What your toddler thinks about potty training

You’ll know from your everyday experiences as a parent that your toddler doesn’t think the same way as you. Have you ever wondered what they think about potty training? Understanding this answer can unlock the key to potty training success.

the difference in thinking

You are likely to approach potty training from a logical and rational perspective. You know your child needs to learn this skill, you expect them to have accidents and you are ready to help them get their wee and poo in the potty. But your child thinks very differently.

Your toddler is happy wearing and using their nappy. This is normal to them. Suddenly, you want to take it away and you want them to learn a whole load of new skills, which are really difficult! Whilst the process may seem perfectly logical to you, toddlers rarely use logic to understand their world. Instead, they experience things as they happen and have a much more emotional response to them. Therefore, they are unlikely to understand the goal you have in mind or why it is important.

Your toddler may withdraw, close down or resist the process of potty training as a result. They may refuse to co-operate, refuse to pee and poop without a nappy on or hold on to their wee or poo hoping the problem will just go away.

loss of freedom

Without nappies, gone are the days when your toddler could pee and poo wherever and whenever. Now, they must learn to stop what they are doing and get to the potty or toilet instead. To your toddler, this means less freedom: not only do they have to listen to their bodies (multi-task), but they have to know what to do when they get the message.

loss of privacy

At the start of potty training, toddlers are constantly asked or reminded to use the potty.  It can feel like an invasion of their privacy – suddenly everyone notices and knows everything about them and are constantly on their back about it!

Loss of independence

Learning to use the potty or toilet involves practicing and perfecting 40 new skills, some of which are really hard. Your toddler is likely to be at an age where they have a keen sense of independence and want to be in control of everything from their bodies to their toys. They crave competency and will repeat things over and over until they have mastered them.  Accepting your help can feel like a loss of hard-earned independence.


Until potty training, your toddler has worn a nappy most of their life. They can often feel that their nappy is part of them, almost even part of their body. Its soft, enclosed, cushioned and protected space feels normal to them and the sensation of peeing and pooping in a nappy is something they are familiar with and comfortable with. Without the nappy on, they can feel exposed and unprotected. When they first accidentally do a wee or poo in their clothing,  it is shocking and unpleasant for most children. Unlike a nappy which immediately wicks away moisture and is designed to keep the smells inside, soilinh clothes feels wet and dirty and the immediacy of it and its smell can be hard to process. They may feel ashamed, angry, disgusted, frightened or surprised and these new feelings can be quite overwhelming.


Your toddler wasn’t able to prepare for how an accident might feel or what would happen afterward.  When it comes to accidents, some toddlers are frightened of wee and poo and most of them won’t understand why they had an accident or how they could have prevented it. Accidents can also be shocking to your toddler, as they may never have seen themselves wee before or felt a poo dropping out from their body. Play has to stop and they have to be cleaned up. This is a hard switch to make and they can feel a loss of autonomy and the freedom that came with their nappy.


With any or all of the above experiences can come resistance and refusal, fear, lack of motivation or all of these. Perhaps it is no wonder given the challenge they face. However, the good news is that with a little care and attention, you can prevent these experiences from derailing your chances of success.

Hopefully,  reading this has given you a new perspective on how things might be for your child. If so, you can use this understanding to connect with your child. By seeing things from their perspective, we can empathise more easily and think of ways to help soften the more challenging aspects of potty learning. Starting from your child’s position can help you consider their needs.

potty train gently

Your child is ready. They were born ready to begin learning these skills and if you are getting stuck due to one of the things I have described here, you can overcome it without giving up. If you want to learn how to potty train without the drama and learn how to tailor the process to your unique child’s temperament, my Advanced Potty Training Course is for you!

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