My 3 1/2 y.o. daughter refuses to use potty! - Mothering Forums

My 3 1/2 y.o. daughter refuses to use potty!

hydrangea's Avatar hydrangea (TS)
11:01 PM Liked: 10
#1 of 20
06-15-2002 | Posts: 1,209
Joined: Jun 2002
Am I alone here? My otherwise developmentally on-target second daughter is 3 1/2 and shows absolutely no signs of being emotionally ready to use the potty. She is physically ready. She can hold her pee. But she is completely uninterested.

I have not pushed her at all, but over the past year from time to time I have let her run around with no diapers. I have given her her own underwear. I have had her sit on the potty when she has a dry diaper while I read her books. She sees me going, dh going, her sister going, her friends going. We've read books about it and talked about it. She has absolutely no interest. She just brushes the whole thing off.

I know if I leave her to her own devices, she will eventually start
using the potty, and our ped says not to worry, but I am getting really sick of changing a 37-pound child's diapers! We used cloth until recently, but I have to confess to using disposable more and more because the cloth just get soaked too quickly.

And I know this shouldn't matter to me, but people are beginning to question my parenting skills. It's annoying!

FWIW, her older sister (5 1/2) was mostly potty trained by 2 1/2 and completely potty trained by her third birthday.

Has anyone else gone through this? Anyone have any ideas?
Rennie's Avatar Rennie
11:26 PM Liked: 0
#2 of 20
06-15-2002 | Posts: 35
Joined: Jan 2002
My ds was almost 3 1/2 when he finally potty trained. I also didn't pressure him, but I was doing my student teaching for 4 months right after his 3rd birthday & the sitter he stayed w/has son 1 yr. older. Ds would see him use the potty & I guess it just started to sink in. If it makes you feel any better my ds weighed over 40 lbs by the time he potty trained so I can totally sympathize.

Does dd go to preschool or playgroups? That would probably help - other kids her age who are already trained. Other than that I have no advice - just be patient.

auld reekie's Avatar auld reekie
12:02 AM Liked: 0
#3 of 20
06-16-2002 | Posts: 109
Joined: Nov 2001
My son was almost four before he toilet trained.We left him until he was ready and he trained for day and night in one day and has never had an accident.
Trust your instincts and "buy" earplugs for yourselve when you are around the people that question you as a parent.You are doing the best thing possible for your child, listening to her and when she is ready!
When we got the old "what he's not toilet trained!!" we used to say in front of our child,"He will use the toilet when he ready"
Our son showed no interest in the potty either,he liked the child size toilet seat placed on our toilet.I had to carry it around with me for a while so he could use it on toilets in stores!! Have toilet seat will travel!!
EmsMom's Avatar EmsMom
01:03 AM Liked: 90
#4 of 20
07-15-2002 | Posts: 1,387
Joined: Dec 2001
Just when I deceided to give up trying to "toilet-train" my resistant 3-1/2 year old, within three days she had completely trained herself with no accidents. I was really starting to feel like a lousy mother! But my dd is extremely sensitive to my feelings of judgement regarding her development, so she just resists the pressure by not complying!
CorasMama's Avatar CorasMama
02:34 AM Liked: 28
#5 of 20
07-15-2002 | Posts: 2,353
Joined: May 2002
My Dd was 3 1/2, almost 4 when she finally got out of diapers. I had tried the Pull-ups thing for about 5 months, to no avail. What worked for us was this:

Dh worked at a company that had an on-site Montessori program. They called us and told us that she was next on the waiting list, and that a space in the Primary classroom would be available in 3 weeks . The catch: she had to be totally potty trained for the Primary classroom! Dd had toured the school already, and was so anxious to quit daycare and go to Montessori. She was totally bored in daycare, even though it was a good one.

So she and I and dh set a date for "No More Pull-ups or Diapers." We went shopping for undies TOGETHER (just dd and I), and I let her pick whichever ones she wanted. Of course, she wanted one pack of each!!! But I figured, ok, 3/pack x 6 packs = 18 prs. I wanted several pairs that could be sacrificed in case of bm accidents! *

Once she was in underwear exclusively during the day, she had about a handful of accidents. I had previously tried putting her in undies or cloth training pants, but not exclusively. I think what made it so much easier for us and for her was the huge incentive.

BUT, without that, I think it would have been a LOT harder. She just hadn't yet found a good enough reason until then. And she was the same age as yours, maybe a little older, and either on-track or a little ahead in other parts of her development. So hang in there, and don't stress it.

Good Luck,


* edited to say: Please don't flame me for my wasteful ways. When I posted something (on that OTHER board) about throwing away the panties that she'd pooped really bad in, I got flamed big time. People even went so far as to tell me that if I was uncomfortable having dd wear them even after washing, that I should give them to the poor. So please don't flame me, I have heard all the arguments, and frankly, I'd do it the same if I had it to do over again!
hydrangea's Avatar hydrangea (TS)
09:56 AM Liked: 10
#6 of 20
07-15-2002 | Posts: 1,209
Joined: Jun 2002
It is a relief to read others' experiences. Thank you all!

My daughter has, actually, in the past few weeks finally started using the potty "occasionally," which is pretty exciting. Unfortunately it's occasional enough that I'm finding accidents all over the house (and urine is seeming to stain our newly polyurethaned wood floors). But still, it means we're getting somewhere.

So far she prefers the potty to the toilet, even though I have one of those little toilet inserts -- a foldable one that I can bring everywhere. She doesn't get the idea of peeing into water. She thinks she's already peed when she looks in the toilet.

She does see her friends and her sister going, but that doesn't seem to make a difference. I think she's similar to EmsMom's daughter -- she's resistent to even the slightest hint of judgment or pressure. And theoretically I know not to put those on her, but it's difficult to hide my frustration at changing her BMs these days.

CorasMama, I would never flame you for that, and I'm really sorry others did. I have the capacity to wash soiled undies since I've been washing soiled diapers for 5 1/2 years, so that's no big deal for me, but if washing those out is not so simple for you, that's your business. Maybe those who flamed you could have offered to take the poopy undies and washed them themselves
Mommy4life's Avatar Mommy4life
12:37 PM Liked: 0
#7 of 20
07-15-2002 | Posts: 13
Joined: Jul 2002
I guess I am lucky then !!My first son was potty trained at 2 1/2 years my second son was at 19 months and my third son was 2 years !!! But I wish you luck with your daughter!!!
beccaboo's Avatar beccaboo
01:45 PM Liked: 0
#8 of 20
07-15-2002 | Posts: 585
Joined: Nov 2001
We are in a similar place. DS1 is not quite 3.5, but completely uninterested. I have a 3 month old, so I didn't want to place any pressure immediately before or after the baby was born, for obvious reasons. He is starting preschool in the fall, for which he is supposed to be potty trained, but (wink, nudge, don't tell the powers that be) I've been told that it's OK for him to attend in pull-ups for a while and just consider that he's train*ing*. For a while, he would say that he'd start using the potty when he went to school, but then recently when I was encouraging him to try sitting on the potty he told me he didn't want to go to school. Well, obviously, I want preschool to be a positive experience for him, so I'm going to disassociate school/potty from now on if I can.

I feel like I'm having a hard time encouraging him, but not pushing it. Ie, it's easy enough to just go on changing diapers and never even bring up the potty issue, but that seems too hands off. (Is it?) Suggesting that he sit on the potty doesn't work; he never wants to. I'm not willing to let him run around the house naked; I tried that a couple times and it's just not something I can accept. It already makes me crazy that I can't keep up with normal housework, let alone a urine-soaked futon! Our back yard is tiny, so we can't really spend a day there, peeing willy-nilly.

I've been trying just to talk about potty issues more, such as narrating my personal bodily functions ("Hmm! I feel like I need to go pee! I'd better go sit on the potty!") and pointing out bathrooms if we're out somewhere ("Oh good, there's a bathroom right over there in case I need to use the potty"). We have a couple potty books. He sees friends his age using the bathroom quite regularly, and we have what amounts to an "open-door policy" at home. I recently borrowed some extra-absorbent, leak-proof underwear from a friend (hi, Kathleen!!) and am hoping he'll be game to try it, at least so that 1) I can get an idea of how often he's peeing and 2) he can see what it feels like to be wet after he pees.

Is there anything else I should be doing? Should I encourage him more somehow? Just lay off? I know it will happen eventually regardless, but I want to be supporting him appropriately. So obviously, hydrangea (love your name, btw!), I have no advice for you, but I commiserate fully! Didn't mean to take over your thread.
hydrangea's Avatar hydrangea (TS)
06:39 PM Liked: 10
#9 of 20
07-15-2002 | Posts: 1,209
Joined: Jun 2002
Beccaboo, you didn't take over my thread. It's really good for me to hear about others in the same situation. It's nice to know I'm not alone. Your son sounds like he's in a similar place to my daughter. I think you are doing a wonderful thing by not pressuring him. He will pick up on it eventually. I need to listen to my own enouraging words though!

One thing that has been helping, finally, in the past week or so is to have an idea when my daughter hasn't peed in a while and having her sit on the potty while I do. First thing in the morning is usually one of those times. She wasn't able to do this until she just once peed by accident, and then she knew what it was she was trying to do. So now, if I know she hasn't peed in a while, we do it together. And when she does do something in the potty, we, together with her sister, do a "Shebba [her nickname] did a peepee in the potty" song and dance routine. She loves that. But we still haven't gotten very far.

Something a friend of mine does is bring the potty into other rooms if she knows her children will be sitting a while. For example, if she's going to read a book, she'll have them sit on the potty while she does so. Or she'll put it next to their little drawing table. I think this can be helpful if your child isn't really aware of when he's peeing. I did try it with my daughter, however, and it didn't work. But it's something to try.

Please post back here when he starts! I'd love to hear how it happens!
knitterma's Avatar knitterma
12:09 PM Liked: 0
#10 of 20
07-20-2002 | Posts: 131
Joined: Nov 2001
No solutions, just commiseration here. My son turned three a few months ago and a child could not be less interested in using the potty. Some days I let him run around all day with no diaper on and wouldn't you know it? My child will hold his pee until I put in the bathtub at night. That can't be healthy. I want to put him in a preschool in September but he does have to be potty-trained. I've been considering just saying he is, but I don't know. Anyway, it's tough to be patient, but I know so important.

Also Cora'smom I just had to laugh about the flaming incident. The things people get worked up about! And I agree with Hydrangea, you could just send the dirty undies over to them to clean! Too funny

Devi's Avatar Devi
06:41 PM Liked: 10
#11 of 20
07-20-2002 | Posts: 1,649
Joined: Jul 2002
Im new to the group and my almost 4 year old daughter is just beginning to take an interest in the potty now as well. I read some articles that were helpful to me. They indicated that learning the potty is like anyother developemental milestone i.e. walking, talking "it cant be rushed". This advice didnt help when my daughter pooped in a friends pool recently LOL. It was embarassing beyond belief.

Anyhow, we decided on a Sears method. "The bare-bottom potty training system" I went out and bought her 4 pretty new "long" dresses to wear inside and out, and called them potty learning dresses (we found a great sale) and she has been very good about putting her "stuff" in the right places. I have a potty chair and an insert for the big potty. I have tried this method before, but she simply wasnt interested then. Thank goodness she is coming around now, I was beginning to feel like a failure as Mommy.

I did read the following comforting tips in several different articles.

Most children potty train between 2-4 years old (mine happened to be closer to the 4 year old mark)

It wont make any difference when they learn the potty when it comes to attending college, or chosing a spouse. It also is not an indicator as to how smart a child is. In addition, I think there are a lot more "closet" poopers than we are aware of, as most Mothers dont share as readilly when there kids train at an older age.

I turned to these thoughts when I became frustrated and still do.

Thanks nice e-meeting you all
Overyonder's Avatar Overyonder
09:39 PM Liked: 0
#12 of 20
07-23-2002 | Posts: 23
Joined: Jul 2002
I have a daughter who was trained by the time she was 2 1/2. I also have two boys who were impossible to train. It's true that they will train themselves when they are darn good and ready. No matter how much you push them to go to the toilet, they aren't going to do unless they want to.
I also found that my middle son went back into diapers after my other son was born. Jealousy has alot to do with things too.
With my middle son I put him in school and that pretty much cured him of the daytime diaper. He liked school and knew that if he had a diaper on he couldn't go. He was over 4. A lot of people commented on his late potty training, but I just ignored it.
My youngest son was pretty much the same. I believe around the same age too. I find that my boys are just too lazy to get up and go to the bathroom. And nighttime training is a whole different ballpark!!
Just have lots of patience.

3girls1boy's Avatar 3girls1boy
12:31 AM Liked: 13
#13 of 20
07-30-2002 | Posts: 1,120
Joined: Nov 2001
My 3 daughters were all over 3 when they learned to use the potty and when they did it, they were fine day and night with very few accidents in about a week.

My second daughter was 3 years and 9 months old and I was beginning to fear that she would be going to 4 yr old kindergarten in diapers.

With her, I really had to totally lay off any mention of using the potty or any hint that I was darn sick of changing her diapers (I had been changing 2 kids for more than a year.). I think that's what made the difference. It was really hard for me not to say a thing, but I really think she felt it had to be her own decision. She is 7 now and I see now that this is just part of her personality--she makes her own way and isn't swayed by others.

BTW she is small for her age and I also think it took a long time before she could really recognize that feeling that she needed to go. Can't rush that.
hydrangea's Avatar hydrangea (TS)
01:31 AM Liked: 10
#14 of 20
07-30-2002 | Posts: 1,209
Joined: Jun 2002
Actually, I've got a Woohoo!!!

My daughter, now 3 years and 7 months, just last week decided to start using her potty and the toilet. She's now been four days and nights without diapers, with just the occasional daytime accident. We're all proud of her.

I did wait. I didn't push her. I was sorely tested at times, but I got through it, so I'm proud of me too

We're unschoolers, so we believe in waiting, and I have a feeling this little one is going to test my faith over the years.

Thank you for all your stories and support. I am beginning to wonder whether "late" potty-trainers share certain common traits. My daughter also "makes her own way and isn't swayed by others."
Momtwice's Avatar Momtwice
09:23 PM Liked: 33
#15 of 20
08-02-2002 | Posts: 10,142
Joined: Nov 2001
I know a few kids who trained at 4 and FIVE kids who were not 100% trained until age 5!!!!
hydrangea's Avatar hydrangea (TS)
04:22 AM Liked: 10
#16 of 20
01-17-2014 | Posts: 1,209
Joined: Jun 2002

Well I actually wrote that way back in 2002, and that 3yo daughter is now 15. How funny that Mothering is still finding me with responses.


I'm guessing Elsa's post below is spam -- otherwise why would she have found this ancient thread and post for the first time with an unidentifiable link (don't click on it!).


But since I'm here, I'll give an update. interestingly, it turned out that the reason she was late to use the potty had an explanation. Turns out she has Asperger's Syndrome and the late potty-training was related to that. Our lifestyle (unschooling) kept other signs of Asperger's from being so easily noticeable for a long time. by the time she was 10, we were seeing more and more that wasn't matching up (i.e. difficulty interacting with peers, continuing to throw tantrums past the age of tantrums, and more.



Melzip's Avatar Melzip
03:58 PM Liked: 11
#17 of 20
01-22-2014 | Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2009
WOW! So nice to have a follow up post! I am sitting here in 2014 with a very similar problem. My 4yr 2mth daughter is still in nappies and flatly refuses to use the toilet or even to go bare bottomed. She is incredibly resistant to any kind of pressure, or even talk of using the toilet so I have backed right off (much to the disgust of grandparents on both sides who insist I should just force the issue). I really needed to read this thread, and also your follow up. I know she will "get it", but sometimes it's hard because you think maybe it is something you did, or didn't do.

It is a comfort to hear that your daughter is out of nappies smile.gif
hydrangea's Avatar hydrangea (TS)
08:10 AM Liked: 10
#18 of 20
01-23-2014 | Posts: 1,209
Joined: Jun 2002

Well, as I said, it turns out she has asperger's, and this was one of the earlier signs. I don't mean this is the case with every child who is taking a while, but it is worth staying aware of how your daughter is managing other developmental milestones and mentioning what's goign on to your doctor.

apeydef's Avatar apeydef
08:47 PM Liked: 911
#19 of 20
01-23-2014 | Posts: 1,491
Joined: Mar 2013
When you said throwing tantrums past the age of tantrums, what age would that be? Lol bc I gave a 5 yr d who still throws full on throw your self on the floor tantrums.
Melzip's Avatar Melzip
02:33 PM Liked: 11
#20 of 20
01-24-2014 | Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2009
It's funny though. I have noticed small things... little peculiarities, nothing that I would call incredibly out of the ordinary. Do you know what I mean? Everybody has little idiosyncrasies. At this age she is pretty young and these things could be just variations of normal.

She never crawled, just bottom shuffled but didn't do that until she was 13 months. Before that she just sat where you put her, I know... heaven for me! smile.gif Her first steps were not until she was 21 months old, to the day.

When she was little, she became easily overwhelmed by people and if they (i.e grandparents) tried to engage with her, she would not meet their eyes, and if they persisted, she would close her eyes and go into what I called "shutdown mode", almost as if she was asleep, all the while ignoring their presence. She hated playgroups even when she was 8 or 9 months old. If we were anywhere where other people were around, she would sit on my lap and face me and refuse to acknowledge anyone and if she started playing with a toy and someone tried to interact with her she would turn her face into me and refuse to acknowledge them. She would look at me, and make eye contact with me, just not with anyone else.

She has always been hypersensitive to loud noises and I could not use vaccuum cleaners or any kitchen appliances with her around. She has always had this thing with heat (i.e everything has to be cold, even her food) and she HATED baths, right from a newborn she would scream if I put her in one. She would only tolerate them if they were freezing cold (even in winter) and washing her hair was an hysterical, screaming, nightmare!!! We only found out about 8 months ago (she was finally able to tell us) that the water trickling down her back was the problem and I have started using a large plastic garbage bag as a cape and she now enjoys it and even laughs. She has always had a super sensitive back, you only have to touch it and she wriggles because it tickles.

Verbally, she is incredibly advanced, always has been. Talked early and her vocabularly is that of a much older child. Physically she is slower. She couldn't run for a long time and learning things like riding a scooter she has only just done.

It's hard, because mentally she is sharp as a tack. I guess I will just have to keep an eye on her and like you say, keep her doctor informed.
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