Potty Training at Age 3

Conventional wisdom seems to be that when it comes to potty training you should wait until your child is ‘ready’ to do it. Yet despite this I think a lot of us still feel under immense pressure to do it as early as possible. Yes we want to get rid of the cost and faff of nappies but more than that I think a lot of us feel like we aren’t doing a very good job if we still have a child in nappies at age 3 or older. This may be because of ‘helpful’ comments from others or a feeling of competition with friends children who were potty trained by age 2. Whatever the cause, we put pressure on ourselves to do it early, we don’t trust our intincts and we rush into it.

Numerous friends of ours with older children have warned us of this and have time and again reiterated the “don’t do what I did, wait until they are ready” mantra. Of course some children are ready at age 2, all children are different after all, but some aren’t and that is the point and it really has to be about the child.

So with the very helpful advice ringing in our ears, we have waited. It hasn’t been easy and we did try too early. With comments such as “it’s about time he was potty trained” and the pressure of starting playgroup in January we decided to try to potty train Monkey then, when he was. And we failed. After 15 accidents in 3 hours it was clear he just wasn’t getting it bless him. He was clearly trying and was sat on the toilet for ages with nothing happening then as soon as the pants were back on he would go in his pants. With a tiny baby and constant mess we were stressed and he was stressed and we called time. Maybe people will say we gave up too easily but we knew it wasn’t right and for once we actually trusted our instincts and decided to relax about the whole thing.

I set a new vague goal in my mind of the summer (with ideas of running around naked in the garden and not having to worry about toilet training while at playgroup) and we took a new approach. I know people say that you should have potties around to get them used to them and we had done that but to be honest they were just gathering dust as Monkey was completely uninterested in them. We knew we needed to think about Monkey, rather than just general advice, and tailor our approach to him.

Monkey’s biggest problem in fact was that actually he didn’t like his privates. He didn’t like looking at them or touching them or us touching them. In many ways it is good as we know that he would never like anyone else touching his privates but he would get so upset if we went near them. So our starting point was helping him accept they were normal. I’m not sure why he felt like that but we started getting him to wipe his privates at nappy changes and Daddy spent a bit more time naked and talking about his bits to try and get Monkey to relax and realise thet are just another part of his body and totally normal.

20150818_104802Gradually he relaxed about this a little bit, and for a long time we had been talking to him about going to the toilet like a big boy and we continued with that. He started to hate nappy changes, especially pooey ones so we kept reiterating how much better it was to use the big boy toilet and kept asking him if he would like to use the toilet. His answer was always his singsong “nofankyouuuu” until one day at bathy time he stood looking at the bath and said to Daddy “I don’t want to do a wee in the bathy” and when Daddy immediately asked if he would like to do a wee wee on the toilet, he said yes. Daddy popped him on the toilet (we have a cute seat with steps) and he did it! Well done Monkey!!

The next day after playing out in the paddling pool, I let him roam about naked for a bit afterwards and asked if he would like to do a wee on the “wee bush” (a random bush we have picked for wees, apparently hubs and his brothers had one when they were learning) or go in the potty. He tried on the bush but nothing happened then sat on the potty and did a wee and a poo! (He is going to hate reading this when he is older!) Aah big surprise and cue Mummy feeling really proud (and wondering what to do with a pooey potty for the first time lol).

From then on he used the toilet every night before bathy for wees and poos and sometimes the potty during the day. But with still going to playgroup twice a week and a holiday with a long car journey coming up we held back and didn’t rush.

When we got back from our holiday and could spend a good few days pottering about at home (and just taking short walks nearby to get out of the house) it was no nappies day. Monkey knew it was coming and was excited to wear pants. He was now 3 yrs 2 months. And you know what, he was ready and it has actually been really, really easy.

He had 3 accidents on day 1 and another 3 on day 2 but had far, far more successes. We started taking him to the toilet more often and on day 3 we had no accidents and no more for the next few days. He was even dry at naptime and bedtime for a couple of days and we were just shocked but also massively relieved by how well it was going! There was a few strops about the frequency of toilet trips and I realised that actually he can hold it for quite a long time and that I have to trust him to know when he needs to go.

This has led to a few more accidents, mostly tiny drips in his pants when he realises he needs to go, and one big accident. Which is fine as he needs to learn and it is still very early days really! One of the key things for us though has been saying that accidents aren’t a good thing, without admonishing him. I have read that you shouldn’t say “ah that’s ok” or “never mind” as that gives mixed messages. So we try and say “oh dear, that’s a bit yucky, wee goes in the toilet not in your pants, doesn’t it?” So we don’t tell him off but don’t say it’s ok, if that makes sense? We also give him tonnes of praise for going to the toilet as we know that is a big motivator for him.

potty training

I’m no expert on child rearing and have only potty trained one child but here are my tips for smooth potty training:

  • Wait until they are ready and encourage them and talk to them about it but let them take the lead.
  • Don’t give into pressure from others (and yourself) and trust your intincts about when they are ready, and when you are ready to give it your proper attention.
  • Tailor your approach to your child. Do they like reward charts? Then use them. Is praise enough of a motivator? Then just use that. You know your child better than anyone so you will work out the best way to motivate them to potty train.
  • When they have accidents (because they will) don’t tell them off, but don’t say “it’s ok” either as it gives mixed messages.


Ethans EscapadesBest of Worst

17 thoughts on “Potty Training at Age 3

  1. Good advice Caroline. EJ we started just before he turned three and he is pretty good now but still has those bit of wee in the pants accidents but not so many complete accidents and he only really had one or two poo accidents and (fingers crossed) that doesn’t happen any more – phew! I feel confident enough to take him out every day to anywhere and everywhere (still with a couple of changes of pants and shorts) and not be at all stressed by it. He did a big wee in his car seat on the way home from Weymouth the other day whilst asleep – I should probably have put him in a pull up for that one – but other than that I’m glad I didn’t try to start the training any earlier. X

  2. Thanks for the advice.
    Iv’e just started with my twin boys and they both started notifying us whenever the made a “siesa”, but it’s a really slow going process and some days we take 3 steps back with no steps forward. Hoping it gets better soon, but letting them get used to the idea first.

    Glad your little one is doing so great, what a brave little boy.

  3. Some really good tips in here, I think the best one is leave it till they are ready. We got lots of comments, but we left it till Z was 3 and it was the best thing we ever did. I think I was more stressed than he was about it but we got there in about a week. There was a few accidents after that but the penny dropped one fine day 🙂

  4. Fab tips hun. Apparently I was clean (poos) at 18 months so I have had a bit of pressure off my Mum but my grem isn’t ready. She sits on the potty, is quite happy with her bits and wiping them but won’t actually do anything. If I ask her to use the potty as I know she needs to go, she gets all upset. So I’m not bothered! Monkey has waited and sounds like he is doing really well. Well done all xx Thanks for sharing the as so helpful with #bestandworst and see you soon xx

  5. Thanks for this! I’m not too fussed about rushing little A into potty training though people keep asking (he’s not even 20 months!). Can I ask where you got your potty seat for the toilet? xo

  6. I’m so glad to hear we weren’t the only ones feeling pressure to potty train! My 3.5 y o is still in diapers because we moved house over the summer and he was so upset I didn’t want to risk adding another worry to his life. We will start soon but this is great comfort — and I love you step-seat for the toilet! #sharewithme

  7. It sounds like you did just the right thing. My eldest was 3 and 2 months too, although to be honest I think we left him too late as he’d learned to be very stubborn and was refusing to co-operate. We did the other two at a younger age and that was right for them.
    My sister and BIL do a lot of ‘never mind’ for accidents and I think it does send the wrong message. They do need to know it’s wrong, even though you don’t tell them off for it!

  8. I agree with you. I think waiting until they are older is best. I waited until my boys were around the 3yr old mark & they both trained super easily. I tried to train my daughter when she was a little over 2 & gave up after a couple days. She definitely wasn’t ready. You are right – don’t listen to other people’s opinions. They aren’t the ones cleaning the pee up from your house! lol #ShareWithMe x

  9. Definitely agree with the advice to wait until they’re ready although it is so hard not to give in to external pressure. We’re potty training at the moment and although the first two days were really hard, Jessica is really doing well now. Well done to Monkey for doing so well with potty training 🙂

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  11. Great advice and well done to Monkey for doing so well this summer.
    We had that toilet trainer with steps and it was so useful that it folded away nicely when it wasn’t needed.
    Positive, gentle but firm reinforcement is best when those little accidents happen.
    Thanks for linking up with #SSAmazingAchievements 🙂

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  13. I felt this with B and now with MM because so many comment why aren’t they potty trained and why is B still having pullups at night at 4 and MM not going at 2 on the potty solo its’ frustrating when I know she isn’t ready and he is just a deep sleeper but I am constantly trying to work at it as I feel like a total parent failure. Great tips and wish others would stop bragging and making it out like every child at 12 months should use the toilet. lol Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. I hope to see you again soon. #sharewithme

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