ParentsSeptember 10, 2018

The Five Stages of Toilet Training grief


Toilet training – there are all kinds of ways to make it work, and it’s fairly easy. Unless it isn’t. Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes goes through the five stages of toilet training.

I remember it as if it was yesterday. A mother asked me about toilet training. I had not toilet trained my son. He is not a dog, I said to myself (ho ho ho), he does not need to be trained. My son just decided it was time and he just started going to the toilet himself.

It was easy.

And I literally said that – it’s easy. Just let them do it when they’re ready and they’ll do it.

How smug I was. Verily, I was a dickhead.

You know what really shows you’re not the great parent you think you are? A second child.

I used to think I was a great parent. And then I had another one. And realised every child is different and sometimes your kid is just easy and sometimes they’re just not. If I could go back in time I would say:




I would shut my mouth. If I had to say something it would be: all kids are different. And maybe something like: it will pass...

I am an adult. I have struggled through life accidentally succeeding at things that I probably should not have. But I cannot get my kid to use a toilet. If I ever succeed in toilet training, it will be the greatest achievement of my life. Nothing else will compare.

Getting my son to poop in a toilet is my Everest. It is my Olympics. My Sistine Chapel. My Lemonade.

And since I do not know one solitary thing about parenting, instead I will just share this: with sincere apologies to the late great Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, I am here to introduce the five stages of toilet training.


It’s fine. Children are all different. It’s no big deal if they won’t poop in the toilet. Don’t even go to the toilet. I don’t care. It’s not a problem. I don’t even mind changing nappies. Nappies are fine. Everything is fine. FINE. FINE I TOLD YOU IT’S FINE.

Denial in children presents as your kid walking around smelling unholy, looking like he’s smuggling a basketball while he says “no poo”. Or a giant wet patch forming around their crotch and their socks becoming sodden as they say “NO I DON’T NEED WHAREPAKU”.



Externally: “Ok deep breaths! It’s OK. We can try again for a poo soon. Oh, you’ve done it in your nappy. OK OK OK OK OK COOL COOL COOL”.


If you just poop once in the toilet I will take out a personal loan and buy you a pony.

If you just poop once in the toilet I will buy you five puppies and you can have your own bloody rucking paw patrol.

Just one poop. Just a nugget.

Just a fart.

Just fart in the direction of the toilet.

Please. Please. Mummy needs this.

Completely fucking losing the plot

The toilet loves poo! The toilet eats poo. It loves it. It’s starving. Give the toilet some poo. Gift your poo to the toilet. The toilet drinks wees. The toilet is so thirsty. HI I’M THE TOILET AND I WANT YOUR POOS AND WEES. GIVE THEM TO ME. NYUM NYUM I LOVE PISS. I’M A FRIENDLY TOILET BE MY FRIEND GIVE ME YOUR EXCREMENT. I AM A TOILET AND I LOVE YOU PLEASE PUT YOUR BUM ON ME…


Toilets are overrated anyway. Let’s go to the park.

Surely there’s no greater sign of love for your child than what parents are willing to go through with toilet training. When you’re literally being a poo doula and trying to assist your child through a water birth to deliver a giant poo baby and you’re genuinely thinking, ‘My poor baby, I wish I had constipation,’ you know you’ve somehow crossed some threshold.

This is parenting. Poo Doula. Dump Midwife. Champion of wees. All of the things you do without thinking, just because you need to. And in a year or two they’ll be blowing up your toilet on their own and you’ll have forgotten the trauma.

And a mum will ask you – how do you toilet train?

And you’ll probably say – it’s easy.

Emily Writes is the editor of The Spinoff Parents. Her book Rants in the Dark is out now. Buy it here. Her second book Is it Bedtime Yet? is available in all good bookstores. Follow her on Facebook here.

Image: Tina Tiller

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