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Am I being a bad parent... by pushing my three year old to toilet train before she's ready?

Three experts have their say on one parent’s toilet training dilemma, as the preschool start date looms.

EACH WEEK, WE hear from a reader who can’t figure out what to do about a tricky parenting situation. To get a balanced take on the dilemma, we ask three Irish parenting experts to weigh in.

From dealing with a picky eater to helping a toddler who relies on her bottle at bedtime, being a parent often means making a decision based on what’s best for your child, not what’s easiest.

This week, one parent is wondering if she’s doing the right thing by pushing her daughter to be toilet trained before preschool – even though she has reacted negatively in the past.

Have a parenting dilemma you’re struggling with? Let us know anonymously here and we’ll share it with our panel of experts.

This week’s dilemma

My daughter just turned three and is going to preschool next month. However, she’s hugely resistant to being toilet trained. We’ve tried to introduce it to her over the past six months but since the beginning she’s hated it and refused to use the toilet or potty. It usually ends with her in hysterics and us giving up in order to keep the peace. Even when we approach the subject, she reacts negatively. I’m conscious of how the pressure is on now to ensure that she’s toilet trained for preschool. Am I being unreasonable by pushing my daughter to be toilet trained, despite her resistance?

What the experts have to say…

You are not being unreasonable. You feel under pressure from your childcare service to toilet train your daughter and for your child to progress through to their next big milestone of playschool. Unfortunately, though, toilet training is less likely to be successful if the child is not physically or mentally ready to be trained. I would try to approach the teacher this week and talk it through with her as your daughter will not be the first or the last to be in this position. I have a number of tips on my Instagram on this subject. 

- Deirdre Holland Hannon, Behaviour Specialist at @deehollhan.

You’re not being unreasonable. Your dilemma is very common, many families are under a time frame to have their child trained before starting pre-school. This is never easy, particularly when our toddlers have different ideas! What’s important is that your daughter is showing signs of readiness to be trained – we can’t force it. I would suggest you try your very best to take the pressure point out of it and focus on the practical side.

Is she relatively dry in between nappy changes – so do you think she has any bladder control?  Make a decision and commit to one week at home with her and persevere with it. If she thinks you will bow out early because she ‘reacts negatively’ it will become more of a challenge for you all. Be confident in your own decision and stick to your guns! There is support out there if you need it too.

 - Aoife Lee, Parent Coach at 

No, you are not being unreasonable. This is a huge developmental step that your daughter needs to take. Firstly stick with the toilet, you don’t want any issues with her transitioning from potty to toilet! Short and frequent would be my advice, short time on the toilet with you reading a book or playing with a favourite toy. Have frequent trips throughout the day. Whatever the item, make sure it is only used when she is on the toilet as this will hopefully act as a motivating factor and a good distraction for her. Also it is important that she feels secure when sitting on the toilet, have a small stool to place under her feet. Best of luck.

- Brian Purcell, Occupational Therapist.

So what’s the final tally? Is this reader being unreasonable?

Yes – 0

No – 3

Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Have a parenting question you want answered? Let us know anonymously in our survey here or email us on and we’ll put it to the experts. 

More: Am I being a bad parent… by giving in to my son’s separation anxiety?

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