Ask Joanne: My Six-Year-Old Still Uses Nappies

17/03/2010 23:02 | Updated 22 May 2015

What's your dilemma about any aspect of life as a parent? Our experienced life coach Joanne Mallon is here to answer your questions. Send your questions in here and say if you'd like your name to be changed

Eileen writes:

My six-year-old daughter is driving me and her dad round the bend. She knows how to use the toilet but won't give up the pull-up nappies. Even if we don't buy them she's happy to put a normal nappy on. We've tried sticker charts, small toys, lollies etc. Nothing works.

Now we're faced with a four-year-old following her and we just don't know what to do. The school have no idea either. Out of my eight children I have one trained all day and night, and two during the day but slowly getting there during the night. Please if you can help we would love to hear from you.

Here's the life coach's reply:

Dear Eileen

Reports suggest that the number of children still in nappies at school age is on the rise. So whilst this is an unusual situation, you're not alone and are by no means the first parent to find themselves in this situation. The difficulty lies in the fact that modern nappies keep the child so dry and comfortable that they don't know what it's like to feel the need to go to the loo.

If you haven't done so already, definitely have a chat to your GP or Health Visitor to find out what support they can offer you. Get her checked out in case there is any physical reason she can't stop using nappies.

Children's behaviour can often be a way of gaining more attention in the family. You mention that you have eight children, and I wonder whether this behaviour could be a way for your daughter to attract some individual attention in a busy household. She may also see how much of your attention it takes up to be potty training the other children, and may be reverting to this behaviour to claim some of that focus for herself.

If you think this might be the case, then the way to approach it is by giving her more one-to-one time, without necessarily mentioning the nappies. Emphasise how much she can do at six that younger children cannot.

Your daughter is coming up to the age where her friends will start to have sleepovers, and she will not want to be wearing a nappy for this. She also runs the risk of becoming a target of bullies, not to mention risk of long-term bladder problems and urinary infections. So for the sake of her future physical and mental health, you need to tackle this right now. Stop buying pull ups. They are not helping.

You will proabably have to go back to basics with potty training, in a loving and firm way with your daughter. With the long Easter holiday coming up, this could be a good time to start. Yes, she will most likely be resistant and have accidents, but stay calm and don't let it become a battle. Keep calmly repeating that she's a big girl now, and big girls use the loo. Let her choose some new pants that she likes.

You say that the motivation techniques you've tried so far have failed. All children have something that they want, whether it's sweets, toys, TV, outings etc. So ask your daughter what she would like as a reward to work towards. If you get her to choose her own motivation goal, then she will feel more involved in the process and more inclined to make the effort. But make it clear that there is no negotiation or going back this time. In the long run, she'll thank you for it.

Best wishes,


Do you have any experience of dealing with an older child who won't give up nappies? How would you tackle this situation? Leave a comment below.

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