Skip Nav
Parenting Tips and Advice
7 Tips That Make Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave Easier
This Baby Gets Photographed Wearing an Incredible Costume Every Time She Naps
The Ultimate Guide to Last-Minute Kids' Costumes

No Potty By Three? Moms Say Not to Stress

No Potty By Three? Moms Say Not to Stress

It isn't necessarily a parenting failure if your child isn't potty trained by age three. Many moms and pediatric physicians agree that while three is a reasonable target date, all is not lost if your child doesn't hit that bullseye.

"Just like learning to walk, talk, or a ride a bike, it will happen when the toddler is ready, and you can't rush it," says Dr. Tanya Remer Altmann on the Healthy Children website. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the editor-in-chief of the book The Wonder Years: Helping Your Baby and Young Child Successfully Negotiate The Major Developmental Milestones. "As a general rule of thumb, children are developmentally ready to use the potty around the age of 3. However, remember that children develop at different rates and that not all children are ready at the age of 3."

As moms will tell it, this can be especially true of boys.

Just ask the ones who are in the potty training trenches. Joy B. recently shared on Circle of Moms that her 3 year-old son has no interest in giving up his diapers: "My son is 3 (he'll be 4 in October) and still flat out refuses to go on the toilet. He'll sit on it, read on it, sing and say his ABC's on it but he won't go," she shares. "My niece was trained by the time she was 2 but my was 4 and the other was 4 and a half, so I think with boys in general, they take longer to learn."


Courtney C. tells a similar story: "My son is 3 and a half, he just recently got consistent with the potty. It'll happen when he's ready and not a moment sooner," she writes.

Amber R. thinks parents just shouldn't feel so much pressure to have a child potty trained by a predetermined age: "For the life of me, I will never understand why there is such pressure to have a kid potty trained by three. I understand that that is the general age, and that it's okay to train when they are three, but only if they are ready and willing at three," she posts in a community for moms of toddlers. "It will come. Don't stress. I have six kids. One trained at almost four, another trained at 21 months. It's fine."

So agrees pediatrician and parenting guru T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., who authored Toilet Training The Brazelton Way and is regularly featured in the New York Times Health Section, where he addresses pediatric medical questions posed by readers.

In his book (excerpted in the Best Nanny Newsletter), Brazelton discussed the importance of getting the child to buy into potty training, explaining, "I would urge that we keep in mind the child's own role in his (or her) toilet training."

In his private practice, Brazelton studied the potty training progress of nearly 1,200 families that were willing to take a "waiting-and-watching" approach, allowing their child to indicate when he or she was ready.

Brazelton says the incidence of constipation (which may be a response to the pressure to potty train before ready) was reduced in younger children, and that when parents followed the child's cue rather than forcing potty compliance, very few (1% ) of the five year-olds studied were still wetting the bed.

Brazelton concludes that it was "more effective to wait until the child showed signs of readiness for toilet training and readiness to feel that it would be his (or her) own achievement."

Making potty training "his own achievement" by using a potty chart is how Regina B. was able to train her son in 2009.

For a while the chart had only a few stickers, but this quickly changed when "he figured out what got him treats like going to McDonalds for lunch or a small toy." And as he did better, she increased the number of stickers (one for each successful visit to the potty) that he had to earn in order to get a treat.

And as Brazleton's research indicated, she reports a natural and peaceful transition out out diapers: "He never seemed to notice that it was taking longer to get one. After a while we just stopped, after he was going potty without even asking to put up a sticker or get a treat."

Image Source: Todd Morris via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

ReneePinto17345 ReneePinto17345 3 years

Sorry, this might not be the most popular opinion, but going to the bathroom on the toilet is a MATTER of FACT thing. Its a toilet, its for pee and poop, we don't poop in a diaper when we grow up. All of my children were fully potty trained with very few accidents before they were 2. It wasn't a big deal, we didn't give treats and toys, there were no stickers, it was just the next step in their development. We didn't and don't have accidents, no wetting the bed. I realized when they could stay dry all night and I paid attention to them when they looked like they were fidgety and needed to go potty. The process took all of a couple of days for all 4 kids. People say boys take longer than girls but I have 2 of each and they were exactly the same. Kids do not need a reward for everything, there are just some things like using the toilet that are a part of daily life.

StephanieWebb8067 StephanieWebb8067 3 years

thats great! =)

jackiecaairns1390002364 jackiecaairns1390002364 3 years

hi i wrote bout my daughter not going to potty bout 4 weeks ago,she has just turned 3,one day i put new knickers o her and told her shes a big girl now,and told her to let me know when she wanted a wee wee,she told me,i gave her a sticker and made a fuss of her going and shes not looked back since and has never had an accident in bed yet either.well done LACEY ,YOUR A STAR*

BrookeJohnson3461 BrookeJohnson3461 3 years
I don't know how much I buy into the "boys are harder to potty train" thing. All 3 of my potty trained boys were trained before 2&1/2years old. I still have a boy (1) and a girl (not yet born) to train so things may be different for them, but still I don't think it was just luck that my older boys were so "easy" to train. I do think that some parents are too lax on this subject. When your child shows signs of readiness you have to be all in on potty training. I think too often the parents get lazy and don't want to be fully on board because it is a lot of work. Of course this doesn't apply to every child/parent with potty training. Just something I have seen happen.
Denise15266939 Denise15266939 3 years
You need to make potty time fun, we used to put her dolls on the potty first then she used to follow after, when she did a wee or poo we did the potty dance crazy but true it works, going to the loo or using the potty shouldnt be made a scary experience, its ususallt better in the summer so a few pairs of wet pants or wet legs isnt a big issue x
Denise15266939 Denise15266939 3 years
You know when `your child is ready for potty training, I used to leave the potty around months before she was ready so she got used to seeing it, shes now 3 and has ben fully dry night and dry since she was 2, im lucky as she now takes her self and knows when she needs to go, children are brighter than you think and it takes time and patience x
LeslieWeimer LeslieWeimer 3 years
I'mnot in no hurry she is special needs.we start at 14 months and she just turn three. I do cloth most of the time.
EmmaSparrow1386136283 EmmaSparrow1386136283 3 years
@NicholeIppolito You really need to be careful doing that. And it's completely understandable that your child is doing that. The toilet is basically a "scary thing" as a child and I was exactly the same. If you push it in your house like that with a "no Tolerance" policy, they will hold on until your not looking and can risk things like UTI's. Not a healthy thing. Anyways, my story. My step-son is 3. He is part of a split family (obviously) and when at his mother's he contracted Salmonella Poisoning, which made him quite ill. He was pooping every 3seconds, and after that event, he has been pretty hesitant with doing a poo. Since his Kindergarten for 2014 only has one regular staff member, they cant legally change pull ups or nappies so to toilet train Xander was necessary. His mother was push push push, when we saw them own the street she would growl and swear every time he had soiled himself, and at changeovers she would always say "Xander you need to start using the toilet, you're being a baby," etc. and he felt pressured. She had even taken him on an excursion with my step-daughters kindergarten trip in jocks with no change of spare clothing it he had an accident. Xander was starting to hold on and wouldn't even wee so we made a back to quick change back to pull ups as he had contracted a UTI. The next time he was back in our care and UTI free, I said to Xander "no more pull ups". I hid a heaps of them and he threw out two of them into the bin, thinking they were the last ones in the house. Since that day, toilet training has been a breeze. He will wee and poo on the toilet. Only thing now is training him to wake up during the night to take himself to the toilet. Still in pull ups for bedtime. My tip is to encourage your child, buy some books about potty training. If they have an accident, don't growl, just clean them up and give them a kiss and calmly say "next time, please make sure you tell me when you need to go, okay". Make it interesting, and boys may be a bit tougher than girls, but if you aren't persistent, things wont get anywhere and they will get bored.
NicholeIppolito NicholeIppolito 4 years
The thing is, you can say whatever you want but having a 3 year old in diapers is rather gross. When T has accidents and poop ends up all over my house, I'm not okay with it. She knows how to use the potty, we have been doing this for, literally, 7 months now, and we have a no tolerance policy when we are at home and she chooses to hide behind the chair and poop and/or pee her pants.
KristinaCoelho KristinaCoelho 6 years
I'm a mother of 2 boys, ages 16 months and 8 years. I introduced my oldest to the potty at 18 months.. He seemed interested and even sat on the potty a few times for the first year, continuing him in Pull-ups. He wasn't successful until the day before his 3rd birthday,as if a light switch went off, and he stopped using pull ups, peed and poo'd in his potty and didn't wet the bed.. It was a tough time for me wondering if he'd be potty trained by preschool. Don't stress.. remember every child is different. I'm learning this now as my 16-month old wants to use the potty at friend's houses. He pulls off his diaper and sits on the potty for hours at a time.. He throws a fit if i try to remove him.. luckily my friends kids are older and don't use it anymore.. but she keeps it around for her new bundle on the way. LOL
NanT97545 NanT97545 6 years
My youngest was the only out of 3 boys who was potty trained before age 3. My advice for mums would be - as long as you know there is no physical reason for the delay don't worry about it. As I told a parent once after hearing remarks about how quickly their child had trained them to take him to the potty (umm-- how quickly their chaild had been potty trained) -- I figure if he isn't potty trained by age 18, I'll let the army deal with it.
ShaRieDickerson ShaRieDickerson 6 years
See, what our problem is, My son doesn't what me to take him potty. He'll either sneak in the bathroom and try to go potty BY HIMSELF or He'll try to go as soon as I go. He'll even sit on the potty with his diaper on. He loves running around without a diaper and even with a diaper on let us know he's soiled by saying, "poo poo... Eww, your gross!" But, I'm 4 weeks shy of having another baby and really don't want to have 2 kids in diapers..... What Can I do? I'm a single mom with no active father around and don't trust too many men these days to send my son in the bathroom with them for many reasons I'm sure some of you can understand! HHHHHEEEELLLLPPP!
SheridanMcConnochie SheridanMcConnochie 6 years
I was having this same problem. My son will be 4 in June, and up until Mid April had no interest whatsoever to use the potty, let alone the toilet. He was hardly wet during the day. I was absolutely fretting since I was dreading how I'd make time to really encourage him to use the potty with a 2 week old baby! He had already shown he was annoyed with the new addition and was breaking his sleep pattern. But then we went down to visit his father's side of the family. He has an uncle who is 5 years old, who he really enjoys playing with. Seeing him for literally one day using the toilet, made him suddenly ask for pants and use the toilet! For both number one and two! And so far he hasn't gone back, we are now working out stopping the little accidents he still has now and then plus getting him through the night. But it seems seeing how easy it is from someone of a similar age and how it means more play time gave him the encouragement he needed!
NatalieGordon68126 NatalieGordon68126 6 years
I have been attempting to potty train my little girl for awhile now.. she would show signs she was ready and even run n do a pooh on the potty.. and then she'd change her mind and the temper tantrums began. She is now 3 and I not long started work, and its very difficult when your child refuses knickers or using the toilet. she begs for bum change instead of knickers and then when she wearing nappies, she tells you to go away and leave her alone. The worst part is, her body is saying nappys have to go by giving her UTI and Im embarassed for her. What do I do?
VictoriaPay VictoriaPay 6 years
My daughter now 3 refuses....she sits on it, reads, sings and has also successfully done her deed a few times but generally is not interested at all. No stickers or anyother motivational methods have convinced her. She wear her panty and if she feels the need to go she insists I put her nappy on. (She had a bad experience at her daycare-came home with marks on her bottom saying that she was hit because she wet her panties, the lady denies this! The marks were visible for 2 weeks/why would a 2 year old make that up???) So I think now she is traumatised and I'm struggling to get her positive) Any advice?
my daughter is 4 and has no interest sitting or using the potty....i dont know what else to do...HELP!
PamelaWild PamelaWild 6 years
My little girl was out of day time supers by two, but only now as she is approaching 3 is she able to come out of the night time diper. We have a sticker chart, the first night she didn't wet her bedd she was rewarded with a small toy she had be asking for, then we said she had to get 3 stickers to get the next reward, her next goal will be to get 5 stickers, slowly increasing the goal. She is doing so well. We have had a night where she wet the bed but she didn't fuss about the sticker she just said, " last night I wet the bed, but tonight I call mummy to go to the toilet."
jodieCimillo jodieCimillo 6 years
My Daughter is already 4yrs. She will not or dows not poop in the potty. she does not tell anyone she has to go her pre K teacher is getting frustrated. We have tried all kinds of rewards. What does any suggest I do?
SuzanneCrosby SuzanneCrosby 6 years
finally I feel like I'm not the only one although I dont think it is just a boy thing my youngest daughter will be four in july and has gone back into pullups after a year of trying I have tried everything stickers, charts, prizes, punishment, praise and have bought several different potties. My eldest was 2 1/2 and did it in a week and was out of nappies at night at 3 1/2. I persisted with pants for my youngest beacause she started nursery in september. Although schools cannnot now refuse untrained children (THIS IS TRUE I am a teacher myself) I wanted her to fit in with other children. She was okay at first but held in her poos and got constipated then had laxatives and hurt her bottom. The school has set her individual targets as she has some difficulties with changing routine which we are having her assessed for. One target is to use the toilet. After much heart ache, stress and going back and forth I have come to the decision to wait till she is ready as advised by the health visitor. She is much happier and will use her potty on odd occassions but I am not stressing anymore. Would like her to be out of nappies for full time school in september so might try again in holidays but otherwise it is up to her.My advice to anyone is dont be pressured by other people's children being trained and follow your child's instinct!
AlisonZiegler AlisonZiegler 6 years
I am okay with letting my son potty at his own pace (he is 3 1/2) but daycare will not let it be. They are putting pressure on us and my son. They remind us daily that he is now 6 months behind the other children.
KimberlyCroteau KimberlyCroteau 6 years
I am having trouble with my son. He will be 4 in Nov. We had him potty trained before he was 3, then he all of a sudden just stopped, and now periodically will go on the toilet? I've tried pretty much everything with him and am not sure what else to try?Also when he was potty trained he would not wear underwear or anything. He only wanted diapers?
VictoriaNorman VictoriaNorman 6 years
What are the tricks for sucessful night time training?.My Son is 3 and a half and is try in the day but still really wet in the morning when I take his nappy off.
HayleyJames84480 HayleyJames84480 6 years
We tried to train my son at 2 1/2 (in summer), he was having NONE of it! He was stressed and upset and I was worried we'd end up with worse problems as a result. So we waited a whole year until the next summer (3 1/2) and told him he would be wearing undies outside and if he weed or pooed in his undies it would run down his leg, he did it 3 times until he realised the sensation of needing to go then he was fine, toilet trained in less than a week with no problems! Some just aren't ready when they're younger, they won't go to school in nappies, so don't stress too much.
GorataGaoneMatsetse GorataGaoneMatsetse 6 years
ive been blessed to have the very best nanny at 24 months my daughter did not want to feel the pooh on her bum so we introduced the potty particularly for that because she would figget when it was time and so the NO 1 was a given. at 28 months we stopped using nappies at all during the day,but at night. she is now 48months and she takes herself to the loo does not want to be assisted with the clean up and she seems to be adjusting very well. Before bed she only goes to the loo once and she wakes up in the morning. Im so proud of her she is so independent.
Painted Pumpkin Ideas For Halloween
Taking Kids to a Pumpkin Patch
Toys That Get Kids Ready For Preschool
Halloween Fun Through Kids
From Our Partners
Latest Moms
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds