Our foster daughter is 3yrs, 10 months old and not toilet trained. She's been with us for four months and when she came to live with us, the only information the worker had on her was that she WAS toilet trained. She arrived at our home in an oversized diaper filled with poop. It was pretty obvious that she was not toilet trained. "A" has been wearing pull-ups ever since we've had her.
We don't have any kids of our own, and she is the oldest foster child we have ever parented. We are doing the best we can do, but we are reaching what feels like our wits' end with this potty training issue. We encourage A to go pee and poop in the potty, that's where it belongs. It does not go in her pull-up. We praise her when she does go in the toilet, tell her how proud of her we are and it's so great that she went in the potty. However, she does not initiate going into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet. She only goes and sits on the toilet at our reminding, and is resistant to even trying about 40% of the time. When she does go in the toilet, it's only because we were lucky enough to get her to sit on the toilet just before she had to go. She has mentioned that she had to go potty BEFORE going in her pull-up a total of 3 times.
A shows no signs of wanting to void in the toilet. She is one of the only kids in her class at daycare still wearing pull-ups and that does not bother her. She does not care when she's peed or pooped in her pull-up, and she doesn't tell us when she's gone. We never discipline her for going in her pull-up; I don't want her getting any extra attention for going potty in her pull-up.
I just can't figure out how to motivate her to *want* to go in the toilet. She is getting increasingly defiant of us and anything we request that she do. She has grown mean towards her 1 year old brother, who she was always very helpful with and loving towards. I fear that our window of time to get her potty trained is gone, since now she just wants to do the opposite of whatever we want.
If anyone has been in this situation and has words of advice, please please share them.
Now, this may not help at all...
I would forget the issue for a bit. Meanwhile, I would start putting your 1-year-old on the potty right after waking up. That might (or might not) get the attention of the bigger child, also. It is totally possible for a 1 yo to poop in the potty, only, though of course not important. My point is simply that by strongly encouraging and hoping that the bigger child use the potty, you are giving her the opportunity to control things and to oppose you. While it may feel important to get her out of the diapers, I would give the whole things a rest and then start again after a bit. With a child who wants control, I doubt that the normal "poop in the potty and we will clap and praise you" will work well... That just shows you what you really want and may delay things more than anything else.
I think thats pretty good advice. If she has an inkling this is a Very Important Thing, she is probably choosing that as the one thing in her life she can control.
My two boys are STILL not potty trained. With my oldest son (now a teen) i didnt "pottytrain" at all...he just sort of did it himself by 3.5 yrs. So i thought that would happen with my youngest two. Nope. They are at the point they will go on the potty if i remind them, and ever so occasionally they will choose to do it themselves ("Mommy i have to go to the potty!" usually during a drive or a movie, great huh???) but seem content to pee and poop all over themselves otherwise. They are in pullups during the day and nighttime diapers at night. They start preschool soon and luckily its one that doesnt require them to be fully trained. I just keep telling myself all kids do train eventually right? (RIGHT????? lol)
Yes! This is exactly the kind of advice and encouragement I'm looking for, thank you both. It never occurred to me to put the little guy on the toilet. It makes perfect sense, especially since she regularly imitates what HE is doing, which doesn't help her develop further since she is just revisiting all his milemarkers. I knew this was a control issue, I just couldn't think outside the box enough to "fix" it. We will try doing this.
Thanks again! Maybe our break from "trying" to potty train will bring our sanity back, too.
Just a couple more thoughts. I would use a potty chair, not the toilet. Our dd was quite afraid of the toilet for a long time even after she was potty trained. The legs dangling and all. Also, I would make sure to use cloth diapers without a stay dry liner. She needs to feel that being wet is uncomfortable, especially as things cool down. (Though I am afraid that she may be way beyond that due to her background... You know, if uncomfortable has been the norm...)
I remember when I potty trained my nephew. It was quite an experience. Of course, accidents happened, and it happened many times. But with patience and diligence, it turned out good. In this situation, it seems like the child is in control here not you. I think as a parent you have to show your authority over the child. You teach her that you are in control not her through discipline. A child doesn't grow up obeying authority. She has to be taught to obey by showing her that if she doesn't obey, consequences will follow. This takes time, but it could be done. Make sure you teach and show her what to do and that she understands what to do. When she doesn't obey, you show her the negative consequence that follows, and I'll leave it to you to do that.
Jedidiah, I appreciate that you are attempting to help. Thank you for the thought.
A question: are you familiar with foster children and the struggles they have that are different from kids who grow up with the same caretakers, more or less?
The whole point is that my little girl IS in control. She understands authority and she knows the rules. But it is impossible to force her to use the toilet every single time she needs to go potty. She purposely pees in her pull-up because she knows we don't want her to. What do you recommend I use as "the consequences" to that? Corporal punishment is forbidden in foster children, so hopefully you won't suggest a spanking. I could take things she likes away, except that's just what she expects me to do. She is hoping that I will get mad or hit her or take things away from her because that is the only life she knows, and the only life she is comfortable with. By gently shaping and guiding her, I am taking her out of her comfort zone and she does not like that. The point is that SHE has to be the one to decide that she is going to potty in the toilet. Forcing her or punishing her doesn't do anybody any good.
I am looking for ideas that are "outside the box" and this simply doesn't feel outside the box at all. It pretty much is in the exact middle, inside the box.
Disagreements in parenting aside, anything I do to help her learn to pee in the potty is pretty much thwarted by the fact that she has visitation with both parents separately, twice a week, and attends daycare, and nobody does things the same way as we do at home. Which explains a lot about her delays.
I wonder if doing something silly, like saying "We know you arent ready to use the potty, so its off limits for now, and you can just use pullups" or something similar. Basically make is so only little girls who are willing to try get to use it. As someone said, maybe your little one can use the potty, or a potty chair, and make a big deal over that, but she "can't" use it. Not allowed. And then maybe because its off limits she'll WANT to? like...if she thinks you dont WANT her to use it, will it mean she then will want to do the opposite? I know, it sounds a little weird. I know with my two little boys, if my one son doesnt want to help do something i will say "oh, ok, i'll just ask Other Brother to do it" and suddenly first brother wants to do it! Or if i just outright ask, first brother has no interest in helping, but if i say "would you like to close the door or would you like me to have Other Brother do it" god forbid other brother gets to do something he doesnt, so he'll comply. So far he hasnt caught on to the trick. ;)
Yeah, anyone who thinks all you have to do is show a child who is the victim of neglect or abuse who is "in control" hasnt really had experience w/ such a child. Parent almost always loses those battles! I once tried to show my daughter she HAD to finish her cereal. After 24 hours of giving her back her soggy cereal to eat I realized that drawing those battle lines isnt particularly helpful. These kids have the will of steel and also tend to think there is nothing that you can do to them (no punishment you could possibly dole out) that is any worse than what has already been done to them in their lives.
I'm not a foster parent, so take this FWIW - but I would stop trying to train her for now. She's only been with you for 4 months, and if its going to be a power struggle I think I would drop it.
I also know nothing about her history, but she may have been "punished" or made to feel ashamed when she's had accidents before (I have no idea if this could be true, it may be that no one has tried to potty train her). Maybe in a few more months she will feel more comfortable in your home, and will understand that you aren't going to be angry or punish her when she has an accident.
Since you've only had her 4 months it may be too soon, but have you tried letting her go naked on the bottom? That's the only thing that worked for my son. Maybe try short periods at first to see how it goes. If she has an accident you can have her help you clean it up. Obviously don't make it a big deal, more like "oops you had an accident, lets clean it up" She may be so used to going in underwear/diaper's that it just seems "normal" to her.
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Some kids will just learn how to use the toilet themselves. Some kids need actual toilet training, where the adult takes the lead. If she's been in foster care for a long time in various situations I would suspect no one has ever done this. So, get some potty learning background with a good book (I like Diaper Free Before 3) and start a program froms scratch. Don't expect her to do it herself. She hasn't learned and she probably won't. She needs your intervention. Have some naked time if that is feasible (I don't actually know if that is okay with a foster child or whatever) or switch to underpants. Start with 30 minutes and then go to an hour. No more pull ups. Same thing at day care. She will build control over time.
Wait, did that poster actually say that it is hard/impossible to accomplish this without spanking a child? Really? Really?!
In this situation, I think I would just step back and leave the issue alone for a while. Why set up the power struggle at this point when you can let it go and revisit it in a couple months? It sounds like she's looking to find control in her life, and if that's the point she's at, I would eliminate this as an area she might want to try to control. Once she feels a little more in control of her life with you she'll probably come to it on her own.
Jedidiah, the Mothering forums never advocate spanking under any situation. This forum is about gentle forms of discipline that are respectful to the child. Children with a history of trauma are even more sensitive to gentle parenting. This does not mean that they do not learn to respect authority; it is just accomplished through respectful methods. Thanks for not advocating spanking here.
Thank you all for your advice/suggestions/support, especially on the discipline front.
Jedidiah, if you are still reading this thread, I would like to clarify just one thing. When I said that she uses "bad" behavior to illicit physical violence from her parental figures, I did not mean that she expects a disciplinary spanking. I meant that she is accustomed to being cruelly and uncontrollably physically abused. "Normal" for her is being beaten, therefore it is her comfort zone. She knows how to cope with that pain, and since she knows what to expect from it she craves it. She does not feel comfortable with gentle parenting or having issues explained to her, so it is completely unexpected and unsafe, in her mind. Uncharted waters.
As far as a few issues some of you have brought up, her bio mom insists that she has been trying to potty train her since she was 2, however I don't know what she means by that. This mother is neglectful and detached, I don't know if she really knows what "potty training" is. I have no idea what experiences this little girl has had surrounding using the toilet. I know that she is not afraid to use the toilet, she isn't bothered by peeing or pooping in the toilet, when she's already on the toilet and she has to go at that very moment. I believe part of the problem is a typical problem of potty training kids - she doesn't want to stop what she's doing to go potty. I understand that. The other part is that, as many of you have pointed out, we want her to use the toilet, so she doesn't want to. She is definitely accustomed to being uncomfortable. This is the child who has gotten sick and vomited while in bed, and just fell back asleep in a pool of vomit rather than wake us. And we have a baby monitor in the room, and I'm a light sleeper. How the heck did she manage that?! She does not ever wake us or even initiate coming out of her bedroom. She always waits for us to come get her, which we do as soon as we hear her or her brother are awake.
We have tried letting her wear "big girl undies", which she REALLY liked, but it didn't bother her to pee in them and wet her pants. We did it over a weekend, and I'm sure that with some consistency it would likely at least help. I will ask daycare if they would be willing to try the panties at school and change her pants. The problem I can forsee right now is that she has 2 visits a week with each parent (separately), and those involve a 45 minute car ride each way with a driver who will not stop for potty breaks. She also is about to start attending a special-needs preschool 4 days a week, after which she will return to daycare.
Honestly, I feel like this poor kid is never going to get the consistency she needs until she is in a permanent situation. I just don't know when or where that will be.
Again, thank you for your suggestions and ideas and support, we will likely try several different things over the next ... however long we have her with us.
I realize this is an older thread, so I'm not sure if you'll ever check back, but...
I had the exact same problem with my DD, who came to us as a foster child at about the same age. We were told she had been potty trained, but all of the moves from home to home had pretty much obliterated it. She was wearing pullups when she came, and almost the first thing that happened was that she pooped them. She would, however, occasionally pee on the potty.
We tried many, many things. What seemed to work was (a) putting her into underwear all the time, so that she was making a mess and feeling uncomfortable (because really, I think a pullup is just a diaper to them). I realize that it may not be possible for you to do that, with all the different caregivers involved. (But seriously, a driver who won't stop for potty breaks for a small child? That's messed up.)
(b) make her do some of the cleanup. Obviously, a child that young cannot be trusted to do a thorough job, but I'd have her rinse out the soiled undies outside with the hose (it was summer) and then put them in the washer. She didn't like it much.
(c) Made sure she got enough fiber so that she was more regular and I could have some idea when a BM was "due".
After all that, she did get better about pooping her pants, but promptly switched to peeing them, or waiting until so late as to regularly pee all over the bathroom floor (which she would then have to clean up with paper towels), and put the wet clothing in the washer. The cleanup didn't bother her so much, I guess. I'd hand her clean clothes and a roll of paper towels and refuse to make a fuss about it, she just had to change and clean up the mess (I'd go over it myself later).
I used a reward chart too, and the promise of "movie night" for every three, and then five, and then seven, and so on, consecutive dry days eventually did get her fully trained. But it was a slow journey with a lot of backsliding. A friend with a FS the same age had the same sorts of problems, but even longer. It must be something about the age. Very frustrating, but we did manage it without using corporal punishment.
That poster isn't even a parent (according to her previous posts) so I'd take any advice with a grain of salt. She's also not from this country and was likely raised in a whole different way.
Lots of children that age are still using diapers. I used to be a Head Start teacher and many children came in not using the toilet. I wouldn't make it a big deal. In addition, the OP's foster child has some sort of special needs if she's going to a preschool program for children with special needs. And will be experiencing a lot of transitions if she's going from home to a preschool program, to a child care program for the rest of the day, and then back home. That's a lot for a little kid, let alone one who's been a victim of abuse and neglect.
I would expect the child care program, the preschool program, and your family to be on somewhat the same page when it comes to toileting/diapering. Having been an early childhood specialist and then teacher, it's not unreasonable. I would try and schedule a meeting with all parties and see if you can make things as consistent as possible. It might even need to be part of her IEP.
To be fair, she's mentioning it because of the post further upthread that says you cannot do it without spanking. She's saying you *don't* have to use corporal punishment.
Maybe I should just let go, but this was a "what the..." moment for me. How is corporal punishment even to be mentioned.... How is it in any way an option, ESPECIALLY when talking about potty training, ESPECIALLY in the case of a foster child? This just really bothers me.
I miss the old Mothering....
Some posts were removed earlier in the thread due to multiple reports about a post advocating spanking for a child. Certain other posts that were directly quoting this post or referring specifically to it were also removed.