Why is it hard to potty train my 3 1/2 yr old?

Amanda C. - posted on 04/20/2011 ( 33 moms have responded )

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We have been doing potty training for about a year now. We put him on the potty when he wakes up and periodically throughout the day. He says he has to poop or pee, but then we go to put him on and he has already gone in his pullup. We've tried everything including reading a book and turning on the water... snacks for a reward. We have even tried underwear, and he cried horribly because he didn't want to be in them and when to the bathroom in them. My husband and I are out of ideas... Anyone have any that could be useful to us? Thank you!

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Tammy - posted on 03/23/2012

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Hey Amanda,

I have six kids only one boy in this half dozen. But my son potty trained later then the girls and I had a rule when they turned 1 I would start gradually. By age two my girls were potty trained. But my son,Oh no he decided not me mom.LOL! I tried so many things,then I asked my husband if they both can potty together.He needed to see that his daddy goes potty different then girls. And soon with daddys help this way,Our son was potty trained.I think it took about a month for it to start feeling like we were getting somewhere. But right when he wakes up in the morning when hes a little tired might help the process. But boys will be boys,good luck.He will get it.:)

Jamie - posted on 03/27/2012

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Have you tried cloth diapers/pull ups? My son potty trained himself at 2 in one day. They say that happens with cloth diapering because they can feel the wetness a lot more.

Alesha - posted on 03/26/2012

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I have potty trained my boys on their 2nd bday and it took about 2-3 months. what I did was in the house if he took off his pull up he would just be naked around his room..his potty sung songs so he would love to go pee. of course he had mistakes but he got it down packed ..Some kids are different..it takes longer..But my youngest child didnt like anything on him so we let him run around without a pull up on and just a shirt..he loved it and it HELPED.

Stephanie - posted on 05/20/2011

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I use an egg timer! Set it for a half an hour and soon they child will know that the timer means it's potty time. Try giving a treat for even trying to go potty. Give a special treat for actually going. Slowly take the treats away as they get used to using the potty..I hope it works!

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Kelley - posted on 04/13/2012

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My daughter is 3 1/2 also and still using Pull Ups. She was potty training and doing really well until my 7yr old told her she was going to "fall in the toilet". Now she's so scared to sit on the potty. So, I've put a hold on it and will try again soon. You're child may have anxiety about using the potty too. Give it a break for a week or so and then try again.

Karen - posted on 04/09/2012

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My son is almost five, and still cannot poop in the toilet. Pee he handles fine. Poop, he tells me he has to go but then its after the fact. One time I had about 5 pairs of underwear soaking in a bucket because he pooped before he got to the potty. Most of them were minor but still it is nasty!! Maybe its because I am divorced from his dad and the dad doesn't really care if he poops in his pants or not. He is always getting new toys and video games anyway. GOOD LUCK!

Meenakshi - posted on 04/09/2012

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Same problem as Nacola's!! Mines just turned 3 and though he pees in the toilet... he refuses to sit down for potty!! i've tried bribes letting him play in the water... toys in toilet!! Everything!

He just prefers to go in his underwear! Im a little embarrassed now.. coz most of the children his age are potty trained... Help please...

Carlie - posted on 04/06/2012

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Perhaps he's not ready. Sounds like you and your husband are ready, but who is the one needing the potty training?



With all due respect to you and your husband-you have shown your son different techniques on how he should use the toilet. Good job. Now let it be. Children should not be forced to use the bathroom-and not that you have-but sometimes as parents, we get a little frustrated when our wee ones refuse to take those first steps, and especially when we know it's for their own good.



This is what I recommend:



1. It's a beautiful sunny day today honey!! This is called a "mind change." Meaning, start with positivity and end with positivity. Potty training does not have to be hard. Nor do you want it to be for him: "Hey, you can do this....I know it looks hard, but it isn't honey."



2. Consistency. CONSISTENCY. Extremely important. Put "big kid" undies on him. Tell him "Your dad and I are very happy (not proud....at this age most kids can't wrap their mind around the definition of the word proud. In addition, you should define WHO is happy with him, not just "We") that you have been trying to use the big kid toilet, and so we thought you might like to wear your underwear from now on." Ask him. Guarantee he will say yes.



3. Throw away or give away his diapers. Don't ever put them on him again. For any reason. Should you decide to do so after putting on big kid underwear, then you have not only let yourself down, but him as well. You would also be sending him mixed messages and god bless him, he wouldn't know what to believe-or think.



4. Have a talk with the toilet. Seriously. You and your husband AT THE SAME TIME and your son should all sit down....and have a talk with the toilet. Yep. Tell your son, "Hey look-we just wanted you to REMEMBER that the toilet (do not say THIS toilet, it's THE)....is your friend." It wants us to sit on it and use it. I know that thing at the bottom looks scary, but it won't hurt you." Then, you can ask your child at that time if he would like to use it. If he says no, then one of you should IMMEDIATELY say, "Ok well I have to use it." Do you mind staying with Mama while I do?" Then the other parent should leave. If your child tries to leave with the other parent, then you need to be creative. The goal is to have your son watch you use the toilet, see how you react to it, and let him be the "comforting one." So if he wants to leave with daddy, then you can say, "Daddy has to go somewhere for a bit (and he does right? right), and since I enjoy talking with you so much, I was hoping you would stay with me."



5. Talk about the birds. Talk about the sky. Talk about something fun you and the rest of the fam have planned. In between that conversation, insert a few, "Oh my stomach hurts, I'm so glad you are here to talk to me." Sometimes I don't have ppl to talk to when I use the bathroom, and that's ok too, but right now I'm glad you are here. 'Besides I have a magazine (or my phone with Angry Birds), or a book, or my headphones." Whip out a magazine Mama and share it with your son right there on the toilet. No joke. You want him to be COMFORTABLE enough to even approach the darn thing.



6. Who cares if your son witnesses your bowel movements? So ridiculous that ppl make a big deal about things like that. Nothing else is working, and he SHOULD see you in a spot that he sees as scary. If you aren't afraid......



7. When you get off the toilet,pull your shirt down with one hand and wipe yourself with the other. Explain that "Ok let me just wipe myself, so I stay dry later on." "Allrighty, time to flush." Watch honey, come here and see how COOL this is." "Like a little tornado!" Hold his hand or hold him with his back to you so he can see. When it's done, you can say..."Wow, that was a little loud huh....but wasn't that kinda cool?" Then IMMEDIATELY turn to him and say, 'That wasn't so bad right?" "I think that's something that you could do too!"



8. Wash your hands, telling him you need to do so, so that you don't spread germs on everything. Then IMMEDIATELY give him a hug and telling him, "Thank you so much for being brave enough to stay with me while I used the bathroom." Even if all he does is cry the entire time you are using the bathroom, at least he stayed (cause he is also afraid to leave your side), and that's what is important. Whatever the reason, he should still be praised for MAKING EFFORT.



9. IMMEDIATELY exit the bathroom and tell whoever is in the next room, "that (son's name) was so brave while I was using the bathroom. So happy that he was brave enough to stay with me when he was so scared." This will do wonders for his negative feelings regarding the whole potty training thing.



Parents have a tendancy to forget that potty training isn't JUST using the toilet. It's walking into the bathroom where the toilet is located that's the most important lesson. JUST WALKING into the bathroom, looking at the scary toilet with the loud noise and the hole at the bottom of it that could bite my butt or have a snake come out of it....is the most important and BRAVE potty training lesson. Do you know why? Because it is the first step. And children should always be praised for making the first step. Any step=effort.



I would also discuss with his pediatrician to ensure that everything is on target concerning his reluctance to use the bathroom.



Good luck. If you haven't done so already, then I would do so now: Hug your child and tell him thank you for being so brave so far. :)

Tiffany - posted on 04/05/2012

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I let my kids run around the house with nothing that way they knew when it was happening and both of my boys was potty trained befor 2 yrs ... every hour or so we would also try just an case.. but every kid is diff. but most dont like to be wet..... :) hope u can get it down good luck!

Bobmusicgirl4 - posted on 04/03/2012

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Okay, so I'm assuming you have a boy from your "him's" and I have a boy too (he's 2 1/2) Aren't they dolls to potty train!?! Let me let you in on a little secret: it may be a little indecent- but the way I potty trained my son was to just let him walk around with no pants, no pull up, no undies, nada! He will quickly realize that peeing on the floor is embarrassing and want to go potty! I know it's not fun cleaning pee off the floor, but trust me he won't do it but maybe 3 times before he learns the trick.

Also: it's really really helpful for your husband to show him how to go by going in front of him! I know, most guys won't be too keen on the idea at first, but trust me it works. I had my son trained in half a year and he now naps with no diapers either, working on night tiime now. Good luck and I hope my suggestions help!

Cheryl - posted on 04/03/2012

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In the book potty training in a day, one of the suggestions is to throw a potty party with a cake and all of the works. For those of you who re having difficulty getting your little ones to put on their underpants perhaps this would work.

Cheryl - posted on 04/03/2012

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I've potty trained five children. I believe that you've waited too long. In all child rearing you have to be the one in charge and what has happened is that this has become a control issue for your son. You should never have to bribe a child to do anything, potty training should come at a natural time when your child shows signs of readiness. This is usually between 20 and 24 mos. of age but can vary a small amount. A reward for a job wel done is one thing, but a bribe is something else entirely.

There are verbal and physical cues that will tell you when he/she is ready. A good book to read is, "Potty Training in a Day". The title is a little misleading it will take a little longer than a day but the majority of the "training" when your child is ready is done in one weekend and then over about two weeks the child gets it down pat and you're done You should not be potty training for a year unless there are emotional or learning issues. If you are struggling for that long you definitely should reach out to a Mom who has had some experience getting the job done or buy yourself a book. Not only are you frustrated, your child is frustrated as well. Throw those pull ups away, they are a terrible invention. They're just diapers by another name. They're useless for potty training because a child cannot tell that he or she is wet. I hope that this helps someone. I personally love to use fruit loops or cheerios floating in the toilet to make it fun for the little guys to practice their aim. I think the most important thin to remember about potty training is that it should always be fun and rewarding. The minute that your little one feels like he or she is in trouble for having an accident he/she will want the diapers back on. We even made a game of cleaning up messes.

Robin - posted on 03/30/2012

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I am having the same problem. I have started to potty train my son cause he kept saying i want to be a big boy like brother. We went to the store and let him pick out his own unerwear, but trying to get them on him is almost impossiable. He screams and crys for his pullups. I have tried giving him prizes if he went on the potty and that lasted 2 days and i feel like i am a square one again. My oldest son did not start potty traing until he was almost 5 and even at school we had problems. I want to thank you for posting this and for everyone who has posted i am going to take what i have read and try this again w my little guy.

Cecilia - posted on 03/30/2012

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My son is 31/2 and still not potty trained (although my niece was at like 18mo :/). He will only go when he's naked, so before and after bath time. I'm not comfortable with him running around naked because there are people that rent rooms out in our house. Prizes don't work, and I don't know what to anymore. Not to mention my mother's constant "Every 2o minutes worked on you, and just make him sit there until he goes". That doesn't work for me. My son only has to sit in one spot when he's in time out, and that would re-enforce the notion that potty time is a punishment. My husband says, "Leave him alone, he'll go when he feels like it", but he's not changing diapers all day (I have a almost 10mo daughter, and I babysit a 2yo boy). We bought him "special" big boy underwear over a year ago, he's not interested.....grrrrrr

thanks for the vent-lol

Katie - posted on 03/29/2012

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I have a 3 yr old daughter and we have been potty training her which has been frustrating. She went poo and pee on the potty for two weeks straight and now its accidents all the time we just use underwear no pull ups but diaper at night.

Amanda - posted on 03/27/2012

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Forget the pull ups now I am not saying that underwear is the best idea, though that did work for my daughter. I am just saying they are so pricey that the new huggies slip ons work just like pull ups with the protection of regular diapers. and a lot cheaper than pull ups. I have not even started to train my son but he has the slip ons and he watches his older sister and started to pull the diaper down and telling he is going to pee, (though he has not actually gone), He is doing it by himself so I am hoping he will start to go soon. I am just happy that he is trying it on his own. we spent two years with pull ups with my daughter untill the slip ons came out, what a money saver. I was right there with you tried every thing. I finally realized what every one tells me, it will come when it comes. it is frustrating but it did happen. I would try putting the underwear on over the diaper if they don't like the underwear so the get the idea of wearing them, that might help

Nacola - posted on 03/26/2012

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My son is 3 years and 3 mos pees in da toliet before refuse to do da number 2 in da toliet. He goes in his pull ups. I think he dosent feel comfortable doing da number 2 in da toliet. I am frustrated with it because people be saying he is 3 now, should be all ready fully train. He have to do it on his own time.

Ashlee - posted on 03/24/2012

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I would just put him in underwear. Pull ups make him think he has a diaper on. I did this for both of my girls and they eventually got the hint that they had to go to the big potty. They also watched my friends little girl (who is the same age) go to the bathroom and from that point, they just went on their own! Good luck!

Amber - posted on 03/22/2012

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When I was potty training my son I read tons of different books and tried sitting him on the potty.. He had the concept down, he just wasn't doing it and I was getting so frustrated, i didnt want him starting school in diapers and we had another baby on the way. Finally one of my coworkers told me to just take all of his diapers away and to make sure I had LOTS of pants available because it would be messy for the first little bit.. So I figured why not. I tried it and it worked wonders. He was fully potty trained within a month because he didn't like how it felt when he went in his pants. The first two weeks were the hardest. But every kid is different.

[deleted account]

Making progress. For the past three days my 3 1/2 year old son has been going on the potty 100% of the time at home. He even wakes me up at night to go potty. Hooray. At school he's at 50% but his teacher said to start sending him to school in big boy underwear. I'm still doing pull ups at home because last week I had 3 instances where he pooped on the carpet when I put him in underwear. If he has success in school then I will switch him to underwear at home. Almost there.

[deleted account]

I have been at it since mid-may. My son is now in pull ups. He goes on the potty 50% of the time.

Lacey - posted on 07/03/2011

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I would forgo pull-ups all together. In my experience they are really confusing to kids, because they look and feel like diapers to them. My son was 23 months when he wa potty trained. We went to the store, he got to pick out his own "big boy" underwear and we did it cold turkey. Stayed home and did nothing for four days but worked on going potty in the toilet. He had a few accidents but got the hang of it really quickly.

RENAY - posted on 06/22/2011

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try timing when he has to go pee,start with giving him a drink wait 10 or 15 min and sit him on the potty and wait for awhile or untill he get restless. even if he goes in the pullup you will get an idea of how long it will take him to go potty. once you get that then you will know when to sit him on the potty. then all you need then is to get him to go once and then make a big todo out of it clap your hands calls your husband and let him do the same,your child should like the attention and will want that again so he will tell you he has to go it will take some time but he will try. well it worked for me anyway now it took some months but he got it.

Melissa - posted on 06/16/2011

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my son hated underwear and refused to wear them so i had him naked from the waist down (only while we were in the house) it tolk him 2 days to catch on and then we put him in diapers. i never liked to use pull ups ( this is my 3rd child) the other 2 had no problem with the underwear but i would get rid of the pull ups they arent really any help.

Shandora - posted on 06/14/2011

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I started the month after my son turned 2 ... I told him that this would be his last diaper ... He was excited ... I got him alot of underwear with the characters on them and he was excited because he felt like a big boy ... As a first time mom I thought it was going to be hard but actually by March of 2010 he had everything down packed ... I can say his first day of training he did good 1 accidenct ... I kept thinking by me sitting him on the potty every 20 minutes was hard on a busy 2yr old ... I let my son go on his own so he would either sit on the potty or go on the toilet on his own ... I learned that when they're ready to go they will go ... Maybe you have to take the pull-ups away and just get the underwear because as long as they have the saftey of a diaper or pull-up they will never learn

Lisa - posted on 05/20/2011

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Same problem here. My son is 3 1/2 and won't go. He has gone pee a few times and poo a couple times in the past year or so. We have promised to get him a Lightning McQueen 4 wheeler which he talks about every day but that is not helping. When I ask him if he wants to go potty, he says "tomorrow". Well tomorrow never seems to come around here! I also have a 2 year old daughter and she seems to be getting ready to train. I hope one of them does soon. I am due with baby #3 in November and can't even fathom the idea of 3 in diapers! lol

Katie - posted on 05/17/2011

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My 3 1/2 year old pees in the potty but refuses too poop in it. He's in underwear not pullups. I don't get it

Michelle - posted on 05/16/2011

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Because he's a BOY!! LOL I have a 4 year old that still wears pull ups. We have tried everything. I have five children he is number 3 and his 20 month sister is starting to potty train.

[deleted account]

I wanted to update my reply. The big bribe worked. My son came to me last night and said he wanted to pee. He then sat on the potty and went. First time ever. I've been trying to get him to do this for many months. Hopefully he continues to go on the potty. By the way, this is the same weekend he decided to give up "blankie."

[deleted account]

I wish I did. I have tried it all and nothing has worked. I have been at about as long as you have. This weekend I'm trying a big bribe. He receive a big boy toy story bike. I'm showing it to him but not assembling it until he gets potty trained. My frustration level with potty training is so high.

Jennifer - posted on 04/21/2011

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We went to underwear and it was messy at first - but she got it. Have you tried letting him pick out his own special underwear?

User - posted on 04/21/2011

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My friend also had trouble and decidede to go cold turkey. They did a count down to the end of diapers. She had her choose underwear from the store. There was a couple of days of tears and accidents, but with the help of M&M's, they made it though!
Good luck!

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