3 yr old son still not potty trained--Need help! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 05-22-2012, 05:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Our son just turned three and we just started potty training in earnest a couple of weeks ago.


He showed an initial interest in potty training when he was 2 and even used his potty at the time to copy mommy and daddy. I thought I would let things progress naturally and didn't push it (first time mom mistake I guess). Well, he lost interest, even as I tried to keep it up, and here we are a year later and focusing on potty training before he starts preschool in the fall. I had also read that summer is a great time to potty train since they can run around in their diaper or underpants, so I held off all winter thinking that was a good idea (more time lost...)


It has been two weeks of really trying and I am getting very frustrated. At his 3 yr ped appt, his dr suggested setting a timer to go off every 60 min and give him a treat if he goes in the potty. Well, that worked for a couple of days and things seemed to be going well, but the novelty of treats is wearing off and he is regressing. Also, he has refused to poop in his potty and hides until it's too late for me to get him there. He just says he doesn't want to poop in the potty. I have tried bribing him with stickers, cookies, and even ice cream. No dice. He does not have regular bowel habits, so I cannot time them either.


Also, when he pees in his diaper, he then says he has to pee in his potty, which he does a tiny bit, earning him his "treat". I have tried saying that he does not get a treat when he does not pee or poop in his potty, but he just says "Oh well" if he doesn't get it. No fuss, no whining, nothing.


When the timer goes off, I ask him to use the potty and he says he doesn't have to go. I wait another 10 min, then another 10 min, etc and keep asking and he is emphatic about the fact that he doesn't have to pee at that timeand he just sits there . At some point in between, he will then tell me he already went in his diaper. Grrrrr.  I tried putting him in his new "big boy underpants", 15 min after he peed in the potty. Well, he peed in his underpants, while sitting on our wool carpet, soaking the carpet, his underwear and pants in pee. It was dripping down his leg. I am NOT going to have him pee all over the house and furniture, so that experiment is over! He does not care if he wets the characters depicted on his underpants, which is a tip I have heard from a few parents.


I also have a Potty Elmo doll with his own potty and that doesn't help the process. I've read books, googled, etc.


I am ready to throw in the towel and just let him be a 4 or 5 year old in diapers.


I have tried being laid back about it, as one book suggested, and asking him why he didn't use his potty, etc as an alternative and nothing is working.


I am so frustrated and am getting frustrated with him, which I have read is not a good thing.

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#2 of 10 Old 05-22-2012, 06:00 AM
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My son didn't potty train until closer to 4. Night time training was an additional 8 or 9 months. I feel your pain.

What really helped us was peer pressure. Most of the PT heavy lifting was done by preschool. But some require that they be trained going in, so you gotta do what you gotta do.

I'd back off the once an hour. It's too often, and gives him no chance to listen to his body's cues. Every two hours, maybe? At certain points in your routine? Like, when he gets up, before snack, before lunch, before you leave the house...

I found it somewhat helpful to buy the kind of pullups that turn cold when they're wet. Slightly uncomfy for him, but safe for the carpets.

Given that you're frustrated, I'd recommend taking a week or two off and coming back to it fresh and rested. We did this a few times, and we did get there eventually. I promise you will too.
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#3 of 10 Old 05-22-2012, 09:24 AM
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My daughter didn't potty train till she was 3.5.  She had been dry at night since she was 18 months old, would "hide" behind furniture to go in her diaper, and would tell me when she had gone.   I knew she was able, she just wasn't ready.  She is not a fan of change.


I finally just stopped buying diapers and put underwear on her.  For the first few days, she had accidents constantly.  I think it's easy for them to "forget" - oh, I can't just let go where ever I am!  And they don't remember till it's too late. I don't like cleaning up messes so I started taking her to the bathroom every fifteen or twenty minutes, and certainly after she had something to drink.  One day she had probably fifteen accidents, the next day she had zero and hasn't had any since.  I think she had to finally get that I wasn't kidding, diapers were over.


It was hard, I didn't want to make some huge issue of it but my daughter does not like change and will always take the familiar path of least resistance.  Left to her own devices, she might still be in diapers.


Good luck.  I think sometimes you have to just make the leap and stop having diapers to fall back on.  Decide for a few days that ALL your focus will be on the potty.  Stop asking if he needs to go and just start taking him often.

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#4 of 10 Old 05-22-2012, 09:30 AM
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My son turned three in February and we are still working on this. He will go on the potty about 3-5 times a day, usually with prompting. He refuses to poop on the potty and doesn't care at all about sitting around in a dirty diaper. I've heard the suggestions about going diaper-free or putting them in underwear, but if we did that our couch would be ruined and we would have to professionally clean our carpet regularly.

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#5 of 10 Old 05-22-2012, 09:46 AM
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My youngest didn't start using the potty until 4.  Like a previous poster, he seemed to have complete physiological readiness: he would get "that look," then go hide in the closet or under the dining room table to pee. 


Finally, I came to the conclusion (after other approached failed) that the issue in his case was terror of releasing into the potty.  Having the diaper around him made him feel safe.  So we starting just going into the bathroom and hanging out with books, puzzles, etc. for thirty minutes or so (and maybe a drink to speed things along).  Then when he would get that look, I'd gently pull down his pants.  At this point, he'd beg for a diaper and I'd say, "It's okay, it's okay, just let it out, I'll clean it up," and hold him close to me.  As soon as the urine stream started, I'd gently carry him closer to the toilet and hold him over so that he saw a few dribbles going in to the toilet.


We repeated this for an entire weekend (yes, it was very time consuming, and yes, I got peed on a few times; DH was on full-time duty with the other kids), By Monday morning he was no longer afraid and would just walk right up and go.  Within a week he was dry most of the time as night.


Again, it was very time consuming but very gentle and I feel good about it. He was terrified but I was there with my arms holding him very tightly saying reassuring things.  I think you need to figure out what the hurdle is and go from there.  If it's a fear thing, as in our case, my approach might work.

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#6 of 10 Old 05-22-2012, 10:08 PM - Thread Starter
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He defnitely does not have a fear of the potty. He knows when he has to go and will either tell me he has to go pee pee or more often, "I went pee pee in my diaper."  The first two days were the best and he went more often that not in the potty. I do think that there are times where he is just focused on playing and just lets it all go. I guess I just need to not ask if he has to go and just make him go throug the motions and try even if he just went in his diaper.


He has pooped in the potty a few time back when he was just over 2 (our missed boat), but has only pooped once in our recent training. He just says he doesn't want to go in the potty. It doesn't matter that he doesn't get to wear his big boy underpants, doesn't get a treat. He plain and simple doesn't want to poop in his potty. He tells us afterwards that he has pooped in his diaper.


He has options too. He has his own potty and a potty ring. He knows how to use a tissue for dabbing himself dry, knows how to dump the pee in the toilet, rinse the potty in the bathtub and lean it in the tub to dry and wash his hands afterwards. He just doesn't do it as much as he relies on his diaper. I guess old habits die hard! LOL


Like the previous poster "alittlesandy" mentioned above, I too do not want to ruin our carpets or furniture by just going cold turkey with underwear, especially after it not working on our first try. I thought of trying plastic pants over the underpants, so at least he will feel the wetness that you can't feel with a diaper. I just don't know if they truly contain leaks or not.


Thanks for all your points of view. Much appreciated!

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#7 of 10 Old 05-23-2012, 06:37 AM
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OP - I can relate to so much of what you posted.  Our son showed great interest around 18 months, then I pushed it a little too hard and he completely regressed.  He was dry through the night for what seemed like a long time before that.   Around 2.5 yo, he was more than happy to use the potty anywhere but home.  He was well past 3 until we could completely go to underpants.


Now, let me tell you, pre-child, I thought any child who wasn't potty trained by 2 yo had lazy parents.  Boy, did I ever eat those words MANY times over.  I was shocked to learn that many kids aren't potty trained until well after 3yo.  I think a lot of parents don't want to admit this for whatever reason.  (and that many greatly stretch the term potty-trained when telling tales of 18 mo olds that are out of diapers.  Out of diapers yes but with how many consistant "accidents?")


The offer of treats held absolutely no appeal for our DS.  "I am not so interested in working for M & Ms" he said to me.


Some things I can remember helping the process -


  • We became very casual about it.  We would take him into the bathroom with us whenever we had to go and would ask casually if he would like to go upon waking, before bedtime, etc.  With our DS, I think it was a combination of him not liking change and a control issue on his part, he didn't like us telling him what to do so we spun it to make him think it was his idea.


  • Peer-pressure.  He was in daycare and noticing that his little friends wore underwear made a huge impression on him.


  • Letting him pee outside in the summer.  This may horrify some people but many an experienced mother told me this was the way jumpstart the process.  While we live in a town, it is rural region and most people think there is nothing wrong with letting your kids pee outside.  (my husband is not one of these people and it was only desperation about getting DS out of diapers that changed his mind)

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#8 of 10 Old 05-23-2012, 06:55 AM
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My son is 3 and we have been trying for a year as well. He is not potty trained. When we are home he will take himself to the potty if he has no pants on but refuses to go if I take him or when we are out. I have 4 kids, clean carpets and furniture is something I gave up after I had more then one kid. He does will just go on the floor or couch but mostly will take himself. Now if I could just EVER get that to transition into going at other times...

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#9 of 10 Old 05-23-2012, 07:02 AM
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I haven't read the other responses but I'll say just take a break.  In the long run it won't make a bit of difference if he was potty trained at 2.5 or 3.5.  With my oldest, we spend 6+ months trying and I was so frustrated because he "could do it".  But he didn't do it.  With the second kid, I didn't even try until 3 and he was trained in 2 weeks.  


If I were you, I'd take a month off and try again.  The pressure might be making him resist.

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#10 of 10 Old 05-23-2012, 07:05 AM
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My son wasn't potty independent until 4.5 years old. (He's 5.5 now). We didn't do daycare or anything like that so there was no outside pressure. When we figured it was time we bought pull-ups, underwear and a potty seat to fit over our toilet and introduced the concept casually. He got to help pick out everything and was very involved in the process. We didn't use a reward system, just made it a fun thing to do. He picked it up very quickly but that's just his nature with things like this. He still has problems wiping himself after poops but he's getting better with it. Night time potty training was something we weren't going to worry about until he was older but we found he wasn't wetting his pull-ups at night so we tried leaving him in undies...so far so good! 


Good luck and try not to stress :)

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