Prev Next
Picking Your Daycare Battles

Picking Your Daycare Battles

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

I’ve been reading your column for a long time and appreciate your advice!  I currently have a daycare problem that maybe (?) can’t be solved, but I was hoping you could give me some perspective….My daughter is 14 months.  She currently attends full time daycare, but we usually pick her up early so she is not there a full 8 hours (usually 6 depending on the day’s schedule).  Anyway, we have had some problems with the daycare setting being really rigid, which I guess is true of all daycares.  We picked a place that is very close to our jobs and she really seems to like it. They have encouraged my daughter to paint and draw and offer lots of sensory experiences, which is great!  However, she has a food allergy that I feel like I really had to fight them on to get them to listen. Partly, I feel that like was due to some terrible communication on their part, which has been kind of an ongoing issue we are trying to deal with and I think the director is aware of.  Now we just bring all her food for her, because it was too much trouble for them (which I am actually very happy with). 
But, we’ve hit another road block.  My daughter has been “telling” us when she has to poop, so we have started the process of having her use the potty at home. We got her a potty chair and some books about using the potty.  It’s not a consistent thing by any means, mostly we try about 20 minutes after each meal at home and anytime she tells us she has to go. She is actually getting pretty good about letting us know (mostly poop though, not really pee) and making it to the potty a few times a day.  I know this is VERY early, so we are being very encouraging, but not removing the diapers or trying underwear or really “training”.  However, I am pregnant again and due before she turns two, so when she hits 18 months, I  think we’ll be making more of an effort.  But, at this point she is really leading the charge.
Anyway, the daycare thing.  I talked to her teachers and they are telling me that she can’t potty train in their room because there is no toilet attached to the room.  It is a mixed infant room and there are some small infants in the room as well as older kids.  But she is one of the oldest kids in the room and there is one older child as well.  Because of their “rule”, my daughter and the other older child won’t be given the opportunity to use the potty at school until they move rooms after the older one is 2, and mine would be almost 2.  I feel like anything we do at home will be undone at school if she is forced to be in a diaper all day.  
That said, we mostly like her school.  She really bonded with one of her teachers and we like that they do a lot of educational activities.  She seems happy when we drop her off in the morning to play with her pals and seems happy when we come to get her.  I really don’t want to move her out of her school since so many things in her life are about to change soon!
Any advice for dealing with the daycare tyranny without being “that Mom”?

So I’m actually gonna break this question down into two separate problems. First, there’s the overarching issue (that many of us have dealt with, fist bumps to da club) of having an unaccommodating preschool or daycare. Second, there’s the early potty-training issue.

I’m going to actually deal with the second issue first, since it’s the one I’m thinking I’m going to come across as a little mean about. So blah blah every kid is different and some kids do train very early and girls are easier and ALL THAT JAZZ.

Potty Training

But all of my children actually went through an early false-alarm potty phase, particularly for going number two. They would act very interested and open to the potty. They would give me a warning — sometimes actual pointing or words, sometimes just that telltale expression on their face — and would happily trot off to the potty with me to go through the motions of sitting/wiping/flushing. And yes, a lot of times there would be actual, bona fide deposits made (especially since the timing was fairly predictable) and cause for celebration.

And every time, I was like, “Yep, this kid is gonna be out of diapers by two years old without me having to do a thing. POTTY PHENOM IN THE HOUSE!”

And every freaking time, this early success would vanish and any attempts to “get serious” about it became laughable, messy failures. Bladder control remained non-existent. My kid shrieked NO POTTY at me, and then ran off to hide behind the couch to poop in peace. I could never explain it, since I thought we were doing everything “right” — not pushing, just encouraging, making the potty a regular thing with nothing but positive experiences — and yet…I don’t know. They suddenly realized the scope of what they were possibly agreeing to, or had an unfortunate bout of constipation, or just entered a naturally contrary phase of toddlerhood. None of them ever “really” trained before 2.5 or 3 years old, and the early stretch of potty interest turned out to be more of weird, unrelated fluke.

Anyway, this might not happen to your daughter! Don’t let me rain on your parade with my stubborn kids! Anecdotal data for the loss! I have heard time and time and again that girls ARE just easier and more likely to just figure it out and train themselves. I’m sure the comments section is going to fill up with parents of trained-before-two toddlers. But I just want to caution you not to count all your poops before they’ve flushed, I guess, and to assume that your daughter will be ready to fully train at 1.5, to the point where you’re preemptively stressing out about her daycare arrangements. This could still go a lot of different ways. She might be super aware that a poopy diaper is uncomfortable and naturally later extend that to being wet. Or she might lose interest completely or regress (particularly after a new baby is born). Or she might poop-train early but still wet herself for a year after that simply because her bladder is a completely different system that matures at its own pace. (It’s very common for kids to train for one thing but lag on the other.)

The point is: There are a million different scenarios that might come to be. You just don’t know yet. Keep doing what you’re doing and all, but at 14 months, I’d say it’s a little early to start fighting the daycare room/age system over it.

I’m guessing that’s why your daycare gave you a kind of dismissive answer when you talked to them about it. They’ve seen a bajillion toddlers and have probably seen toddlers who were JUST LIKE MINE, who went through the false alarm pre-potty training phase and thus think they “know” that your daughter will likely train in the 2-year-old room like everybody else. They could be right, they could be wrong. I remember smugly telling Ike’s preschool teacher (who is known as the Potty Training Whisperer) last year — when he was 22 months old — about his fascination with the potty and how much he liked to go through the motions at home. She smiled and told me that was nice and a very encouraging sign, but no, Ike was not ready for potty training. I spent a long weekend trying to “get serious” and prove that he was ready. She was right. Alas.

Now, your daycare could be wrong! And that’s when it’s time to put a lot of thought into this, if they continue to refuse to accommodate your daughter and move her up to the next room a little early. (Ike’s in a 2-year-old program but they will take kids at 21/22 months.) If they insist on making you send a potty-trained child to school in diapers, that’s a problem. Feel free to continue with your plans. Use a long weekend or break to see if she gets it, and then send her into daycare wearing underwear all, “Sorry. This happened. Figure it out.” Asking for an accommodation/compromise that you ACTUALLY NEED doesn’t make you “That Mom,” at all, ever.

Telling you now (when your daughter isn’t trained) that their facility and program aren’t designed for in-center potty training before age two isn’t really that unusual, especially for structured center-type care. (If there is no toilet in the baby room, a teacher cannot leave the room with your daughter because that would violate the ratio laws, and bringing in a free-standing toilet seat might be a concern from a sanitation/cleanliness perspective.) A mixed-age or in-home program would be more flexible, I’d imagine. Yet another of the endless pros and cons we all have to sort through when choosing care — you might not love the idea of your infant being in the same room as older toddlers, for example, but then once your child is older you might find some benefits to a less school-like arrangement that didn’t occur to you before.

So yeah, I don’t have anything really earth-breaking to tell you here. For now, I would not personally fight this battle or make a big stink about it. I would not also change my personal potty training plans because of it, however. I would just kinda…cross that bridge when you actually come to it, rather than worrying about it four or five or six months ahead of time, because ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN in the crapshoot timeline of potty training.

Unaccommodating Daycare Center

If your daughter fully trains early and is really ready to stop wearing daytime diapers before she is two, I think it’s reasonable to ask that she graduate to the next room that can accommodate her needs. If the center won’t do that and is unwilling to come to another compromise other than “send her wearing diapers because we’re not going to deal with it”, then yeah. I’d probably tell them I needed to find another arrangement. They’d be dumb to let it come to that (hello! second baby/tuition on the way!) but I guess if they refuse to take FOOD ALLERGIES seriously, I wouldn’t put it past them. (Seriously, what year is this? Food allergies are a thing. Deal with it!) Changing daycares is not ideal, obviously, but kids that young are remarkably resilient and adapt way faster than we give them credit for, I think.

And look: If you’re still unhappy with your daycare because of the allergy thing, or because of other communication problems or whatever, and it’s possible you’re now subconsciously LOOKING for battles to fight and EVERYTHING is becoming an example of them not taking you seriously…it’s okay to admit that your daughter likes the center but YOU DON’T, and that you’d maybe like to look around at some other options. Trust your gut.

That said, I know you’re trapped with your pregnancy brain working through every worst-case scenario right now, because that is how pregnancy brain works: Changing daycares right when the baby is born! Daycare waitlists! So much change and stress all at once! Potty training being ruined forever! But again, you’re worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, might not happen at all, and are all things that WILL work out, one way or another. Your daughter will train spectacularly early and your center will actually accommodate her once there’s actually something to accommodate, rather than dealing with a hypothetical. Or your daughter will train spectacularly early and transition to a new center or less-structured program — maybe after some downtime at home during your maternity leave to slow the flow of changes. Or your daughter will lose interest in the potty or not really progress beyond what she’s doing now, and be just fine wearing diapers until she’s moved to the toddler room.

Published February 3, 2014. Last updated February 3, 2014.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


  • Stephanie

    February 3, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Ratios are very, very important, and that’s likely why they’re not allowed to take a baby out of the room with one adult. She might also not be allowed to “graduate” to the 2s room because again, if you’re under 2 (at least in California, which is where I live), you must have a ratio of 4:1. This usually cannot be breached, until she’s very close to 2. You can get more flexibility in an in-home daycare because hello, potties are right there in the home. My 22 month old daughter has had some false potty training starts – she tells us when she poops, but that’s it. 14 months is REALLY young. It’s great if she can do it, but yeah, I wouldn’t count on it. However, bottom line: if you’re uncomfortable with communication, that’s a problem. Trust your instincts. We’ve had some MAJOR problems with an in-home provider. I SO wish we had trusted our instincts before things got so, so bad.

  • Arial

    February 3, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Just wanted to note that boys aren’t necessarily more difficult to potty train than girls. I think it may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it doesn’t have to be true if a family decides not to buy into the myth. My son isn’t a Boy Genius (though my mommy bias says he’s pretty awesome!) and he was daytime potty trained between 21/22 months (with poop being hit-or-miss until 27 months or so, and still wearing diapers at night because mama likes her precious precious sleep).

  • Paige

    February 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    My daughter potty-trained at 23 months. I’d say she was actually ready to potty-train at 18 months, but we had an unfortunate incident of mommy laughter at the wrong moment. Apparently even at 18 months, what you do on the potty is icky and gross and not a cause for laughter, at least in my daughter’s book. She seemed embarrassed at being laughed at, and was unwilling to even TRY the potty again for 4 months. I did not have to night train her – she started waking to a dry diaper at 9 months, and reliably peeing the moment I took the diaper off. Too bad she wouldn’t sit on the potty for that!

    I heard from my mother’s generation (aunts, a few cousins) that we were potty training very late. Kids should be out of diapers by the time they are 18 months! Jeez, you young people! I felt very bad about ruining everything by laughing at the wrong moment, but then very smug later when I didn’t have to do this “night-training” thing people kept talking about.

    I went back to work when my daughter was 27 months old and fully potty-trained. I had about a week to find daycare for her. I spent that week visiting 2 or 3 centers a day, and found a wide variety of potty-training agendas. Many said they would facilitate, which is when I realized we had potty-trained “early.” Most of the centers assumed that kids potty train between 30 and 36 months, but would accommodate a potty-trained younger child.

    The worst center, the one that still makes me cringe just thinking about it, was the one that would have required her to be in diapers at school. When I protested that she was out of diapers and had been for 4 months, they simply re-stated their policy that she’d have to wear diapers for the first few months. The toddler room even had attached toilets, but they were only for kids 30 months or older. We didn’t choose that daycare.

  • Amie

    February 3, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    This isn’t helpful to OP, but I have a question–is it really easier if Kid 1 is potty trained when Kid 2 arrives? My daughter just turned two and will be not quite 2.5 when Kid 2 makes his/her appearance–and I’m in no rush to potty train (and she hasn’t given any indication that she’s ready). It’s possible I’m just incredibly lazy, but it seems like diapers (and their associated lack of need-to-potty-now-emergencies) would make those first few weeks with two a little easier to handle.

    • IrishCream

      February 3, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      My older daughter was 22 months when my younger daughter was born, and I did not push early potty training for just the reasons you mention. With all the demands of caring for a colicky newborn, it was much easier to change my toddler’s diapers on my own schedule. Not that I was letting her wear a dirty diaper for hours, but she could wait 20 minutes for me to finish nursing or get the baby down for a nap. Having to drop everything to rush her to the potty would have been way more stressful, plus I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about regression when new babies come along. And my older daughter wasn’t ready then, anyway. We waited until 2 yrs 9 mos, and she trained in one weekend via the bootcamp method, with minimal drama.

    • Claire

      February 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      My son was 19 months when baby #2 arrived. He’s 25 months now. Not even thinking about potty training yet, he’s not ready and I’m not ready to go through that stress when baby #2 is still very intensive in her needs. it’s no harder changing 2 sets of nappies as it was 1. And hey, I accidentally put the toddler in a baby sized nappy earlier and he fit, so, y’know, you might still only need to be buying one nappy size!

  • Lori

    February 3, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I would advise this Momma to stop even thinking about potty training.  I’ve been told that 14 months is too young, and can be damaging to her child physically.  Here’s a good article that explains why:

    • Devin

      February 3, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      I’d say if you can get to a point of reliable potty usage with few accidents, then there’s a benefit to only having one in diapers. If you are still dealing with lots of accidents amongst the potty success, probably not worth to push potty training before #2 arrives.

    • Maree

      February 3, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      I wasn’t going to be the mother who mentioned early training until I read this. Sorry but this is just a bit silly. Early or late training is just fine as long as it suits the child and the family. My oldest two trained at the same time. I was focused on the 3 year old and the 14 month old decided he wanted in on the deal. Within a couple of weeks he was day and night dry and out of nappies completely at home and away. So one child was 3 and one was 14mo and now that they are at school there is absolutely no difference in their toileting or health. I say just go with what works for you as long as you aren’t forcing things or making you or baby unhappy what is the harm? Also to those who roll their eyes and proclaim ‘impossible’ (many do) my response is how on earth can all these mothers who say they trained early get that wrong? You are either changing nappies or you aren’t!

  • Marnie

    February 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I am skeptical when it comes to early trainers too. Only because I found the earlier I would try even when the kid was showing readiness, the more work it was for me. The more work it was for me, the more I tried to control it, the more I realized I had no control over it…and it dawned on me, I was only training myself. It was incredibly stressful. I also caution that there may be regression when the baby is born and you might have to do it all over again. For anecdotes sake, I have 3 children. My first ended up fully training close to 3, mostly due to issues with constipation and withholding stool (NOT RECOMMENDED OMG), my 2nd up and trained on her own at 2 when I was pregnant with number 3 which was awesome, and number 3 is 18 months and has shown zero interest what so ever. My opinion, wait it out, see if this interest really sticks. My suggestion, do what you think is right for your daughter, you are the only one who really knows her!

    Daycare related: Trust your gut, if someone feels off about what you’ve experienced so far, then it probably is. But I suggest finding a new daycare, IF you need it, when it doesn’t coincide with the baby being born. Good luck and congrats 🙂

  • Marnie

    February 3, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    *something, if something feels off, not someone. Ugh, Mondays.

  • Sarah

    February 3, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Wait– Yes, early TRAINING, at 14 and 18 months, no. But kid that gets when she needs to poop and wants to do it in a potty instead of (ew, gross) in her pants? Yeah. That happened for us at 15 months. And for one of her friends (boy) too. And anything different was like forcing her to do something awful (yeah, I get it. I wouldn’t want to poop in my pants either [rolls eyes]) and I’d be pissed if anyone made her because of some feeling that she should have to stick to the bell-curve. It’s important to not push kids to do things before they are physically and emotionally ready, but it’s also important not to hold them back or make them miserable because–Oh wait! Books/daycare/othermamas say you aren’t supposed to do that yet! Just, you know, ’cause everyone’s coming down on the “14 mo old knows when she needs to poop? You’re crazy!” side.

  • Shannon

    February 3, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Early interest in the potty is super common around 14-16 months. I also remember buying a potty at 16 months and being all excited that my kid was going to be a prodigy. The interest only lasted a month or two. Then I heard/read about many other kids doing the same thing. Also, the early potty training days are hard! You are constantly dropping everything to run to the potty, pulling the car over to the side of the road while driving, dealing with accidents while out of the house. It is the last thing I would want to do with a newborn! I would definitely wait until after the baby is born just to make life easier. 

    As for daycare, I agree with everyone else – trust your gut. 

  • Sarah

    February 3, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    I can’t speak to the early training issue although that does seem remarkably young for it to stick, but I do want to speak to the daycare issue.  I would take seriously the fact that the communication issues are ongoing — you talk about the allergy issue and then hint that there have been other issues before dealing with the potty situation.  You do have the hormone soup of pregnancy, but trust your gut about whether there is something “off” in this dynamic.  And the fact that she is happy there means you don’t have to rush through the process of a new placement — you can take a bit of time to look around or can afford a bit of a waitlist experience — but I would look around at your other options.  Depending on where you are, your county may well have services that help you locate licensed providers and of course there is always talking to folks that you know through the neighborhood or work or otherwise about recommendations.  Your description just doesn’t sound like the kind of place that is really interested in parents knowing what works for their kid and that makes me uncomfortable for you.  The relationship with a daycare should be just that — a relationship, a working partnership to best care for your kid(s) — and this doesn’t read that way.

  • Melissa

    February 3, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    As a mother of five ( four boys, one girl), I will tell you that some kids do train early- and because it is their idea! My daughter was fully day trained by 16 months. My three boys that are trained ( youngest is 19 months) were all trained right at two…and all in a few day period. The late training is a self- fulfilling prophecy of pull ups and confusing signals (IMO). If you think she is ready, follow her cues, if she is not, it will not work. In general, I say 18 month- 2year olds are easier to train than the more opinionated 2 1/2-3 year old crowd. Either way, you know your child best. As for day care- they can’t make a trained child wear diapers…so if it works and you like it there, give them a chance to figure it out!

  • Kate F.

    February 4, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Marnie hit it on the head: I think a lot of early trainers have mainly trained their parents. Both of my kids had a poop-in-toilet phase around 12-15 months, and both definitely considered it a phase (despite being clear about when they pooped). My son went cold turkey into underwear a few weeks ago (he’s almost 3.5, was only
    Pooping in toilet for about 6 months but refused to pee in it until recently; insisted on underwear at night within a week or so of the switch with only one accident so far); my daughter is 18 months and has no interest in the toilet anymore.

    I would never ever ever push to train before a new baby, for all the reasons above–way easier to still have a kid in diapers, and to skip the regression that would almost certainly follow!

  • Angela

    February 4, 2014 at 10:48 am

    If your daughter’s still showing interest at 18 months then I think it’s fine to attempt training as long as you’re prepared for the possibility that she won’t take to it. In fact I would probably plan for the fact that she’ll still be in diapers when the baby comes and if she isn’t it will be a nice perk. Maybe. I potty trained my oldest while pregnant and found that in many ways it was actually more inconvenient when the baby arrived. He still wasn’t independent with his clothes or wiping and without fail every single time I sat down to nurse the baby he’d tell me he had to go potty. Plus he regressed a bit after the birth so we had lots of accidents to clean up. In retrospect diapers would probably have been easier.

    Anyway, as far as day care goes, in my state the caregiver ratio is different for children over two so the day cares around here cannot move a child early without risking their license. If that’s the case for you perhaps you could send a portable potty for your daughter to use until she turns 2.

  • mw

    February 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Anyone have insight on what is basically the opposite problem of the original poster? Our daycare (Montessori) required our child to wear underwear full time at 17 months. She just turned 2. She has been deemed “fully potty trained” at school. But at home…well, not so much. At all. She still occasionally has an accident at school, but generally keeps pants dry all day at school. We have not focused much on potty training at home…due to things like travel, general laziness on Mom’s part, Mom thinking child is too young….etc. Is a 2-3 day bootcamp the best way to go? Is just-turned-2 too young? Child does not seem interested in sitting on the potty at home (refuses, runs away, starts crying and then wets her pants)… She wakes up from night/naps with a wet diaper but lets us know immediately when she is awake that she needs a fresh diaper. Any thoughts are welcomed!

    • Lilly

      February 6, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      This is exactly what’s happening to us. My 3 year old has been fully potty trained at daycare for about 6 months, but refuses to sit in the potty at home and asks for diapers. I’ve always given him the option, and he never chooses the potty. We are expecting #2 in may, and I am leaning to keeping things as they are (I will offer the potty, but give him diapers if he asks for them). I keep wondering if this might be due to my thoughts about it (I love diapers!), or maybe to him enjoying feeling like a baby at home.

  • Lynn

    February 4, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Well. At 15 month my daughter became very interested in the whole potty thing. And then she wasn’t and it was a fight, but only for a moment, because then I came to my senses and realized I was not at all ready for a potty trained child with a very small bottom and even smaller bladder. Come on, that would have tied me to the house. Anyway, when she was ready at 2.5 (for real this time), so was I.

  • Karen

    February 5, 2014 at 2:04 am

    I have zilch to add on the potty training issue. But regarding the OP’s concern about switching daycares… We were at a home place that we loved with my first but held off on switching her to preschool because it was 5 months before my son was due. Well we should have switched and since that point have switched her to PS and then to another, switched my younger one from one place to another, etc. unless you have a special circumstance with your kid, kids adapt to new environments, especially when it’s a good change for the family.

  • kimm

    February 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Hi, I had a baby and my son had just turned 2 at the time. He would pee on the potty every time I put him there but was not ready for underwear until about 6 months later. I gave up and restarted, it was the right thing for him. Every kid is different and it has to be on their timeline, not the daycare’s or yours:)

  • Autumn

    February 5, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    My kiddo has peanut and tree nut allergies.  I’m more concerned that your day care is looking over food allergies than they don’t want to deal with a 14 month old on the potty.  The odds of the 14 month old being trained, not good.  The odds of something bad happening if she eats something wrong, yikes!

    If they aren’t willing to take your food allergy concerns seriously, switch.  A letter from your pediatrician should be all they  need. I would want an action plan in place because even though you are providing her food now, what’s to stop her from trying some of her friend’s food, or staff being lazy and giving her something she shouldn’t have.