The experience and my actions at the time:

Three years ago, my nephew was three years old, in the middle of his potty training. After lunch with the family everyone went outside, he and his older brother (who was 6 back then) joined me near the computer like they always did, playing together some classic games.

At some point I excused myself to the nearby toilet room leaving the two of them to themselves with a game they both knew and loved. While I was still in the middle, the three year old nephew entered the bathroom and said he had to use it and asked for my help.

I have seen his parents take him to the bathroom before and under normal circumstances I would have just gone and called them; however I wasn't in any condition to get out of the room. I asked him to go ask his parents or hold a few minutes until I was done but he didn't budge and insisted on immediate action.

Fearing he would mess his pants I got up and helped him through the whole process. He pretty much did everything on his own, probably he was at a stage where he still needed the supervision. After he was done he went out, I returned to the room a few minutes later to find both brothers playing as usual.

I considered telling his parents, asking if I acted properly but was too embarrassed to mention it and it didn't happen again.

My question and debates:

  • Should I have done anything different? If so, what and at which point?
  • Should I have told his parents afterwards, even if just to inform them?

Now father to a 2-year-old toddler I do realize I might be making it a much bigger deal than what it really was; on one hand parents always want to know what their child is doing but on the other hand maybe such a thing is totally normal. (Potty training has not started yet for my daughter so can't really tell.)

Any insights will be welcome!

  • 4
    Which part was embarrassing?
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 15:18
  • @DA01 mainly that he saw me in a "private situation". Now that I have my own toddler I know better but back then is was very embarrassing for me. Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 20:55
  • I suppose that's perhaps a cultural thing (even down to the individual family level). We tend to be a 'open door when in the bathroom' family, but I imagine lots of people aren't. Either way, kids usually don't care. ;)
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 21:09
  • 1
    @DA01 we do have "open door" in my own home (wife, myself and the toddler) however not when with other family members. I would have locked the door back then but that particular room didn't have any lock on its door. Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 21:23
  • Welcome to surrogate Parenthood. This is an entirely normal situation for a child that age.
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 13:22

5 Answers 5


I think you are reading far too much into this. In fact, I was struggling to see what the problem was. You helped the young kid go potty. He needed help. If he'd poo-ed himself, you would have changed him, right? If he'd fallen down, you'd clean the blood off his knee, right?

If you feel uncomfortable about it, you could mention it casually to the parents, though this might be a bit awkward now that the event has passed. You could have said, "When I was going to the bathroom, young X came in and asked me to help him go, so I did."

  • Good point. Most likely when I'll go through potty training to my own daughter my view will drastically change. :) Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 15:22
  • 4
    If anything, it's something to laugh about with the parents. "Oh, that reminds me of this time I was trapped in the bathroom by your son..." Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 16:35
  • 3
    Personally, I would have mentioned it to the parents at the time that it happened for sure, but I do not think you did anything wrong. In your current position I would probably mention it to the parents letting them know up front that you feel some embarrassment over what happened, but then again I know some parents that it would be best never to bring it up as they are very particular about their children. Either way, I do not think you did anything wrong and my wife and I would be very glad that you helped out. Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 18:16
  • @Brian while this doesn't sound so good guess that when said in the proper time and place it might be something to laugh at. Problem is identifying that time and place.. :) Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 22:28

As Dave said, this shouldn't be seen as embarrassing or awkward. To a child that age it isn't- they know they need some help and you are someone who can help, so they don't read anything else into it.

As they get older you can see their bodily awareness grow until all of a sudden they stop doing things like this, but at this age just accept that you have helped, and realise that your kids will be the same and may need to ask someone else for help at some point, be it teacher, babysitter or whoever.

  • Thanks. Well, I don't want teachers to help my children in such activities but that's off topic for this question I guess. Good point about the "they don't read anything else into it", it indeed makes sense. :) Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 10:52
  • I suppose I should have said nursery or kindergarten teacher:)
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 11:14
  • Lol, I thought you mean school teachers.. :) Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 11:16

Everything sounds fine to me. Caring for kids is always messy and unpredictable. I don't see what else you could have done. At that age, it's hard for them to be able to "hold it in" - he only figures out he needs to go exactly at the last possible moment usually. You can look forward to that when you potty train your own child :)

  • 1
    Thanks, he didn't look like he can't "hold it in" anymore but guess you're right, soon I'll see for myself. Is it different with girl? :-) Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 19:45
  • 1
    No, it's no different with a girl. Except that they tend to have less of an issue with "aiming" than boys. Ha! Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 22:10

I like the accepted answer and agree that there is probably nothing to worry about because it sounds like you did nothing inappropriate.

I do want to add some motivation for telling the parents what happened. Your child's poop and their bowel habits are one of the biggest indicators of health. My wife and I are constantly asking "Did he poop today? What was the consistency, texture, flavor?"

Ok, I ask about the flavor to mess with her...

My point is that it is helpful for parents (if only their peace of mind) to know when their children go to the bathroom when they are that young.

  • Thanks! To be honest, after re-reading my own question 6.5 years later, I realize I didn't ask what I really meant to ask. The embarrassing part was not really helping my nephew with the poop process, but rather the fact that he saw me doing it when he entered into the toilet room. I mentioned this in a comment to my question, but now I see it's not clear at all in the question itself. So while the answers are useful, they missed the actual part I wanted to ask about. Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 8:48

A very old question, but I'll put my $.02 in.

Yes, you should have mentioned it. Not because you did anything wrong, not because they need to know about their kids' bathroom habits, not because they saw anything shocking, but because it might come up in an unexpected conversation someday (kids say the craziest things) and might have caused them to wonder why their child saw you naked in the bathroom.

I understand it was embarrassing for you, but they would no doubt think it was funny, or might have wanted to talk to the child about what is and isn't appropriate about barging in on an uncle in the bathroom.

Six years in, you probably know the answer to your question. What do you think you should have done?

  • 3
    Thanks, that's actually the answer I was looking for even if not knowing it six years ago. And yes, you're totally right, I should have told them. But it never came up in an unexpected conversation, and nothing like that happened again. Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 7:06

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