Potty Training & Preschool

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  • Potty-training support at preschool

    (5 replies)

    Hi everyone, wanted to get some thoughts on potty-training support for preschools. I am researching preschools "normally", assuming that I will send my 3-year old to a preschool in Fall 2020 so asking the usual questions, which include the potty. (If they aren't physically open due to SIP still, that's another bridge to cross if we get there.) So, putting it out there for parents who've considered these same questions:

    1. Some preschools require the child to be potty-trained and do not offer potty-training support. If your child was not yet potty-trained by the time you found this out about the school, did you try to put your child on a potty-training schedule to be full-trained by school start? Or would you not consider this preschool?
    2. One preschool I called (that did not have potty-training support) said that while a teacher will accompany the child to the toilet, they do not assist the child in wiping. The admin explaining this to me was very clear that the teacher does not "touch" the child. I wasn't sure if this was supposed to put me at ease because it actually made me wonder why they would not help a child clean themselves. Are there legal issues surrounding a teacher helping a child wipe their private parts? Is this standard policy? I am asking because while I train my child, it is extra stressful to also expect that he can fully wipe himself clean without any assistance. I'm still battling to get him to poop in the toilet, and to tell him that on top of it he has to wipe until clean without help is going to send him running back to diapers... The admin also told me that if the child has a poop accident, he has to be sent home for the day. Is that also standard policy?
    3. I am leaning towards a preschool that at least provides the potty-training support option if my son would need it, even though there is always an additional diaper fee. However, I do see a lot of good preschools that simply just require that the child be potty-trained. We're in May, and if school begins in September, how realistic is it to expect that my son could be fully potty-trained in 3.5 months? He is in pull-ups and will pee in the potty if reminded, but not really poop in the potty yet. It's a challenge to not know what is actually going to be the state of things by then but be expected to commit to something still!

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    I don't know if this is helpful or not, but my son didn't poop at school - ever. Not even in high school.  If your son is toilet trained to the point of being able to reliably pee in the potty -- and from your description, I think that's where he'll be by September -- you'll be fine for any preschool.  And if he does poop at preschool and doesn't wipe himself, that'll be OK too.  

    We are on our 2nd kid at Duck's Nest Preschool (there are 3 campuses in the East Bay, 1 in Berkeley and 2 in Oakland) and they start at 2 y/o and do NOT require the child to be potty trained before starting. Neither of my boys were potty trained at 2; the eldest trained at 3 y/o in his 2nd year at the school, and the youngest is still in his 1st year and in diapers. There is not a lot of pressure to potty train, but definitely some good exposure to other kids further along who are using the potty, for encouragement. The teachers absolutely change diapers and wipe/clean - I've never heard of a 'no-touching' rule. The decision to start potty-training is basically parent-driven, but the teachers have so much experience that they were helpful with our questions, etc. I just wanted to let you know in case DN is on your list - zero stress related to potty training. Good luck! 

    We send our daughter to a Montessori where they have a separate toddler room versus preschool room; being fully potty trained is a major marker of being ready to move on to the preschool room. We started our daughter at the Montessori, in the preschool room, only after she was fully potty trained. Each kid is different, but a couple months is how long it took for our daughter to get the hang of potty training where she had very few accidents.

    She's now 4 and we still check her wiping at home, just to reduce the skidmarks on the underwear, but sometimes she does it solo (thus the skidmarks). The teachers at the school are willing to help if asked, but it's not regularly offered, from my understanding. 

    Also, neither of my kids pooped at preschool or daycare either. Weirdly, for my younger child who's now 21 months, the "saving the poop for home" started in diapers at like 13 or 14 months, basically after she started walking. I'd be really surprised if she pooped at school either.

    Another Duck's Nest parent here- your preschool or daycare should absolutely support your child's potty training. I (personally) would avoid a preschool that wouldn't support with potty training. This is such a developmental milestone I can't imagine that they wouldn't create an environment to assist. 

    DN takes it at the pace that the child is going at and are happy to help support transitions like no diaper at nap time. They have the kids "touch their toes" for wiping bums. My 3 year old could absolutely NOT wipe himself to cleanliness without help. He'd come home itchy and with a rash if his teachers didn't help with wiping. They even let him practice "stand up potty."

    Don't rush the potty training. Offer encouragement and maybe even a prize after you reach a goal like 1 week of consistent effort (accidents will happen). Every kid is different so figuring out what motivates your little will help. My son liked coming the restroom with my husband or I initially to see what we were doing, then we made a big deal about getting him his own potty and big kid undies with his favorite characters. Being able to flush the toilet after we poured his waste into the toilet was really gratifying for him. 

    Pooping was it's own journey. He knew when he had to poop and simply didn't want to do it on the toilet (he'd run into his room and close the door every time). We would let him know it would be a good idea to go on the potty instead of his diaper, but let him do what he needed to do. At a certain point he was waking up with a poopy diaper every morning and we really wanted this to stop. We continued to remind him that pooping in the potty would let him having to lay down for diaper changes and that he didn't want to have the yucky poopoo on him. To be clear we didn't shame him for pooping but tried to let him know that in the same way we don't want poop on his hands, we don't want it all over his booty either.

    Just as I had begun to give up on getting him to poop in the potty he made the leap. Now he calls us from the bathroom to "come wipe his booty cuz he went pooo poooo!" Lucky us ;)

    Our preschool had the same rules that you mention in #1 and 2. We were at the YMCA. 
    So regarding 1, we just started potty training a few months prior to start of school. It was stressful at the time but it worked out fine. 3.5 months is plenty of time. Some kids in the class were not fully potty trained when school started and they were allowed to enroll. 

    Regarding 2, our policy slightly differed stating that they send kids home after the 3 potty accident in a week. The reality was that it was never enforced. Teachers were not allowed to help kids wipe. My kid rarely pooped at school. Reason is that kids always had to use the bathroom with a buddy kid and teacher present. However, if they had a messy accident, they would step in to help clean the kids. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews



2-year-old having poop accidents at school, not at home

Feb 2008

My two-year-old is potty trained at home, but she is having lots of bowel accidents at nursery school. I have finally ascertained that the problem is she isn't asking her teachers to use the potty. They ask her to try to pee every so often, so she doesn't have bladder accidents. But they can't predict her bowel movements, so she goes in her pants. She seems to like nursery school and to be comfortable with her teachers in other aspects. I tell her to tell her teachers when she needs to go potty, but so far it isn't working. Any suggestions? Sarah

2 is still very young to be completely potty-trained. I suspect she is trained when she's with you, because you remind her. At nursery school the teachers are too busy to focus on any one child as much as you focus on your daughter at home, so if I were you I'd send her to preschool in diapers or Pull-Ups until she's older and can tell the teachers when she needs to go. Mommy of 3

Kindergartner holding pee at school

Oct 2007

I am wondering if anyone else has had this problem and what they did to help their child get over it. My son just turned five and started kindergarten in September. He has a history of holding his poop and we've been working on that for about two years and things have gotten a lot better. He also always held his pee at preschool, but as he was only there four hours, it was normally not a problem. Now that he's in kindergarten, the day is seven hours long, and he still holds it! He does not normally have accidents, he just holds it all day long.

Basically, he has formed an unusual attachment to me (mom) about the bathroom. When we worked through his fear around the poop withholding, I was always there by his side, encouraging him, holding his hand etc. Well, now, he doesn't want to use a bathroom if I am not present -- he goes fine in the bathroom at school if I am present, so he's not afraid of the toilet -- he just has anxiety about using it when I am not there. (At home and out and about, he is a bit better about this, but still often wants me in the bathroom with him and will usually hold it if anyone else is looking after him, like dad or grandma.)

So, we have gone to see Meg Zwieback about this, and she has been helpful in making us see that it's an anxiety/attachment issue, but so far my son's behavior has not changed. However, now the doctor is worried about him holding it for seven hours and would like me to go to the school each day at lunch to take him to the bathroom. She says it will cause physical damage and we should not let him go so long without peeing. I'm reluctant (as is the teacher), because that just seems like I'm reinforcing the behavior, and we would rather do anything possible to get him to start using the bathroom on his own. (Right now, we have the teacher aide take him twice a day, and he brings a favorite stuffed animal with him to make him more ''comfortable'', but neither of these have worked, he just says he does not need to go.) But, obviously, I'll find a way to go to the school every day if it's going to cause him physical damage. The whole thing is very stressful for me, though I try to hide how stressed I am about it from him.

My question: has anyone else ever experienced something like this? did you child hold it all day at school? and if so, what did you do? Worried mom

Perhaps I shouldn't answer since I don't have any good advice, but my kindergartner has some similar issues. She has always been able to hold her urine for alarming amounts of time. When we traveled shortly after she was potty trained, she held it for 21 hours!! I was beside myself wishing she would just pee her pants or something, but she just held it until she finally relaxed at the hotel. Yikes! I just asked her and she said she has not ever used the bathroom at kindergarten, but she is still only going for half day. Even when she gets home, she often will go for a long time without going, and sometimes she seems to go most of the day on weekends without using the bathroom. When we spoke to our pediatrician about it a year or so ago (just the fact that she seemed to use the bathroom very infrequently and hold it for very long stretches of time in unfamiliar places) she reassured us that it was normal for kids to go long stretches. Our situation is different in that our daughter hasn't had any other bathroom issues and, most importantly, that our pediatrician is not at this point concerned, but I thought it might help you feel a little better to know that there's another kindergartner out there holding her pee for long stretches of time! Mother of a Camel

Sadly, I do know someone who used to hold it all day at school. Me. It was brutal. In my case, it was because my mom emphasized public toilets as ''icky dirty'' and I was afraid to use them. I held it in all day, day after day, sometimes running the 8 blocks home to make it to my own bathroom in time. (This was back in the day when a 1st grader could walk alone 8 blocks to/from school so you can probably imagine how old I must be now.) One day, I couldn't hold it long enough and I had an accident. It was so embarrassing that I gave up on trying to hold it anymore and started using the public toilets despite my fear. Oddly though, my daughter also held her pee and had an accident or two at school before she decided it was better and easier to just go. (To avoid repeating my mother's mistake, I have always been positive about public toilets with her. She just simply didn't want to interrupt her day.) I don't know what you can do to convince your son to go when he has to go. Maybe you can try to encourage him to go all by himself at home and then at school when you drop him off in the morning? Anyway, if it makes you feel any better, I seem to have suffered no long-term ill effects from my pee-holding days. -anon

A friend solved this problem with her son by making a trip to school each day to visit the potty WITH the school nurse to use the toilet in her office (quieter, more private). After a few weeks or possibly months, he was able to trust the nurse enough to use the toilet with her even if the mom did not show up. Not sure what happened after that, if he mainstreamed to the regular bathrooms or kept going to the nurse's office, but I know the mom finally got off the hook. Montclair Mommy

3-year-old is holding it all day at school

Oct 2007

My son is 3 years old (soon to be four) and we are having trouble with potty training. He is considered trained at preschool because he holds pee and poop all day until he gets home. Until this week, we were putting on a pull-up when he got home from school and he would soil two or three during the evening. The preschool suggested we go ''cold turkey'', which we have tried before, and not use anything but underwear. He is still holding it although did finally pee in the toilet last night. YEAH. I'm worried about him holding his BM especially because of constipation. I am super stressed over the potty training which doesn't help him in the least. Any advice on how to help him or ME?

Children are very smart, you have taught your child for three years that pee and poop go in the diaper. He is just sticking to that. If you can't get him to go in the toilet I would suggest you watch him closely. When you see him start to go prompt him with a ''psst'' or grunt depending on what he's doing. Do it for a couple of days with him in his diaper then start doing it when he's on the toilet. It's going to take him some time so be sure he has a potty he can relax and sit on himself. If he still won't go on the toilet put him back in underwear or a pull up and again watch him closely. This time when you see him start to go take him to the potty and prompt him. Most kids have a tell, something they do before they go. Just watch for that in your child. It's a process but if he's holding it he's got the hard part down, he should get the rest of it pretty quickly. anon

4-year-old won't use potty at school

Sept 2006

Hi all - My son will not use the potty at school and consequently goes through 3 sets of clothes per day. He is very proficient, even proud, of going # 1 and 2 any where BUT at school and has been potty trained for a year now. He has every reason and justification in the world why he can't go at school but I think it may boil down to a subtle game of control. We are desperately seeking ideas for how to get beyond this phase! Thank you very much. Anonymous

Put him in a diaper or pull-up and tell him that's the deal until he starts using the toilet at school. It worked for a friend's son - he wore the pull-up and used it for about a week then was so over it he started using the potty there too -Good luck.

I sympathize with you on this issue. It causes a lot of anxiety for the parents. The same thing happened to us. I believe it was indeed a control issue----not only for him to have control over this issue, but also, I think, to have control over the adults in his life. As he got older, controlling the adults in his life has been a big part of his personality. His preschool was firm that they wouldn't diaper change 4 yr olds, so I sent him each day wearing pull-up diapers and when we got home, I changed him. It was upsetting to us and inconvenient to all adults involved, but right before entering kindergarten he abandoned it (he probably sensed that the kindergarten teachers called the shots now, not him anyore). This type of stubborn behavior recurred occasionally in later years. Now he insists on being the boss of his college applications and it's driving us parents bonkers. It's Hands Off as far as his parents are concerned. We're so worried he's being stubbornly foolish. Being a parent is really hard----we tried discipline of all kinds, taking away cherished possessions, etc. He's more stubborn than the two of us combined. Good luck. As they say, (hopefully), This, too, shall pass Anon

our daughter was the same way when she began preschool at age 3. we (her father, teacher and i) decided not to make it more of a heated issue and agreed that it was ok to bring her potty to school (a smallish bjorn potty that she requested we bring there.) after a handful of accidents, she started bringing a 'potty buddy' with her and eventually started going on her own, 4 months or so later. as time passed, we talked about it less (only when she brought it up and then i remained neutral/ encouraging), and the next year her potty wasn't there, and she was fine. last week, after being at this school for 1 1/2 years, she pooped there for the first time. i knew she was holding it for months, as the first thing she'd do when she returned home was poop. i think it's key to have a flexible preschool and not to make it an issue. i personally didn't blame her for not wanting to go potty in that bathroom. not that it is that dirty, but it sure isn't like home! good luck. it takes time but it will happen been there

My son didn't want to use the potty at school, either. This is very common. Even though he was using the ''big toilet'' at home, our solution was to ask the school if he could bring his own potty chair to use at school. They agreed, and we decorated it with his name, etc, and he used it just fine at school. It completely solved the problem, he was comfortable and the teachers just had to help him empty the potty (easier than changing wet and soiled clothes!). After a while he moved through this phase, and became comfortable using the toilet at school. Good luck! Been there