Toilet Training with a Full-Time Job

Archived Q&A and Reviews

February 2004

My 31 month old boy is potty training - and I am struggling with doing this while both my partner and I work full time. He gets it -- and sits on the potty and goes (even poop) when the he wants to... or when we leave him bare bottomed. But he has no problem with his soiled underwear or diaper. He is pooping in the bathtub more frequently now. and then being freaked out by it. I'm at a loss. I have to put him in a diaper for day care -- even though they try to give him potty time. How should I work on this at home? no pants? underwear and just be prepared to clean up. I know not to rush him, but I also think we aren't doing a very good job working on it with him either... Jennifer

Perhaps your son is simply not quite ready to use the potty. I understand that it is pretty normal for boys to hold off until they are about 3 and 1/2 these days. Our son flirted briefly with using the potty when he was about 2.5, but then abandoned the endeavor and really wouldn't go back to it. We dropped it and waited until he initiated the transition. It was hard to wait. It seemed that many (maybe even most) of his classmates in pre-school were starting or done much earlier. But, he just didn't want to. As he was approaching three and a half, I began thinking that maybe I needed to take the initiative. By that time, our son knew when he was going pee or poop, and wanted to be changed right after, seemed able to hold it, etc. But, just as I was thinking of taking the initiative (almost 3 and a half to the day), he made the decision on his own. His teacher at school had been encouraging him, and we tried to raise the possibility of using the potty periodically without pushing the subject. But, in the end, it was his decision and he made it all at once. All of a sudden, he started using the potty on his own, or asking for help. Almost simultaneously, he announced that he was ready to sleep without a diaper. My husband and I initially responded that we thought he should work up to that - but we didn't want to discourage him - and he seemed to take it as a given that he would quit diapers all at once. So, we let him go without at night too, and in the last 2 or 3 months, he's had only 2 accidents at night, and the occasional memory blip during the day. The experience really sold me on the idea that it is ok to just wait until they indicate they are ready. I've seen other mothers getting into power struggles over using the potty. Obviously each child is different. But I think it is ok to let them lead the way. Anyway, I hope you find a way that works for your family. Good luck! Anon
You have a long weekend coming up - take advantage of it! Don't go anywhere, keep things low key, turn up the heat and let him go bottomless all weekend. Sit him on the toilet at strategic times (upon waking up, after each meal, before nap, etc.) We've potty trained 3 kids and my husband and I both have full time jobs so you'll get there. It just happens we found, like a little switch gets flipped and they just get it. However our son stayed in pull ups at night for about 6 months after we had him potty trained during the day as he just wouldn't wake up in time to make it to the bathroom.

As for the pooping in the bathtub, just watch his face very carefully during bath. Our son used to poop in the bath as well and we got pretty good at seeing it coming by the expression on his face. Then we'd just lift him out and put him on the little potty that we kept by the tub.

Good luck!

January 1999

Since we received the reference to the New York Times article, I have been thinking about toilet training. What am I going to do? I work full-time (against my will--due to finances), and my son is 16 mos. old. When should I start and how? Should I expect the day care person to take care of this for me (I guess she'll have to)? Or, do I need to take vacation leave to get started? I admit, I haven't started doing any reading up on this, so I apologize for my naivete. Any advice from seasoned parents is welcome. Laura

My son is now 3.5. My husband and I both work full-time. Our nanny and his pre-school trained him. I suggest you let your daycare providers do the same if they will. Depending on the age you start this, he will probably acquiesce more to their requests than to yours. Unless there is a real need for toilet training your son now, like day-care requirements, I would suggest you wait for at least a year, especially with a boy. All the boys in my mothers group, seemed to self-train at just over 3 years.

For us, we let him somewhat decide the timing. The nanny pretty much let him run around without a diaper on starting around 2yrs 9mos. He had accidents, but stayed drier and drier. The pre-school teacher told me to just put him in underpants and send him to school. He refused to put them on for me, so I didn't do anything for a while. When he was 3 yrs 2 months, he was still refusing me, so I handed the underpants to her and wished her well. Fifteen minutes after I left, she pur them on him and he used the potty all morning there and all afternoon with the nanny. When we got home he immediately peed on the floor and insisted on a diaper. This went on for two weeks until the nanny talked him into wearing underpants for us. We have not had a problem during the day since. Linda

My son has been in some kind of daycare full time since he was 6 weeks old. My husband and I were concerned about potty-training but both the pediatrician and my son's preschool teacher-to-be said it's no big deal--don't even think about it--he'll do it when he's ready without effort on our part. They were right. We told our daycare provider not to bother with potty-training but some of the other kids under her care were either slightly older or had mothers who had a schedule in mind, so our son was exposed to other kids using the potty starting when he was about 2-1/2. About this time, we went out and bought him a potty, but didn't try to make him use it. Just before he turned 3, he decided that if other kids could do it, so could he. We then gave our son the opportunity to use the potty at home when he wished to. He was out of daytime diapers within about 2 weeks of starting to train himself. He started preschool just after turning 3; he may have had one accident at school at the beginning, but certainly no more than one.

Our son had a few accidents when we went to visit our relatives at Christmas when he was 3.3 years old, but they stopped soon after we returned home. I think this type of behavior is typical. Fran

To the working parent with the 16 month old.... I too work full time and have a daughter who just turned three. It's been a real challenge to teach her to use the potty. I've tried everything! But she's got a very careful and persistent temperment. Bottom line, at day care where she receives lots of consistency she's pretty much been trained since she was two. But at home, we're still having lots of accidents, though in recent weeks they are indeed improving. Another factor is the modeling and pressure of her playmates in daycare. I think you'll find your daycare provider a great help with training your son. Work to follow her methods if you can. Regan
First of all, don't feel badly about not having done any reading on this yet. At 16 months your son is probably far from ready for toilet training. My husband and I also work full time, although we do employ a nanny. When my son, Douglas, was 2.5 I began to stress about the toilet training thing. Then someone put everything into perspective for me by reminding me that it WOULD happen because after all -- how many teenagers do you know who aren't toilet trained? So, we took a low key approach. Douglas was naturally curious about the toilet -- following his father and I into the bathroom, asking about his friends who used the toilet, etc. As his 3rd birthday neared, we talked alot with Douglas about how he would soon be old enough to wear big boy underpants. I made sure to have a pair of underpants on hand that perfectly matched a daddy-size pair. On Douglas' third birthday, we made a big to-do about him putting on his underpants --and how they were just like Daddy's. He wore the pants all day -- including during his party in the park -- with no accidents. But, the next day he refused to put them on again. We didn't push, but every day asked him if he'd like to try wearing big boy underpants again. One day, around 2 months later, he just said yes. And has been wearing them happily and successfully ever since. Stephanie
I wanted to share my experience when I was faced with the same. Parents can usually receive hints from children, when they're ready for potty training. Kids usually are wonderful copycats, and want to imitate everything the parents do. I believe it is up to the child to give you signs; however, parents have a HUGE role in helping the child decide that they have outgrown being in diapers. When you talk to your child, you have to let them know that they will soon need to learn to do without, show what big people do when they need to use the restrooms, etc.

In my family's case, our kids wanted to imitate us (parents) going to the bathroom. When my kids showed me this, I took it as a sign that they were no longer inclined to be in diapers. Consequently, I purchased really thick cotton undies, which I made them wear when we were home together (early evenings and on weekends). Then I talked to their babysitter and asked her to help me in this endeavor (you can't do it alone when working full-time); and we would coordinate how to deal with the situation.

After a while, the children learn to appreciate how nice it feels to have dry & clean undies. This encourages them very quickly (with your help) to learn to let you know when they need to use the bathroom. You'd be surprised how fast they quit wearing diapers! Of course, you constantly need to praise their efforts, and perhaps reward them every so often with a special trip to the park (or something like that...). Then you'd do more or less the same for night time, emphasizing no drinking after a certain time and making sure they use the bathroom before (or after) their bed time story. I would definitely deal with daytime first, then night time. Best of luck!

My comments are directed at the parents of children who tend to have a stubborn streak. My experience is that potty training for my daughter was different from other parents because of her personality. Caregivers and pre-schools don't always have the right methods for each child. In my situation, the pre-school's method set my daughter's potty training back almost a year.

The reality is most caregivers don't know how to potty-train kids unless the child cooperates. Kids potty train themselves when they are ready and feel like they are in a safe environment. My husband and I are full time working parents. My daughter became potty-trained during a pre-school vacation when she was four. I took off two weeks before the school's next session. We talked about it - she was ready and so was I. Since I was off from work and she had more freedom, it was a success. Neither of us felt under pressure. It was too obvious in hindsight. Good luck!

On potty training: the earlier you start, the longer it takes. Lynn