Why do we find it so hard to toilet train our kids these days?

If you are the mother of a child, the father of a child or just happen to spend some time in the company of anyone with a child you will be familiar with the agony that is toilet training.

Take a quick scroll through any Facebook parents’ group and you’ll read the same questions again and again.

“When did you know your child was ready?”

“My son refuses to poo. What do I do?”

“Help! Toilet training regression.”

“What age should I start toilet training?”

It is not until the age of four that children are dry. Via iStock.

While the answers are reassuring and fall into the “don’t worry they won’t be wearing nappies when they are an adult” area it can be a trying time for all involved.

But the experts are telling us that it may be modern parenting that’s making it so difficult.

Studies show us that in 1957, the average age to start training was 11 months, and 90 per cent of children were dry during the day by age two.

Yet a 2003 survey found that only 50% of children were toilet trained by the age of three, while according to British statistics now it’s not until the age of four that children are dry.

It's concerning that a recent survey found more children were starting school without being toilet trained than five years ago.

Anecdotally the teachers suggested the reason was due to children not being trained at home, before starting school, as well as the reliance on pull-up nappies.

The Telegraph reports that one teacher said “school toilets are not designed for changing children. I end up supplying wipes and even spare underwear from my own pocket. Accidents do happen, but the expectation that I’m part of the toilet-training process is a step too far.”

Robin Barker, Author of Baby Love. Via PanMcMillan.

Author Robin Barker, of the Baby Love series told Fairfax Media that she believes parents priorities have changed.

“They drift along and wait until the child is three or even four and hope they will come out of nappies in a couple of days.

''In effect, we have doubled the time that children are in nappies. There is also the feeling of, 'what does it matter, what the hell'. Our priorities have changed. We want kids to be talking Mandarin and playing the violin and they are still wobbling around in nappies.''


Experts believe that the fondness for disposable nappies contributes as children can’t tell when they are wet.

Parents make it harder. Via IStock.

Miranda Tibble, The London Nanny Consultant, told The Telegraph parents found it difficult to toilet train due to their busy lives.

“Modern nappies are now so good that children don’t feel wet after weeing,” she said.

“Then there’s the issue of disjointed care – with more parents working and children in nursery, it can be hard to establish the continuity necessary to potty-train successfully.

"Most of all, families are more geographically dislocated than ever, so new mums are simply getting less common-sense advice from people with experience.”

She says that for many children toilet training can be a battle ground.

“At the age of two, children are learning what they can control in their lives,” she tells The Telegraph. “Eating, sleeping and potty training are the three areas in which they can do this, and the last thing you want is to turn this into a battleground.”

She says that there are several approaches to toilet training but the key is that they learn to understand their body’s natural signals and how to read them in time to get to the potty.

The best age is between 19 months to 24 months. Via iStock.

Other experts believe that parents have the ideal window for toilet training all wrong and we leave it too late.

Anna Christie, author of University of NSW report Toilet Training of Infants and Children in Australia: 2010 believes there is an ideal window to toilet train before kids reach the difficult age of two but that modern parents miss it.

“Parents find it easier to put a disposable nappy on their child than to put the effort into training them,” she told Fairfax Media.

She found the best age was between 19 months to 24 months. On average, these children were out of nappies by 25 months.

She said that in the parents who waited until their child was between two and three, some trained quickly and others took much longer than those in the 19- to 24-month group because the training period coincided with the ''terrible twos”.

However you do it be prepared to accept defeat and try again if it isn’t successful, because really that age old advice “she won’t be wearing a nappy when she is an adult” is actually pretty spot on.

Miranda Tibble, The London Nanny Consultant’s top tips for toilet training include:

Consistency: Going cold turkey on nappies.

“Consistency is key,” she tells The Telegraph “It’s no good potty training at home for a couple of hours, then sticking a nappy on and heading out of the house. Schedule a few days at home, and ditch the nappies for good. If you need to go out, take a potty with you and line the buggy [pram] with a towel – it’s a learning process.”

And no bribery:

“Don’t use Smarties as a reward,” she says “soon, they’ll be potty trained and still expecting sweets every time they do a wee.”