Nearly Four and Still Not Toilet Trained

The thing about Oscar.

There’s something about Oscar that I’ve been hiding. Not out of embarrassment, well in all honestly maybe a little. But not embarrassed by him but my embarrassed that my parenting wasn’t good enough.

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Oscar was late to toilet train. He was off to a great start before his 2nd birthday. (Eilidh was really easy and trained by 18months so I genuinely thought Oscar would be similar). However, just before Matilda came along he had a terrible tummy bug and I felt I had to put nappies on him till it passed. Might just be me but I didn’t fancy having to clean diarrhoea pants out multiple times a day! After this however things were never the same again. We let it be and didn’t push him to do anything - we knew Oscar’s personality and character would just push back harder.

We thought perhaps when the baby (Matilda) came along that he would see them as a ‘baby’ thing and that he wouldn’t want them any longer.

As it approached his third birthday and he was still absolutely fine with being in nappies I started to become a little concerned, will he ever be ready?! He was more than capable it honestly just seemed as though he was too lazy to want to go to the toilet!

There was a few attempts by myself but I quickly lost enthusiasm when we were on day three, pair 100 of pants. My best mama friend was in a similar place with her little girl. She was going to start just before her third birthday so we thought let’s do this together! Support each other and hopefully they’ll both pick it up and enjoy telling each other how they no longer wear nappies.

Oscar June 2017 (just before his 3rd Birthday) 

Oscar June 2017 (just before his 3rd Birthday) 

May 2017. We got off to a good start with Oscar. He went to the toilet for a wee with little hassle and only had a few accidents in pants. We’ll call that a win. But never a poo. He would happily poo himself and not have a care, make a wriggle or a fuss at all. My friends girl literally took four days and was even dry through the night - I was so happy for them but it made me feel so defeated with Oscars progress.

We kept going for a few weeks but his accidents became for more frequent and still no poo in toilet at all. We ended up deciding (even with my concern over him being ‘too big’) to switch back to nappies and hoped that over the summer holidays we would have more time, out with routine of school drop off etc.

Over the Summer 2017 things were really no better. I became really frustrated and conscious that every other child his age (and some far younger than him) were toilet trained already. I would change his nappy so many times during the day to make sure he didn’t have a noticeable nappy bulge and bought the slimmest nappies I could find so that you couldn’t tell he was wearing one. At this point my head was such a fog feeling like I was completely failing to help him use the toilet. I questioned myself daily about why he wasn’t managing. Was it Matilda coming along? Was I spending enough time just with him? Was I meeting his emotional needs for him to have the confidence to step away from nappies? Was there some kind of medical condition holding him back? At this time also I was early in my diagnosis for PND and Hyperthyroidism which caused my mind to go into complete overdrive about it all and I became really lethargic and totally overwhelmed with it all.

At his 27 month check I totally broke down meeting the health visitor, explaining to her all of my worries and concerns. I had convinced myself that there was something underlying. I’m no expert in looking for the signs when it came to conditions like Autism but a few of my friends children are on the spectrum so know a little about it and if it wasn’t that, it was something else. Something had to be ‘wrong’. Around this time his behaviour was also particularly bad. He was calling out for attention, would hit, be nasty, totally destroy things and I was left feeling like the worst mother in the world. This all continued for what felt like months. When I discussed this behaviour with the health visitor, family or friends they all said the same ‘it’s a phase, he’ll grow out of it’ but my mind was fixated on that there was something deeper. He was due to start nursery in August and I was terrified that he would be the only one in nappies and that he would struggle to make friends or be made fun of.

When we went to meet his nursery teacher before the summer holidays (she’s actually the one who had Eilidh and couldn’t be lovelier) I spoke about my concerns to her and asked if she could really watch him for any behaviour she seemed odd or abnormal. *All I ever want to do is help the kids. No matter what. If any underlying condition was ever found we just wanted to know so that we could get them the right support and help they needed to support their learning and development. I also mentioned here that he was still in nappies and really wasn’t fussed about coming out of them. We decided that since starting nursery was going to be such a huge change for him already to wait until he was settled at nursery before starting again.

Settling in

I had been dreading this day for so long. How would he cope? How would I cope? I don’t mean in a ‘how will I cope without seeing you’ kinda thing. I mean how will I mentally cope helping him to settle at nursery. It was going to be such a huge fight and battle, I seriously doubted myself.

*I’ll just blast through this next bit*

Day one I stayed with him. He was fine but didn’t leave my side. Wouldn’t look at his teachers and would only play with Matilda.

Day two I left him for an hour. There was screaming, kicking, shouting and tears. Both him and I. I left him with Matilda and cried the entire way to the car. A mum who I didn’t know gave me the biggest hug and reminded me we’ve all been there.

Day three I was to leave him for the full 3 hours. Again there was all of the above. When I collected him his face was red with tears. He had enjoyed some stories but was definitely ready to come home.

Day four, my mum took him in. He went in with ease. Played with his teachers and had a brilliant day. I was so so proud he was able to do it. I think my mum dropping him off gave him a new confidence as if to say ‘I’ll show granny’.

And honestly he’s went in happily every day since! Miracle!!

Since his settling in had gone so well I thought it would be a good time to start thinking about toilet training again.

A week before the October break we bought some new pants. We chatted about it all again hoping that his new found self confidence having started nursery would be an easy transition. Again he went for a wee very well. We started with an incentive *cough bribe* of a chocolate button every time he did it in the toilet. Promisingly a kinder egg if he did a poo.

During the next few days he didn’t have one accident (but pooed himself everyday!)

The next week we were away down to Somerset. With an 8 hour car journey ahead of us I was really nervous we would have multiple accidents. Thankfully we escaped unscathed and there was no wet pants! When we arrived at our cottage for the week Oscar told us he needed a poo, I sat with him for over an hour as he got off and on the toilet. Screamed and shouted that he didn’t want to do it. Eventually he managed! He was so happy with himself and we did a celebratory happy dance that this could be it!!

Unfortunately not. During that holiday he pooed himself each day. We had to buy new pants and hardly any could be saved.  Scraping poo out of pants and soaking them isn’t really my jam to be honest!

Things from this point didn’t get much better. It was so hard not wanting to revert back to nappies for what would’ve seemed the one hundredth time but also thinking he’s just not getting this. He just doesn’t care. He would poo himself and still happily play. It didn’t even bother him when his little bottom was all split and sore.

This went on for months. He wouldn’t do it at nursery as he was embarrassed to do it there and have one of the nursery teachers change him so he would hold it and wait till he came home.

I had really stopped trying to encourage with to use the toilet and really had admitted defeat. Which was probably part of the issue. I was totally fed up, it had been so draining and it became really time consuming. Sometimes he would do it more than once a day as well which made things even more difficult. We’ve had to leave days out, soft play, parks because he would run off (to play) and do it in the tunnel. It’s not like when a baby has a dirty nappy, it’s like a toddler poonami in pants everyday. Sorry for tmi but it was everywhere. Down his legs, covering his bottom and if he hadn’t told me he has done it it could’ve been there for a while if he was off playing.

I hated the idea that while I thought he was happy in the park playing with other children that he would’ve been the smelly one. You know that deep hurt you feel in your stomach for your child? I had that everyday praying he wouldn’t be made fun of.

Of course with all of this in mind his wee bottom became really sore. He would scratch and it would become broken. Having bad eczema prone skin anyway it was terrible for Oscar. He was waking up during the night crying and needed cream on it. I was terrified he was going to get an infection.

Things we’ve tried.

We wanted to encourage Oscar in any way he could. I’ve always thought of bribery as just a form of incentive. I had no care at this point what we would have to do or get as a reward for ending this. We asked Oscar what he would like if he managed a poo in the toilet.

He wanted a mop. Oscar adores mops and has a few in the garden. It all started when he saw the film Annie (he loves a musical) so he would mop the decking singing ‘It’s a hard knock life’ he’s now fairly obsessed. He asked Santa for one and it was his favourite present!

Anyway, he asked for a mop so we said if you do a poo in the toilet - we’ll get you a mop, you can even go into the shop and choose whichever one you like. His face gleamed. He would ‘try’ but I think it was more ‘if I sit on the toilet and show I’m trying maybe I’ll get a mop anyway’.

Other tactics.

Our idea was that even if we could get him to do it in the bathroom it’s one step closer to having the confidence to do it in the toilet. He would normally do it under the dining table or at the bottom of the garden. Typical toddler behaviour but must remember he’s 3 not 18 months. So we asked him if he would like to wear a nappy and sit on the toilet and do a poo. Strangely he did it! He said he didn’t want the poo to splash. We were one step closer....

Next time he did that I cut a hole in the back of the nappy in hopes that it would go into the toilet and he would realise ‘that wasn’t that bad’ and the pressure and anxiety over the toilet would be gone. He was so happy and pleased but still didn’t like it and continued to poo himself.

Some days I was just at my wits end. One morning in particular has had its normal trials then just before we were leaving for nursery he came to tell me he had done a poo. I was so frustrated that I became ‘shouty mum’ I hate ever being shouty mum. Especially at times like this where he really needs my support but I had had enough. I took him into nursery and spoke to his teachers in tears wondering when would this ever end??!

We tried reward charts, bribery, chatting about why he was so scared but nothing seemed to help. We tried days with just granny in hopes he would be too embarrassed to have her clean his bottom that he would want to use the toilet. Days with just daddy. We were both totally at a loss of what to do and how to help him. Everybody just said ‘he’ll get it when he’s ready’ which is the worst thing ever because it feels never ending.

It’s all sounds a bit melodramatic but it’s been so hard to cope with. Anyone who knows me as a mother knows that I usually have things pretty under control. I’m fairly steady and that even if things don’t go to plan I can confidently see another alternative but I had no clue what to do.

Then there was the pressure that kids a year younger than him were completely toilet trained I felt like I was totally failing him. It wasn’t his fault, it was something that I wasn’t helping him enough with or I couldn’t understand.


Bringing right to before Easter (2018 - now!) I decided over the Easter holidays to make it my sole focus. A priority. Wherever we had to let him run around the house naked all day I was determined to help him and get him over his fear. If after Easter he was still having issues I was going to seek help from the GP to see if there was anything else happening.

The first poo (what a title!!)

Eilidh and Oscar were playing together in the playroom, I was cooking dinner and Graeme was playing with Matilda in her room. There was lots of noise and excitement upstairs and I could hear that it was coming from the bathroom - I waited and listened from afar from fear that if I interrupted what he was doing. Just like that out of no where he had done it.

I’ve never been prouder of a poo in my whole life! (Probably the first time actually haha)

Since that first time just before the Easter break there has been very few ‘accidents’ he’s just got it. We’ve still no idea why he was so scared about it or what it was holding him back but I can tell you the huge relief I now have is amazing!!

It’s totally changed our relationship (mine and Oscar’s) who knew doing a poo in the toilet could be this life changing?!

I’ve been so nervous and anxious to share this but I’m a huge advocate for open and honest parenting. No one ‘has it easy’ or has the perfect child/children. I wanted to write this in the hopes that it reaches others who are struggling with issues like this or similar. It can be so lonely feeling like you’re the only one going through it and being too embarrassed to seek help with it or to even tell anyone what’s going on.

Well done if you’ve made it this far into our toilet training journey. It truly has been a bumpy, long road. Now Matilda’s turn....


Karen xx

** I also want to clear up any doubts you may have about my feeling about/ towards Oscar while I was chatting about possible Autism or anything similar. If any of our children were ever diagnosed with any kind of special needs, it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference to us. Having said that we feel like knowledge is power and knowing something is wrong or different just means that we would be able to support them better as parents. I have many friends with children who have special needs and they are the loveliest, kindest (and cheeky) little souls just like the rest of them! **