Why My 3 Year old is Not Potty Trained, and Why I’m Okay with That

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Why My 3 Year old is Not Potty Trained, and Why I’m Okay with That

Potty training is a huge topic among moms of preschoolers. How did you potty train? How long did it take to potty train? Did you do it cold turkey? What did you do about nights?

We actually did start potty training Aidalyn around 26 months old. I was pregnant with our second and was motivated to not have two in diapers at the same time. Potty training while being pregnant was not fun. We did the 3 day potty training boot camp. She was excited about big girl panties. She was excited about getting stickers and chocolate.

Aidalyn did great during the day. She was showing really great progress for about 3 months. We still had accidents during the night (never once was dry in the morning and rarely was dry after a nap). We were never “completely” potty trained. We could leave the house and stay dry, though. We thought we were on the right track.

Then the rains came down (literately). 

Our house flooded from an upstairs toilet over-flowing… I was 35 weeks pregnant. (You can read the story here) We had to move out of our house for about 3 months. During this time, I gave birth to my second daughter (read her home birth story here).

This whole series of events was too much for a 2.5 year old. We spent one month in a hotel room, one month in a rental house, and 3 weeks in Louisiana with my parents while our house was being worked on.

The Regression

Aidalyn started acting out in the hotel room. She was drawing on the walls and sheets with crayons ( she had never shown any sort of rebellion like this before). She also started crying about having to use the potty. She basically refused to use her potty or the hotel’s potty. She also had to start sleeping with the light on at night.

Using the potty got a little better once we moved into the rental house. We were back in big girl panties and using her little potty with lots of encouragement and rewards.

Then Annaleigh was born and that was another huge life change for a 2.5 year old.

Aidalyn’s personality is that of being a perfectionist, type A and in control. Her little world as she knew it was spinning out of control and the only thing she could control was #1 using the potty or not and #2 eating or not. We saw both of these issues expressed to the max.

We tried rewards, we tried charts… they worked for a short time. Then they stopped working.

Now she cries at the mention of using the potty. She will tell us at random times “I don’t want to use the potty.” She also says that the potty is scary.

I’m not saying that I don’t believe your 3 year old should be potty trained. I am saying I’m okay with my 3 year old not being potty trained.

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 Adam and I are both over achievers and like to put success on reaching goals.

When it comes to our children and their development…

It isn’t a race.

It isn’t something to brag about.

These are little people who need to be respected and given their own time to progress and grow. 

Every child is different, despite the charts and graphs you always see.

Our job as parents is to help build the scaffolding to ease them into the next phase of growth.

I think that we would have been potty trained already if all the other crisis didn’t happen during the time of that developing skill. Who knows.

Right now, I’m focusing on changing Aidalyn’s inner voice. I keep reminding her that “The potty isn’t scary.” “Big girls use the potty.” “When you are ready, you let mommy know and we will use the potty together.”

I am going to be ready for her to show me that she is ready. I will help her as she gets over her fear of using the potty. Once that happens, I will be there to support and encourage her. But for now, I am waiting.

So to the mom who’s 3 year old isn’t potty trained, the mom who’s 6 month won’t sleep through the night, the five year old who isn’t reading novels:

You are a great mom.

Your kid is still smart and thriving.

Be patient.

Have you ever felt insecure about your kid’s development? How did you deal with it?



This post is linked up at a Mama’s Story  and Wake Up Wednesday and That’s Fresh Fridays and Weekend Wind-down Friday Blog Link up and Adventures in Mindful Living

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Angela Parker
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  1. I think you got it absolutely right– YOUR daughter is YOUR business when it comes to something as personal (and ultimately trivial) as the timing of potty training. Grace. That’s what we moms need to offer one another. 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment! I think that Grace is something I don’t give myself often enough either. Being a mom has really opened my eyes to my own faults and short comings. I’m so very thankful to have my little girl and I want to love her as she is. She won’t be wearing pull ups forever, but she also won’t call me “mommy” or want to hold my hand forever either. As much as I wanted her to be potty trained for my convenience… that is not what parenting is about – ever, haha.

      • Hi Angela as I can see by all these comments you are not alone. This is a issue I deal with all the time in my preschool. You can not rush a child who is not ready for the potty. I have read study’s on the damaging affects of pushing children through the pottie stage. You are doing the right thing and here is another quote for you patience is a virtue.

  2. Glad to hear I’m not the only one with a three year old that’s terrified of the potty:) same situation too, with a new baby and trying before the baby came and moving, and it not working out right. My first two were easy breezy, but this third has really shown me not to judge others, because not all children are the same. It’s a good lesson that I’m learning the hard way!

  3. Hi, Angela! So glad I found your blog! I also have 2 daughters (ages 1 & 3). While my oldest is daytime trained she has frequent accidents and is nowhere near night trained. And I’m okay with that too. The book I ready that helped me with potty training had good tips and such but the thing I liked the most about it is that it gave the mean age as well as the age ranges for all different aspects of training (such as day/night training as well as wiping self and hand washing independently). It helped me to realize that it’s a variable process for all children and that many of these things aren’t achieved until age 5. And it’s definitely okay!

    • Thank you so much for reading. We are dealing with so much more than potty training with Aidalyn. She is a very bright little girl and has just decided that she isn’t going to use the potty right now. It is frustrating on one hand, but it is teaching me patience. I know she will eventually decide that she wants to use the potty, but for now it is more about control and her processing her own emotions. I’m glad to hear that there is a book that shows that it is okay too.

      • Age 3 has certainly been a year for us where control battles have also set in. It’s actually what has helped me to make the decision to start potty training even earlier with my 2nd (with hopes it may happen before control issues set in but, of course, that’s no guarantee). Another thing that book says that helped me is this phrase: There are 3 things you can not make another human being do – eat, sleep and use the potty. That is so the truth!

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  5. I have 6 kids, ranging from 12 down to 3 right now. Not one of them were potty trained before the age of three. Not. one. Most of them potty trained closer to their 4th birthday than their third. My 4 year old twins still have controlled “accidents”. It’s their bodies, I figure, I have to let them control them. I’m not sure who came up with the 2 year old figure for potty training, but with most families I’ve spoken to, 2 is just too young. They’re still babies!! Let them be babies. Diapers are gross and expensive… but they will grow out of them. (((hugs))) Mamas who are worried about potty training. It will come in time. I promise.

  6. Thank you for posting this. My son happens to be 4 years old (and 3 months) and his 2.5 year old brother is almost completely potty trained, even at night, while he still has no desire to use the potty whatsoever. He has gone #1 on the potty a few times at his own leisure, but has never gone #2. Though I must admit when he turned 4 and still had no desire to use the potty I was frustrated and wondered if we needed to take drastic measures, now that my 6th daughter has entered the world, I have decided that he will be potty trained at some point. He may be 5 by the time he is, but that’s who he is. A wise older friend once said “you don’t have to declare the age at which you are potty trained on a resume”

  7. My first child, a daughter was potty trained by the age of two in a day both #1 and #2, even at night! So I started with my second, a son, around the 18 months because I’d heard boys are harder than girls (not sure it’s a gender thing) and it was a nightmare. The criticism I came under fire for when at age 3 he still refused to go to potty unless he wanted to was so harsh and hard to take, yet I knew eventually it would click and it did. I tried all the rewards, all the charts and all the tricks in any and every book, but until he wanted to he didn’t use the potty. Good for you! It’s hard dealing with those that criticize so very much, yet like you I have learned I am a good momma potty trained or not. We know have three with our fourth on the way and I’m okay with each and every quirk they all have. God chose me to be their momma and no one else! Enjoyed this!

  8. Hey Angela, so, this is OT, but, I see that you are a speech therapist. I was hoping for some advice on my newly turned 3yr old boy. He talks, but his words are pretty much unintelligible to anyone except our family. For instance, he says “oww” when he wants a drink. Some words he can say clear, like Mommy, Daddy, eat, Maya and Kitty. But those are about it.. oh, and go. What would you suggest to help him?? 🙂
    P.S he isn’t potty trained either. it’s hard, my other 3 were potty trained at 2. :

    • At 3, I would suggest asking your friends or your pediatrician for recommendations of speech therapists in your area. An evaluation would be the first step and be able to see if therapy is the next step or a “wait a see” approach. If I’m remembering right at 3, 75% of words should be “intelligible” by strangers. Hope this helps answer your question!

  9. My daughter will be 3 in a month. I’ve tried to have her wear potty training underwear or Pull-Ups on a few different occasions (today being the most recent) and I think she’s simply not ready. She has been using the potty for her #2s since aged 13 months, but she just doesn’t seem to be able to control her bladder yet (needs changing in the middle of the night, and always after a nap). She must feel very insecure about it because when she has the underwear or Pull-Ups on and that I gently explain to her that if she needs to pee, she has to go to the potty she will cry to have the underwear off and will spend hours sitting on the potty and running naked around the house, then going quickly on the potty in case pee wants to come or because she doesn’t want to have an accident. Sometimes she will come to me and say she peed, so tell her “next time tell mommy before you pee, so we can do it in the potty” – this feels like the end is near to me and I have hope that soon she will be able to hold it in until she gets to the potty. A lot of people are telling me she should be potty trained by now, but I figure she won’t want to go to college wearing diapers, so I’ll wait until she doesn’t see it as something scary, but as something normal. But you know, sometimes you start to question your own common sense, and you turn to Google to see if you are not alone out there. I am glad I found your blog 🙂

  10. I so needed to read this today, thank you. While googling potty training stubborn 3/year old your post came up. We have been potty training for almost 2 years on and off now. My daughter is smart, bright, and kind. She is also a big sister. And for whatever reason she is not ready to fully potty train. It is very hard for me to step back and let her decide because I am a perfectionist and quite frankly embarrassed she isn’t potty trained yet.

  11. SO glad I found this! My first turns 3 next month and we’ve been loosely trying to potty train for the last 8 months. She will occasionally do #2 in the potty chair, bit definitely never #1. We keep talking about it and saying we’ll be doing more practice after her bday, but she tells us, “no potty training mama, I scared”…I hope it passes. My mom said I wasn’t fully trained until around 3.5 yrs old, had a regression after my little sister was born. My niece is now 5.5 and wasn’t fully trained until then too. I guess I just need to be patient. But it is frustrating to have so many of my mom friends gasp when I tell them she isn’t potty trained yet. I hate the judgement. Baby #3 is coming this May so hopefully we can have her trained by then 🙂 I really appreciated reading your post though! Thank you!

    • I totally know that subtle judgement when you have to say that they aren’t potty trained. Now my daughter is 4 and rarely has an accident… so I really do believe that in time they all are potty trained. I know this is the tough part – going through the potty training woes, but one day you can just look back and laugh. Thank you so much for reading!!

  12. Thank you for posting this, i was crying by the end. I get so many looks and comments about why my 3 year old isn’t potty trained and it has made me feel like some massive failure. My little guy just turned 3 and is showing interest but one day he’s into it and will even tell me he needs to go, other days he has no interest. I hate to say sometimes the hardest part about being a parent is other parents. Thank you for posting this, I feel like I am doing the right thing and just letting him go at his pace.

  13. Beautifully written. My daughter is 3, she has been fully potty trained with pee for 7 months, poop on the other hand is a whole other issue. She is terrified. She has done it several times but those are rare times. In her pre school they are so frustrated with her and of course I am taking that personal 🙁 I am 7 months pregnant and am so stressed over this situation. I do not believe in getting upset with her, she is scared and getting mad will prove nothing. I have seriously been crying since yesterday because they are talking about moving her back a class, which I dont want as she is so advanced in every other way 🙁

  14. My 3 year old wants nothing to do with the toilet. I felt horrible yesterday I got pretty much “bullied” from family saying things about it. And I felt like a horrible mom. Thank you so much for your blog!!! It’s something I really needed.

  15. So glad I saw this. My just-turned-3 year old boy will not go. We will sit, and sing, and read books, and he will not go. He talks about “poo-poo” and “pee-pee” in the toilet, but no interest besides that. I’ve become discouraged. I’ve become frustrated. I’ve had my mother and other family say “he should be potty trained by now” and “my son was easy to train”… I feel crappy, as a parent. We are doing everything every article tells us. But, at the end of the day, I have to remember that everything will be fine, he will do it someday, just not right now. I loved your post. It’s exactly what I needed.

    On that note,

    My 3-year old is not potty trained, and I’m okay with that, too. 🙂

  16. This post made me feel so much better. My son will be 4 end of August, & we are trying but he doesn’t do it all the time & #2 only once. He’s knows a lot & knows he’s supposed to go in the potty but it doesn’t always happen. I think our life situations, having to move back to IN from SC & then stay with my Mom for 6 months til we could get a place, caused some regression too. Other people & family are the worst. I was ok with him going at his own pace but became frustrated because of how everyone kept saying, “well he should be potty trained by now”, like it was somehow all my fault & I was a bad mother. I have an almost 16 yr old & he was difficult to train but was by 3.5. I probably should have done things differently with him to make it easier. But I was a 1st time single Mom so I was just doing the best I could. Despite me he turned out great & potty trained lol. So I know it happens but it definitely gets frustrating with everyone rushing him. So glad to know I’m not alone. 🙂

  17. Angela, I am so glad I found this and read it. My daughter turned 3 January 8 2016 and is not potty trained. If I let her run around the house naked she doesn’t make any mistakes but as soon as I put anything on her she just goes in them. I get a lot of judgment and criticism from other moms that have had their kids trained since they turned two. It really makes me feel like I am failing as a mother. I am so worried that she will never be trained and school and sports and everything is just around the corner. 🙁

    • What I learned with my daughter is when she was ready, it happened very quickly… when I removed the pressure I was putting on her – she could process everything and decide to use the potty. My second daughter is almost three and we are starting the potty training journey… and she is curious, so that’s good. I realized that I would rather be a facilitator to help them discover… it put a whole lot less pressure on both of us!

  18. I’m feeling a lot of pressure about it too. My daughter will be 3 in two months. We have “underwear time,” a few times a week, and she can stay dry, but she has never, not once done anything in the potty. We live overseas from our home country, and we will see my parents in December. I feel like I have to have her potty trained by then, because of well, I don’t want the raised eyebrows. My daughter doesn’t really care about potty training, and I’m just so frustrated that ALL of her peers that we are around have been potty trained for awhile, and some people are judgemental about it, especially because of the culture we live in. I’m also feeling pressure for her to start preschool. At 3!

    • Oh goodness yes! We felt that preschool pressure too! Your little one is unique and I know you are doing your very best, keep at it! Mine have rarely shown much interest in potty training, but my now 5 year old got fully potty trained at 4, and we are starting some of those conversation with our 2nd daughter (who is almost 3). Sounds like I need to do an update on the blog!

      Thank you Rebecca for your comment!

  19. So happy to find this. I’m a mom of four. Three much older and the “baby.” My “baby” is 3.5 and though can, prefers not to use the toilet. He says he’s fine with pull ups. My older three were all out of diapers well before their 15 month milestone. However with this one, I’m letting him relish in the baby zone for as long as he likes (he still breastfeeds! I’ve become that mom this time around, lol). Having older ones I realize, it’s as if they’re twenty and gone tomorrow! The time, quite literally, goes by in a blink of an eye. I just get “chit” from outside sources, such as people who are used to being around kids who’ve been sourced out to daycares from 3 mos on. Not that I care what they have to say, it can just be nerve racking, especially since everything out there on any topic for babies, does seem to put the “race on” for the baby to grow up asap . I’m letting my child be. Odds are, he will be my last.

    Thanks again for sharing. With all that’s out there on this topic, I found this post to be authentic and refreshing.

    • “…people who are used to being around kids who’ve been sourced out to daycares from 3 mos on…”

      I found that to be very hurtful, as someone whose little ones are in day care because my family’s current finances dictate that both parents have to have full-time jobs outside of the home. I’m sure I love my kids just as much as you love yours. So maybe don’t be so quick to judge. 🙁

      • I’ve found that moms can be very tough on each other, and we are definitely in this together!

        Everyone’s situation is definitely different M, and I believe we are all friends here trying to find our way. I hope we can all continue to learn from and support one another!

  20. Thank you for this article! I have the smartest (don’t we all?? 🙂 ) , sassiest, most stubborn 3 year old (3 years, 3 months) who absolutely doesn’t want to use the potty. I, too, feel such pressure that this should be done. She knows how to use the potty and we have done it numerous times but I have to make her. She absolutely doesnt want to do it even though I know she can and she knows how to control it. She will even tell me that she doesn’t want to do it. “I just don’t want to”. I found your post encouraging as we have had a very bad, unsuccessful potty training day. I decided to once again, stop and we will try again later.

    • So glad to hear that it was helpful to you! It does get better! My older daughter was trained just fine, but I’m dealing with my younger daughter being 3 and we are dealing with the same fight! Hang in there!

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