40 answers

Deperate for Help Potty Training a 4 Year Old

Hi, my daughter is the most stubborn girl I've ever seen. Potty training has been the longest process with her. My problem is she refuses to have a bowel movement in the potty. She'll wait until after she goes to bed and do it in her pull-up. She'll also go days without having a bm, which makes it very hard and large, to the point that it hurts her. We've tried everything we can think of. I've taken her to the doctor, and nothing's wrong physically. I tried getting mad at her, then she just started asking Daddy to change her because Daddy doesn't get mad. I've told Daddy to get mad, but that didn't work. I've tried bribing, telling her she can't go to preschool if she doesn't go in the potty. I've told her Santa is watching and if she goes in the potty he'll be happy and bring her a special present. Her reply to everything is - "I don't want to go. I'll go when I'm big like you." And I believe her!! But I'm 30, and I don't want to change her pull-up for another 26 years! I've thought about making her change herself, which might work, but it seems so mean to do that, plus the mess that would make. Any advice would be great, but remember we're working with a very smart, very stubborn girl here. Thank you!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I don't think it's mean to make her change her own pull up. It seems that she has control over her bms and she is choosing to do it at night. I would try to find out why she doesn't want to go on the potty -she is at that age where something could be frightening her. Try to get her rationale. If you can't, then let her know she's a big girl and can change her own pull ups. Yes, she will make a mess, and yes, she will have to clean it up.

1 mom found this helpful

Hey S.! I have a 3 1/2 year old girl who is doing the exact same thing! My husband and I have tried everything too, and have had no success- so don't feel alone! I'm can"t wait to see the advice that someone may have. Good luck to you!!! K. C.

My 4yo son pulled the same thing! Even the "waiting until he's asleep" part. He would also wait for days, too. He's just past that phase and I'll tell you what helped:

1) Metamucil wafers. We started him out on half a wafer, to test them out, and it made it soooo much easier when he went. After a while, we went ahead and started giving him a whole one, once a day, and it's keeping him regular without going too far. (apple cinnamon is his favorite...they taste pretty good!)
I think this helped with the anxiety, because the reason he didn't want to go, I guess, is because those bm's were so large and painful.

2) Know the signs. My son has a definite walk when he's ready to go. Recognize signs and address it.

3) Breathe. I know it sounds silly, but when my son is sitting on the potty, screaming that he doesn't want to poop, I tell him calmly to take a deep breath. I'll do it with him saying, "take a deep breath through the nose, and out through the mouth". If anything, it will help you handle the situation in a lot calmer way.
I was shocked the first time I did it...first, that he listened and took direction in that state, but secondly, that after about 3 deep breaths, he pooped! Could be it got him to relax and thinking about something else, or could be he just couldn't hold it any more...

Please, I KNOW it's difficult, but don't get mad at the poor kid. Pooping is hard enough and adding stress on top of it makes it worse.

I hope this helps and good luck!
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More Answers

Feel your pain...my daughter just turned 4 and we only just went through this process for the past 3 mos. We occasionally still have accidents but it has gotten better.

Have you found out WHY she doesn't want to poop in the potty? Maybe Dad can get it out of her (the information that is)...I ultimately had to turn the potty training over to the preschool as she refused to do it for me. She would even come home and change out of her underwear and put the pull-ups on! No kidding!

One mom told me her Dr. prescribed some kind of laxative that you gave to the kiddo several times a day that kept them soft and MADE them go! That was next on my list...but eventually she just started going in the pot. I already had a baby doll in a closet for her on the day she decided to finally do it and I gave it to her right afterwards and told her how proud I was of her...I went on and on about it all day and told EVERYONE we knew...I think because of that and all the praise she decided it was a good thing to continue and has since gone on her own. In fact every time she goes to the bathroom she tells me and tells me how proud I am of her for doing it! LOL...

I would recommend either getting the RX from the Dr. or getting the children's laxative over the counter to try to keep her more regular. I tried the having to change the diaper herself and boy was that a mess...lots and lots of shower/baths. Persistance...I'll think on it some more and see if I can't write you more later.

2 moms found this helpful

Miralax is over the counter and does the same thing as as the Rx stuff. In fact it use to be Rx. My daughter was almost 4 before she was completely potty trained and part of the problem was she was afraid to go cuz it hurt to poop sitting down. So try the laxative and see if that dosent help! I got lucky. Mine wanted to go to preschool so bad that she kind of forced herself! Good luck! Oh and remember, little girls like sparkly stickers. Or mine did at least! I kept a book of them in the bathroom drawer and a little chart on the back of the bathroom door! She seemed to like that too!

2 moms found this helpful

I am just getting through this with my 3 yr old daughter too. She has always had issues with constipation and I know that she associates having a bm in the bathroom as a painful experience. She too will go days without one and then it hurts and is quite large. For the last two weeks now she has been pooping in potty chair or toilet! I finally started in stages. First I started adding Benefiber to her milk. A teaspoon in each glass of milk. I also give her a probiotic (good bacteria your gut needs for healthy digestion) powder for kids mixed in her yogurt, applesauce, or pudding two to three times a week. I get mine from our chiropracter but I think you can also get it at a health food/wellness store.
It took about a week to two weeks to get her having a bm once a day that was soft, easy to pass, and well-formed.
Next I started telling her that she needed to poop in the bathroom. She could still do it in her diaper/pull-up but she had to just stand in the bathroom. After a few days of that then she had to sit down for her bm (still wearing the diaper or pullup that she wears at bedtime). 2 days of sitting and she agreed to take the diaper off and sit on the potty chair. She prefers the potty chair because she can have both feet flat on the floor which makes it easier. When she goes in the potty chair she gets a sticker on a chart and with 20 stickers she gets a treat from Dairy Queen.
It's been 2 weeks now since she agreed to poop directly in the potty chair and she now tells me during the daytime when she feels that bm coming.
The key for my daughter is keeping her bm's soft and regular with the Benefiber and probiotics.
Good luck, I know just how frustrating it can be.

2 moms found this helpful

This is NOT a battle that you are going to win...you have to start with some positive enforcement...I like some of the other Mom's suggestions...sparkly stickers on a calendar there on the bathroom door...when she gets a certain number...she gets a treat. I would also talk to you doctor about some miralax or benefiber...something to make it easier for her to go potty...if that is a problem at all.
Forget fussing at her...it is just going to make her more stubborn. Try really BRAGGING on the other children in your daycare when THEY go potty in the potty chair...no comments about her not going...just really talk it up about them using the potty chair like big people. Ask the other parents if it would be alright to give a treat...or a "prize" for going potty...something small...a sticker...or a couple of m&ms....maybe that would convince her!!!
Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful

I don't think it's mean to make her change her own pull up. It seems that she has control over her bms and she is choosing to do it at night. I would try to find out why she doesn't want to go on the potty -she is at that age where something could be frightening her. Try to get her rationale. If you can't, then let her know she's a big girl and can change her own pull ups. Yes, she will make a mess, and yes, she will have to clean it up.

1 mom found this helpful

S.,
I can feel your pain (and frustration) as I had a very similar experience with my 3 yr old. She had pooped on the potty but then for several months refused to do so. She would only poop in a pullup. So what I did-realizing that punishing wasn't working and rewarding wasn't working either, was we set a date. Then I had her tell me when she had to poop and then we put on a pullup and then I made her stand in the bathroom while she pooped (so she couldn't play etc) then I even had her sit on the potty with the pullup on. We did do the miralax for a brief period. It did make it harder for her to hold it, but it kind of backfired because it just made her more determined not to poop and more traumatic. We also tried having her change herself, but it got messy. I don't think that is cruel. You might also try putting her in thicker underwear at night and hope that she might not want to have accidents (we also put our daughter in thick underwear during the process and now she is night trained too) I learned quickly that it is a total control issue and when I backed off and made it seem like I didn't care (sometimes difficult to hide how much I cared) then she was more interested. It took us several months. Maybe take a little break from it as well. I did that too and it helped me regroup and not spend so much time obsessing about it. Best of luck!!!

I know your feelings of frustration all too well. My son began having problems with "constipation" at about a year old, after I quit nursing him. Our doctor also did several tests to determine that nothing physically was wrong. I even consulted with a dietitian and learned what foods were best to increase his fiber intake, etc. In the meantime, the doctor put him on a low dose of Miralax, which helped with the constipation, but did not eliminate his resistance to sitting on the potty (as he got older), and the accidents in between.

Finally, a new doctor diagnosed him with Encopresis and he began to see a child psychologist for about a year, while we gradually "weaned" him off of the Miralax. Part of the strategy was to set up a reward system. We made a small poster with pictures of activities, games, or a small toy, etc. that he could choose from when he "made one" in the toilet. I was also instructed not to make a big deal about the soiling, but to provide encouragement and praise when he did do it in the toilet. The accidents stopped for about 3-4 months as soon as he was off of the Miralax, but it seemed that the constipation gradually became an issue again, with the little accidents in between. It got to the point where he would go for days without a normal BM, but when he would have one it would be very large and uncomfortable.

At my wits end, and out of extreme frustration, I took him to a Gastroenterologist at Children's Mercy, and he is finally, at 8 years old, having normal stools without accidents. He was put back on Miralax, but at a very controlled dosage, and I actually began to understand what was going on with my little guy. It probably began as a result of a painful BM at some point, causing him to hold it, but ultimately resulting in stretching out his colon over time to the point of not being able to sense when he had to go anymore. The idea of going back on a strict regimen of Miralax, was to get him to have at least 2 BM's a day, preventing the colon from stretching out, and to eventually resume a normal size, at which point his ability to sense the need to use the toilet returned.

It sounds as though your daughter's intestines may be getting too full in between BM's, and she is therefore losing the sensation that she has to go. The doctor explained that it can take at least 3 months for the colon to resume a normal size and I urge you to go to a specialist as soon as possible, so that you don't end up going through the long drawn out and agonizing process that we did. I know this is a long response, but I sincerely hope it helps!

Some advice I have is start putting her to bed in regular underwear. I know it sounds messy, but the mess is what is going to make her stop. She does not feel the mess as much in a pull up. You will have to use plastic sheets of course. Or at night just before bed spend an hour in the bathroom with her, and make her sit on the toilet, you can read to her while in there. I know this is going to take up your time, but it might work. Look up on google how to potty train in 24 hours and read this. I work with a lady who says her son was trained in 24 hours. She had to spend a whole day in the bathroom with her son, but it worked. My husband swears by the regular underwear trick, kids don't like the wet and messy feel. He potty trained both of his daughters (My step-daughters) this way. Or also when you are at home with her and see her grunting or looking uncomfortable, run her to the bathroom and make her sit on the toilet, from M..

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