21 answers

Daughter Refuses to Pee

My 4 year old refuses to "let go" of her urine. I have been trying to potty train her for the past year and have found it very difficult. 2 days ago I put her in "big girl" underwear and have gotten rid of all the diapers. She knows exactly what to do. She will even sit on the toilet for 30 min. but will not let go of her urine and will not soil herself. I would be more than happy to clean soiled underwear if she would only go! After about 12 hours she will finally run to me screaming that she has to go and will finally go in the toilet. Yes, we have a very big celebration, I even play the harmonica! But then the wait begins again. She doesn't even pee when she sleeps.

My biggest concern is her developing a urinary tract infection. I try to load her up on liquids from cereal at breakfast to chicken soup for dinner and of course water and milk during the day. I spoke to her doctor the other day and he said it would take a long time for her to develop a UTI but I am still concerned and she hasn't pooped for 2 days now. Has anyone ever experienced a child holding their pee for 12 hours? I do have a reward poster up and a doll stroller that she has wanted for a long time just sitting in the bathroom so when she goes in the toilet 8 times she can have but she is unphased.

I could really use some "thinking out of the box" advice.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks for all the help ladies! We have been trying now for three days with success. She has gone in the toilet and is still holding back a bit but with less and less resistant each time. Now we are just waiting for a bowel movement then I think she will be on her way to success. I am not concetrating on it and just letting her lead the way and letting her make the decision as to when she wants to go. I am not going back to diapers because I have tried that in the past and switching back to underwear gets harder everytime.

Thanks again.

Featured Answers

When did you start trying to potty train her? Is she in school? I was wondering (if she is in school) what she does there?

When I was ready to potty-train my daughter, I stumbled across a book at the library. It is called, Toilet Training in less than a day, by Nathan Azrin. I read it through and thought is sounded ridiculous, but also thought it was worth a try. I did it and it actually worked!!!! In one day, my daughter was potty-trained and after 2 weeks she didn't even have accidents at naptime or at night. They have advice for older kids, too. It might be worth a try. Good luck!

More Answers

lol. my son went through this. he was fully potty trained at around 2 yrs. but boy was he stubborn. once he didn't pee for over 15 hours! At first the "your bladder is gonna pop" worked then when that failed, bribery worked. When he got bored of that, we just fought. He would be shaking and jumping, but still held onto his pee. Finally, I gave up. I told him, "I'm done. Just go when you want". You know what? He did. He's now three and goes whenever he has to, by himself. I stopped nagging and he stopped holding onto his pee.

Hi G.,

I had the same problem with my daughter. She was actually easy to potty train, just woke up one day and decided that would be the dsy of no more diapers (she was 3) and she never so much as had an accident. But then I noticed it was hard to get her to go. We drove 12 hours in the car and she didn't go once (doesn't like potty's that "flush by themsleves") Took her for a pelvic sonogram, no problem. My pediatrician's response was, "Wow, I wish I could go that long without peeing!" She is 7 now and still can hold her pee for an extraodinarily long time, but it has not caused any health problems. She has never had a UTI.

There are a number of questions to look at here. Is there any hint of any developmental lag in other areas? Some children with delayed development take a little longer to potty train. It seems your doctor does not think that there is any physical problem. Has she been examined to see if this is true? Has your doctor offered any suggestions? Does G. fight you in other areas of life as well? Do you have a lot of energy around this?
I suggest laying off. Have a talk with her, explain to her that you understand that it is hard, you will be there to help her whenever she needs it, but for now there will be no more chart, no more harmonica, nothing. It is ok if she goes and it is ok if she doesn't. Tell her that she can suggest what she wants you to do if she goes. She can also tell you what she needs to be able to go, does she need you with her, does she prefer to go alone? Make notes if you need to BUT RESPECT your new rules. NO conditions.
It is very scary to let go of a part of yourself. Was she scared by a bathroom or something in a bathroom at anytime that you know of? I've seen children that refuse to use bathrooms outside of the home because of this.
If she is afraid of the toilet she can have a potty in another area of the house where she feels comfortable. You can redecorate (temporarily if you want). There are many child friendly bathroom accesories. A shower curtain and bath rug can change an entire bathroom. Let her choose the new accessories. Don't link the redecoration with her potty training.
Encourage independence and choices in all other areas of her life, brush her own teeth, brush her hair at bedtime, choose from two outfits, choose her own shoes etc.
Give her chores around the house. Emptying and taking her plate to the sink, putting her clothes in the laundry, simple dusting etc.
My four yr old just came in and asked what i was typing so i explained G.'s situation and asked if she had any suggestions. She suggests letiing G. use a diaper if that's what she wants. I think this might be an interesting approach that might backfire. But if you're willing to start the process all over again, it might not be so bad. If the goal is to get her to go, and this is why she's not going, I say go for it. If she has total control of her situation (potty training is all about control) it might give her the push she needs. You know G. best, you also know what you are able to tolerate and what your lifestyle will allow.
Maybe starting all over with a new approach and new attitude from everyone may help.
Also don't let dissaproving friends and family who are ignorant of your process push you to make her do something she isn't ready to do! Everyone's process is different. G.'s road to pottytraining is different from any one else. Only she is G.!
Hope you can something of what I have to offer.
Good Luck to you both.

Thinking that maybe the big celebration might be giving her the insentive to hold out...and thinking maybe when she comes to you screaming she has to go...slow down in getting her to the bathroom...maybe if she has an accident or two, feeling the shame of this....she'll begin to get that holding out isn't a good thing...

I would try sitting her on the toilet several times a day each time running the water in the sink. The sound of water flowing sometimes makes people want to pee.

I would also go for a second opinion with another doctor.

At 4 years old she can understand just about everything you say to her. Just use words she will understand and tell her that if she doesn't use the potty more often her body will get sick. Let her know that it will hurt a lot.
As for the not pooping part, give her more apple juice, and she'll probably go.

It's obvious your daughter has some fear about using the toilet. A child psychologist might be necessary to help her get over this problem. 12 hours is WAY TO LONG for her to go without urinating. I don't see how she will not develop serious urinary/kidney and bowel problems. Urine and stool contain toxins that are extremely harmful to our bodies if not expelled. Normal bowel movements are 3-4 times a day. Each meal is supposed to be expelled after digestion.

It's possible she's afraid of losing a part of herself when she is on the toilet. My daughter used to want me not to flush after she went. I respected her wishes and would flush later after she forgot about it.

This is the ONE thing she has control over. No one can force a person to urinate or defecate so the less you make of this, the better, otherwise it become a battle of wills. I would not make such a big deal about this - when she goes or when she doesn't. Lose the harmonica and reward chart since they're not working, obviously. Be positive, but in a calm, not-over-the-top way. She is old enough to know her body and this is a great lesson for you to teach her. Stop talking about it. Make it no big deal. Yes, the regular, "Do you need to use the bathroom before we leave in the car?" is fine. However, she'll learn soon enough that it's more comfortable to go than to hold it. I bet after a week or so, she's going more regularly. Good luck!

12 hours!!! I try desperately to get women to work on holding it for a minimum of 3 hours so that they will develop stronger pelvic floor muscles and not have urgency issues waking them in the middle of the night (I do physical therapy with women's health issues). I have not ever seen a woman develop a UTI from holding her urine too long. I think the problem is too much focus on her "going" and she's developed performance anxiety or it's a battle of wills. Drop it. She clearly is not going to have an accident, so as long as she always knows where the bathroom is she will go when she's ready. As far as the bowel movement is concerned, make sure she is getting lots of fruit and as much veggies as possible. If she gets enough fiber on a daily basis it will be difficult for her not to go, especially since you are making her consume so much liquid. But please, don't bring up the subject with her anymore.


I have a now, 9 year old daughter who used to hold her feces, not her urine. After many conversations with the doctor and my husband, we still could not figure out what was going on. It wasn't until I had a conversation with her, that I understood what was going on. She was feeling that everytime she had to go "poop," that she was letting a piece of herself go and that eventually she would lose all of herself. Have you had a conversation with her to find out why she holds back? I didn't believe that my daughter would fully understand what it was that I was asking her. Boy did she prove me wrong. Just a little out of the box thinking. Hope it helps.

S. D.

G.: You need to talk to your pediatrician and go see a urologist as soon as possible. I don't want to scare you, but my oldest daughter developed serious bladder issues -- spasms and limited capacity. There are very serious side effects to 'holding' urine including kidney damage. When my daughter started having issues at age 3 I found it really difficult to find good advice and insight until we found a good pediatric urologist. As moms we have so many emotions connected to these potty training issues. Good luck!

You are doing just te right thing. Load her up with fluids as much as you can starting first thing in the morning. I would just wait it out. It is going to be hard on you. You have to remember when you got to go, you got to go. She will realize this on her own in time. It is a good thing she will not soil herself, but I would keep an eye out for any sneaky habbits that may develop. I alos would NOT tell her that you wouldn't mind washing dirty undies. Get other family members involved if you can. Have them tell her how proud they are of her going on the potty. She will take pride in her acomplishments when she is praised by many people. Ask people to call her and tell her. Just be sure that only positive things are talked about. Becareful that some relatives may think that embarrising her into doing it on the big girl potty will help. You just have to sit tight and try not to continually ask her if she has to go. Just be ready as much as you can. You said she comes running when she HAS to go. Just keep an eye out for the PEE-PEE dance and make ready! Good luck you can do it!

Maybe it is a control issue

Hi G., I have five children and each child is different with potty training, she may be scared of the noise it makes when she pee's, try turning on the faucet. But one thing for sure is that if you put too much attention on her and peeing she will become very self concious, I would suggest that you not make it such a big deal with her and let her tell you when she needs to go. and if she runs to go, don't get paniced with her, just take her and calmly tell her, it is ok. I personally was never big on "rewards" buy her the Doll/stroller and let nature take its natural course. Just my opinion. DS

I just went through this exact same thing with my daughter (who will be 4 in April). She held it for the first few days, just as your daughter does. FINALLY, after a few days of staying home all day, constantly asking, etc she has gotten the hang of it. My daughter knew exactly what to do as well, she just has her own schedule of when she will do things! Don't worry she will do it on her own and soon she will just go very quickly! The pooping will come as well - don't give in and put diapers on! I did put a diaper on her at night though for the first couple of weeks - just in case. I also used candy as a reward (smarties, suckers, whatever) - if she pooped she got a sucker, if it was just pee she got a little treat. Don't worry it will work.

Hi G.. I would make sure with your pediatrician that it's okay for her to go for so long without going to the bathroom. Did she ever willing use the toilet, or has she always been unable/unwilling to? I know that going to diapers would be a step back, but if she's never comfortably used the toilet or potty, maybe it would be more comfortable for her to start using the toilet if you allowed her to do it with her diaper (and pants) on, then graduate to diaper only, then without the diaper. But at her age, she really should be ready to just go

I do agree with the advice about giving up control of her bathroom habits. Maybe if you're focusing on this too much and you take a step back, she'll be more comfortable about this. At 4, she should be able to decide when she needs to use the bathroom and to do it privately.

Good luck!

Sounds like you have a problem on your hands. Did you ever think of a behavior therapist? It sounds like your daughter has a desirre for control and going to the bathroom is her control. Give her miralax everyday and she will not be able to hold in the poop. I would think pee would come out as she poops. My son has stool withholding and he was on miralax for a year. It was a godsent. His behavior changed and when he went off it, pooping was not an issue at all.

My son, who is now 8, used to do this if I wouldn't put a pull us on him. He would hold it until he was in hysterics wanting me to put a pull up on him. He was soooo stubborn and he still is!! HA! HA! Any way he did not like us to make a big deal about him going. He hates anyone to ever make a fuss about him. So the more I just ignored it and pretended it didn't bother me he started to just go when he thought I wasn't paying attention. I know we can become so obsessed with these different stages they go thru. I can know look back at it and laugh at myself for getting so freaked out by these things. Another thing I read when I was going through this is that it can be a control issue. It is one thing in there life that you can not control and they like that! But, look on the bright side my son has never wet the bed, He almost never has to go to the bathroom when we are out and he can hold it on long car rides with no problems. He never had an accident and he drinks way more water and liquids than I do. So don't sweat it this too shall pass and It can be a blessing in desgise. Now #two is a different thing. We still have issues with that. He still holds it for days and then when he goes he is in there for almost an hour. But I don't sweat it anymore I'm sure when he is an adult he will be just fine.
Hope this helps, L.

Hi there, G.. I had a very similar problem with my son when he was around 4...he is now 24. He would not let go of his bowel movements. It got to a point where he would sit on the floor and rock and rock so as to keep pressure on his little bottom and not go 'poop'. Sometimes it went on for a week until he, with great hoopla and distress and rewards and coaxing, would get on the toilet and go...I would have to hold his hand and let me tell you, when that poop came out, it was man-sized! It was not constipation, bowel obstruction or anything like that...many doctor visits to figure it out. What finally happened was I called a child psychologist friend of a friend who gave me advice that was so oppposite of what I was doing...he told me to not make any more references to his bowel movements, no questions, no coaxes, no rewards, etc.. complete indifference! YIKES! It was soooo difficult not to address my little one's discomfort, fear, etc. BUT IT WORKED! Within a week, a difficult one, my son was going to the potty and pooping by himself...I think the first few times I went and held his hand and did not say a single thing...maybe chit-chatted, but nothing about his bowels. I don't know if this will work, but it was like a miracle with my son. The doc said to make pooping just another, ordinary, everyday occurrence and not to make a big deal or fuss at all. Let me know how it goes and good luck.


When did you start trying to potty train her? Is she in school? I was wondering (if she is in school) what she does there?

Do you know that she is actually holding her urine and refusing to pee? Or perhaps she doesnt need to go as often as you. I only go 2 or 3 times a day... and the 3 times are when I am drinking alot of water. I go first thing in the morning and before bed... rarely do I go more than that. If you werent happy with your DRs diagnosis or lack thereof, get a second opinion, take her to a specialist, a Urologist.
As for her constipation... this could be related to the fact that she is not getting enough fluids... if she is not urinating often she is not drinking alot, and if she is constipated she is not drinking alot or getting enough fiber. Again, some people do not have a bowel movement everyday. I do not, I am regular, I am not constipated, I had discussed this with my doctor, and was informed it depends on how much fluid is taken and fiber. If she does have a movement every other day however, I recommend a urologist. Good Luck! (I am not a Doctor)

When I was ready to potty-train my daughter, I stumbled across a book at the library. It is called, Toilet Training in less than a day, by Nathan Azrin. I read it through and thought is sounded ridiculous, but also thought it was worth a try. I did it and it actually worked!!!! In one day, my daughter was potty-trained and after 2 weeks she didn't even have accidents at naptime or at night. They have advice for older kids, too. It might be worth a try. Good luck!

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.