Subject: Won’t Potty
QUESTION: My son is 3 1/2 years old and won’t even consider potty training. We have tried everything I have found online, been told, read. We have backed off and hoped it would happen on its own and NOTHING. I don’t want a four year old still in diapers. He is smart, he is not lazy. We have multiple pottys (free standing, seats for the big potty and even a kids urinal). We have special books he can only read when he is sitting on the potty. We have a potty board with all kinds of wrapped presents (30) including characters from his favorite movie, Cars. He wants them so badly and will tell you that he gets them when he goes on the potty.
We have promised many things that we thought would be the trigger of his desires to want to go (fishing with papa, going to the movies, a Thomas the Train fire station, going to a baseball game and more). He can tell you all the exciting things he will get to do when he is a “big boy” too. He knows he gets to finally get a “big boy” bed. We tried to let him go cold turkey and have to wear big boy underwear but he would just pee in them and poop in them and go clean them out. Didn’t phase him. He promises he will try “next time” and never does.
We thought if we just got him to sit on the potty even dressed… so we gave him marshmallows every time he would do that. He was fine with that. He will sit on the potty till his feet go numb if he doesn’t have to go but if he does then he will scream and kick and cry and refuse to go on the potty. He knows all his friends are going on the potty. It doesn’t phase him at all. I am the end of my rope. I don’t want to start taking things away when he goes in his diaper. I hate to make it such a negative thing. But I don’t know what else to do. Please give me advice!!!
ANSWER: Dear Trina;
This is a power struggle and your 3 1/5 year old is winning. You have tried everything and it has not worked. Take things away from him probably won’t work any better than what you have been doing which by the way is amazing that you have put this much into potty training.
I am going to suggest something radical. Buy pull ups and let go of this struggle. Tell him he doesn’t ever have to go potty in the potty……ever and then let the subject drop. Take a break from this madness.
Now before you go screaming from the room or writing to me that I am nuts. Think about it. When was the last time you heard of a child going to college in their diapers? or to high school? or to junior high school? or to elementary school?
Realize what his friends are doing may not be a big deal to him right now. Next year maybe different. Children at this age are often not influenced yet by their peers.
You said that he had books to read by the toilet. I just don’t know of too many children his age who reads books by themselves…so possibly that didn’t work because you needed to be there with him. However, if you tried all these things and nothing worked and you stuck with it for at least 3 weeks each time without switching after a day or two then you are confident this was not working.
So really be radical. Give him the pull ups and get back to your life. Stop focusing on him right now. See what happens in a few months …….I would bet you he does not go to kindergarten in his pull ups!
M. Kay Keller
P.S. there is no standard or requirement which says a child has to be fully potty trained by the time they are 4 year old.
———- FOLLOW-UP ———-
QUESTION: Thank you for your response. We have backed off (although I admit I let the idea of going on the potty slip every once in a while). It is now just my own mental struggle with wanting him to do this so badly. I will continue to back off.
I do have one question with your response regarding us doing things for 3 weeks each time. We didn’t. The cloth pants time was not quite a week. But with all those days I didn’t see even a hint of a breakthrough moment. Every day was as hard or harder then the day before. Now previous to that when I was just asking him frequently during the day if he needed to go on the potty and reminding him of the Potty Prize Board then that period of time was at least 3 weeks. But the radical push with the cloth pants was only a few days. We then packed everything away and told him we were finished trying and it was all up to him now. Does backing off mean that I shouldn’t point out when other kids are going on the potty or remind him that he would have his Cars characters if he went? Should I not ever mention the subject during this time?
Oh, and the books by the potty were read by me or my husband although my son loves to sit and “read” them himself. He can’t read the words but he memorizes parts and makes up the rest. Sweet moment among all this headache.
Thank you again for your guidance.
Answer: Dear Trina:
Yes let go and no don’t point out someone else going to the potty. Let him make this discovery on his own. He is bright enough to see this, in the meantime let yourself off the hook and all of you have some FUN!
This is way to intense and serious for a child or for you. Seriously, he is not going to go to school in diapers. AND this is not a reflection on your parenting skills. Whatever he needs to work through just let him do so.
It will come and he will probably surprise you when you least expect it!
M Kay Keller