Q&A: late potty training problems

An anonymous mom writes:

"Ok, hanging my head in shame here. 

My 4.5 year old is not fully potty trained.   Let me clarify.   Hewill pee on the potty at daycare, but no where else.    If the teacher
catches him starting to poop, she runs him to the bathroom for him to
finish.   Most of the time though, he poops in his underwear.    At
home, he is either in a pull up or will hold it until bedtime when he
has on a pull up.   I have tried putting him in underwear at home, but
he either holds it or goes in his pants.   I have promised him a bike, a
table, Spongebob sheets if he starts using the potty.   He says "I only
pee at school!".   I have tried to talk to him calmly about why he
won't potty at home and all I get is "because I don't."   I should
probably add, he has had many developmental delays, but has caught up
fairly well.     He starts Pre K in August and will be in Collaborative Class with a Special Ed teacher.    She has assured me
this is no big deal and every year she has a kid who is resistant and
still in Pull Ups.     I really feel at this point he will not be able
to go to Kindergarten because he won't use the potty.  I also have
noticed the other kids are teasing him about pooping in his pants.   He
is my only child and I have no confidence in my ability to potty
train!!!   I am starting to lose my temper and get frustrated with him because he is so stubborn, but I know that is not the right answer
either.    Help!!! 

P.S.   He will often "sit" on a little potty at home, but can sit
until the cows come home and do nothing."

I am posting this very specifically because I know Anon is not the only parent with this issue, and I want to make sure everyone else who's having this issue isn't feeling ashamed at having a late potty-trainer.

60 years ago, a kid who wasn't pottytrained by age 2 was off the norm, and his mother was feeling like a failure (because dads had nothing to do with pottytraining back then, of course). So if you think of the age at which a kid is supposed to be pottytrained as a changing target, it might help you focus on your kid instead of being overwhelmed by how he's the one still in diapers.

Now: Listen to the teacher. She has seen hundreds and hundreds of kids. If she says that there's one kid in diapers in preK every year, then there's one kid. This year it's your chance to be that one kid.

The biggest help she might be is in enlisting the other kids to help your son with the potty instead of teasing him. She will surely have some ideas for this, and peer support and pressure can be one of the best ways to get older kids to use the toilet. (At this point the reward system doesn't seem to be as effective–if they'd wanted the reward enough they'd have trained months ago when you first offered them something.)

You might also consider putting your son in Pullups for daycare just so he isn't pooping in his underwear. And absolutely ask the daycare providers to help you with the teasing issue. They have the power to redirect those kids and make a teasing environment in the classroom not OK, so sit down with them and ask if you can work on this together, and point out how awful the teasing is, and ask for their help.

I know you feel ashamed and isolated, but the thing that will help *you* the most, no matter when your son trains, is to come out about it and ask for help from the other adults in his life so you're not suffering by yourself and feeling guilty.

Anyone else out there with a child who has trained later than the current norm?

59 thoughts on “Q&A: late potty training problems”

  1. I am going to tell my friend about this post and I hope she comes to comment BUT I will tell you myself that I have known 2 parents with this issue. My best friend’s oldest was about 5 when he finally trained and a girl at work had a daughter that was about 4.5 when she trained. Both women tried all they could think of but nothing really worked until the kid changed his/ her mind. Both kids would only poop in the pullup and would hold it far days and constipate themselves if forced to take it off. People always make big pronouncements like ” throw out the pullups” but my kid had a meltdown of epic prportions 3 days after we threw out the pullups so I find that kind of advice annoying when they don’t know the kid or family.No big advice in all that except to say you aren’t alone.
    Pls forgive typos. On iPod.

  2. This is not advice specific to a late potty-trainer, but naked time worked much better for us than underwear, at first. Now that it’s summer, can he run around with no pants for a few days at home? We also kept the little potty in the living room for a while (where he mostly played) so that there was almost no delay.It took our son much longer to be comfortable pooping the in the potty. He knew he would get a diaper at naptime and bedtime, and would wait to poop until then. Could you give your son pullups at specific times of the day like that, so that he knows he can do it then? Eventually, when he’s comfortable using the potty to pee, you can move onto figuring out poop.
    I’m sure you have already tried everything you can think of, just throwing these ideas out there if you haven’t done them yet.

  3. Oh god. My current biggest concern. My son is a month short of being 4 and WILL NOT poop on the potty or loo. What’s worse, he tries to fight it and usually ends up doing a series of little tiny poops, all in his pants. He can sit on the potty for 15 minutes and poop 2 minutes after getting pants back on. Does exactly the same in pull-ups so I don’t see the point of going back to them and I’m gritting my teeth and staying with pants for now.Nothing seems to make a blind bit of difference. Aparently resistance is most common in very strong willed children and he’s one of them alright….
    The only advice I’ve found and which I’m currently trying out is to not question or remind him about going at all, not even to pee (which he has absolutely no problem at all with, incidently. Which makes it all the more frustrating because you know he COULD do it for poop too).
    Then yesterday at home he actually did a big poop. Often he doesn’t report small poops or seem to be in any way bothered, however that’s a bit tricker with larger amounts. So after he announced it I tried a little experiement with not changing him immediately (I stress that he wasn’t in any distress, or crying or anything) remarking that as he’d pooped in his pants, clearly he preferred to keep the poop there instead of putting it in the potty. This went on for 10 minutes or so with him trying to go about his normal business and finding it a bit inconvenient.
    Obviously I had to give up and change him after about 10 minutes, but I thought it was worth a try to let him feel that it wasn’t a nice thing and that choices have consequences….
    Hoping that others might have some other good suggestions!

  4. I agree about listening to the teacher. My son was 5.5 when he potty trained and he wore a diaper to school prior to that. I was so upset about it at the beginning of the school year and I was sure they were going to throw him out if I couldn’t get him trained by the end of the first semester. I couldn’t have been more wrong. His paraprofessional was a huge help with potty training. We put together a plan and did the same at home that she did at school and eventually my son took control of potty training himself. Best of luck!

  5. No advice- my oldest is a little over 3, and still having pee accidents, but thankfully decided for herself that poop accidents were to be avoided.However, I wanted to say- we have a family friend whose oldest wasn’t potty trained until around 4. He just wasn’t interested, and as most people have figured out, you can’t really MAKE a kid use the potty.
    What finally changed his mind was that he couldn’t go to preschool until he was trained, and he really wanted to go to preschool. Once he understood the situation, he trained himself in a matter of days.
    He recently graduated from a top college with the highest honors and is on his way to graduate school. So, as frustrating as the potty issue was for his parents, it didn’t mean anything long term.
    Good luck!

  6. My son had no interest at all, would not try or show any interest in prizes. He would say he wasn’t “big enough” yet, only when he was “Bar Mitzvah” (13 years old!). He definitely could control it, because he never ever had a dirty diaper at school, which was 4 hours a day. People kept pressuring me, and telling me that i was the parent, I had to TRAIN him, that’s why it’s called potty TRAINING, etc. I felt so strongly that it really was up to him, not me, and thank G-d, his teachers agreed. So we kept talking about it, and at some point a couple of months before his 4th birthday, he agreed that 4 was big enough. So we just kept talking about how once he was 4 we would put on underwear…but that it was HIS decision, NOT ours. And, once he agreed the morning after his 4th birthday, that he was now big enough..that was that. He is so much more independent than my daughter who trained at 2.5 was. He doesn’t tell me when he needs to go (unless we are out), he just goes and takes care of himself. Does not want my reminders or involvement at all.All this to say–it is totally in HIS control. You are not doing anything wrong. Work with the teacher, and HE will make the decision when he is ready.
    Good luck!!!!

  7. My oldest was also 4.5 when we signed him up for preschool and informed him that he couldn’t go if he couldn’t go in the potty (their rules, exaggerated to fit our needs). It took a while but he did train himself because he understood that they wouldn’t let him come back if he didn’t get control of things. He still wears an overnight pullup when he sleeps at night.My youngest is 3.5 and not ready yet. He was born later in the year so he’ll be almost 6 when he starts kindergarten, and likely 5 for preK (if we can find him one). I’d hoped to get him trained this summer but he’s not ready. I’d love to have them both trained fully, but if they aren’t ready yet then I’m not going to stress over it.
    I wish you luck, Anon!

  8. No advice, but support: My friend’s son also did not fully potty train until he was nearly 5 and about to go to kindergarten. There’s clearly a VERY wide range of ages and speediness of potty training–some kids are very easy, others take a long, long time. It will happen!

  9. No advice-all support! Work with the teacher, this will get solved. As I have read a million times, no one goes to college in diapers.To speak to the moving target thing, I overhead my aunt and mother talking about toilet training. My aunt claims all of her kids were trained by 12 months. I am not sure how this is possible; I think MOM was trained to take them to the toilet, but I highly doubt a 12-month old could truly be toilet trained. Second of all, my mom said I took until age 2-ish and that I was late!!! (These folks were raising babies in the 70’s and 80’s).
    Today, of course, trying to train children under 2 is not recommended. Honestly, I think potty-training (like sleep) is highly individual. That is why the standards keep changing. No one really knows much of anything!

  10. Perhaps this is not a good diea, but what if the child cleans themselves up once they have a bm not in the potty? I’m nnot talking about punishing or shaming, but at 4.5 they are old enough to be responsible for their bms and if they have to take part in cleaning up maybe that will help convince the child that it’s not worth it.

  11. My girls potty trained the same month, and they are 2 years apart … one was 4.25, the other was barely 2. My oldest was in the exact stubborn situation you described, and I totally sympathize with the frustration.What finally got her over the hump was a laxative. She hadn’t seemed constipated, but then started having stomachaches, and it turned out it had been a long-term, low-grade thing. I’m sure this is medically inadvisable for some reason, but knowing what our experience was I’d be tempted to intensely dose him up with fiber and see what happens.

  12. My eldest was very similar – 4.5 when finally trained, and dev. delayed.What worked for us was advice from the May Clinic in Mass.: Reward him for staying DRY, not for peeing or pooping. Then he’s not under pressure, he’s getting rewarded for doing something he’s doing well (and thus rewarded more) with SMALL rewards thru the day like snacks. He trained, totally (except night) in 3 days.
    Having said that, rewards can backfire. Can you plan outings and tie the staying dry to those? “We can go to the Children’s Museum but you need to stay dry and use the potty for peeing and pooping. Do you think you can do that, so we can have fun?”
    What ends up working for him in all situations is a frank, almost peer to peer conversation about why a behavior isn’t working for me, why it’s going to be a problem for him later, and how can he help me find solutions?
    Having said all that, I have a 3.5 yo who does just fine when he’s naked but if he has pullups or underwear, he pees and poops like he’s not a potty pro anymore. I think he lacks motor skill confidence, but it’s still hugely frustrating, we have the school deadline looming, etc.
    I wish you luck.

  13. I am currently going through this. My almost 4 year old would not pee or poop on the potty. We did pull ups and tried all the things the books said. Nothing worked. So I talked to the RN at my doctor’s and she said, just switch to underwear and that’s it. Don’t mention the potty at all. When he pees in his underwear you tell him there is only one rule and that is he has to stay dry. He has to take his dirty clothes off and put them in the washer, and dress himself. That was it. She said at night we could put a pull up on him. During the day, only underwear. and you have to full commit. And we did. It took 2 weeks, but then something switched and he’s been going on the potty ever since. Now we are tackling the poop. He is known for holding it and constipating himself so she suggested a little miralax in his drink every day and he won’t be able to hold it. We shall see…. good luck!

  14. What Moxie said.Pull-ups at 5 or 6 or 7 are not the end of the world. Especially for poop.
    What I would suggest is that you ask him to go into the bathroom to poop – even if he’s pooping in his pullups. He doesn’t need to sit on the pot, but the bathroom is a good first spot.

  15. I don’t have advice. I’m just incredibly frustrated by a similar situation. My daughter was three last month and we’re having no success. She’s happy to sit on the potty, but she’s gone in it maybe four times, all by chance. This has been going on for the best part of a year now. Her teachers say it’s the same at school.We’ve tried rewards, putting her in underpants, etc. etc. etc. She doesn’t care. I seriously think she still can’t interpret the “I need to go potty” sensation, and until she figures it out, there’s no way to train her.
    This morning she woke us up by *announcing* she was poopy, so maybe she’s starting to be bothered by it. I can only hope.

  16. In many ways I could have written this post. I have a just turned 4 year-old son, also with developmental delays, and he still refuses to poop in the potty. He’s mostly trained for pee, though at school he will actually request to go potty (for pee) but at home he goes when we prompt him but if we don’t then he’ll have an accident. We’re still trying to work on that one.As for poop, this has been a major issue for us. For a long time, pooping was major trauma. If we caught him about to poop and sat him on the potty, he would cry and wail and beg to come off – I think the actual act of pooping scared him. Now, we’ve made some progress and we can pretty much always tell when he needs to go (he runs circles around the house) and if we get him to sit, he will poop fairly easily. We still can’t get him to say he needs to go – and if we miss those signals he will go in his pants – but I guess some progress has been made. Reinforcers haven’t made much difference, but we do try to be really neutral about the whole thing and when he has an accident we remind him that in order to get his treat (an oreo) his poop has to go in the potty and not his pants. He is starting to get some attention at school from his peers when he poops his pants, so that might start to make a difference in the upcoming year. Oh, and we also had him on Miralax for ages to make sure he didn’t get constipated, but we don’t seem to need that now.
    One thing I’ll confess is that I find it all very difficult to deal with – I know there’s something more going on than simple defiance, but I get so frustrated. I think it relates to my own control issues. His dad deals with it better so he is often on “poop duty”!
    Anyway, much sympathy and support – no real advice, just to say you’re not alone!

  17. Arg – just wrote a really long comment and it seems to have vanished. It was mostly to offer support – I have a just-turned 4 year old who still won’t poop on the potty. He will pee on the potty (with prompting) but still prefers to poop in his pants. We now know the signs and will get him to sit which works most of the time, but if we miss his signals (running loops around the house), then he will poop in his pants. We try to stay really neutral and remind him that if he wants an oreo (his favorite reinforcer) he needs to put his poop in the potty. He certainly knows what he’s supposed to do, but as of right now, whatever he doesn’t like about pooping on the potty, outweighs any reinforcer. I try to stay calm but I must admit it really frustrates me (which I think relates to my own control issues). We also put him on Miralax for a while to make sure he didn’t get constipated but we don’t need it now.Anyway, not much advice, just support – 4 is still totally within the spectrum of normal. He will work it out in his own time.

  18. Not much time so this will be terse.(1) A friend of mine had this trouble with her son and the solution was finally just to make it his own problem. If he pooped in his pants, he got to clean it all up. It could have been coincidence (maybe he just “was ready”) but she thought once it became something that was a pain for him and did NOT get him any special attention the behavior changed. Not sure this would be a good plan if there are developmental delays, but it could work.
    (2) Poop presents worked at our house when NOTHING ELSE did. Buy a bunch of little toys (Dollar Store) and wrap each one individually in pretty wrap. Put the presents in a basket in the bathroom and when the kid asks, tell them they’re presents and that he gets one each time he uses the potty. Lack of enthusiasm from you is key — you don’t care whether he gets one or not.
    On a side note that is NOT meant to make anybody hang their head in shame in any way, it is my opinion that our current cultural choice to save potty training until so late causes a lot of these problems. I think there’s a window when most kids are biologically ready (pretty much — with accidents sure to happen from time to time) and interested around 1 1/2 – 2. By the time the next window comes around, the kid is in full 3-year-old everything-is-a-power-struggle mode and it’s a humongous pain in the ass. I’d rather clean up the occasional puddle on the floor than go through the power struggle myself, which is why we did potty training early.

  19. On the constipation thing – my older had that too until we did two things – required a 12-oz water consumption each day, and put ground up papaya in his hot choc (which he drinks w/o fail every morning). We went through two years of horrible constipation nightmare until those two things, and we tried every over the counter stool softener.He does much better w fruits and vegetables now, too, and I’m not having to ask him to eat them “so your poop will be easier …” I hate tying food to poop. Mmm good. Bleah.
    BUT – it’s a control thing. We changed our language to say, “Do you think you could let some poop out?” to emphasize it was his decision, he was the gatekeeper. My nephew is 16 and STILL has constipation issues which I attribute largely to my sister’s insistence on micromanaging him and his bathroom habits. He was hospitalized, so it was a serious situation. But – I don’t live with him the way she does, so likely my judgment is offbase.
    Just try and encourage them that big boys can decide to let it out.
    Sometimes the splash bothers them, there’s all sorts of causes, so talk to your child about it, too, to rule out (I almost said eliminate) other reasons why they won’t poop on the potty.

  20. I have a 5.5 year old with developmental delays; we’re still going through this.He initially made the decision that he wanted to toilet train at 2.5, but it’s been a long roller-coaster ride since.
    Things that have helped us: being simultaneously low-key about it (there was a period where I’m sad to say I made a big deal of it, and I think that set us back some) and giving him mild suggestions. Some things we’re firm about: “we’re all going to use the toilet before we leave to go to the (whatever) – do you want to be first, second, or third?”. Other times we set a timer (for a while it was set to go off every hour; now we ask if he wants to go now or in five minutes–sometimes he says three! or twelve! (we accommodate this if possible) – he likes mechanical things, and a timer isn’t a person bossing him around.
    Part of it may be (given the particular developmental delays) that he might not have had the nerve sensitivity necessary to tell when he needs to go; part of it may be that he hates transitions (so if he’s playing, he’s determined not to change what he’s doing).
    We have now reached the confusing point where he has been dry in the morning for close on three weeks but is not yet using the toilet on his own during the day. Mostly! He did once volunteer the information right before he usually gets up.
    He agrees to all of our reasons for why he should do it, but I don’t think he’s going to be fully toilet trained until he’s *convinced* that it’s to *his* benefit. Cleaning himself up hasn’t worked; small and large incentives (stickers, bus rides, and a promised train ride) haven’t worked; getting really nice new underwear of his choice that he can’t wear until he’s using the toilet consistently hasn’t worked. He has to work out reasons for himself.
    All that said, he’s got an IEP for the kindergarten he’ll be entering in the fall (he missed the birthday cutoff for last year by a few days), and the school staff didn’t bat an eye on being informed that he’s not toilet trained. (And in fact the toilet training issue is common for kids with his particular developmental delays–so it was actually a contributing factor in his diagnosis.)

  21. Two other things: my 5.5 year old has been in child care for three years now – they’ve been supportive with the whole thing, but surprised that peer pressure hasn’t done it. Peer pressure just doesn’t work on him at all (he’s borderline Asperger’s).The other thing is that he just doesn’t care if he’s got poop in his pullup or underwear. He just goes on doing whatever it is he was doing until someone notices. Diaper rashes aren’t even a disincentive for him! (Not that anyone lets him get those on purpose, of course, but that is what will happen under the circumstances.)

  22. My nephew didn’t train for poop until he was at least 4.5 (I don’t remember exactly how long it took). They were very worried about starting him in Kindergarten, and he almost got kicked out of his preschool because he was having messy accidents every single day. He did eventually train when he was ready, I guess!My son is younger, but we are currently having a similar poop struggle. He knows how to tell us when he needs to go (we know because he used to do so). He just doesn’t bother telling us. I have no idea what to do, and it is driving me crazy! I feel your pain on that one!

  23. My son was very determined not to poop in the toilet when he was three and I was desperate to train him because he was starting preschool. I tried offering him surprises or prizes, but it didn’t work. I talked with our nurse practitioner about it and she said, “well, offering him a mystery or surprise gift is not going to work for a three year old– if he doesn’t know what it is, it won’t mean anything to him”. She suggested coming up with something that he was really longing for and putting that object on a very high and very visible shelf. So, we bought the green, red, yellow, and blue versions of the Ramone car from the Cars movie (he’d been talking about wanting these cars for ages). We put them on the shelf, indicating that he could have them when he pooped on the toilet. I am not even joking when I say that he was pooping on the toilet 5 minutes later. While he was there, my husband and I instantly said to each other, “Parent Meeting– STAT!”. We decided, “One car at a time!”. So my son ended up winning all of the cars within two days. Then, he decided that he wanted to go back to pooping in his diaper. Big letdown, let me tell you. But we told him, you can go in your diaper– that’s okay– but you’ll have to give up all of the cars and we’ll put them back on the shelf. So, maybe three or four times, he willingly gave up the cars and we put them up on the shelf. Then, suddenly, it was over…he never went back to diapers (except pull up at night). BUT, the footnote of the story is that it took him FOREVER to actually wipe his own butt! He’s nearly 5 and a half now and only just recently insisted on doing it himself. This is after I started refusing to help around the time of his fifth birthday. All this to say that it will get better!

  24. The inventors of Miralax should be sainted.My son was a late bloomer too, and the poop thing was driving me crazy. He’d hold it for so long he’d be in agony…distended, absolutely a nightmare. When he would finally let go, it was so huge and painful, he hated pooping and the whole cycle would begin again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
    My ped told us about Miralax and for 6 months he had a capful in his juice water in the morning. Never made him have diarrhea, simply softened things to the point that he couldn’t hold it and wasn’t afraid of the feeling of pooping. After 6 months, he was no longer distended, his brain could process when he was full and needed to go and now he poops every night….riiiight after bedtime (makes sure he has one final excuse for jumping out of bed).
    He still has problems with “away games” so when he visits Grandma for a weekend, I start the Miralax a couple of days before he goes and send it along in his bag and things work out.
    Hang in there…late potty training was, by far, the most stressful parenting challenge I have faced. Keeping cool in the face of his “issues” was rough, but we both made it through.

  25. My son will be three in about two and a half months. Day care said he was ready so we sent clothes and underpants. After two or three days of multiple accidents he had two days of no accidents. Then it was the weekend. On Saturday, no accidents (pee & poop in the toilet). On Sunday one accident late in the afternoon. On Monday (Fourth of July weekend) nothing but accidents.I know he’s not late at potty training but those few accident-free days really got me excited. Now I can’t help but be really frustrated and disappointed which I know is not helping him (or me).
    Any thoughts?

  26. I haven’t read all the comments, but my nephew went through the same sort of thing. My SIL ended up doing an internet search and found a doctor who had developed a method to help. From what I remember, he claimed this sort of thing was much more common in boys and their brain just wasn’t dealing with the poop signals properly. She said the method worked, but involved a strict routine every night that was pretty traumatic, but in the end it worked for them.Sorry I’m not more help, but maybe it’s a control thing with him and it’s the one thing he can be in charge of (unfortunately)

  27. L, it’s probably because of the difference in routine Monday. Just keep going and act like the accidents don’t matter and soon they’ll disappear.

  28. @cressentgirl Oh I hope that I remember the phrase, “do you think you can let some poop out?” for when I need it!!

  29. I’m with the reader who suggests naked time. I’d also keep a pile of clean underpants and a bucket of vinegar-water in the bathroom, along with wet-wipes. It will take some time dedicated to staying at home since travels require pull-ups. But if he chooses to put on underpants instead of being naked, let him do it, but then calmly tell him when he messes them that he needs to take them off, put them in the bucket, and clean himself. Stay out of it and stop discussing it with him and see what he does with the materials necessary to make the decisions himself.

  30. Oh, the pooping. My (emotionally-delayed) daughter didn’t pee in the toilet until she was over four, and wasn’t regularly pooping in the toilet until literally the WEEK before she started kindergarten. I was embarrassed; I was hopeless; I was exhausted. She used the toilet for pee during the day and had a pull-up at night until she was almost 6. She would ask for pull-up, or wait until bedtime when she put it on, and then almost instantly poop. She wasn’t bothered by hanging out in a full diaper. The only thing I can say that I know I did right was not nag or shame her about it; I worried silently, and sounded off to my mom and my pediatrician and my friends, but my daughter never knew. I just told her over and over that when she was ready, she should start using the toilet for poop. Until then, she had to go *into* the bathroom to poop, because that’s where we do these things, just to get her used to the idea. Every time I had to help her clean herself up, we talked about how our bodies work and how using the toilet is something people do as a convenience, and for health and safety reasons; we compared digestive habits of animals and humans and fish and lizards (really! Library books helped a lot here!) and made it into something that is just one more thing our bodies can do, like chewing and breathing and sleeping. For her, incentives didn’t work, peer pressure didn’t work; she was never embarrassed or self-conscious about it. She just had her own personal threshold of readiness that didn’t match up with the conventional wisdom.In my daughter’s case, getting ready to start kindergarten for some reason made her feel like she was “big enough” and she started on her own. We made a huge fricking deal out of it, of course, when she was finally successful. Maybe the positive reinforcement helped, but it had to be her decision. I firmly believe that “experts” can say whatever they want and there are things we as parents can do to encourage the process, but a kid isn’t going to cooperate until he or she is ready.
    (By the way, the matter-of-fact way in which I’ve always approached bodily functions has resulted in spectacularly non-self-conscious kids. I highly recommend it. It also results in hysterical conversations at family dinners that horrify elder relatives.)

  31. @ L my son trained at the exact same age and we found naked time very, very helpful. (It was actually the middle of the winter, but he wasn’t in school and we spent most of a week inside our overheated apt.) Underpants/clothes/pullups made for accidents; but without anything on he was great.

  32. I haven’t read all the posts but wanted to include my .02. Sorry if I’m repeating.For the most part, potty training issues are power issues, plain and simple. There are of course exceptions, anon’s situation is one of them. My advice is *not* headed where you think it is.
    For Anon: My advice would be to take comfort in all the successes your child has had up to this point and let that history guide you though this adventure as well. Sounds like you’ll have the support you’ll need from the new teacher. I wouldn’t be ashamed in anyway. I know this feels like a huge deal right now, truly I do. The truth is it’s actually a small blip in the overall big picture that once managed, fades from memory. There will be so many more things that your child will do and say that will give you pause in the coming years, don’t worry about this one! LOL!
    When I say that potty training is a power issue plain and simple, I don’t mean this is a power issue that needs to be conquered by a parent. This is not something a parent can override or impose their will on, not really. Hang in there as I explain what I mean.
    I believe potty issues are another one of those first lessons parents get to learn. It’s one of those lessons that show a parent what they can influence and what they can’t.
    Parents can’t force a child to go potty or decide that the child will do it now, wait for it…without the child’s willingness and consent.
    If you have a child who was potty trained early and you think *you* did it, think again. You did it with her willingness and consent. Most of the time early potty trainers are girls. Boys take far longer- who knows why?
    I believe that potty training is done best when a parent has a no-comment-policy-type-of- attitude. I mean there are no angry, frustrated comments, no struggles, no bribes, just a do it or don’t do it attitude.
    If you can, no matter where you are in the process, take your part of the struggle out of this issue, it will be easier on both of you. Realize this is one of the four things a child truly does have control over. If you can accept that, then you can go back to lovingly waiting until he accomplishes this on his own.
    Think of potty training like crawling, you can’t make him do it; he will do it in his own time. You can give him opportunities, and you can do that with potty training too. Setting a timer, giving choices, all of that is part of giving a child opportunities. All I’m suggesting is taking the frustration struggle out if the issue. Good luck.

  33. Oh dear divinity…. my 6.5 year old was recently diagnosed on the autism spectrum, is very high functioning in general but the poop…. the poop… my husband and I both have giant emotional hang ups about the whole thing now because nothing we do except miralax makes the slightest difference.I’m sorry some kids are like this.

  34. I don’t have personal experience in this… my 3 year old is almost fully trained, just wears a pullup at night. Which, annoyingly, she pees in first thing in the morning, simply because she can. There’s more than one pee in there when it comes off though, so I know she’s going in the middle of the night too. So whatever, she can wear it as long as she needs to. She’s similar to @Cloud’s little girl – never has poop accidents, only pee.But I do know someone with a little boy who was late to poop-train. It was a similar story to the OP’s and what many people have posted above… he would just poop in his pants. Once his mother asked him “doesn’t that feel gross?” and he responded “No. I LIKE IT.” In this case, it was definitely a power struggle thing and not a developmental thing – he was perfectly capable of pooping on the potty, but doing it in his pants was his way of lashing out. He would often do it on purpose if he didn’t get his way or if he felt he was being treated unfairly. In then end, they just ignored the behavior, kept changing his poopy pants, and slowly slowly he started going on the potty more and in the pants less until it was over. It took forever – like a year.
    So good luck… it will happen.

  35. My son was about 3.5 when he got mostly trained, but the year preceding that was a nightmare. He was constipated and would try to hold in the poop (for fear of pain, I think), but had many accidents and much, much poop-stained underwear.Now that he’s almost 4, most of our problems are behind us and one of the single biggest things that helped was me making a conscious decision not to get mad when he’d get poop everywhere. I’m not just talking about his underwear. He had accidents where he’d get it on every item of clothes he was wearing, then track it on the rug, the deck, then get it on a finger and touch the wall or a cabinet or the sink faucet.
    Initially, I would get sooooooooooooo frustrated with him and recall screaming in his face at times, things like, “WHY IS THIS SO HARD? WHY CAN’T YOU POOP ON THE TOILET?” Or, I would just flip out when I saw a poopy hand about to touch me or the wall or the shower curtain, and would yell, “Ahhhhh, don’t touch ANYTHING!!!! Gross!”
    One day, I realized I was scaring him and making the process 10 times harder because of my reactions. On that day I vowed I would not freak out about poop ever again, no matter what it was on or how messy things got. Things got better gradually and now he’s about 95% consistent with getting to the bathroom when he has to go.
    It will happen for you too. Hang in there and good luck!

  36. @Sharon, I love this: “If you have a child who was potty trained early and you think *you* did it, think again. You did it with her willingness and consent.”I actually think that is true about so many parenting things. Potty training. Sleep. Eating.
    Honestly, I’m not sure there is anything I can take actual credit for- at best I can claim not to have screwed things up. That realization is one of the mind-bending things about parenthood for me. It is such an important job, but I am just an influencer, I don’t have actual control. (I just realized how similar that is to some of the things I do in my work life. Freaky….)
    @L- my daughter went accident free for a couple of weeks. We thought we were done. And then she started having accidents again. I have no idea why. The poop accidents were resolved when we figured out that she wanted privacy to do her business- us hanging around cheering her on was the exact wrong thing to do! The pee accidents? I don’t know. I think sometimes she just gets busy and doesn’t want to stop playing. And sometimes I think she is exerting control on the little part of her world she can control. I’ve made peace with it. Mostly.

  37. @L – I had an early potty trained little man (22 month). But even now (almost 3) he will periodically go through regressions for no apparent reason where he has a bunch of accidents 3 or 4 days in a row. We just treat them like we treated all accidents when he first started training(uh oh, you had an accident, lets go clean up) and move on. After 3 or 4 days we’re back to being totally good, usually for several months at a time. I fully expect another regression when number 2 arrives.I think potty training (also like sleeping) is not so much a destination as an on-going process. Before I had a kid I always thought that babies just started sleeping longer and longer at night until one day they slept through the night (boy was I wrong). And potty training can be like that too. We had months of DS napping without a diaper, but have recently put them back on because of 4 nap accidents in the space of a week. It’s not all forward movement. But, we just try to be consistent in our approach and know that stage will come without us really doing anything.

  38. Developmentally delayed, ASD, sensory issue kid here. Same issue (we’re survivors now). Naked time didn’t work for us because Max would (will) freak the hell out if he’s not fully clothed.What we finally did: got a seat you stick on the regular toilet and a stool for in front. One of us would take him and a book to the toilet. He’d sit on the seat, we’d sit on the stool with our back to him. And we’d read. Not TO him. We’d just read to pass the time, because we were often there for an hour at a time.
    Once he got the hang of pooping on the toilet, it was all over. Never had another issue. We had tried toys, unsuccessfully, earlier, but once this was a done deal we did let him pick out any.damn.thing. he wanted (he picked out a truck – he had no idea how far he could have gone with that toy store visit).

  39. I think we need to approach potty training the way Moxie suggests we approach eating. We provide the necessary materials and let them decide what to do with those materials. With eating, we fill the house with things they can eat and let them decide how much and when. If we put junk food around them we need to expect them to eat it.Potty training materials are a potty, underpants, paper or wipes. Diapers and pull-ups are the “junk” materials we don’t want them to use, so if we don’t provide them, they won’t use them.
    Most drastic changes in our parental behavior will cause a change in our child’s behavior. Oftentimes they seem to become worse before they get better. During this time, most of us quit attempting the changed behavior, as it seems to not be worth the reaction. But if we stick it out and maintain our new behavior, the child will eventually make a change too.
    And, they all learn eventually!

  40. Everything I’ve heard or read has said parents should be low-key, low-pressure on this one. He’ll get there eventually — just keep reminding yourself of that. Bear is close to 3.5 and finally just sort of decided on his own to use the potty (whereas when we suggested or urged him, even with a light touch, he freaked). Best thing about him finally being a potty user? (trained sounds like we’re talking about puppies). My FIL will now finally shut up about it!

  41. My son taught himself to read (at 4) before being fully potty trained (4.5) I did notice that whenever things were more stressful, he had more accidents…It turns out he had a provider that was being very rough with other kids, once that was revealed and done away with, things got better. You might want to check whether there are any issues.

  42. Okay ladies… I’m scared shitless (pun intended). Almost all of the poop/pee issues are with boys. Great :/

  43. Hooray for @Sharon at Proactive Parenting’s awesome advice:”If you can, no matter where you are in the process, take your part of the struggle out of this issue, it will be easier on both of you. Realize this is one of the four things a child truly does have control over. If you can accept that, then you can go back to lovingly waiting until he accomplishes this on his own.”
    I’ve already printed that one out for keeps! Thank you!!
    Hugs to all who are feeling judged, hopeless, and like the clean ups will Never.Effing.End… Be gentle with yourselves!

  44. Mine both potty-trained within the expected time frame (17 months for the girl, 2.5 years for the boy) but my son was more resistant. He didn’t like peeing in the potty (specifically) because he was afraid of getting wet. He had potty-trained himself at 18 months but then swore off the toilet at 22 months because he had accidentally peed on his hand one day. After that he was vehement about not wanting to use the potty. What finally turned him around was when we had a conversation about *why* he didn’t want to go to the potty – “My not want get wet mommy.” and about what he *didn’t* like about diapers/pullups “My not like those baby wipes. Those baby wipes WET!”After a few conversations like this, we worked out a plan – he would use the potty, and we would set it up to minimize the chance of getting wet, and I would promise never to use a baby wipe on him again. He potty-trained himself within a week (but still wouldn’t pee outside the house – the system we had set up – for almost a year. that was tricky)
    Now, clearly not the same situation, but I’m wondering if you can ferret out anything that your son dislikes about the current situation and wants better control over. Then help him gain that control over it, in a way that moves towards your goals (potty training) as well.

  45. I’m just working on this with my little guy, who is 3.5 years old. He uses the potty, but requests underwear to poop. So I don’t have any advice, because I’m kind of in the same boat. But I would like to offer a virtual hug. I feel your pain, mama.

  46. My son is Autistic and he didn’t train until he went to pre-school this year.I tried everything at home to get him to use the toilet and everything was a no go.
    By the end of first term at school he had basically trained himself; There’s nothing like positive peer pressure!
    Incidentally, I know a boy who does therapy with me son who is not fully continent, and he is 8.
    Where development delays are concerned you need to remember one thing: The rules DO NOT apply. your child will get there when they get there.
    It sounds like you have a supportive and understanding ally in your boy’s teacher, so trust their advice and take advantage of the extra help.
    Cheers

  47. Hush, I’m smiling 🙂 Thank you for the glowing words. I’ve missed you guys.There is a reason I have been gone so long…I’ll be telling soon!
    And no I’m not pregnant, that would be the guess my in-laws would have, but it’s impossible now! LOL!
    Glad you enjoyed the advice.

  48. My son was 4.5 when he finally trained, and unfortunately we did it under the gun… he was going to daycare and they refused to accept him unless he was potty trained.I honestly felt like the world’s biggest parenting failure… he was miserable and frustrated, I was miserable and frustrated and some of my worst parenting moments to date happened during the poop training process.
    The main issue is that he was so sneaky about it. He would wait until just the moment my attention was turned, then go in his pants. At the park, at the indoor playground, at McDonalds, wherever he knew he could get away with it.
    The thing that finally turned it around was constant vigilance on my part. About 3 weeks before daycare started he didn’t spend a minute outside my presence, and through sheer effort, I was able to get him trained in time to go to daycare but it was touch and go.

  49. @Cloud and @L, we had a similar experience. Our son trained a little after 3, then started having lots of accidents a week or two later. It turned out he wanted privacy too. He’s got very good language so he was able to start telling us that, but if he didn’t it would have been hard to figure out! (And it still took us a little while to get it.)Maybe relevant to the commenter, no personal experience though–I don’t know if rewards will help, but the ones you have mentioned aren’t immediate enough, I think. The link has to be made right then and there–he keeps dry/clean, or uses the potty, or even just tries, and right away you give him a reward. You could try getting those Spongebob sheets and putting them up on the shelf, and see if that helps.
    For commenters (not relevant to the actual question)–Our son just wasn’t showing much interest. What worked for us was just to buy a bunch of character underwear and go full gonzo. He wore it all weekend, he had a million accidents, but by the end he was close to fully trained. Daycare was really helpful in cementing his habits, especially pooping.
    I have a friend who is a child psychologist and deals with a lot of potty issues. She says it is often indeed about control, then sometimes a child develops issues with constipation and becomes afraid of pooping as well. She gives her own younger son (not potty-age yet) a little prune juice every day to help avoid him developing similar issues.

  50. Oh jeez, everyone…I have been the absolute worst example of a parent today. My 4 year old son has turned my house into a waste treatment plant. My behavior has ranged from being a candidate for Anger Management class to outright psychosis. Yelling, tears, recrimination-you get the idea.He has been in pull-ups for a year now. He CAN go on the toilet, but chooses not to. I finally got fed yesterday up with the whole idea, and put him in underwear.
    I think the saying is “God laughs at the ruin of our plans”? I know that this is a phase, but I desperately wish it were over. I have no idea how to go about doing this. I ask him over and over if he has to go, and remind him just as many times to tell me if he needs to go, to no avail. Now I understand why some many cases of child abuse stem from potty training issues! It’s infuriating to me to have to deal with this. I know that I’m only a day in, and I’m already in despair. I don’t have any family or friends within a 1800 mile radius, sad to say. Any and all advice will be welsome, thatk you.

  51. There is so much great info here, I’m glad to have found this discussion. I have identical twin boys who will be 5 this fall, they will be going into their 2nd year of preschool with a full time aide for severe speech delays. One will pee on the potty sometimes, the other won’t have anything to do with it. I’m so worried about them, they only have a year til they HAVE to be trained for Kindergarten and at this point I honestly can’t imagine it happening – even though I know it’s a long way off.

  52. It’s heartening to see I’m not alone.My son turns 3 September 1st. Bright but incredibly stubborn.
    But he GAGS at the smell and sometimes even the though of pee and poop. He has even thrown up from the smell of his own poop …as an INFANT when I’d change his diaper.
    Not kidding.
    The ONE time in recent history when Daddy convinced him to poop in the toilet, my little guy made one teeny poop and immediately started to dry heave.
    The other day I asked my husband to show little man how to pee standing up, thinking the novelty of this might get him interesting. He saw what Daddy was doing, started to gag and then panic and scream.
    I’ve never read or heard about this anywhere, so if anyone has I’d love to know your thoughts!

  53. My son is 5 and I’ve been having alot of problems getting him to use the potty. Most of the time, he has no problem of going pee in the toilet, but he wont poop. We have underwear for him, but he doesn’t wear it constantly, he’s usually in pullups.He won’t tell us when he’s poopy, or wet for that matter, but about 60% of the time, he will announce he has to use the potty. He just has no interest in pooping in the potty.
    He’s going to be starting kindergarten this fall, and I’m afraid we’ll still be working with him on this.
    I’m more or less at my wits end trying to figure out what to do, to help him use the toilet more than he does.

  54. My son is going to turn 4 I tried the underwear thing I tried shaming him I disciplined him. All I got was fear and him saying we dont like him. My child knowing I like him is worth a twenty dollar box of diapers and it isnt a power struggle if we are willing to serve our children. He will not be walking down the aisle in a diaper nor will he be wearing a diaper at his graduation ceremony. I will keep trying to have him go potty on a regular basis but more than that I will give him hugs and tell him I love him wether he goes potty or not. What if he gets injured at some point in his life and is paralyzed from the waist down and has to wear a diaper then? What subconcious message will he have looming in the recesses of his mind love or shame? I will try my best until he is 5 and then we will go see a doctor. I will try with his younger siblings also. God loves these little guys so much and Jesus died for you and your sins and loves you and wants to help you with this process. Teaching them the basic tenants of faith and life should outweigh diapers. Keep trying mama but remember 100 years from now what will matter most?

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