Toilet Training Troubles

Posted by on Jan 7, 2019 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Is your child having toilet training troubles?

This letter is from a mom in Spain who has toilet training troubles with her two year old and asks what to do with her son who won’t ask to use the potty on his own.

I’ve been on the road to potty training my 34 month old and it’s taking a while so I have decided to use a chart and see if that helps, at home at least. We live in Spain and here they start pre-school in the year that they turn 3, so my little one started ‘big school’ last week having gone up from the local nursery where he has been since 15 months. He’s almost three so he is really one of the very youngest.

We started potty training a bit at home, nice and slow, getting the potty out regularly, talking about it, seeing mummy and daddy do their wee and poo in the toilet (he was fascinated about ‘stand up wees’ and ‘sit down wees’ and is happy to do both himself). He has now also done a poo at home and while out at a cafe in the toilet (when prompted) so he has no fear of using other toilets etc. He just won’t ask to go and since starting big school he won’t go when they ask him to either. They kind of expect them all to be ready by age 3 and so they also won’t change his nappy, meaning that they call me up when he has done a poo to come and change him.  Luckily for me I work from home only 5 mins away. I think it has caused a bit of a set back for him.  When at home he spends some time out of nappies as it’s nice and warm here but he will often just wee anywhere but the potty and sometimes right next to it and he won’t go to the loo. We’ve been doing this for a couple of months now, which seems like quite a while…

And so, to cut to the chase, do you have any further advice on how to make a breakthrough?



Hi Sarah,

dreamstime_xs_39051599Thank you for writing in with your toilet training troubles.  My guess looking at your letter, is that you feel under pressure to have your son toilet trained because the school expects it.  I think they’re being somewhat unreasonable considering he’s so young but in different places they do different things so I suppose that’s just the way it is.  Notwithstanding their demands though, you must feel under pressure to solve the problem.  The trouble is ‘pressure’ and ‘potty’ don’t go together because if they really don’t want to go, you have no ability to determine the outcome.

Toilet troubles:  potty training issues are often about control

Potty training issues often de facto become control issues and that’s because potty training coincides with the period that a child is beginning a drive for independence.  Let’s remember though that we’re talking about minor and transitory independence, the kind of ‘let me show you mommy I can get my boots on” kind of independence.  Many people mistake this as a drive for real independence and think that they ought to give their two year or three year old lots of choice in determining how their lives go.  See my article on should you give toddlers choices here for more info.

To solve toilet troubles, take a look at how he is the rest of the time

It sounds to me that your little boy has decided to see how much impact he can have and he’s beginning to test it out (by saying no and not going when the potty is available).  I don’t know your family so I’m going to suggest a path of action here and you can see what and how it applies to you.  My suggestion is this, If you try and have a battle with him you will fail because his body is in control, so it’s important to see in light of what I’ve said above how you’re doing on other fronts.  Does he go to bed when asked?  Does he eat normally or refuse to eat a number of foods?  Are you offering too many choices etc?  Try and look at the rest of your life and your interactions with him and see who is running the ship.  If he’s running you more that you running him, then you need to get that sorted first and leave the potty thing on the back burner because it’s that which will determine his potty success and it would be that which is causing his potty reticence.

To help toilet troubles, take the pressure off

If that’s not the case and you’re firmly Captain of your own family ship and you don’t have to look at any other area, then all I can suggest is you take off the pressure. You’d want to do that anyway.  I still think he’s very young to get too excited about his recalcitrance at this point. It’s still perfectly within the bounds of reasonable as he has to want to go.

Get him on board another way

I would resist being in too much of a hurry but if things don’t change over the longer term here’s something you can do.  The way to move forward as he gets older is to make it more pleasurable to wear pants than it is to wear nappies and more fun.  That means letting him have some nice underwear but if he makes a mess, make no comment, clean it up and then stick him in a nappy when at home, especially now that it’s cooler. Tell him you’re happy to take him home from nursery if he makes a mess but then ooops, he misses some nursery and it’s so much fun!

Emphasize all the things he’s missed but in a nonchalant way ie. don’t make a big deal of it.  Take a little longer than you need changing him so he does miss some or perhaps all of nursery a few times.  At the same time, don’t pay much attention to him when he comes home for a nappy change.  Be entirely boring!  You want him to realize that staying at nursery is more fun and missing it because he has to have his nappy changed is not worth his time.  Only experience will teach him that.

All the best and good luck.  If you’d like to read more about potty training see this article about what to do with a child who won’t sit on the potty.


Did you know I write for other parenting help sites like Kiddycharts?  

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