My child won’t tell me when he needs a wee, is this normal?


On average toddlers go for a wee between four and seven times a day, and at the beginning of potty training they will rarely give you warning that they need to go.  This can be very frustrating, and we get contacted frequently by parents asking if this is normal behaviour.


The answer is a unanimous YES, this is very normal and common behaviour.


The reason children don’t tell you they need a wee is because they often don’t realise it themselves.  There are three stages to potty training that children need to learn before they will be able to tell you when they need a wee.


Understanding that they have done a wee

The first stage is understanding that they have done a wee. Children can sometimes recognise this sensation when they are still in nappies and they may come and tell you or start pulling at their nappy.  In modern super dry and light nappies, it is harder for them to recognise they’ve done a wee.  Today’s nappies are great at immediately locking away all sensations of wetness, which makes them great as nappies but not so great for potty training.  In the olden terry towelling days, and even when disposables were not quite as advanced, children knew as soon as they had done a wee because they immediately felt wet and probably uncomfortable.  This may explain why a generation ago more children potty trained earlier.  Recognising this first stage gave them a head start on training and also most likely motivated them to want to learn, as sitting in wet nappies wasn’t much fun!


Recognising the body’s feeling that they need a wee

The second stage is recognising the body’s feeling that they need a wee.  This is very difficult to explain to children and the only way they can learn is to listen to their body’s own signs that the bladder is nearly full.  Very often the bladder needs to be approximately three quarters full before a strong signal is sent that the child needs to go to the loo.  This can result in a mad dash, especially if they were happily playing and not focusing on the signals from their body.


Taking action and getting to the toilet in time to do a wee

The final stage is being able to time it right so that the child manages to get to the toilet or potty before an accident occurs.  Some children can master this quickly at home but struggle more at nursey or out and about when there are lots of distractions.  This takes more thought as it’s necessary to pick up on the body’s signals when they are still quite subtle, i.e., before they get really desperate.  It also takes some trial and error before getting it right, which can result in more accidents.  It is at this stage that children will also learn to hold on for longer, which also means that any accidents can be much bigger than before.  Parents may therefore think this is a backward step, but it’s often just a sign of progression and learning.



Here’s our top tips for helping your child get to stage three as quickly and painlessly as possible!

  • Expect accidents – This learning only happens through trial and error.
  • Remind them to listen to their body’s signs.
  • Look for physical signs they need to go, fidgeting or dancing around.
  • Keep well hydrated as a full bladder sends stronger signals.
  • Try to avoid continually asking if they need a wee or putting on the toilet every half  hour.
  • If accidents are frequent, and your child isn’t able to pick up on the feeling of being wet, Dry Like Me pads can help bridge the gap between nappies and pants. These disposable pads fit inside grown up pants and when they are wet they initially feel wet (like an old-fashioned nappy) and then bulk up to send a clearer signal that an accident has occurred.  They also help capture the mess of accidents which can give great peace of mind especially when out and about.  You can buy Dry Like Me pads from

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