17 answers

3 Year Old Refuses to Potty Train

Hi, I have a 3 year old who wears (finally!) pull ups. However, he refuses to go potty on his toilet. He still soils/wets his pull ups like diapers. When I ask him, "why don't you tell mommy or daddy that you've got poo-poo or pee-pee pants? Do you not want to go potty like a big boy?" he says "No, I don't want to." So, he flat out refuses to potty train. He starts preschool next month. I have my little "bible" on potty training sent by huggies and have been trying to follow it as much as possible. Any suggestions?

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Hi, guys! I wanted to thank you for your responses. Alot of them made a lot of sense. The daycare that he attends is working with him (and he's refusing with them, too, so I don't feel bad) but they don't push it, either. I have decided that I will just let him go at his own pace. He is too like me - will do it in his own time, I believe. I did get a bit of encouragement last night. While I was doing some work on the computer last night, my little fella came up to me wanting for me to put his shorts back on. I thought this was weird but put them back on. He ran back into the back and both my husband and I followed, curious about what was going on. We found him in the bathroom, trying to pull his pants down in front (like daddy does with his shorts?) and point his little you-know into the toilet but couldn't reach so he tried it with his pants off. No luck. So he climbed onto the big toilet (I guess he doesn't like his) and leaned back onto the seat like you do when you're tubing down the river and just stayed there. As far as I know, he didn't do anything... but, I did encourage him and tell him that I was proud and was acting pretty excited about it. I plan to bring him to get ice cream this afternoon (late, I know, but I will tell him why) as a treat for trying to be a "big boy."

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My son used to behaved same when he was his age, I had not clue what do do, but amazing enough was at the daycare/preschool where he learn how to do it, the lady was great with him, and they had a deal that I kept at home, everytime he went to the potty he got an m & m, he was allowed to pick the color, that was a total sucess with him, I did the same at home, maybe you can try it see if that works for you too.

Hey T.,
I am having the same problem with my toddler, but like Lindsay said it may not be a problem, maybe they arent ready yet...lets give it some time, they will start all on their own....hopefully

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Okay, you have gotten a ton of advice and many moms letting you know it is not unusual. I had a similar experience with my son and the only thing I want to add is that our Pediatrician recommended we not force him and that we let him know that the poopy and pee like to be in the potty and it is his job to help get them in there. That it is up to him, and it is his job. That plus the rewards, singing and patience that when he is ready he will do it. Also when he starts school he will see his friends do so and that WAY helps speed the process up. Good luck dear, and just be patient - no man I have met in my career has every walked into a business meeting in a diaper - he will get the hang of it.

I have a 3 yr old boy who is now potty trained. GET RID OF PULL-UPS, except for nights. When he's ready, he'll do it. But you can encourage him to "get it." I TOTALLY recommend letting him run around naked -- nothing barbaric about it. Its how my mom did it, as well as most of my friends. But don't push, and don't punish. Just encourage. Good luck! Oh - and the rewards (candy, prizes) work well, as do cheerios or apple jacks in the potty for targets. Also, we made a game out of practicing running to the potty from different places all over the house -- like 10 times in 7 minutes. He thought it was great! We'd go to the kitchen, then yell "Gotta Potty!" and run to the potty and take off underwear and sit on the potty, and then get up and celebrate, and then do it again from the living room, etc... But it helped him get in the groove! Good Luck!!!

My response is one you may not want to hear. HE'S NOT READY. Each specialist I have heard says that you must wait until the child is ready. I played a video for my son and read the book over and over again "Once Upon a Potty for Him".

There is a potty song that we would sing together and that helped. Also, make sure his stool is not so hard that he has difficulty (feels pain) when he goes.

My husband comes from a Hispanic background where the women kept telling me to let him roam around the house butt naked (literally) and he'd be forced to tell me when he needed to potty. I found that advice totally barbaric and kept imagining my son soiling corners of my home unbeknownst to me.

Of course, I never tried the technique! If you would like the copy of my video (VHS tape), I will be more than happy to pass it on. Just phone me at ###-###-####, Y.. Moms need to stick together and keep each other from flying off the handle.

My 5 y/o is still in pull-ups be/c he has toilet phobia. I didn't realize until recently that he had chronic low-grade constipation which was making his bowel movements uncomfortable. Also the bowel was pressing down on the bladder causing frequent urination. You may want to rule out any physical causes. I didn't realize he was constipated be/c he "went" but only once every day to day-and-a-half. Anyway he refused to sit on the potty and never gave a reason. He almost seemed terrified of it. I would like to encourage you to do whatever you need to do as far as seeking professional help. I am now having to homeschool my child be/c he can't go to kindergarten in a pull-up. We are having to see a play therapist for a behavior modification program. I never pushed the issue be/c I was assured that he would "go" when he was ready. Anyway, I thought I'd mention this be/c I was in the dark about it for so long. I hope this is not the case with you and your little one.

Hi T.,

I have a couple of suggestions. This worked for my 2 sons. First we tore little pieces of toilet paper into the toilet and let him use them as targets to pee on. Another thing that I heard works is to dye the toilet water that way when they go pee in the toilet it changes colors. Then when he did go potty we sang a song about him using the potty. Now here are 3 different songs ( I have 3 kids one for each. Also when it came to teaching them to go poop in the toilet it was a little more difficult because kids view that as letting a part of themselves go. So we would not only sing the songs we would give treats for them using the potty. I hope this helps

Potty Song 1: (to the tune of "This is the way we brush our teeth")

Where do we make our poops and peep
Our poops and peeps, Our poops and peeps
Where do we make our poops and peeps
We make them in the potty!

Potty Song 2: (to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star")

Tinkle, Tinkle, little pee, in the potty you will be.
Poopy, Poopy stinky-O, in the Potty you will go.

Potty Song 3: (to the tune of "Little Bunny Foo-Foo" )

When we have to pee-pee, we go to the potty, because we like dry pants and wet pants are icky

Whe we have to poo-poo, we go to the potty, because we like dry pant and messy pants are icky



My youngest son (who is 5 now) was a lot like your son. He refused to get potty trained. When he was ready he did it. He was 4 before he was ready. He didn't want to use his potty chair, he wanted to use the big potty. Have you tried that? When he finally decided he was ready, he did it. He's only had one accident at night (and of course, that was a night he decided to climb into my bed) and he hasn't had any accidents during the day. We never used pull ups. We only used them, when we were on a long trip. I don't understand pull ups, I don't see how it will help the child if it keeps them dry. They need to be wet and not like it. If your worried about day care, I'm sure that you could find a home daycare, that will work with you son instead of forcing him. If you force him, he's just not going to do it. Daycares try to force them. There's a lot of home daycares or stay at home moms that will care about the well being of your child and not just what the school wants. I hope I helped some. Be patient with him, he's just on his own schedule. My son who is 11 now was potty trained at 2. I can understand what you're saying. Things like this just shows us how siblings are so different.
He'll let you know when he's ready and you'll be so proud of him. Make a BIG deal out of it. It will encourage him to keep doing it.

M. B
Married, mother of four, 17, 15, 11 5

Take one week that you can stay home with him.....if not an entire week, at least a good long weekend. Get rid of the pull-ups...they are from h*ll for potty training. Each day, have him wear underwear....no pull ups, except at nap time and bed time. This is the quickest way for them to understand the difference between wetting themselves and staying dry. If they are wetting a pull-up, they just don't feel it like they do in the underwear. The first couple of times, he will probably have an accident in the underwear....still make him set on the potty to enforce where he is supposed to be going. The change the underwear and go on. Before the end of the day, he will only be having small accidents. When they start feeling the pee-pee in the underwear, they usually stop, and then realize that they need to sit on the potty.

I can't emphasize enough how horrible pull ups are for the potty training process....only use them during sleep or out in public as a last resort. Remember when those companies send you a 'bible' on potty training...they are also trying to sell you on their product too.

If he continues to have trouble remembering that he needs to go, use an egg timer....set in in the bathroom beside the potty to go off every 30 minutes. That will signal him that he needs to go sit on the potty and at least try to go to the potty.

I also don't like baby potty chairs. If he is big enough, get a step stool so that he can use the big potty. It is so much easier to go ahead with the big potty now. Makes it easier for going in public restrooms too.

Good luck!

Mom of 3 boys

maybe he just isn't ready.
it seems like there have been so many posts lately about parents freaking out because their 3 year olds are having trouble with potty training. Maybe we are just pushing our toddlers to do this before they are really ready.
potty training has nothing to do with the age of the child. it has everything to do with their maturity and readiness to actually do it.
in my opinion pull ups are no different from diapers, except they have neater designs on them and they are more expensive.
I never used pull ups with my first (he is now 7) and he was potty trained completely by the time he was 4. It's all about being on their time clock, not yours.
starting pre-k at 3 years old seems a bit young. Is it an actual pre-school or is it more of a daycare?
did they demand that the children be potty trained before starting at their facility?

it just sounds to me like he isn't ready yet. i would just go back to diapers and try again in a couple months. like you said he is using the pull ups like he would a diaper. there is no sense in using them then. he doesn't see or feel a difference.

try checking out dr. sears website, http://www.askdrsears.com/ he is great and has wonderful info on his site for just about every situation.
here is a link to his toilet training steps:

good luck!

Okay, let me tell you how I did it.... The only difference is I have a girl. First, I went to the store and bought a huge bag of Smarties. Then, We got up one random morning(random for her, not me!!!), We made a HUGE ordeal of "throwing away" all of the diapers and pull-ups. Then I just started giving her juice. I would take her to the potty every 5-10 min, DON'T ASK, just take him.(I also suggest getting some Cheerio's, My aunt used to put some in the toilet for her son to "aim" at, that made it even funner for him) EVERYTIME my little girl would go potty, even a tiny bit, I would give her a Smartie. LITERALLY, After 3 days of this CONSTANTLY, She was fully potty-trained!!! The key is consistancy. I had to stay home for 3 days and not go anywhere, but it was totally worth it!! Oh yeah, if you go to Wal-mart, you can get 10-packs of underware for cheap, and trust me you will need about 3 packs. I think on the first day, she had probably 10 accidents, then on day 2, maybe 6, by day 3, only 1. After that, NONE!!!! It was AWESOME!!! Well, I hope some of this helps you, Trust me, I feel your pain. OH yeah I almost forgot the most important part, When he does potty, even the tiniest little bit, make the BIGGEST DEAL! Make up a silly song and dance, Ours was, "Woo Hoo Woo Hoo, Big Girl, Big Girl, Woo Hoo Woo Hoo!" And we would dance around and hoot and hollar, then she would get her PRIZE!! We always called it a prize!! Let me know how everything turns out!!

Hi T.,

I'm a bit slow in responding, and I agree with most of the posts - - your son may just need a little more time. But I wanted to offer a resource that made a huge difference for me. My son turned 3 in May. At age 2 we were getting ready to move into a new home. There was no way I was going to potty train in the new house. I was determined to get my son trained before the move.

Then I read an article www.pottytrainingconcepts.com/Potty-Training-Readiness/Po... on a wonderful website: www.pottytrainingconcepts.com. This article changed my mind. I realized if I pushed too hard and too soon I would only frustrate myself and risk traumatizing my son.

I would periodically re-read the article and when my son finally passed all the readiness tests I made an attempt to train him. And to my surprise it was very easy and very successful. He had one or two accidents - - usually when he was playing with visiting kids or with some new and exciting toy. I am so grateful I waited.

Check it out. And good luck to you and your son.

Hey T.,
I am having the same problem with my toddler, but like Lindsay said it may not be a problem, maybe they arent ready yet...lets give it some time, they will start all on their own....hopefully

OHHH... I feel your pain. I have a 2.5 year old little girl and she flat out refuses to go! She EVEN changes herself. When she is wet or dirty... she goes to her room and changes her own "booty"...(that's what we call it.. 'time to get a new booty' when it is time to change her diaper).
Like the other posters, PULL UP'S STINK! I ask her all of the time if she needs to potty and she says YES, then I say, "let's go to the potty" and she says..."Nope!" She feels/sees my frustration. This past week-end I let her run around OUTSIDE in her bathingsuit without a diaper or pull up. She told me twice she needed to go, but also pee pee'd in her bathing suit several times. I'm a working mom, but I'm going to use this upcoming long week-end to do what some of the other posters suggested... she will be NAKED most of the week-end! Good LUCK to you!

I'm sure you'll get every kind of advice under the sun on this topic, but having JUST gone through this I'll throw in my 2 cents as well. I have a son who turned 3 in February and had absolutely no interest in using the potty. We tried everything. When we would ask him why he wouldn't use the potty he gave us the exact same reason your son gave you. I asked my pediatrician who said "He'll go when he's ready, just let it be." Exasperated, we did just that. And, to our shock, last week he just decided he wanted to wear underwear. We told him that he would have to go pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty and he said OK. Reluctantly we put the underwear on him and he's been using the potty every since. He's had 1 poo-poo accident and 2 pe-pee accidents, but other than that he's doing great!! We make a big deal every time he goes, clap and sing and dance around. So, I don't know whether we just got really lucky, or the pediatrician was right but it was certainly the path of least resistance!!! Good luck. PS - I hear boys are usually potty trained later than girls.

I don't think he is ready yet. Even though he may be 100 percent capable of doing it, he's just not ready. It really shouldn't be a big deal if he isn't either. My daughter turns 3 in just 3 weeks, and she just potty trained about 2 weeks ago. Now, we have been "working on it" since she was just shy of 2, but I never ever never ever ever ever pushed her. As much as I sometimes wanted to and despite what some family/friends said, I let her lead the way. I would occasionally ask her about it, take her with me when I went, but if she ever told me no she didn't want to, I just said okay. I also bought her panties in some of her favorite characters. I put them in a drawer and showed them to her. Of course at first she wanted to try them out. (This was about 4 months ago) So I would let her wear them and would tell her over and over to tell mommy if she had to go potty and do not tee tee in the panties. Well, every time she would tell me momma, I tee tee, right as it was pouring down her legs. So I would put back on the pull ups and tell her when she was ready to use the potty and not tee tee in her panties we would try again. I don't think she was ready then. Why? Because about two weeks ago, one day she just told me she wanted to wear her panties. This was not unusual, but what made this time different was that she actually told me when she needed to potty, went one whole day without having an accident. I was stoked! She did it by herself basically. No pushing or prodding from me, just gentle reminders asking if she needed to potty. Not too much though, just about every 15 min or so for the first few days. I am still putting a pull up on her at night, but other than that she wears her panties full time. She's had a few accidents here and there but they are more my fault than hers because they were when we were in a public place and I just couldn't get her to the potty fast enough. She told me she needed to go... so I don't consider those really her fault. I feel like potty training is a developmental thing just like walking and talking, crawling, rolling over... if you wait until they are ready they will do it all by themselves and there won't even be any struggles. Does his preschool "require" him to be potty trained? If so I suggest looking for another. You don't want to stress out your little one like that.

my son is 3 now and will be 4 Oct. 12 TH. I got together with my ex and he helpped me to get my son potty trained. He put him on the potty after he wet his pants and had him sit and hold the durty pants and ask him if he wanted other people to see him and smell him thin the nasty pants like that. It didn't take 2 or 3 times of sitting on the potty looking at the nasty pants my son now only weres pull ups at night and has had no axidents at all. he loves being a big boy like my mate and his daddy. You don't havwe to be ugly just ask if that is what he would like other peolpe to see and smell him.

Hi. My name is L.. I don't know a thing about potty training because I am a first time mom of a nine month old and I will probably be asking for the same advice. Nonetheless, I did read an article once from americanbaby.com that said a child will do it when they feel ready. You can't force your boy to do it. By seeing other children not having to be in pull-ups, he may want to be like them at some point. I'd love to know how you finally get him to use the potty.

My son used to behaved same when he was his age, I had not clue what do do, but amazing enough was at the daycare/preschool where he learn how to do it, the lady was great with him, and they had a deal that I kept at home, everytime he went to the potty he got an m & m, he was allowed to pick the color, that was a total sucess with him, I did the same at home, maybe you can try it see if that works for you too.

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