Potty training is failing for many kids and families! While many parents suffer silently, I am here to shine a light on what is truly happening.
If you started off potty training your child with feelings of hope and excitement, and that all came crashing down to a pile of resentment and puddles of pee and tears everywhere, you are not alone. Many parents are finding out that popular potty training methods are turning out disastrous and in some cases dangerous 1.
Here are five reasons why potty training is failing.
1. There is a constipation crisis!
If you ever wondered if your child is constipated, it’s for good reason! About 30% of kids are constipated according to Dr. Steve Hodges, a top pediatric urologist and author of “It’s No Accident.”
Step 1 of potty training any child is to make this a priority–not ripping away the diaper! Although you probably didn’t come across this when reading about when to start potty training.
Not only is constipation a real problem for kids but so is pelvic floor dysfunction and something called megacolon. That’s when a child’s colon stretches from loads of poo stuck in it. I’ve even seen children with softball-sized bowel movements that won’t flush down a toilet.
The truth is that most children who aren’t pooping on the toilet are actually constipated. It’s not that they don’t want to. They really can’t, especially if their legs are just dangling from the toilet.
Yes, there are some children who are fearful about some aspects of pooping on the toilet. Being fearful of the toilet is a real thing. However, the majority of kids not pooping in the toilet are just plain constipated. Or constipated and afraid!
I talk more about how to navigate getting kids to go poop on the toilet in this video.
Putting children who are constipated in underwear can be disastrous! Dr. Steve Hodges says in “It’s No Accident” that he is relieved when new patients come into his office still in diapers because they have the best peeing and pooping habits.
My own findings while potty training hundreds of children is the same. Children who are ripped out of underwear before they are ready are more likely to worsen constipation, develop dangerous holding habits, and have terrible toileting skills compared to kids who learn to truly master toilet training.
While constipation is not an easy or quick fix, there are things you can do to help. I talk about three of the most important tools (magnesium, potassium, and water) in this video:
2. Most of the potty training advice on the internet is either bad or terrible.
While reading potty training advice on social media, it only takes me a short while to find cringe-worthy recommendations, a lot of it regarding the 3-day potty training method. Most of the advice out there is a recipe for disaster.
This type of advice should come with a giant warning that it is the quickest way to:
- Power struggles
- And peeing all over the house!
Gross! No wonder why potty training gets a bad rap.
Plus, it is usually coming from people who have potty trained 1 or 2 kids. Are you kidding me? Just because you lived through potty training a couple of kids does not mean you are the newest expert on potty training. I’ve potty trained up to 12 kids at a time, all day long for years at a time. Trust me when I say that what works for 1 or 2 kids does not work for everyone else.
If you’re wondering what advice to avoid, I share it in this video:
The worst part is that parents are made to feel terrible if these crazy potty training claims don’t work for them and their children. Hundreds of parents have come to me for potty training help through my potty training course, and over 75% of them have already tried potty training methods that have failed.
If you ever felt like a failure because a potty training method you tried turned out disastrous, you’re not alone. In fact, it turns out that you’re in the majority!
3. Parents are expected to do all the work.
If you are taking off your child’s diaper, putting them on the toilet, and dressing them, your child is not potty trained. They are parent trained! Plus, you are a busy parent who does not have time to do this all day long. That is ridiculous!!
Potty training is about independence and helping your child learn these things. Do not use potty training methods that require you to spend your days mopping up pee accidents and scrubbing poop from the couch. I said goodbye to potty training with all the accidents a decade ago, and I haven’t missed it one bit!
By the way, my motto is to throw away poop-covered underwear instead of trying to salvage it. If your child is pooping in their underwear on a regular basis, see my fourth point.
Another big aspect is that we are talking about a process that involves another person’s body. Your child needs to be part of this process and be onboard with it. Potty training is a partnership and should not feel like a tug of war. Run away from the potty training methods that encourage you to use force and tell you to “push harder” when things start getting worse.
There are better ways to toilet train! Join forces with your child and get at their level so that potty training is playful and not some type of boot camp. Children love using a potty training visual schedule. You can help them start to understand the process more with potty training books and even books about poop.
4. Popular potty training methods are outdated.
Disposable diapers have been popular since 1970, and after 50 years of them, the advice for getting kids out of them hasn’t really changed. Newsflash! Welcome to the 21st century where it’s perfectly fine to use pull-ups. And to potty train a child after three years old. Some of the smartest kids I’ve known have potty trained after their third birthday.
Teaching children to learn to go on the potty by peeing all over themselves and your furniture is completely unnecessary (and disgusting)! No wonder why public play areas for young kids were so sticky before COVID shut them all down.
I’ve read nearly every potty training book out there, and it’s almost all the same advice wrapped with a different bow or package. These methods usually skip about 30 developmental steps and head straight for the dramatic course of events. Ones that lead to way too many children developing UTIs from holding their bladders too long. Or where kids burst into tears at the mention of going potty (parents included). Not to mention, the number of kids who suffer with pelvic floor dysfunction.
When I realized that those methods were making potty training awful and only worked for about 10% of kids, I went back to my child development roots. Say hello to modern potty training!
I also ditched the concept of having children learn they needed to use the toilet by having embarrassing accidents day after day (or week after week). Instead, I started focusing on helping children feel what’s going on inside of their bodies. 15-minute timers be gone! I even have an entire potty training course on how to toilet train this way (and avoid all those crazy accidents).
5. Potty training shaming isn’t helping anything.
There’s a stigma that if your child isn’t potty trained, it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough. “Lazy” is a term that I hear thrown around a lot. That isn’t what I see at all!
I’ve connected with hundreds of parents while working with toddlers and preschoolers. The parents I know are dedicated, smart, and strategic. And they are also busy balancing all the things on their plate.
As a veteran preschool teacher, I want you to know that not all children are ready to be in underwear by three years old! It’s crazy to me that we can accommodate children with any type of developmental delay, but we aren’t allowing children into preschool until they are wearing underwear. This needs to change!
Potty training needs to be treated like the complex life skill that it is. Toilet training is not a timed test! It is a progression of over 40 developmental skills. You don’t need a bootcamp, and you can actually start teaching these skills before you’re ready to ditch the diapers.
Wondering when and how to start potty training? It starts with simple things like role modeling how to use the bathroom for your toddler and reading potty training books. If you have a toddler who is interested in the toilet, go buy a potty seat that goes on top of the toilet (these types are my favorite).
Just know this! If your child isn’t potty trained, it’s not your fault. You have not failed. You did not miss out on a small window of time that has simply vanished away. And I do not think three-year-olds are harder to train. I actually love potty training three-year-olds (and even kids who are older than that).
Potty training does not have to be grueling and awful! If you need help or want better answers, I share about potty training step-by-step, in my potty training course, Peaceful Potty Training.
- Rainbow Sensory Bottle - March 3, 2024
- Teaching Neurodivergent Children in Early Childhood Education - January 8, 2024
- Creating Musical Memories: Teaching Music in Preschool - October 6, 2023