My 3yo has been potty learning for a looong time. Too long. Several months of encouraging using the potty and trying to get him to "get it". He has been in undies all day except naps and night for 2 months now. Yet he never initiates a potty trip, generally refuses to go when we ask him if he wants/needs to, and wets his pants often. He doesnt' usually say he wet, I have to figure it out by behavior or wet clothes. I'm really frustrated with the lack of progress. He does sometimes agree to go and has a tiny wet spot, or says "am I wearing underwear?" which makes me think he knows when he needs to go. Yet he almost never wants to go and kicks and screams if I try to force it. Once there, he will sit and pee/poo til he's done.
He usually lies if I ask him if he's wet when he is. We have never punished accidents or shamed him or anything so I don't know why.
He can go 4-5 hours without peeing on a good day, or sometimes has a couple of accidents in a 2 hour period. I have tried regular trips, but he screams and won't sit on the potty.
We have tried tons of praise, rewarding successful trips with treats.. I don't know what else to do. It's too cold here in the winter to go naked.
Is it possible at 3 and 4 months old to NOT know when he needs to go? Does he jsut not care enough about being wet to bother going?
Any ideas to help him along? I'm stuck between risking accidents in the car/out/at friends, or using dipes which would be undoing progress.
It does sound like you have some stubborn stuff going on too and my thoughts there would be back off.
How about into pull ups or similar and huge rewards if he, on his own, decides to go on the potty. So no hints or pressure from you--to get around the stubborn aspect. Then, after it warms up, try the naked training if there is still no success?
I don't think I'd keep trying what hasn't worked to this point. It sounds like you're just building resistance despite your (fantastic, really) efforts.
Rachelle, mommy to 8 year old boys!
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It sounds like a power struggle to me, which is exactly what happened with our DD. The more we pushed, the more she resisted. We tried a reward system once, but she refused to participate (even though the reward was something she really loved). When we finally realized that it was a power struggle, we had a talk with her and told her that we would no longer fight with her about using the toilet (we never punished or yelled, but we kept pushing her to use the toilet and making our displeasure known by the way we were acting - I see this in retrospect, but didn't at the time - in fact, sometimes our DD would say "smile mommy" when she could sense that I was upset with her about her refusal to use toilet) and that we trusted her to figure it out, that we knew that she was trying and acknowledged that it was difficult to learn something new, but that we knew she would figure it out when she was ready. After that we really stuck to our promise. We would ask her to use the toilet before going out and before naps and bedtime, but it would be done very gently and with an explanation like "we all go to the toilet before we leave the house, go to sleep..." (which we would then do). The immediate effect was a much calmer child with fewer tantrums in general. Soon we noticed that she was not refusing to go to the toilet when we asked. Soon after that, she actually would tell us that she had to go and then she would go and proudly say "I can do it all by myself" (she'd put the step in front of the toilet, put on her seat, etc.). She had been in underwear during the day for a long time already, but still in diapers at night and during naps. I started giving her a choice before sleep, diapers or underwear, and sometimes she'd choose diapers and sometimes underwear. I never reacted to either choice. Soon she would ask for underwear every time and then I stopped asking and she never asked for diapers again. Once she started sleeping in her underwear regularly, she started waking up dry - and every time she woke up from a nap or in the morning, she would say "I'm dry and clean!" and she would beam with happiness and pride and we'd do a "high 5". She has also started waking us at night if she has to go (we co-sleep). She's 3.5 yrs old. Once in a while she still has a tiny accident during the day, but it's because she's busy playing and doesn't want to stop. I never make an issue of it. I only wish that we had never allowed for this power struggle to occur in the first place, but we were feeling pressured because DD was starting a Montessori preschool and the children all needed to be toilet trained and diapers were not allowed. I hope some of this helps you and your DS.
I would take off all the pressure, assume, like Katc said, that it's become a power struggle, and let him be the one to decide when to go and where. I would default to diapers unless he makes a fuss and really wants underpants, cause it just doesn't seem like he's ready to take it on. I think that going to the bathroom is so personal and it's important that children make choices about their own bodies (even if the choices are inconvenient for their caregivers). And it is maddening and messy and exasperating, too, so my heart goes out to you. I would stop the rewards because rewards are manipulative and another form of control, and most children will resent them, even if they work for a time. He won't be doing this forever, he might just be sensitive to pressure and not progressing simply because you want him to progress. My son is like that--if he senses an ounce of pressure, he will dig his heels in like you wouldn't believe. I would apologize to him for pressuring him, tell him your mind was telling him he was ready, but that you made a mistake, and you want to leave it up to him whether he wants to go in his diaper or the potty. With the pressure off, I bet he'll make the transition naturally before too long.
It's a safety thing, checking wetness, so I would just tell him you need to check him every hour (or something like that) and do it as gently as possible, and not counter him when he says he didn't pee. My son lies about it, too, and I just say, Oh no, of course you didn't pee--maybe you were just sweating a lot, let's get this wet stuff off of you to keep your skin safe, or something like that that lets him keep his dignity.
It's so much easier to accept when it's a tiny baby! I struggled with having these expectations all the sudden when my son turned 3, and feeling frustrated that my son wasn't ready. I actually tricked him out of diapers because he got a bad rash and I said we needed a break to let his skin heal, then I put him in boxers and did pee checks every now and then, and he stayed dry, but eventually said he wanted to go back to diapers (trick was on me!) so after a lot of work I did on myself, I said okay, your body, your choice, and after 2 months of no diapers, put one back on him. He danced around the house he was so happy, but the next day told me he wanted boxers. So it was up to him, and he decided on his own (whew!) So it does work when you leave it to them, at least it did for me, but it is hard to not have expectations!!
I'm not the OP, but we're in a similar situation with our 3.5 yo regarding pee. (She's been potty trained for #2 since before she was 1, and I was sure we'd be done with #1 by the time she was 2--we've been doing this for that long!) I really like your ideas. We've never used rewards or punishments outright, but I have been wishy washy on whether to show if I was happy or upset when she went or didn't go. And as time has gone on, we have definitely shown our disappointment. Sometimes she takes herself to the bathroom. Other times she gets very upset about the idea of peeing in the toilet, even when it's clear she has to go. She has been in underwear for a long time, but doesn't mind peeing all over herself. She wears a diaper at night but was dry until the past couple of months. Should we really go back to diapers all the time if she says that's what she wants? I cringe at the thought of having an almost 4 year old in diapers and a newborn soon. But maybe the answer is to give her more autonomy in this area, even if I don't like the options. Thanks for the words of wisdom.
Mama to a bilingual (Arabic/English) and cuddly 3 year old, and planning another peaceful homebirth in June.
Fledgling midwife on hiatus, Wife to B, mama to C (c/s 12/04) and S (12/07), m/c (3/12) and expecting another bean 6/13 .
I think for many kids it's really counter-productive to try to potty train them. I don't consider it "potty learning" if it's clearly only the parent interested in getting this skill done. With both my kids, I made the potty available and they knew what it was for but I we did not ask them to use it. They both potty learned completely of their own choice - my son at 2.5 and my daughter at 3.5. There was literally no fighting and no stress. They just decided one day that they wanted to learn and started asking for help using the potty. At that point, we would sometimes ask them if they wanted to go, just as a reminder. They stayed in diapers until they were accident free. My son pretty much went from diapers to completely PL immediately and my daughter took a few months before I could (mostly) reliable leave her in underwear for the day.
I think what messed us up was that we were doing EC early on, which is why she learned to do #2 in the potty very early. But I was never very consistent with my ECing when it came to pee. Sometimes I EC'd, sometimes I let her go in the diaper. It was convenient in the sense that I have pretty much never had to change a toddler poopy diaper. And then I thought it would be easier for her to learn to pee in the potty if she wore pants or nothing at all instead of diapers. But she wasn't really into it. Should've been more patient and followed her lead more with that. Oh well. We've learned now. Maybe with our next one it will be easier.
Mama to a bilingual (Arabic/English) and cuddly 3 year old, and planning another peaceful homebirth in June.
Thanks for all of your input, ladies! I just wanted to update and say that we are having MUCH more success lately! I took the advice of backing off, no pressure, and we really hardly ask DS anymore if he needs the potty. We stopped rewarding for each go, unless he requests the old reward then I usually agree (not his fault we were doing that, after all). After much begging in general for videos, we have decided to only allow videos (we are a no-tv-for kids house in general) if he goes the whole day without accidents. We do encourage and borderline require (but no fighting over it) DS to use the potty before leaving the house or going to sleep.
All that, and now DS tells me when he needs the potty, usually makes it before having an accident, sometimes has a tiny wet spot on the undies but no biggie. He only goes a few times a day, much less than me!, so perhaps my expectations of him needing to go more and therefore asking him more was just wrong and annoying him. I use dipes at naps and night still since he doesn't wake up dry, but am only going through one or 2 pair of undies per day lately. =) He has begun to go without much or any help and to derive much pride from doing it all by himself.
Today, I was upstairs with DD and he went all on his own, didn't even tell me he needed to, jsut went and used it and then called when he was done for help cleaning up.
So, I'm calling it SUCCESS! Hopefully in a little while longer we'll be totally accident-free!
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