Older Kids In Diapers: When Should I Be Worried?

A child still in a diaper might be caused by parents not taking the necessary steps.

There's always one child who starts to potty train unprompted, months before everyone else's kid.

It's easy to brush it aside and tell yourself that your child is normal (they probably are) and will get there when they get there, but what happens when your older child is still wearing their diaper and doesn't seem to have any desire to potty train? When is it time to step in?

Potty training is a difficult task for parents to navigate no matter what, and different children will be ready at completely different times. But parents who are struggling with their older kids still in diapers don't need to worry. We've got some handy tips and tricks to put your worrying mind to rest and get pull-ups out of your shopping cart once and for all.

Have you mastered daytime potty training, but your child still wears a diaper at night? Don't worry about it, we've got all the info you need in this article. And if you're a parent of a toddler, why not check out this piece on where to hold your toddler's birthday party or this article on dealing with an emotional meltdown?

When Do Children Usually Stop Wearing Diapers?

It might be time to say goodbye to diapers with lining in them for older kids.

Every child is different when it comes to the right potty training age. Anything between the age of 18 and 30 months is relatively normal, but for some children, they might be as old as four before they start showing signs of being ready to potty train. By the age of five most kids should be potty trained.

For some reason, girls are usually quicker to progress to toddlers' training pants and pull-up diapers, so quite often it's boys who end up being slower at potty training. So if you're comparing your little boy to the girls in his toddler group, try not to worry too much, it might just be a little later that he's ready to take the plunge.

Potty training is the kind of thing that really does rely on your child's developmental readiness, so if your child isn't showing any interest in their potty, or asking for you to change their diaper, it's going to be a lot harder for you to get them potty trained than if they're taking an interest in what goes on in the bathroom. When kids start staying dry for two hours or longer at a time, it might be a sign that their body is ready, even if they aren't quite there yet mentally, so if you're keen to start, it could be the time.

As parents and caregivers, it might be surprising to learn that you might also be playing a significant role in keeping your child in diapers longer than necessary. If diapers are easily accessible and you aren't mentioning potty training at all, then a child who likes wearing their diaper might not make the jump to training pants as quickly as they would without your encouragement. It might just be a case of starting to talk to them about potty training because they are likely just preoccupied with normal toddler things and not thinking about it at all.

When Should I Be Worried?

Children who don't potty train until they are three years old might just not be developmentally ready yet.

Every child is different when it comes to getting potty trained, and the age that they are ready to stop wearing diapers is going to vary depending on a lot of different factors. It is usually nothing you need to worry about.

In general, if you aren't seeing any signs of them being developmentally ready to start potty training at three years old, you might want to have a think about your next steps. If your child is potty trained in the day time, but struggling not to wet the bed occasionally when they're seven or eight, that's totally normal too. According to the AAP, up to 10% of children do this.

If your kid is showing absolutely no signs of wanting to stop wearing diapers whatsoever, then you might want to look at other things happening in their life that could be impacting them. Significant life changes like moving house and parents breaking up can prompt older children to want to wear diapers for longer because they are looking for comfort. There might be some emotional barriers that are stopping older children from letting go of their diapers, so it's important to review any significant life changes and try to work out if there is a deeper root of the problem at hand.

If you've tried everything to get your kid to go to the bathroom, but they are still in their diaper and are showing no signs of letting go any time soon, it might be time to visit your pediatrician and get some medical help. There could be a medical reason for older kids staying in diapers, like frequent urinary tract infections, painful constipation, or a small bladder capacity, and it's best to get medical help to give your child what he or she needs to be ready to start potty training.

Tips To Help

If you feel like your older children wearing diapers is just never going to stop, and you're stuck on what to do next to help your kid, then these tips for kids who are a bit more stubborn about potty training might just be what you need.

Keep diapers out of kids' sight. If children wear diapers as part of their routine, and the diapers are easy to access, then they'll probably just keep reaching for them. Make it clear that the diaper drawer is being cleared out, and keep your emergency stash somewhere away from your kid. This will help them to start getting to grips with the idea that they aren't a baby any more, and it's time to start using the toilet.

If your child tends to wear training pants at bedtime, then it's a good idea to make sure they are taken off straight away when your kid wakes up, so that they don't feel as though they are still in diapers for part of the day.

If you feel like your method for getting your child to start using the toilet is good, but it seems like they're always going to want to wear diapers, then it might be time to shake things up a bit. Look at what works for your child in other aspects of their life. If you've been using positive reinforcement and your child still isn't toilet trained, then it might be time to change your approach and go in hard and fast with a crash course in toilet training. Equally if being stern is just making kids feel even more like they want to stick to what they know, then a soft approach like positive reinforcement might be the best way for you to go.

Even though it might seem silly to grown-ups, kids are sometimes avoiding becoming toilet trained because they have fears surrounding the toilet and potty. Sit down with your child and ask them how they feel about being potty trained and getting rid of their diapers. Take the time to reassure them about any fears they might have, and you might start seeing surprising results from this alone.

Try to avoid pleading or begging. Even though sometimes it's all we have the energy for, it's important to make sure we don't resort to things like pleading with our child to use the toilet. This is only going to give them more power in the long run and make it harder for you to negotiate in later years.

Make potty training into a game. Kids love to play, and if you want them to use the potty, getting them to race you to it is a fun way to ensure they get there on time.

For older children in diapers need you to put a routine in place. Kids benefit greatly from having clear and concise routines, and getting your little one out of diapers or pull-ups once and for all is going to be no exception to this. Stick to clear routines around bedtime and toilet times for your child, and they will start going to the toilet unprompted before you know it.

Always praise your child for going to the toilet or using the potty, even if it's empty at the end. This positive reinforcement will make kids excited to use the potty, and the more that they're sitting there, the more likely they are to be using it properly.

Don't compare. Every child is different, and it's important not to compare your child that's still wearing diapers to the actions of their older siblings, cousins, or friends of the same age. Keep in mind that kids develop at different ages, and just because your child is a couple of months (or even years) older than you'd hoped they'd be out of diapers, ask yourself if this is actually a major problem in the grand scheme of things.

Taking your child on a shopping trip to buy some big-boy or big-girl underwear might be what your child needs to feel ready to start potty training. Make it clear that they are no longer a baby, and it is time to start acting like a big boy or big girl and use the potty.

Point out friends of your child who are potty training or who no longer wear their diapers. Kids love to copy their peers and will be far more likely to want to follow their friend's lead when you give them the opportunity to.

If you're dealing with older kids in diapers at school, then it's a good idea to make sure their teacher knows where they're at with their potty training journey, so that they can prompt them to go to the toilet at regular intervals.

Start getting your child to check if their diapers or pull-ups are wet or dry so that they can take an active role in learning about their needs. Positive reinforcement like a high five or a hug when their diaper is dry will prompt them to consciously try to stay dry when they can.

If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at these tips for toddler growth spurts or our guide to 'children see, children do'?


Written By

Kidadl Team

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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