat diaper available nearby so no rushing is needed at all.). The EC approach with older babies, if they are engrossed in playing, is to bring a potty to them, just slip it under them and let them be. I did this many times with my son and it never seemed to interrupt his play.

        EC also does not have to be done full-time. It does not require the parent’s 24-hour close presence. It’s actually a fairly flexible practice. Doing it in any amount will help a baby retain elimination awareness and develop sphincter control. It also allows the child to be in control of their potty learning, but since they are already familiar with pottying, then graduating to “potty-learned” is totally natural to them.

        With my son, I found that diapers were actually holding him back. Just before his second birthday, I stopped putting diapers on him (except at night), and he graduated very quickly. He already had the awareness and sphincter control, was already familiar with using the potty, and without the diaper he now had motivation. I left it up to him to use the potty, and he did. I could tell that using the potty on his own and not wearing a diaper gave him so much confidence in himself.

        I can’t praise elimination communication enough. Imagine the bonding you would miss with your baby if you never fed them…I feel that’s what parents are missing when they never potty them. You can bond during diaper changes but it’s not the same. EC is a highly respectful practice in which the goal should not be early potty training but rather deepening the bond, the trust, and the level of communication you have with your child.

        1. Hi Lisa,

          Thanks for your thorough explanation of elimination communication. I’m glad to hear that you found it possible to do without interrupting your baby.

          1. avatar Alexandra says:

            Hi Janet-

            Wanted to share what we do, and my experience with EC. We have been offering potty opportunities since Ellie was brand new – 2 weeks or so. My understanding is that children are born with the awareness that they need to eliminate (like the awareness of the need to eat). When we offer opportunities to eliminate into a receptacle like a bowl or little potty, we honor that aspect of children’s physical development. When she indicates that she needs to go, or at regular intervals, the child is offered an opportunity and held over the sink, toilet or little potty. Once she can sit independently, then I invite her to sit. And if nothing happens, she gets off the potty by herself.
            So I would like to suggest that it’s not just a way to connect with our children, it actually helps honor their capacity to maintain awareness of their systems. Also, the research about children being incapable of learning to use the toilet until older toddler-hood appears to have been sponsored by Pampers! As diapers become more and more sophisticated, children come to ignore this natural awareness. In fact, in many places in the world children are able to learn how to eliminate in specific locations from very young ages. Eliana, at 8 months, absolutely indicates that she is uncomfortable when wet or soiled immediately after going. So by offering opportunities to go, she maintains her natural awareness.
            I think that children have so much difficulty with learning how to use the toilet partly because they need to relearn something that they were born with a natural capacity to do.
            By the way, I don’t even try to “catch” every time, and sometimes miss cues – I just offer at specific times throughout the day (first thing in the morning, before and after bath), and when I change her. Also, when she stops her play to do her “business”, I ask if she needs to go and pay attention to her response. So it is definitely in line with the RIE philosophy, to tune in to baby’s needs, to honor their capabilities. Also, I think she is able to play with more focus when her body is clean and therefore more comfortable.
            When I offer her the potty, it is without demand or recrimination, much like when I offer her food. Are you hungry? Do you need to go potty? Etc. No need for bribes or frustration. It’s just part of our life.
            Hope that brings some new perspective to the discussion. Interested in your thoughts.

            1. avatar Christina says:


              I am curious how a 2 month old baby can indicate that they need to go wees or poos? I have heard of parents ‘toilet training’ their kids as 6 month olds, I just don’t get how they can tell an adult that they need to go??? thanks for sharing all the information. interesting to read.

            2. avatar Disappointed says:

              I’m very confused to discover that with all Janets experience, with her belief that newborns can communicate things such as an agreement to be picked up or put down to play etc, that she is adamant that they cannot communicate the need to eliminate. All I can think is that there is a lot of money in corporate sponsorship from diaper companies, and that makes me very sad.
              I observed in the first two weeks that my daughter would get distraught right *before* she eliminated, I was fascinated but it wasn’t until 5 months that I started putting her on a potty. By 7 months it had already become quite intuitive, and by 10 months She was out of diapers completely.
              Disposable diapers are not only devastating to the environment they run counter to a babies natural instinct as a mammal not to soil themselves. I’ve also witnessed in other friends newborns since, that they too get upset *before* they eliminate. It is only once they’ve accepted being forced to soil themselves over and over again that they do so without any signs.

              1. Disappointed – You seem to misunderstand my view. I agree that infants are capable of communicating and it is wonderful for parents to tune in to them. Where I disagree with you is in your projection that an infant communicating that they are urinating or having a bowel movement is asking you to hold them over a toilet. That is a purely adult-led perception and agenda.

        2. I love to look at traditional societies where the child is always close by and there is strong communication from that. How far backwards are we going from an instinctual practice now as we have diapers that don’t even allow the child to feel wet. Ridiculous. I applaud you Lisa ! From another attached parent EC’er!

      2. avatar akbradbury11 says:

        Hi Janet. I am new to this RIE method and have really enjoyed a lot of your articles. I practiced elimination communication with my daughter after hearing about it being yet another way to communicate with my child about her needs and reading the Diaper Free Baby, which is an excellent resource for anyone interested in this topic. The writer gives a wealth of information about how diaper training is actually fairly new and children are now becoming older in age of “potty training” because of the shift from reading the child’s cues. She also describes how babies are actually born with the instincts to not soil where they sleep (very similar to wild animals) but that diapers and the ignoring of their cues diaper train them. She also gives a list of countries that practice this, most of them being countries that live naturally and without diapers-Africa being one of them. Did you see the documentary babies? My story is this: I started out by observing my 4 month old when she was lying naked on a towel to see her urination pattern and to begin to tap into her cues. It became very clear that there was a pattern and it helped me really tap into communication of needs along side eating, sleeping etc.. It was very obvious to me when she needed to poop, when we were nursing she would nurse a definite way, sometimes let out a toot and then when her face was scrunched up I would take her and squat her over the toilet. Pee was a little harder to tell but when she was about 9 months I decided to go all the way with it. I had a little potty in the car, chose clothes that were easy to get on and off. It was an amazing journey. She would give cues such as looking down at her diaper-she would interrupt herself from what she was doing to communicate that she needed to go- with a long enough pause to allow me to take her to the toilet. Or she would crawl over to the toilet. Once we were on an airplane when she was 10 months old and she was cuing to me that she needed to poop and pee but we were landing so I couldn’t get up to take her. I told her I was observing her need to go and that it was ok to go in her diaper if she needed to or that we would be landing soon and could go to the toilet. She held it for over 20 minutes until we go to the toilet. The looks on her face when she would go and then could get back into exploring told me that she was thankful for this. Also we developed an intuition connection. I would think about her needing to pee and if I didn’t react accordingly then she had already gone in her diaper, this happened over and over. She also started sleeping better when I would take her to the toilet in the night. At 12 months old she started signing “potty” to me before bed and then after taking her there she would fall asleep. When she was in the care of others they knew what we did and they thought it was a wonderful way to connect with her too and communicate her needs. Her grandparents have had great joy being able to meet her need of staying dry and not having poop spread in her vagina for long periods of time leading to diaper rash (she never had any) or infections. At about 15 months old she started saying “pee pee” when she needed to go. I did take her to the potty sometimes when she didn’t sign it, like when we would first arrive somewhere before we both got involved in what we were doing but I feel like that is just the same interruption as changing a diaper, it just is more proactive. She did let me know very clearly when she was ready to take charge of taking herself and reading her own cues. I put a little potty in our kitchen near her play area and when she needed to go she would say “peeeeee” and come running and sit down on it and go. She takes herself into the bathroom, says privacy and goes to the bathroom when she was 2. Now she is 2.5 and enjoys some company from time to time. We never had to go through “potty training” or any of the awful things that can come from it. She has had an awareness of this part of her body from such a young age and I am so happy I nourished that. It really encouraged her to listen to her body and also that the people closest to her would also listen to her. I cherish our time with this experience and would encourage anyone to explore this way of responding to their babies elimination needs. I hope that you will look into this and find all the benefits I did and pass it on!

  3. Thank you for this article, Janet. My daughter is 33 months old and still wears diapers. It was hard to stand up (and listen) to my parents, who were pressuring me into “training” her since she was 18 months old.
    Last year I took training at Sophia’s Hearth Family Center in Keene, New Haprshire for early childhood teachers. This training combines waldorf philosophy with the teachings of Emmi Pikler (Magda Gerber’s mentor). We talked about the importance of self-initiation when children are learning to walk and how the same applies for potty training. So I decided to patiently wait for my daughter’s self-initiation. Last week, one afternoon, when I was breastfeeding her little sister and she was running around only in her diaper, she suddenly ran over to her little potty, took her diaper off, sat down, did number two, took the potty to the bathroom, emptied it into the toilet and flushed! She did all that by herself without a blink, like it was the most natural thing for her to do! She learned what to do just by observation and when she was ready, she knew exactly what to do.
    Thank you again for your lovely and encouraging articles!

  4. What should I do if I have begun nudging her? Can this be undone? Now I feel really bad b/c I know she needed to poop this evening but I really wanted her to go on the potty instead of a diaper. She ended up going to bed w/o pooping :(. When she wears underwear, she pees on the potty 99 times out of 100. When she wears a pull-up, she pees on the potty 15 times out of 100. I thought by telling her she could only wear a diaper when sleeping that I was helping her along but maybe I’m not. Please help!

    1. Mary,

      First, don’t feel bad! Second, yes, it can be easily undone. Let go of your agenda. Give her back the control. Tell her that things will be different and that you’re sorry you were rushing her. Tell her you want her to use her pull-ups or diapers for as long as she needs them. Say something like, “I know you will tell us when you want to go on the potty. Peeing and pooping in your diapers is fine with us.” And then really mean it. That may be the hardest part, letting go and changing your attitude to one of acceptance, but it will take the pressure off for both of you! Go easy on yourself. Model patience. You will likely look back on this later as very positive ‘bump’ in your relationship — the beginning of a new level of mutual trust.

      Please, keep me posted!

  5. Hi Janet!

    I found you by accident a few days ago while googling something about toddler milestones and i have been hooked on your blog ever since! My little girl is 33months and we are on our way to potty training. I have been trying to open her world to the idea of it by reading her a couple of books about it, every now and then, and just talking openly about it with her…….occassionally i will ask her if she wants to use the potty and sometimes she says yes and just sits on it and other times she says no and that is perfectly fine too. My plan is just to continue and let her lead the way!
    The only time I have felt confident about doing it this way was when i read your article this evening! My heart is smiling and my confidence as a mother is growing!!!

    Thank You!

    1. Hi Lauren,

      That makes me really happy! What you are doing sounds perfect. You have wonderful instincts.

  6. Thank you for this post. I am having difficulty with my son & bm’s in the toilet. He seems to prefer to just go in his pants & some days I’m so stressed out by it I just want to cry. I’ve been looking for a new approach & I think I may have to bite the bullet & just go get some pullups for his bm’s. I’m tired of cleaning up the messy underwear & I’m hoping if I can relax he can relax & maybe I can figure out the cues & then talk to him about it. I’ve been wanting to just take it easy but my husband puts pressure on me because he thinks he should be completely “trained” by now. It’s not fun trying to “force” him to go because it’s not working & maybe if I let up he will want to go. Thanks again for this info…I’m hoping it will help.

    1. Hi Shannon,

      It sounds like your boy is definitely demonstrating resistance to toilet training. I understand your stress — toddlers are challenging enough as it is! I’m sure you will all feel better if you and your husband let go of any agenda and give your son the pull-ups or diapers he needs to be comfortable. Let him know, honestly, that you will trust him to tell you when he is ready, and you want him to feel free to have a bm in his diaper. Encourage it. He needs reassurance that he is not disappointing you in any way. Trust that this will be something he does for himself when he’s ready.

      To put it in perspective for your husband, look around, do you see adults or older children wearing diapers? And yet, we know many children and adults lacking in self-confidence.

      Please keep me posted! Take care…

    2. We found with our daughter that wearing underwear seemed to be a barrier for her since it feels like a pull up because of the elastic at the legs and waist. The only times she had accidents were when wearing underwear. We let her go without for a couple of months so she could do a hard reset on the sensation. She’s now wearing underwear and rarely has accidents. Also, keeping a potty chair in her room helps as she tends to poop during quiet time. That enables her to feel in control of the situation. He may also need the privacy.

      It’s so hard not to let your frustration show to your child. Be gentle with yourself as you navigate this and gentle with him as well.

  7. Hi Janet,
    Tonight as my treat to myself I’m sitting down to read and re-read your wonderful blog! I am a childminder in Ireland and I currently serve on the board of Childminding Ireland. I think that RIE is wonderful, practical and down to earth and it has a lot to offer educarers like myself who work in their own home.
    I am particularly interested in this post because of issues I am having with my daughter. I waited and allowed her to lead the way with the toilet process. No.2 remained something she didn’t want to do in the toilet but eventually she started to tell me when this was coming too and she seemed to be home and dry (literally). In the past couple of weeks she has regressed with the no.2’s. I can only think that it reflects a concern for her with the fact that I have had a baby girl start in my service. This would be the first child to start with my full time since the birth of her brother 15 months ago. Should I do as you suggest and return to pull ups? I have gently suggested this but she doesn’t like the idea as she sees them now as a night time thing. Thanks again for the wonderful blog, keep up the great work,

    1. Hi Deirdre,

      Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog!

      I appreciate your thoughtful approach to the incredibly important job of “childminding”. I’m glad RIE appeals to your instincts. (And, I married into a lot of Irish blood, so I’m thrilled to connect with an Irish mum!) ‘Childminding’ is not a term we use in the US, but I like it because it connotes involving the ‘mind’…so important to begin a mind connection with babies!

      I think your instincts about your daughter are spot on, and I encourage you to allow her to regress as much as she needs to. Puzzling that she wouldn’t take you up on your suggestion to return to pull-ups. Does she have a plan for herself? I would tell her that you want her to be as comfortable as possible, and that you think using pull-ups again is a fine idea. Tell her that you want her to let you know when she is ready to use the toilet again…there’s no hurry. I’m sure you are right that her regression is due to the new baby in your care. She may just want to feel ‘babied’ as well for awhile. That reaction is very common and normal…good to indulge it.

      I took a quick glimpse at your wonderful post about outdoor play! I’m going back to check our your blog this weekend, when I have more time… Thanks again for your wonderful support!

  8. Thank you so much for your advice Janet, and for your compliment on my blog. I am going to try that with my little woman today, and I’m going to make the best of these few days before the new baby is full time with me to give my babies a little time! Her mum has been building her up to full time for the last few weeks, at my request she has come three mornings a week for the last week or two so that my guys get some time where it’s just us in between.
    A ‘childminder’ is a special type of childcare service which is run by a single handed person working in their own home with a small group of pre-schoolers (less than 5)

    1. Hi Dierdre,

      I actually just heard about childminders yesterday at a luncheon with Sir Richard Bowlby. He is the son of John Bowlby, the founder of Attachment Theory, and will be our keynote speaker at the 21st annual RIE Conference tomorrow! (Yes, busy week and weekend around here!)

      Bowlby shared his concerns about infants and toddlers going into group care without being carefully transitioned, and the importance of a child forming a secure attachment with the minder — the “secondary attachment” figure. He described the process he recommends, and I will share it here when I get time to collect my thoughts! I am sure it is similar to what you are doing already.

      I am so glad to have connected with you!

      1. I am also a childminder in England and look after 3 children under 5 (at different times) as well as my own two (4 and 1). I have formed strong attachments to the children I mind and find that to be very important. I feel this is the overwhelming advantage of childminders over nurseries.

  9. Hi Janet,

    My daughter is 33 months. We started to potty train her a few months ago and while she loved her panties, she didn’t seem ready. We started again recently because she asked to wear her panties again. What seems to be happening is that she holds in her pee all morning until nap time and then goes in her pull up. After nap time she holds it until bedtime when she in her night diaper. So she has excellent control and no interest in sitting on the potty.

    Today she had to go and after a fight did end up going on the potty. My husband and I called from work to tell her proud we were of her and when I got home from work I gave her a small reward. Before bedtime we saw that she needed to go, but again, she wouldn’t sit on the potty. She ended up holding it until we put her night diaper on.

    I’d love your advice here. Is she just not emotionally ready? Her preschool requires that she be potty trained when she starts which is in September (just after she turns 3).


    1. Hi Robin,

      First, I want to set your mind at ease, because a lot could change between now and September. It sounds like she is not emotionally ready to use the potty regularly, and more pushing (or even rewarding) will make her more resistant. My advice is to totally back off, to tell your daughter that you want her to be comfortable, and encourage her to stay in pull-ups for as long as she needs them.

      I know it is hard to trust that she will lead the process when she is ready, but allowing toilet training to be your daughter’s independent accomplishment will be a wonderful boost to her self-confidence.

      Thanks for sharing your question! Please keep me posted.

      1. Hi Janet! I have a similar concern with my 3 year old because of her preschool. They require her to be potty trained, but we’ve been sending her to school in pull-ups anyway. The faculty clearly look down on it, and we got to have a “serious conversation” with the principal when my daughter had a bm in her pull-up one day at school. When I’ve sent her to school in underwear she has either held it all morning (about 3 hours), or has peed in her undies at school. If you were in my shoes, what would you do? I know RIE doesn’t encourage potty training of any kind. But I feel like I have to because of her school. We tried today and she seemed proud of herself after a full day of using the potty. Do you think it’s harmful to keep encouraging the potty even though she can totally do it? Thanks.

    2. I really agree with Janet’s response. Recently experienced this same type of behavior at our house with a little 3 year old. It is my professional belief that every child is so different when it comes to toileting. So relax it will happen and your child will guide you.

  10. Hi again. So unbelievably the day after I wrote to you she started to make on the potty consistently. We’ve had 1 accident in 3 days and she’s gone 4-6 times each day. She doesn’t want to poop on the potty and so we allow her to go in her diaper. It’s pretty amazing and does seem as though something inside her just clicked.

    Any thoughts on how to move from pooping in a diaper to pooping in a potty?

    1. Hi Robin,

      Sounds good! I have the same advice for having a BM in the potty. I’m sure she is aware she has that option. Let her show you when she’s ready. Don’t coax her at all. You are right about the “click”. It’s the same as when she learned to walk, crawl, stand and say words. Readiness to use the toilet is a stage in her development, not something you need to teach her. The sooner you let go and trust, the sooner she is likely to do it. Serious problems can arise when we push these things. Please let me know how it goes (so to speak!)

  11. Hi Janet,
    I recently found your blog and love it. I was surprised by your use of “normal” when describing a typically developing child. For those of us with loved ones with disabilities, choosing to use the term “typical” instead of “normal” (while an incredibly small detail to most), can make us feel included and respcted for what we’re able to accomplish.

    1. I’m 52 and just learned something. Thanks so much, Pamela, and especially for your gracious delivery.

      1. Hi Pamela,
        Thank you so much for this information. I am sorry I used a term that made you feel less included or respected! I stand corrected and am truly grateful for your feedback.

  12. My 16 month old daughter goes everywhere with me including the toilet. She recwntly started pointing to her nappy and the toilet so I sat her on it and she did a wee! She still wears her cloth nappy but when I or one of the other children go to the toilet she has an opportunity to ask to go too. She doesn’t seem to like the potty though. Maybe because she doesn’t see anyone else using it and she does like to do what I do. Thanks for this post. It is refreshing to read something different from the ‘children should’ advice.

  13. Hi! We started “training” our 33 month old son about 4 months ago. He started out like gangbusters but then began to resist very strongly after two months. After cleaning up more messes than is humanly reasonable, back to diapers we went.

    I was feeling very frustrated until I came across this entry in your blog. It rang true, and so I sat down with my son and did the whole apology thing… told him I was sorry to have pushed him, and that we loved him either way, and trusted that he’d use the toilet when he was ready. His response blew me away: “Thank you, Mommy. I love you.” He even went off on his own to use the toilet.

    However, that was two months ago, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times he’s used the toilet since. I was careful to totally eliminate any pressure, and I know he has the skills – he used them for two months.

    My level of frustration is starting to build again. So what’s going on? Am I subconsciously pressuring him? Can I nudge him, or ask if he wants to use diapers or underwear? Thank you for any perspective you can provide.

    1. Hi Jodie! I completely understand how frustrating this must be and I laud the apology to your son and your overall patience. But since he may have sensed an “agenda” from you about potty learning in the past, you might want to try extra hard to completely let go of the situation.

      Keep in mind the 3 areas of readiness: physical, cognitive, emotional. It sounds like he definitely has the first two, but the third is often the last to arrive and the most sensitive, especially if he has perceived even the slightest pressure from you. Some children are extra sensitive in this area. You may be subconsciously pressuring him, or he might just feel your “building frustration.” Once you’ve decided that you really really REALLY don’t care anymore when he goes on the potty, you have complete faith in him and it makes no difference to you whether he does it once a week, once a month or once a year, he’ll do it. Toddlers have wonderful radar, so it’s vitally important that you truly believe what you say to him.

      For more, check out this conversation about toilet learning on A Moment 2 Think and please join us!

  14. Thanks, Janet, for your support. I’ve kept your advice in mind and it seems to be helping.

    I’ve had two big realizations: first, that my son is one of those extremely sensitive kids, who internalizes everything. So I apologized again, this time for making him feel bad (got another “thank you!” response).

    And I also realized that I needed to re-start our cloth diaper service. I was hanging onto the feeling that this was a temporary setback, and this probably showed. I am now prepared to wait many months for him to be ready. Fortunately, his preschool (starting in Sept) is marvelous, and allows diapers!

    Finally, I wanted to let you know that this whole episode and your blog have really piqued my interest in RIE. I just got “Dear Parent” from the library, and found it fascinating. If only I’d found you 3 years ago!

    1. Hi Jodie,

      I’m so touched by your update… Might be that I have one boy (after having two girls) and my boy is very sensitive, too. He doesn’t have even the tiniest mean bone in his body and he’s 9. I really think it’s great that you backed off and trusted your boy. He’ll make you proud. I can promise you that! And I’m very glad to have piqued your interest in the RIE approach.:)

      1. Just an update, for anyone like me who reads comments and wonders what happened…

        After 5 months of patiently waiting, I was thrilled one morning when my son – on his own – decided not to wear diapers and start using the potty. He has hardly looked back since, and now uses the potty or toilet at home with nearly 100% success.

        It’s been a few weeks of this, and the other day I caught myself wondering when/how I should start “helping” him wear underwear and use the toilet on outings. And then – miracle of miracles – I stopped myself! If he could do the transition at home by himself, he’ll know when he’s ready to make the change on outings.

        This whole thing been a transformative experience in my parenting. It’s given me a new realization: if I trust and respect my son, he will get there, with confidence on his part and much less stress on mine. 🙂 These ideas will be a big part of how I parent in the coming years.

        1. Awesome! Jodie, thank you for the update…it means a lot to me that you took the time to share this.

  15. Janet, thank you for this beautifully worded post. I am a parenting coach and am asked potty learning questions almost daily! I also wrote a mini-book about it because it’s such a common topic. I have found that the topic of when to potty “train” is a very hot subject and have even been practically backed into a corner by some very angry moms! I believe we all have to do for our kids what works best for us. There are many roads to the same destination. However, my personal opinion (and we’re all entitled to them!) is in agreement with yours. Potty learning is a very individual and personal milestone and parents imposing their pleasure or displeasure only complicates matters in the child’s mind. If we stay out of it, for the most part, kids will have a much easier time and it’s so much more respectful to the child! …and it’s one less stress for parents to carry around! Woo hoo!

    1. Bette, thank you! My sentiments exactly (especially about the “one less stress for parents! Woo hoo!”) Thanks so much for your corroboration. You sound like a great coach!

  16. Hi Janet, it has been weeks since I started reading your wonderful site and it really helps me understand concepts in parenting and hopefully apply them correctly. My son is turning 2 this September. He is a first born so i have no experience how to toilet train. Like what other mothers experience, my son always says no. I usually ask him (when I observe that he is doing no.2 in his nappy) “Would you like to do it in your potty?”. Then, he’ll say “No”. So I dont force it. I dont know if asking him is the right thing to do at this stage. He is familiar with his potty and sits on it like its his toy. I know I have to wait until he is ready. But I get confused on his signs that he is ready. thank you very much.

    1. Hi! I’m glad the site is helping.

      Since your boy is very aware by now that the potty is an option, I advise not saying anything more about it. The mere fact that you are asking him, can be perceived as pressure. Imagine there’s something you don’t feel quite ready to do and your spouse keeps asking you every day if you want to do it. You’d probably be a little annoyed and it wouldn’t be confidence-building.

      Your son is still on the young side to use the potty. Just be patient and trusting. The clear sign that he is ready will come when he says “potty”, goes to it, or otherwise indicates that he’s interested in trying. Then you can respond (very lightly and gently), “Are you wanting to try the potty?”

      So, there’s no need to worry or feel confused. Just let him show you…

  17. Ahhhh, I needed to read this again! I have been determined to let my kids ‘train’ themselves no matter how long it takes. I go through periods of questioning myself though, and since my oldest was four in July, I’ve been thinking about it again. But after googling “toilet train older child” and reading people’s advice there, I was quickly reminded about why I am waiting on him. I was getting so frustrated at the parents who were all about their agenda and ‘THE’ way to do it that I had to stop reading and close all the tabs in my browser. Ha.

    Anyway, they’ve (the two and a half year old as well) been recently speaking up suddenly with “I’m doing a wee!”, to which I usually respond, “Thank you for telling me! Let me know when you want to do it in the toilet.”

    The younger one occasionally will ask to do a wee on the toilet, or when dry will want to when asked, but the older one never has. Today he has wanted to wear underwear, and after three accidents (which I don’t fuss over, just clean up), actually caught himself beforehand and ran to the toilet. He was very proud of himself. Now I just have to remember to keep this in his hands instead of forcing him if he’s not completely ready. I’m trying not to be too worried about poos so that I won’t make him worry (I dread the clean up if he’s in undies though!). But I’ve made it clear that he doesn’t have to do it in the toilet if he doesn’t want to. I’m happy to have him back in a diaper.

    Anyway… thanks for the post. I really appreciate some sanity in all the craziness that is toilet ‘training’ (I told someone who asked that our toilet is trained, it’s just the kids who don’t know to use it ;).

  18. Hi Janet,

    I was thrilled to discover your blog yesterday as it’s been helping tremendously with my 13 month son. But then I came to this post and I am somewhat disappointed.

    You see, all around the world children are potty trained by 6-12 months. In our country, the age used to be 12-18 months and is now 36-38 months on avg (and rising). When Terry Brazleton (pediatrician) published his findings from a week-long study on a handful of kids that we should wait for readiness (he’s the one another commenter on this post mentioned…he worked for Pampers and might still), he was *reacting* to a lot of coercive methods of toilet training that had been getting out of hand and damaging our children. Yes, those methods should have been halted (anal suppositories?).

    However, now the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. A child at 30+ months has missed the window and the parents (and children) are now in trouble. It is to the point where waiting TOO long is the psychologically damaging thing, not doing it too early (my graduate work is in psychology).

    If, like some of your articles say, we are forcing our children to take antibiotics because it is a non-negotiable, then why is teaching our children to break their diaper addiction at a healthy age (ranging from 12-30 months) a ‘no-no?’ What is the difference, truly? Who is in charge? Should I take it as the toddler is in charge of this? But we trained them into using diapers in the first place and then put the onus on them to stop? Sounds weird to me.

    As you may have guessed, we do EC with our son and are pretty much done with the basics. We are now handing off the baton as he learns to sit on his own. He yells “pee” when he needs to go and we help him not go in his underwear. It does not intrude upon play time and in fact he’s learning to hold it longer and longer so he can play away. He is super-self-confident for his age.

    I’ve also recently met a potty trainer in Rhode Island who is phenomenal at getting kids age 20-30 months potty trained in a week, without coercion.

    In fact, the methods she and I both teach are very much in line with what I’ve read from you so far in your toddler articles, taking charge, the saying no and meaning it philosophies, having the no fear attitude, the CEO tone, setting healthy boundaries, etc. Pooping in your pants is a non-negotiable in our house. We’ve never forced our son to not do it. He chooses not to, to ask us for help, because he doesn’t like it (and his instincts for disliking it are still intact from his birth).

    So if a parent discovers that wearing your toilet is just a recent 60-year trend, not actually healthy or normal, and, no, son or daughter, you won’t be doing that, then that becomes a non-negotiable, yeah? And we use that matter-of-fact attitude and voice about it. “I won’t let you sit in your waste. I know you will tell us when you want to go on the potty. Peeing and pooping in your pants is not okay with us.”

    We train babies to go against their instincts for not soiling themselves and we train them into diapers. So why do *they* get to tell us when they are ready to be done? We did it to them and it’s our responsibility to undo it. It’s like encouraging someone to smoke and then telling them to quit whenever they are ready to.

    You can tell I have some passion about this (pardon me!), but let’s just look at facts for a second, and really feel into our hearts if it *feels* right to have a baby in diapers at 4 years old. Woops, I mean a little person, not a baby.

    I really think the research behind why the dictum “wait for signs of readiness” was ever instilled into our modern belief system should be examined thoroughly before advising parents to do so.

    With all due respect and I look forward to exploring more of your blog!

    1. Andrea, thank you for sharing your views and your passion. Sorry to disappoint you, but my years of experience working with children (and parenting 3 of my own) lead me to respectfully, but strongly disagree with your point-of-view. I have seldom seen a child dislike soiling his diaper unless he has a rash (or has been taught that there is something wrong with doing so). From my observations, the dislike of soiling oneself is not innate, but can be instilled by parents (who are, obviously, extremely influential).

      As much as I appreciate the communication aspect of EC, this is unquestionably an adult-led process that the child responds to and eventually adapts to. If EC works for the parents, wonderful! And I do believe that it can be done respectfully. But EC is adult-centered, not child-centered until the child is able to choose to take himself to the toilet. Then, and only then do we know for sure what the child wants. Up until that point we are guessing at the child’s wishes. And with EC we teach him early on that there is something wrong with soiling himself. As you say, “Peeing and pooping in your pants is not okay with us.” The infant receives this message loudly and clearly from our actions. Hopefully, he will not be left in the care of someone who can’t help him to the potty. I have seen EC babies in public situations become extremely anxious when they feel themselves urinating or defecating after having been taught to believe that this is not okay.

      (Please take a moment to read the Berry Brazelton link. He is quite supportive of the EC method as long it works for the parent.)

      Perhaps you are unaware of the many toddlers who hold in their bowel movements for days and even weeks at a time because they have been urged (or even just coaxed) to toilet train to please their parents. Ask any pediatrician (like mine, Dr. Jay Gordon). The child feels manipulated and puts on the brakes. I have seen children as old as 6 holding in bowel movements, only able to “go” if given a diaper, and this doesn’t breed self-confidence. I suppose you would argue that this is because the parents didn’t practice EC. But I believe it is dangerous for parents to attempt to control and force the processes of eating and using the toilet.

      Yes, there are a lot of things we can “get” babies to do, as the trainer in Rhode Island does. But when we “get” children to do things, it is almost always at the expense of a respectful and trusting parent/child relationship…not worth the trade-off, in my opinion. Toilet training isn’t a “boundary” we establish, like “no hitting”. It’s a stage of development — like learning to walk — and children are quite capable of doing it independently.

      The most important gift we can give children is belief in them — trust in their natural development. Toilet learning comes naturally when parents are sensitive, lay the foundation, and stay out of a child’s way. We are the ones who unwittingly make it an “issue” because of our impatience. All children will use toilets eventually, but many will grow up with psychological issues that they struggle with for a lifetime. It’s not worth the gamble.

      1. Janet,
        I have been reading all of the responses regarding this topic and also shared my story about Eliminiation Communication. I still feel unsettled by your point of view and your influence on other people and how they treat this subject. I just read your article on carseat dilemma’s and here I quote you: I recommended to Holly that she say, “I know you don’t want to, but you must sit in your car seat” and then physically place Eliza into the seat.” I am confused that you would recommend physically placing a child into the seat and then saying ECing is adult led not child led. How in the world is physically forcing a child into a seat against his/her will child led and not adult led. A parent wants to go the mall and go shopping and their child doesn’t get in there seat fast enough for them and the recommendation is to physically force them, I don’t get it, please clarify. I think that would definitely lead to psychological issues in the future. I went through the same thing with my daughter and I did once or twice physically restrain her, it felt awful, she felt awful and it created more of a power struggle. The minute I apologize and promised I would never force her into the seat she started to cooperate. I would kindly tell her I had promised so and so I would be on time and I liked to keep my word, she respects that and gets respect by climbing into her seat on her own. I am sad that someone with such credibility is suggesting/recommending forcing a child into the seat. It just seems strange to have this view point but to disagree with honoring a child to not sit in his/her urine/poop but to offer a better solution that can promote self-confidence and health. Another article that confuses me is the sleep stance. I read the recommendation to let the babies “learn to sleep on their own at such a young age” but then learning potty awareness is not recommended? Thanks for clearing any of these points up. I really do appreciate most of your articles, just had some unsettled feelings toward some of them.

        1. April, I believe that children need leaders. You and I disagree about the situations where children need leadership and where they need autonomy. I believe children need to develop skills like rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, drawing, reading and learning to use the toilet autonomously. Allowing children to “lead” these things — do them in their own way and time — is, to me, honoring their development. When children lead these things they happen effortlessly on the part of the adult. I see toilet learning as a developmental stage, not a behavioral issue…but it can become an issue of resistance if the child feels us urging him forward. If parents back off on the child, they can usually avoid creating a problem.

          Expecting children to decide when or when not to get into a car seat is giving them a very uncomfortable amount of responsibility and power. Doing this in “their own time” might mean days or weeks from when the parent needs to leave. I’m not sure why you’ve chosen to characterize the situation as “going to the mall” (something I’d personally try to avoid doing with toddlers), but there are lots of reasons parents need to take children in the car. Sometimes offering the child a choice (“can you do this yourself or do you need me to help?”) helps the child to accept the limit. Sometimes that creates an even more uncomfortable situation for the child, who is feeling the healthy push/pull of his developing will. This is not a situation that should be child-led, in my opinion. This is about a child needing an adult to provide guidance and limits. Children need our help with these transitions.

          In the 19 years I have been observing babies, I have never seen a child who was uncomfortable soiling her diaper. I know this idea is the basis of EC…but it seems like an adult assumption to me. EC is fairly new in the Western world, so I’m sure we’ll be learning more. I’m glad you’re enjoying it and it’s working well for you.

          Regarding sleep, yes, most babies are born with the ability to fall asleep when they are tired. I believe infants should sleep very near to their primary caregiver for at least the first 6 months.

          In short, I’d say we disagree about a parent’s responsibilities. I don’t mind disagreeing.

          1. Janet,
            Thanks so much for your response. I believe children are resisting so much to the carseat because this is a fairly new custom, it is not natural to be forced or restrained. So to talk about respecting a child’s natural need of autonomy but then in the same breath recommend forcing the child into a seat is confusing to me.I used the example of the carseat because after witnessing my niece be forced into the carseat because it was “time” to leave the mall at the age of 2.5 I saw how disconnected she became from my sister in law. I completely agree with being a leader but that kind of response seems to be more about controlling the situation more than anything. There really is a more kind and firm way of approaching that situation without being a bully. If our habit is to force the child into the car when they are small enough and manageable enough to do so then what about when they are too big physically to restrain and I know from being a resistant child myself that resistance doesn’t just occur in the younger years. My child will resist getting in the carseat if she needs to pee so identifying her needs is so crucial in having a trusting respectful relationship. If all her needs have been met and she still resists I say very calmly and firmly “it is time to go” do you need more time? If she says yes then I say have a need to be such and such on time so I can give you 5 more seconds do you want to count with me? It is never used as a threat, but more as a limit since I am the leader. The same results are achieved except my child receives the message that I respect her and don’t need to use physical force over her body and her autonomy and our relationship is intact. And no I don’t let her cross the street without holding hands, that is non negotiable. It is a safety issue. So is the carseat but the immediacy of when to leave -right that second the parent says or if they take the extra minute to be respectful, is not the safety issue, and we of course always buckle up! Maybe I am misunderstanding you because I really get so much of your other articles but this one obviously strikes a cord.

  19. We did the 3 day method and it was a complete success. Our daughter was ready, led the process and felt good about herself and her ability to conquer the potty. There was no negativity and she was incredibly proud of herself.

  20. Janet, thanks for this lovely post. I agree, except for one phrase: that every person who cares for the child be advised to refrain from asking the child to use the potty. I think this depends on how it is phrased. I see no harm in asking a child if he/she wants to use the potty, as no pressure is implied. I do see an issue with telling the child to use the potty, as then it is more of a demand. Thanks again for this post!

  21. This is a very timely article. We just bought my 19 month old son a potty. He hasn’t shown the signs of readiness, but we happen to be at the baby store so we decided to pick one up. I wasn’t intending to take it out of the box yet but my son was very excited about it (there was a picture of a boy pottying on the box). He spent an hour playing with all the parts then was eager to take off his diaper and sit on it. It has only been 24 hours so needless to say he hasn’t eliminated in it yet but I have a feeling that he might soon and I’m wondering how I should react. I know my instinct will be to say “good job”, but I don’t want to appear too invested in where he goes. I’m also worried that we brought the potty home too early. So far he has had a really positive experience, but I’ve read so much advice about not pressuring him that now I’ve got a bit of anxiety about potty learning. Should we have waited? I can always put it away for the time being.

    Also, I know you prefer child size potties, but the one we bought can either be self-contained or you can put the ring on the adult toilet. My son only wants to use it the latter way. Is that okay?

    1. Abbie, this sounds good to me… Having a potty at home for your child to experiment with is wonderful and I recommend that, especially with sensitive parents like you who don’t have an potty training “agenda”. And then I would allow your boy to use it as he wishes…yes, on the adult toilet is fine if that interests him…he may change his mind later on. If he pees (or poops) on the potty, I would say, with a smile, “You peed on the potty. How did that feel?” Your instinct not to appear (or even be) invested at all is right on. This is something children need to be able to do completely for themselves, not to please someone else.

  22. When my daughter was right about 2.5, I simply left her naked with a potty in her playroom. She pooped and peed once each on the floor, and got very upset about this. After that she would just go use her potty when she needed to go. Two weeks later she could wear panties and remember to take them down to go (usually…a couple times she sat on the potty but peed right through her panties!). And that was it, so simple.

    My son, now…he’s 2.5 and has no interest. So sad, lol. (Not really, it’s fine.) He hides to poop and doesn’t care if he’s wet. Sometimes if I catch him pooping I’ll ask if he wants to go potty (because sometimes when I’m changing him he’ll say he does), but he’ll always say “No, Daniel poop under table” or wherever he is. I leave it alone. Should I leave him naked, he will still poop in his hiding spot, then go get a wipe, pick it up, and bring it to me, LOL. Then he’ll take it to the potty. He knows where it goes! He just has no desire, at this time, to put it there. Sometimes he insists on going when he wakes up or before nap or bed, when his older sister is going, but…other than that, not really. Oh well. Probably within a few months it’ll just “click” and we’ll be done. He has some nice sports and Disney underwear waiting for him and he knows that. Getting to wear them and use toilet paper and flush the potty and not feeling wet or yucky will be his “rewards” for using the potty. 🙂

  23. Greetings Janet,
    My daughter doesn’t want to use the potty voluntarily and I need to do some amount of coaxing (a fun book, a favorite toy to play with; I always make it a fun time). I would be perfectly fine letting her completely lead the way as she has been with going poopy for a very long time. However, there’s just one major problem: she refuses to where a diaper. So in not pushing her to pee on the potty I’ve had to clean pee off the carpets, furniture, beds, etc. I tried many approaches to getting her to go on a potty but nothing has worked. So now I do not talk much about it at all, I just take her to or bring a potty chair to her every 30-45 minutes with something interesting to do. This works smoothly most of the time, but sometimes it takes a bit more effort. I’m all about child led, but this issue has unfortunately led me to take initiative. Any thoughts? Thank you kindly for your time:)


    1. Hi Tallie! Will your daughter wear a pull up? It sounds like this is becoming quite a production for you and your daughter is indulging a bit in all the power she has over you around the potty. Unless you’re enjoying this 🙂 I would recommend insisting on the diapers or pull-ups… I would take charge of that part. Tell her that she must wear the diapers unless she is using the potty and that you will help her to take the diaper off whenever she needs to. If she resists, tell her that you want her to be as comfortable as possible and you don’t want her peeing anywhere except her diaper or the potty. When she’s on the potty, you could give her a book to look at, but I wouldn’t entertain her or make it into a game (unless you want this game to continue).

    2. Tallie,

      When my daughter was 18 months old she refused diapers. I took that as a sign that she was ready to potty train… Boy was I wrong! She is now 33 months and still not potty trained. I think she holds a grudge about when she was younger and I tried to push it. In any event. I ended up discovering that pull-ups were the answer! She just thought she was the biggest lady and seemed so grateful that I found a solution. I really recommend trying the pull-ups!!

  24. Hi Janet! Although I’m not extremely familiar with RIE, I’m intrigued by it. I’m a fan of Montessori and the mindset of following the child and encouraging a child’s capability, which I think is similar. I’m also a mentor with DiaperFreeBaby and a big proponent of elimination communication! A friend of mine gave me the link to this post and asked my opinion. I just wanted to share that EC is no more parent-led than breastfeeding is. Yes, a baby cannot take himself to the potty–but neither can he bring himself to the breast without help. Nevertheless, he CAN communicate clearly about his desire to use te potty–just as he communicates his need to eat. To an extent, there’s always some guesswork involved with a newborn, but most babies will distinguish their cries as parents get better at learning the different cries. My current baby (my second) is 9 weeks old, and he had a clear, easily recognizable “pee cry” from his second day of life. He often tells me before he has peed that he needs to go. Sometimes he doesn’t tell me till after he has peed. Either way, I am always responding respectfully to his communication and need, never “training” him, coercing him, or rushing him to the potty! You suggest that diaper changes should be cooperative activities; I submit that EC is simply a way to take that a step further– to listen more closely and effectively to your child’s communication and to cooperate with his instinct not to soil himself (yes, babies do have that instinct!–so do animals). Newborns frequently pee during diaper changes, because they do have an instinct not to pee on themselves so they try to wait for the opportunity when they can pee out of a diaper. But we teach them, by using diapers (and by our negative reaction to being peed on), that a diaper is the correct place to pee. EC is not training, it should never be coercive, and it should never involve urgency, worry, or rushing, either (unless hurry is initiated by the child, of course). It’s simply a way of communicating gently about elimination, just as you communicate with your child about everything else.

    I suspect that our concern about coercion and stress in relation to pottying stems from our cultural background of diapering. I think if we were totally unfamiliar with breastfeeding, we think breastfeeding would necessarily cause a stressful, rushed, worried interaction: how do you know how much baby has eaten? How can you know when he’ll need to eat next? What if he needs to eat in public?–you’ll be rushing to get ready!–wouldn’t it be better and more respectful to use a bottle so you can measure it? But with EC, you become accustomed to your baby’s communication, and you get comfortable with misses (we don’t call them accidents, because that implies a mistake, negativity, and stress), and so it never causes any worry or stress. When I teach people about EC, I always tell them to not think of it as a way to potty; think of it as a way to communicate and respect your baby. And only do it when you feel calm and unstressed about it–when you enjoy it. If its not fun, for both you and your baby, then take a break and use diapers! But most people find that even if they take a break, their baby’s initiative and communication will soon draw them back into it.

    1. Hi Lisa! I appreciate your comparison of EC to breastfeeding, but for me it doesn’t quite fit, especially the part about it being “stressful and rushed”.

      Here are a couple of other thoughts…

      One of the things we know about babies is that they are very sensitive and impressionable and whatever we do with them quickly becomes habit…a new “need” as it were. So, a baby who is accustomed to being carried to the toilet to pee is very likely to develop an aversion to peeing in the diaper. (You say this aversion is natural; that has not been my observation for the last 18 years.) And this is what I’ve observed and heard about with the children I know whose parents follow EC. These babies are uncomfortable, stressed and even panicky when they feel themselves peeing in a diaper. One story I heard was from an Aunt. She was driving her toddler niece in the car when the child suddenly started crying hysterically, shouting “pee pee!” because had peed with a diaper on. So, this method would not seem to be adaptive for a sensitive child in the care of someone who did not want to (or was unable to) practice EC. Perhaps you have another perspective on this?

      Also, I have yet to hear a story about a baby transitioning easily from EC into using the toilet independently. From what I have heard, there seems to be a toilet training process, regardless, for most, if not all children. Once again, please correct me if you know differently!

      So, as much as I adore the idea of communicating with babies about anything and everything, I’m not seeing any other benefits to EC.

      1. avatar akbradbury11 says:

        I am just wondering if you think parents have been doing it all wrong and were causing damage until diapers were invented? Before diapers were invented and in other countries now the practice of elimination communication was necessary for hygiene reasons and was just a natural part of life. The child never had to be trained to go in a diaper and to ignore his own cues. I also agree with the comparison of breastfeeding, we have to bring the baby to the breast when they cue they are hungry, why not bring the toilet to the child when they cue they need to eliminate, we are just offering a better choice than soiling their pants.

        1. No, I don’t judge anyone as “right” or “wrong” for the way they parent, especially if they are parenting in a different time and culture! It also wouldn’t occur to me to model my parenting on one or two isolated practices from a vastly different culture…because that makes no sense to me. But maybe I would if a particular practice resonated. Is is okay if EC doesn’t?

          I don’t know if you’ve read the article by pediatric urologist Steven Hodges ( ), but he has an interesting take on EC…

          “In short, it’s silly to make arguments based on other cultures and other periods in history. First of all, the most primitive form of toileting is going wherever and whenever you need to (think of any wild animal), which diapers actually promote. There is nothing natural about using a toilet. Second, I treat kids who live here and now. And no, I am not including in this group the elimination-communication kids who eat unprocessed diets, are homeschooled and never leave their parents’ sides. If Izabella Onicius is one of those kids, she may do just fine. But that’s a big responsibility for a parent to take on, especially given that constipation can be so easy to miss.”

          When I posted this article on my Facebook page, several EC parents objected to this doctor’s opinion and tried to discredit him. But I honestly don’t understand that. This doctor is providing helpful information from his vast experience with children developing serious issues due to parents urging toilet training.

          Yes, children ARE extremely sensitive to this issue and their bodies begin withholding at the slightest feeling of rebellion or resistance. Why not expand our awareness instead of getting defensive? Let’s be EXTRA careful because our children’s health is at stake… This isn’t a contest about the “right” way to parent!

          1. I feel there is such a misunderstanding on your part about Elimination Communication. When I read your comments about ECing it seems this doctor and you believe it is just potty training babies. Please research this subject matter before discrediting it and misinforming other parents. The doctor doesn’t mention the health issues babies can receive from being in wet diapers or pooped in diapers which range from extreme diaper rash to urinary tract infections. After reading his article I concluded his opinion to be that parents that feed their children processed foods, send their kids to school or daycare should not use this method but that if parents that feed their children healthy food and stay at home with them will do just fine, doesn’t sound like Ecing is the problem just which family it fits with. I don’t think it is necessary for you to agree with ECing, maybe it didn’t fit with your family’s lifestyle but for those that it does the information would be greatly beneficial. And no the child does not have to be with the parent 24 hours a day, I left mine with her dad, grandparents, friends and they all recognized when she had to pee and if they didn’t she went in her diaper and they knew to change it right away because she was fostered the ability to communicate those needs to be changed. I really wasn’t intending this to be a right or wrong topic, I just get sad when I see very credible and people with a lot of influence giving out wrong information. Of course I would love to see other parents practicing this but I don’t judge them if they don’t I just want people to have the right information so they can make the choice. I made the choice to observe my child when she was about to poop or pee and instead of carrying her to the changing table, laying her there, wiping the poop out of her vagina, putting a new diaper on, I instead took the lead to put her on the toilet where she could have her legs in a better squat position because that is how to decrease the colon and aid in a more efficient poop. After all isn’t parenting about leadership? I have no problem that this practice doesn’t resonate with you but it might with some others and putting it on trial along side traditional potty training is disheartening. Thanks again for all your input. Again I am not trying to convince you for it I just hope you will stop trying to convince other’s that it is unsafe or against the child’s will and autonomy and can lead to problems. When done only for the communication aspect it is a beautiful way to get to know your baby, people just need the right information so they don’t go down the wrong path. Looking forward to your thoughts on your research if you so decide to do some.

  25. Wow…I’m wondering who these EC’ing families are that you’re familiar with, because I’ve been a mentor for EC families for 4 years and have heard very few stories like this–in fact, I can’t think of any.

    All the EC children I know have transitioned easily and gradually to toilet independence. They all do this at different ages (anywhere from one year to three years for full independence), and they all have different paths. Some go through a “pause” during which they have little interest in pottying just before they suddenly become independent (similar to older kids “training themselves”, although usually at a younger age). Some start using a little potty on their own as soon as they can walk; other ask to be taken to the potty until they are two or three. But I know very few EC families who had to go through a toilet training process at an older age. You just continue doing what you’ve been doing all along, and gradually the child takes more initiative and the parent responds by taking less initiative. Of course there are plenty of misses along the way, especially during the transition to independence, but EC’ers don’t see that as regression or training–it’s a normal part of the learning process.

    As far as the need being created by EC, well, I would argue that all babies need (and want) to be clean and dry. Babies cry when their diaper is soiled or wet. At some point, usually around 6 months, they stop protesting a wet diaper so much, because they are used to peeing in it. I don’t have as much experience as you but I have certainly seen plenty of babies who were never EC’d crying because they needed to eliminate, or because they had just eliminated. Disposable diapered babies will stop crying pretty quickly; cloth diapered babies will generally keep the awareness and protest being wet.

    I have seen toddlers get very upset about peeing in a diaper, but again, I’ve seen that with non-EC kids also (but only if they are cloth diapered). Personally I don’t think it’s such a bad thing for a baby to not want to go in a diaper. However, I know many families who EC part-time or only with some caregivers, and they simply communicate with the baby about it. You can tell a baby that Grandma will not take him potty, so he should use his diaper and then ask her to change him. Even little babies will learn that some caregivers help them potty and others just change diapers, and they will signal for the EC’ing caregiver but not for others. Babies are smart. They can accept different styles of parenting in all sorts of areas–daddy tosses you in the air but mommy cuddles you–they can accept that some caregivers offer the potty and others don’t, too.

    All that said–I totally agree that the benefit of EC is the communication! It’s really not about potty training at all. It’s not that different from changing diapers, really–just more fun and more hygienic. 🙂 And it can be done part-time by one caregiver, too–there are times when I tell my son that a potty isn’t available right now, or I can’t stop the car right now, so he should use his diaper and I’ll change it as soon as possible. I imagine that the toddler who panicked about peeing in her diaper was upset because she was uncomfortable, or maybe because she didn’t notice the need to pee so it startled her? Just a guess…

  26. I love your website! Not sure if you still reply to older posts but I thought I’d give it shot anyways because I am so lost! My son is 38 months and is still in diapers (can’t afford pullups), we did cloth diapers when he was much younger and I introduced him to the potty at a very young age in an attempt to try ECing part time. Thanks to that he was successfully going on the potty for BM’s most of the time… until one day it hurt to go and ever since he has tried to hold his poop in for as long as he could. Well I started to give him water enemas because I know how harmful it is for the bowel to hold feces in for too long, I was more concerned about his health than I was about his development and fear of pooping. This has gone on for at least a year and has gotten progressively worse to the point where he physically resists being put on the potty all the time. This is very discouraging because I have obviously caused this kind of resistance and fear by forcing enemas. He also refuses to go pee on the potty whereas we thought he was reaching the point where he didn’t need diapers anymore because he could go on the potty during the day on good days when he could control his bladder, while some days we’d have lots of accidents. I hate that we’re facing this regression because I feel it is all my fault! How can I help him with his fear.. while also being mindful that serious constipation from withholding BM’s is dangerous to his bowel. Any advice is so appreciated!

    1. I hope that it was clear enough that he won’t have a BM in a diaper either! i would happily allow him to do that in light of his fear. I also am not big on giving supplemental laxatives.

      1. Hi Janelle! Unfortunately, I just discovered your comment… It must have come at a very busy time, so I apologize! And hopefully you’ve worked this problem out, but if not, I would *definitely* recommend seeing a doctor. This is a serious issue. Have you read this recent article by Dr. Steven Hodges, a pediatric urologist? He’s treated hundreds of cases of constipation and “holding”.

        “Chronic holding is a damaging habit, and in my experience, children trained early — especially before age 2 — are more prone to developing this habit than kids trained around age 3, though kids trained later are certainly not immune from holding, and early trainers are not destined to become holders.

        In toilet-trained children, chronic holding is the root cause of virtually all toileting problems, including daytime pee and poop accidents, bedwetting, urinary frequency and urinary tract infections.”

        “Do you know how often I see children who are still in diapers and have recurrent UTIs? Never. That’s right, never. Do you know how often I treat newly potty-trained children for recurrent UTIs? Every day. These kids fill a quarter of my clinic. This is not a coincidence and demonstrates quite clearly that toilet training in very young children can be harmful. Kids in diapers don’t hold; many toilet-trained children do.”

        Anyway, I really hope you and your son find help. All the best to you!

  27. Why are we still using the word “training” here? I see you have adjusted your language to “toilet learning” a few times, yet remain committed to using the phrase training to describe the toileting experience. Do we train children to walk? Talk? Eat? Or do we help them learn and discover these processes? When I hear people say “potty training” (or training of any kind) I instantly think of my dog, not of a child. Our choice of words reveal how we deeply view things.

    1. Sarah, I agree with you. I definitely don’t see toilet learning as “training”. I see it as a very organic process (and I HOPE I’ve made that very clear by now). But I also try to incorporate the terms that others are using for this process…so that we’re all on the same page.

  28. Janet, thank you for this article! I have a story to share. With my first, I did the 3 Day Potty Training. It went without a hitch, within a week he was fully potty trained, never to have an accident again. He was 25 months when we did that, and now he’s almost 4.
    With my second, as she neared 2 years of age, I got ready to do the method again. I did it, and thought we were making progress, but as the weeks (and then months) wore on it became a huge power struggle with us. Her behavior overall started to reflect her hurt and how she felt she had disappointed me. I myself was often out of control, completely upset when she would have accident after accident.
    After 4 months of “training” it hit me – I had to put her back in diapers. So I did, and after she got used to being in them again, the power struggle disappeared, and our relationship healed.
    Looking back I can see that because I got lucky with my first, and the method we did suited him just fine, and he passed with flying colors so to speak, I expected the same for my second. I set the bar so high she didn’t stand a chance, and without realizing it I was just continually disappointed, and she was so discouraged. She is extremely sensitive, any time I raise my voice she says, “You scared me, mama”. But back then she didn’t have the words, so if I lost control and shouted, she just cried, and usually peed on the floor as she was crying.

    It was miserable for all of us! I am so glad I had that AHA! moment and backed off. Now she is showing interest in the potty again, and I am trying my darndest to be completely uninvested in whether she uses it or not. Some days she insists on wearing underwear, and she has accidents, and I try to remain even-tempered and simply ask her to help me clean them up, which she gladly does.
    It really did wonders to just treat her respecfully, and I’m so glad we’re working on healing our relationship instead of tearing it apart over potty training.

    1. Jess, I love your thoughtfulness and the way you figured this out. Your story is also a great reminder that children have varying levels of sensitivity. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Hi Janet,
    I’ve only recently come across your blog, and I’m really enjoying (and learning so much!) as I go through your archives.
    I have a question about toilet “learning” – my daughter (3 in february 2013) is pretty confident with peeing in the toilet, and has only had a few accidents when she has been too busy or distracted to get there in time. But poos? oh my goodness…months of poos in her undies. My husband and I are getting frustrated and disappointed. We’ve tried rewards, stories, potties instead of toilet, verbal encouragement…I can’t think why she would prefer to do poos in her undies, than in a toilet. How can I help and encourage her to use the toilet? Bec

    1. Hi Bec! She prefers it because she wasn’t quite emotionally ready to let go of something she feels is hers and the well intentioned “rewards, stories, potties instead of toilet, verbal encouragement”, etc., have given her the distinct impression that you have an agenda for her to do something she’s not ready to do. This means she has to hold on and resist. This can create a vicious cycle of constipation that can be far more serious than messy underwear, so you might consider yourselves lucky. My best advice would be to do as I strongly recommend in the post… Back off, welcome her to use diapers or pull-ups, in fact suggest it. Assure her that you know she’ll let you know when she’s ready to go on the potty. Place the ball firmly and happily in her court. Relax.

  30. I would love your advise. I have read your article and every comment below and completely agree with your approach. However most children that are referred to are around age three. I have a five year old who refuses to use a toilet. He is happy to pee outside or in a glass (and then pour it into the toilet). He will only pooh in a diaper, he will always come and ask for one when he needs it. Now he is in pre-school we have had to resort to pull ups during the day. He absolutely refuses to use the toilet. He will happily sit in the washroom with the fan on to have his pooh just not sitting on the toilet. Do I continue to “go with the flow”? At what age should we begin to get worried? His school has said he can’t go full days until houses the toilet and he begins full day kindergarten in September. I would love to know what you suggest. He has a three year old brother who also refuses to use the toilet and doesn’t care that he’s the only child in pull ups. For how long do we continue in the same way?

    1. Caroline, this behavior is usually reflective of the child feeling pressured (in the present or past) to use the potty. Some children are especially sensitive and affected by even the slightest coaxing. I would definitely back off completely and trust your boy. This really is up to him… I personally know a child who was subtly urged to toilet train and continued needing a diaper for BMs until she was 6 and then finally “let go” of this need. If the issue continues, you may want to consult a pediatric urologist like Dr. Stephen Hodges:

    2. Hi Caroline,
      I too would like to know Janet’s thoughts on this, I have a 3 1/2 year-old who seemingly has no interest in doing anything on the potty. She likes her diapers! I have to admit, I am beginning to be concerned! I hope Janet responds soon!

      1. Also, I have to say I have tried really hard to follow her lead on this, despite other’s feelings (school, family, etc.). She has a little princess potty that she excitedly picked out months ago, a Dora the Explorer ring to put on the adult seat, and Princess underwear that she also picked out the day after her request to ‘go potty on the toilet like so-and-so (another little girl she saw use the potty). She used to sit on her toilet seat, she’d even read, but it was usually at someone’s urging and nothing has ever happened -pee or poo. One day I asked her every 15 minutes and put her on the potty sometimes, but decided to let it go after only one day because nothing happened (except in the diaper) and she just didn’t seem to be interested. My son was born when she turned 2. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it (I didn’t want to “train” her at that time because of the birth of our second child. I don’t know if this is some sort of regression? Also, I do have family members who think she should be going and she tells me they offer her presents if she goes (so far she hasn’t, to my knowledge.” Also, she does sometimes want to see the poo in her diaper after I change it. Not sure if this means anything but not pushing feels like I am being lazy about parenting. I know this is an old idea but it’s still there nonetheless. Hence, my interest in knowing Janet’s thoughts about when we should worry. Love this website, btw! Thanks, Janet!

        1. Hi Shar! Did you notice my response to Caroline?

          “it was usually at someone’s urging” is key. This is not the way toilet learning works.

          Yes, the new baby is a factor. This is an enormous life change for a child that brings with it a mix of very intense feelings. Welcome your daughter’s negative feelings about the baby. Assure her that children usually feel angry and sad as well as happy when they have a baby brother or sister.

          It’s also hard when we’ve invested emotionally in the princess potty, Dora ring, etc… But my strong recommendation is to LET GO. She wants to see what is in her diaper because this is a part of her that she is not entirely ready to let go of yet. She’s not ready to release it into a potty.

          Ignore the family members…your daughter is more important and it is your agenda (or hopefully, a lack thereof) that will make or break this development happening in a healthy manner.

          You’re not being lazy if you let go. You ARE being smart!

  31. Hello, Montessori teacher again, here. One step that we do and teach along the road to independent toileting is to have the child who can stand stand up for diaper changing and begin to participate. Soon they can take of diaper and put it wherever, and help you with wiping (we say: “you get a wipe, I get a wipe”. You help as long as help is needed. I have never had a child go for more than a few months after this process starts.

    To me, it says: “This is your issue”, like putting food in front of them and walking away, knowing that they can eat if they are hungry.

    For older children having accidents, same deal. It is not your issue, it is their’s. So, non-punitive but logical consequence. “Ah, I see you have had an accident, you will need to go change.” You can help at first to make sure that your bathroom does not become a poop-party, but you are just kindly helping; it is not your issue. All matter of fact, as if you were handing your husband a tissue.

    To me, the best remark is about “listening to your body”. “You are learning to listen to your body”; “you can listen to your body’: “I trust you to listen to your body.” That helps take the power struggle out of it.

    This gives all the power back to the child, but I would NOT want a child to stay in diapers indefintely, personally, so this makes toileting important to the child, as it gets rid of those annoying “changing clothes” interruptions.

  32. Janet, Thank you for all your wisdom. Since “discovering” you, I have really learned so much and gained an enormous amount of perspective. My son is 5 and will be 6 in May 2013. He has been peeing in the potty since he was 2 1/2 and pooping is an entirely different story. He gets his own diaper when he needs to poop (usually around 6pm every evening) and then asks us to change it when he is ready – which is not immediately when he is done. We have not given up trying to get him to use the potty but we do talk to him about and he says “when I’m six.” We’ll see – I’m sick of buying very expensive diapers and my husband is sick of changing a 5 year old’s poop (I have a great guy, he does most of the changing). Should we be concerned? Thoughts?

  33. First off, I really enjoy your posts but in regards to potty training I’m a little disappointed. Shouldn’t the environment be considered at all?

    Even cloth diapers are not as good for the environment as knowing how to use the bathroom. I love all your other posts but waiting for possibly years and years for this potty training ready moment to occur seems disrespectful to our planet.

    1. Brittany, what do you suggest as an alternative to allowing for readiness?

  34. Janet,

    Do you have any advice for helping children go diaper-free at night? My boys are asking to wear underwear at night. Other parents I know restrict liquids at night, do midnight wakeups, use alarms, etc. What do you recommend?


  35. Hi Janet,
    I realize this is an old post so you may not be checking comments on it anymore, but I thought I’d give it a shot 🙂 I stumbled on your post at the perfect time.

    Last night my husband and I had a huge fight over our 3.5 year old son’s potty learning troubles. We’ve been trying on and off for well over a year, and while at first he was enthusiastic, he soon lost interest and has been mostly uninterested ever since. We have tried sticker charts, rewards, buying special underwear, new potties and seats…everything that parents are expected to do when they are potty training their child. It got to the point where we were forcing him to sit on the potty, with us yelling and him in tears. We were so afraid of losing any ground we (might have) had gained that it became irrelevant whether or not he actually “went.” He would occasionally go a few hours wearing underwear, and sometimes even managed to stay dry on outings. But he would still pee and even poop in his underwear at home, and not even tell us but continue playing as if nothing happened. Basically, the whole situation had become nothing but a giant power struggle and I felt like we (the parents) were losing.

    So back to last night. I finished reading the sixth or seventh potty training book and came to the realization that the only way out is to back off completely, and leave him alone. Not even mention the potty, and continue putting him in pull-ups as if the potty didn’t exist (he has outgrown the biggest size of diapers). I suggested this to my husband, and he was NOT receptive to the idea. He refuses to back off completely, and feels that we should continue to force our son to sit on the potty at least at night before bed. I couldn’t convince him that continuing to push will only cause our son to push back even harder. So now we’re at an impasse, we’re both stressed out about the whole situation, and I’m sure my son is pretty stressed out too. No one is happy, and if something doesn’t change I feel the situation will only get worse. I would rather have my son still be in pull-ups at age four, five or six than be emotionally scarred because we, his parents who are supposed to love him unconditionally, force him to become “trained” before he is emotionally ready. (Having read your post and from the knowledge in several potty training books, I believe this to be the case. He is physically capable and knows what to do and when to do it, he just doesn’t want to.) I am even prepared to home-school him if he can’t attend kindergarten because he is not potty trained. (He goes to preschool and they allow him to wear pull-ups but won’t change him.)

    So today after reading your post and all the comments, I apologized to my son and told him that I wouldn’t make him use the potty anymore and that he can stay in pull-ups for as long as he wants to. I gave him back the special toy that he had earned for wearing underwear for a whole weekend (that we took away when he went back to pull-ups). And I plan to stick to my word. But there’s the issue of my husband not being on board. I don’t know what else to do beyond reasoning with him. He and I have read the same potty training books, but have apparently interpreted them completely differently. What can I do? I feel like this is going to tear apart my family. I feel resentful of my husband for being so stubborn (not to mention disrespectful to both me and my son), and he thinks I’m being too lenient. I’m afraid that forcing him to use the potty will emotionally damage my son; my husband feels that being the only kid his age still in diapers is worse. We have an almost two year old daughter who is beginning to show interest in the potty and I’m terrified that we’re going to have the same problem with her. How damaging will it be for him to get conflicting messages from each parent (and to know, as I’m sure he will, that we are in such deep disagreement over something that has to do with him)? Can you offer any advice that might help me convince my husband to back off? He is a very intelligent person and usually pretty reasonable, but for some reason this is a sticking point for him. I’m at a loss, and feeling desperate. I hope you don’t think I’m asking for marriage advice, I really just want to help my son be happy, confident, and “normal” (whatever that means for him). Thank you so much Janet. I love your blog and your whole philosophy on parenting.


  36. Hi Janet, I was hoping for some practical advice. My daughter is 2y 9mths. She occasionally says I need to go to the toilet, sits on the toilet, wipes, flushes but has never actually done anything in the toilet. She comes in with me when I go, I tell her what is happening and let her flush. Im not sure if she understands the sensation or not of needing to. Do you advocate using ‘pull ups’ and show her she can pull down when she wants to go to the toilet? I feel that it might ‘mask’ the wet feeling like nappies Shoul Ijust put her in underwear one day when we are hanging at home to see if she will ask for the toilet? HopeI am making sense just a bit confused. Or do I just keep her in nappies until she asks to go and actually does something in the toilet? Any advice is appreciated!!

    1. Update from me. I decided to let her just in underwear one day. After 3 accidents she asked for her nappy so I put back on her. A few weeks later I asked if she wanted to wear underwear, again lots of accidents and she started getting frustrated asking for her nappy so I said “if you want you can put on your nappy or clean underwear”. She chose underwear from her drawer despite her obvious frustration. I am pleased to say after a few weeks she is doing really well going to the potty, yes still have a few accidents but she is doing so well! Funny how if someone asks her if she needs to go the response is “NO!”… she actually prefers just to go off on her own 🙂

  37. avatar Jessica Wright says:

    My daughter just turned 3 and had shown signs of being ready to potty train around 2.5 yrs. when she asked to use the potty and wanted to wear big girl panties. But, after a few days she decided she wanted to put diapers back on, so I bought pull ups. After that it was very hit or miss (literally, laf) and if I asked her she would get upset and tell me not to ask her, so other than occasionally or very gently I stopped asking. Now, though, she wants to wear panties but goes in them like she has a pull up on. If she has naked time she’ll go on the potty every single time, both #1 and #2, but as soon as she has anything on she goes in her pants. I think she just forgets. She was feeling guilty about it even though I was reassuring her it was not a big deal, it was fine, etc. but I stopped letting her wear panties and we went back to pull-ups.

    All the other kids her age that are in our friend circle are potty trained now, and the preschool I’d like to move her to won’t take them unless they are (which I feel is ridiculous), but I’m still not going to pressure her. I like the approach of letting her lead, though I admit I’m at a loss about what to do when she wants to wear panties and she goes to the bathroom in them all the time. Should I keep trying and just stay around home in case of the accidents or insist she wears pull-ups until she can go a day or two every time? This is what I’m doing now but it may be prolonging the process. She’s very headstrong and resists being told what to do directly, so it’s a bit of a delicate process for us. I’m really not in too much of a rush, but being caught in between is a tough process for us both. Any thoughts?

    1. avatar Gwennifer says:

      Hi Jessica, my son also had this problem, and we found that the answer was not wearing pants for a few months until he got used to heading to the toilet when he needed to wee. Could this be a potential avenue to try for you?

  38. Hi Janet,

    I love your blog! Thank you for all your wonderful writing. You introduced me to RIE and Magda Gerber. I realize this post is old and you’re probably tired of the “Toilet” thread, but I have a question…

    My daughter is 20 months and we’ve been slowly following her lead on potty training just by what’s come naturally to us. (I’ll just use the old language, since it’s what I’m used to…) At around 10 months we were at a thrift store with a bunch of potties. I pulled them all down and she liked one better than the others (the gigantic pink singing one, of course!). We just put it in the bathroom and left it there without much commentary. She’d sit on it sometimes with her diaper on while I was peeing, but mostly it was used as a toy. This summer, when she was about 15 months, I started offering her the potty when I changed her. She almost always wanted to sit on it and often peed. I’d give a little cheer and we’d move on. About a month in, she started refusing the potty, so after about a week of letting her refuse I pretend to have her stuffed elephant pee in the potty. Her potty enthusiasm immediately returned! This fall – September (3 months ago, age 17 months) – we started keeping her diaper free at home more and more. (Singing potty was replaced with a plain potty) She very quickly took to regularly pooping in the potty. Now, at 20 months, she’s always diaper free at home. She almost never poops in her diaper and is upset and wants changed when she does. She pees in the potty (or toilet with potty seat) several times a day, but still has an accident a few times a week. She always wears a diaper for naps, bedtime and when we go on significant outings. (1+ hour long hike/ski with snowsuit, for example.)

    It all seems to be going swimmingly and it’s happening much earlier and easier than I would have imagined. My question is about the next step. DD is in daycare for 3 hours, 3 times a week. It seems like this is the next place to try. It’s in-home care with 5 other toddlers. At home reminders to pee are not helpful. She goes when she needs to and refuses when she doesn’t. Accidents do sometimes happen, but not too often. However, with the novelty and distractions of daycare, I think she’ll need some regular reminders at first. I’ve told the daycare provider that we never scold DD for accidents, we just remind her that pee goes in the potty in a cheerful tone. Any other advice about this transition? DD prefers not to wear diapers, but doesn’t resist them terribly either. I really, really don’t want to create a setback but I do want to help her move forward, if she’s ready.

  39. Hi. So I’ve trying with the potty thing for my son for over a year… And turned 4 a couple weeks ago. He mastered the pee in like a week but the poop has been a bit of a nightmare. Sadly. He dies great & then regresses… I have started (in desperation) getting angry & punishing him when he poops on his pants… Do you think it ever becomes a behavioral or attention thing? I have 2.5 twin boys and i have had people tell me it is the way my 4 year old gets my attention? What would you advise I do at this point? I feel like he will completely regress if I just “let it go”? Thanks!

  40. Hi Janet, Love this article, and lots of interesting reading on the comments
    We have found that when our son was ready to use the potty (over 3) he was… that was it. I am still shocked by how easily he transitioned. He even goes potty when we are out places.
    We have made the mistake of suggesting he go on the potty, when it seems like it’s been awhile! He always says “no” and then a few minutes later, YES! Kind of interesting.. he really wants to control this! But, I do find that mentioning trying the potty before we leave to go somewhere is important. Is it not?
    I am still putting a pull up on when we travel in the car for any length of time, which I also think is helpful. Thoughts on suggesting trying the potty before leaving to go out?

  41. Hi Janet,
    My daughter is 3.5 years old and still does not want to go on the potty. She will be 4 years old this August. At what point should I worry? I don’t mention the potty, but my husband does despite my best efforts in getting him to stop…it is so frustrating. My daughter is extremely head strong…I am nervous that whatever I did, and my husband or my parents did, has affected her in a very negative way. I honestly do not know what to at this point besides wait and “let go”, but I am nervous, especially when it seems soooo easy for EVERY child I hear zbout. It hasn’t been easy. It has been AWFUL.

  42. Dear Janet,

    First of all, thank you for your articles and for taking the time to reply to most questions. I don’t know if you’re still answering to this post but I would love to hear your opinion on what’s happening with my son at the moment since I feel very insecure of my approach.
    My son is 15.5 mo and very aware of pee. He doesn’t mind being wet but definitely prefers not wearing a diaper so when it’s hot and I don’t mind cleaning (garden, kitchen, living room) I take his diaper off and he always points to the floor when he pees and I say something like “you just peed” or “yes, that’s your pee” and smile.
    When my mom saw that she said he was almost ready to use a potty. I decided to buy one and let him explore it. He likes it and plays with it but I don’t want to rush him!
    Whenever he is naked I tell him that he can use the potty to pee if he likes it and he walks to it and asks me to help him sit on it and pees. Sometimes he misses it an pees on the floor. He always shows me where it lands and seems curious and happy but I wonder of I’m rushing him by offering him to use the potty or by saying that it’s better to pee in the potty than on the floor.
    What do you think? Thanks!

  43. avatar Cheryl Adkins says:

    My great grandson is almost 3 and a half. He shows no signs of being ready to potty train. He would run around in a wet smelly diaper all day until it was running down his leg and creating sores before he would say a word about it. He hates getting a diaper change and as he is a big child it has turned into a battle royal everytime he needs changed. I am at my wits end as to what to do. I fear he will start school still in diapers.

    1. Hi Cheryl! I would try to stay on top of his need for a diaper change and confidently face the challenge of his resistance. How are other kinds of boundaries going?

      1. avatar Cheryl Adkins says:

        He is a very obstinate child and hates when you tell him no. He wants to do what he wants to do. He stomps his feet, screams, and hits, kicks, and bites a lot of times. And usually at the least you will wind up carrying him kicking and screaming when it is time to go inside, or to bed especially at naptime. Which he hates but has to have or around 3 or 4 he will be so cranky you can’t stand him. As long as things are going his way or if you can incentivize him in some way he can be the sweetest child ever. Full of hugs, kisses, and says please, thank you and you are welcome.
        How late is too late for potty training?

  44. avatar Chantelle Forster says:


    Just querying on your link at the bottom of the reading regarding a board game to encourage toilet learning. I feel as though this contradicts the beliefs highlighted in your article.

    The game is titled as, “Let’s Potty! Potty Training Board Game! No More Diapers, Toilet Train Toddlers Early!”.

    This seems the opposite of your unhurried child initiated toilet learning.

    Would love to hear back from you.

    Thank you,

    1. Thank you, Chantelle, I’ve removed it! The inventor shared this with me and the game sounded harmless. I hadn’t checked it out properly. Live and learn! Again, thanks for the heads-up.

  45. Thank you for all of these respectful articles about elimination and toilet learning. We’ve followed this approach in combination with elimination with our last four children and the process has been so easy. I really appreciate you sharing these insights so I can share them with others who need more information.

  46. avatar Christina Rogel says:

    Hi Janet,

    Thank you for this article! I wish I would have stumbled on it several months ago when we were starting the potty process with our daughter.

    I am looking for advice. My daughter is almost 3 1/2. Her preschool was the one to initiate underwear with her, so we followed the lead on that. At first, she seemed really excited about using the potty on her own. She goes to school in underwear, and has accidents most days, but cooperates with requests to use the potty for the most part at school. I think the structure and seeing her peers use the potty helps. We’ve been keeping her in underwear at home, to stay consistent, but we are having problems. I was trying timers, stickers, candy, rewards, etc (before I stumbled upon this article!!), but it doesn’t seem to click with her, so we’ve backed off. She keeps telling us she’s scared of the potty, she doesn’t need to use it, there are monsters in the potty, etc. So we have lots of accidents at home. Sometimes she tells us as she’s peeing/pooping, or right after, sometimes she doesn’t even notice she’s wet. We try really hard to stay neutral about accidents, remind her where pee/poop goes, and ask for her help in cleaning up. We’ve decided at this point to back off everything and just leave it up to her. My question is should we put her back in diapers until she tells us she’s ready? I feel like everything I read is after age 3 to ditch the diapers.


  47. Im not sure if this has already been covered…my 3yo boy is generally very good in undies for wees but wont poo on the toilet. What do you do/say in this stage? Id prefer he didn’t poo in his undies or do you just accept that until he makes the decision to poo on the toilet. I feel like putting him in nappies again full time would be a regression

  48. Janet, you are the voice of reason in a sea of potty madness! I firmly believe what you have stated in your article: that a child will essentially “train” themselves when ready. I have already seen beginnings of it with my own son.

    What is your opinion on where the potty chair should be kept? In the bathroom, or where ever a child feels comfortable keeping it?

  49. avatar Jordana Shay says:

    Hi Janet, my son just turned 2 and I don’t believe he is physically ready to use the potty. He attends daycare and recently has asked about 3-4 times to use the toilet. The first time it happened was when I picked him up from daycare, and the teachers referenced that he watches the older kids in his class use the toilet. He’s also asked at home. I’ve given him the opportunity to stand on a stool and try to pee in the toilet. He hasn’t. Once he had a bowl movement instead. I guess I misinterpreted his need at that moment and don”t have a toddler toilet seat yet so he also didn’t want to sit on the big toilet. We do have a potty, which is in his room for when he would be ready. My question is, if he’s asking to use the toilet (but not letting me know when he’s peed in his diaper and needs a change, or when he is going to pee) what would be the right step for this time? Im thinking about buying a toddler toilet seat and having a chat to him about the whole process, telling him when he feels ready to try using the toilet he can let me know and we can give it a try. Side note, I have absolutely no agenda and could easily wait with this, I just feel I should be acknowledging his interest. Would be really happy to hear your advice. thank you!

    1. Very similar here! How are things going?

  50. Hi Janet!

    My son is 20 months, and he’s been interested in the potty since about 17 months. We got him a potty chair at the first sign he was interested–we had no idea it would happen so soon!–and, in addition to taking him when he asks, we have been nonchalantly asking if he’d like to visit the potty when we visit ourselves. He usually says yes. He has successfully urinated in the potty many times, and a few times outside of the home too. Once he stayed dry all day long. He has defecated in the potty three or four times and will often say “potty!” while using his diaper but say that he doesn’t actually want to have his BM on the potty. We showed him underwear in a store recently and asked him if he’d like some. He said no, so we asked him to tell us when he does want underwear.

    All of this is fine with me!

    I am writing, though, because I have never had experience with toilet learning before, and I while I want this to be child-led, I have a few questions.

    1. Does all of this sound appropriate for now? I worry that my child’s interest has outpaced his physical skill set. By that, I mean that he can’t undo his clothing on his own.

    2. My son has a prosthetic leg. Without it, he cannot get onto his potty by himself. (He also cannot put it on by himself.) With it, well. Things can get messy, especially when a BM is involved. Any advice there?

    3. When do children typically stop seeking motion when toileting–and especially while they have a BM? My son wants to get up and down and up and down from the potty chair. He often stands up, walks a bit, and then sits down to urinate some more. When he is working on a BM, he pushes his bottom into the back of the seat and ends up making quite a mess. Re: standing, I’ve tried to set firm limits (when you stand up it tells me you’re finished, just like with other activities), but he becomes extremely frustrated with me. When I help him leave the room, he gets more upset. (Do I have an agenda about sitting? I don’t know!)

    Anyway. Any advice or views are much appreciated.

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