Potty Training Stubborn a Almost 4 Year Old

Updated on January 10, 2012
D.B. asks from Des Moines, IA
16 answers

Hi Everyone, I have the cutest, stubbornest almost 4 year old grandson ever!! Out of all of my children and grandchildren he is the stubbornness! I do really enjoy babysitting him during the week.. We really need some advise though.. When he was a little over 3 we tried getting him to sit on the potty! He refuses!! He throws the biggest fit! I use the little potty, but I think his parents have tried both... We have bought him the Thomas the Train little briefs, he cries and cries and wants his diaper back on, and he loves Thomas the Train... His Dad tried the peeing on the cheerios! We have bought him the best books and DVDs, but he refuses to listen and watch them.. I have tried talking to him and telling him what a good boy he is and when he goes potty in the potty chair he can go to school, but he says ( I am NOT a good boy grandma). They have bought him cute stickers, I have even started bribing him with candy and I hardly ever buy him candy... He has a 8 year old brother who he idealizes and has to do everything he does, so we have asked him, to take his little brother with him when he goes to the bathroom, but he refuses to go in with him!!! We finally gave up and just left him alone for about 8 months! Well now his parents are trying again. They have had a couple of people tell them to just take away the diapers and he won't like the feel of it and will go potty in the chair! So they took the diapers away except at bed time.. They told him there are no more diapers so you have to use the potty!! Well that's not working so well.. This is day 4 and he wonders off and pees.. He refuses to wear briefs or anything so it's quite the mess. I feel so sorry for him and them too.. Plus he's only had one bowl movement in 4 days!! That probably isn't good...Today he is at my house..were all trying very hard to be patient. I tried to get him to put the training pants on and he just keeps kicking and hitting me so of course i stopped trying.. I try talking to him very positively and telling him like how happy he will be with himself, can't wait to tell mommy, we can go swimming in the pools this summer and just everything i can think of.... He is not going for it.. I'm trying to be supportive of the parents but truthfully I'm having a hard time because i hate making him so upset and i just can't handle letting him pee all over my couch and carpet. (they have hard wood floors) I don't no what to do!! I just put him down for a nap and I'm pretty sure he is going to pee my bed!! Poor guy this has to be stressing him out. HELP!!! Do we give in again??

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So What Happened?

Thank You Everyone for you great responses!! We stuck with it.. I think it helped my daughter in law to know she wasn't alone.. I took the advise to keep him in the rooms were there wasn't any carpet, which at my house it is in the kitchen... I put the potty chair in there with toys and stuff for us to do. It helps that there is a TV in there.. Monday my first day with him he absolutely refused to sit on there or wear any type of briefs, he wet himself 2 times that day. I did put a diaper on him at nap. I keep telling him you'll get this and you'll have accidents at first. The second day was a nightmare. he started getting diarrhea, it was so frustrating, the potty chair was 1 foot in front of him and he had his pants off (i was still cleaning it up from a minute ago) I keep telling him to just sit on the potty!!! Still nothing.. He is a stubborn one but obviously the poor guy was getting the flu!! So we took our bath and i put a diaper on him. That night at home he said mommy i don't want to poop in my pants no more and i don't want to get it on Grandma's floor, will you please help me go potty!! YEAH!! He has gone in the potty ever since. Today is Monday the following week, he was so excited to come to grandma's and tell me that he decided he was going to wear briefs!! YEAH another break through!!! So again Thank You so much for all the advise.. It also helped me to stay strong and not give in..

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answers from Hartford on

What stuck out the most to me was you saying that you can't stand to see him upset. Oh well! Let him get upset. If you're going to toilet train then you have to be consistent in the method and take charge about it. If he's a typical child and doesn't have any sort of developmental delays, then there's nothing wrong with taking away the diapers and saying, "Hey, this is it. When you're here at Grandma's house you're going to use the toilet and wear underwear." Don't let him on the couch until he can learn to hold the pee and use the toilet. Put plastic down on the floors.

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answers from Santa Fe on

My son was stubborn too (and still is at age 7!) and what works is to find what will motivate him to want to do it himself. I had to quit mentioning potty training all together. He had heard it all and knew the right thing to do...he just did not want to. Constantly bringing it up just made him dig in his heels even more. What I did was I took him to his future preschool for a tour. The wonderful teachers gave him this amazing tour and he wanted to stay and play with some cool things he saw SOOOO badly (mostly the sand table). We told him, no you have to be potty trained before you go here. This was in the spring. I stopped harping on him about using the potty all summer but I would remind him that he could not go to preschool in the fall unless he was using the toilet and not diapers. 3 weeks before classes started he potty trained himself...I did nothing. I don't know if that will help or not. What would be something he would LOVE to do...something that would be very very exciting for him. Take him to see it but then leave telling him too bad you are not potty trained yet. One day when you are we can come back here to play.

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answers from Portland on

I have two websites that may really help you find a solution.

This one is the single most informative primer on potty training I've ever found. It gives a few variations on"readiness" checklists, plus tips on various training strategies, the best ages to start them, and the advantages and disadvantages of each approach: http://www.parentingscience.com/potty-training-tips.html

For those who encounter delays and resistance, this technique tends to be very effective: http://www.rogerknapp.com/medical/pottytrainingrefusals.htm. And you'll find that it echoes Melissa's advice to stop handling using the potty as a high-pressure situation. It may be just what you need, since all the intensity up till now has not worked so well.

And incidentally, child development researchers have found that telling children they "are" good, smart, handsome, or any other wonderful thing often has the unforturnate side effect of making them resist/disbelieve a too-good-to-be-true assessment of themselves, or conversely, make them afraid to try anything that might prove that assessment wrong. Here's a really fascinating article explaining this phenomenon: How NOT to Talk to Kids, by Po Bronson: http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

Wishing you all kinds of success!

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answers from Chicago on

Oh my gosh - my son just turned 5 in November. There was NOTHING that we could use to get him to go from the time he was 2 to 5....we tried sticker charts, taking him special places, on and on and on......we took away pull ups just before 4 (except at bedtime) - he was pretty good at going pee in the toilet but would wait until nighttime (when the pullup was put on him) to poop - this caused him to withhold to the point of getting encopresis.......there are few things children can completely control and my son had control in this - which is his personality.......he kept telling me a few months ago that once he turned 5 he wouldn't poop his pants again.......he was totally right......he had control and no matter what we said/did he was going to make the decision.
What made it better was when we ignored any potty talk - acted like it didn't matter. Sounds easy, but it wasn't - I was worried about judgement from family members, about having a child get judged for being his age and still soiling himself, about having a child that possibly could be going to kindergarten and not 100% independent in the toilet area!!!!!!!!!!

best of luck to you

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answers from Minneapolis on

I know it's too late for your grandson and all of you who keep your kids in diapers until this age probably going to roll your eyes,but I'm going to say it anyway.Kids are capable to be potty trained as early as you willing to start .Diaper maker companies like you to believe kids are not ready.Age 18 months-is about the right time.Then they won't question you and just take it as an everyday rutine. Yes,it takes some patience and you have to follow through and not to get lazy.Saves a lot of money on DVD's and other.
We didn't have dipers 15 years ago(in Russia),my son was potty trained completly at age 2,my daughter now is 2.5 and she is also done with diapers.
But to stay on a subject,I agree with other post-don't give up,just take away diapers,it's time.Make him clean the mess,let him be wet.It will be over soon.Not very many people go to college in diapers.

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answers from Cedar Rapids on

Until two weeks ago, this post would be EXACTLY how I would describe my son - and myself! He turned 4 at the beginning of September, and for years he had refused to be bribed, called himself "bad", and seemed to have zero control over his functions. We felt like total failures when his 2-year-old sister potty trained before him and even THAT had no effect on his attitude toward the whole thing. We found a preschool that allowed Pull-ups and sort of threw up our hands, to be honest.

Then, the week before Christmas, he was in the bath and suddenly stood up and said he had to go. He stood by the potty, put up the lid, and aimed perfectly. Wiped, flushed, washed his hands and acted like it was no big deal. He did that a few more times, so we asked if he would like to be potty trained now. He literally said, "okay!" so we told him the day after Christmas would be our "potty party" and when he woke up that morning, we put him in big-boy underwear (which he had ALWAYS refused to wear) and he kept them dry. He had exactly one accident overnight and none since. He has been dry during the day, at naps and nighttime, and even at school, church, etc. for the last two weeks.

I guess the moral of the story is - your grandson is NOT ready. Even though the calendar says he's almost 4, he isn't ready. For his sake - and yours - please just put the child in a Pull-up, ignore the comments and wait until he's ready!

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answers from Houston on

Oh my gosh, this is horrible, I'm sorry.

I would make him run around with no pants on, and keep him in a single room, so he can't wander off and pee. Every 30 minutes bring him to the bathroom, use a timer if you need. Also, put a waterproof liner on your bed, or make him sleep on a vinyl nap mat.

Also, he cannot be hitting and kicking you, this child needs some discipline, potty issues or not!

Maybe Dr Sears who is a child expert has some advice:

discipline issues:

potty training advice:

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answers from Norfolk on

We went cold turkey on the diapers (told them they were for babies), only pull ups at night. Maybe to a sticker chart. (its what we did.) One sticker for pee, two for #2. So many stickers you get _______ (fill in the blank w/ what he likes). You can make a list. We did if you got 7 stickers they got to pick out a car from dollar tree. When they got better at going, we would up it to like a week and so on. He is old enough to understand when he needs to go. Don't give up!! He is realizing he can push till you give. Stay strong.

Also you could set a timer, like taking him every 30 mins. to at least try to go. Good Luck

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answers from Wausau on

My 3.5 year old son is also giving me a run for my money when it comes to potty training. We are to the point that he will not poop for 5-7 once even 11 days!!! So after what is going to be an expensive doc. bill they took an x-ray to find that he is so full of pooo that could be from over a month ago!! (That explains the nasty smell of his poop when he would poop) Anyhow so now we have him on different probiotic, flax seed in yougurt, cut down the dairy and get an adult dose of miralax every day. The Doc. is hoping if he can get the poop under control that he might want to go on the potty by himself.
One thing that worked for us with the pee part was having a little shelf in the bathroom and I took him to the store and let him buy a couple toys that he wanted for when he went pee. Then the toys sat there.... and sat there.... and sat there until one day he wanted to play with one of them.
I get were your coming from on not wanting to hurt his feelings but when it comes to your house you need to put your foot down. I agree Grandmas house, Grandmas rule. Maybe buy white undies and have a painting day with him and let him paint some, then he might want to wear them. I also did sticker charts books, coloring pages, potty dance, pull ups etc. It came down to he had no choice but to wear undies and thicker sweats or wind pants. Good luck, let us know when you master it.

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answers from Washington DC on

With my stubborn daughter, I waited until I knew she had to go (she got so she could hold it for hours) and then when she came home from school I told her that I couldn't have pee on the carpets so she was going to have to stay in the kitchen. We had baby gates so she was pretty much stuck. We had a TV in there, so she could watch it, but it wasn't comfortable. It took 5 minutes and she said in a defiant tone, "Fine, then I go!" She stormed into the bathroom, grabbed her portable potty, took it into the kitchen, slammed it down, sat on it and went. We cheered, she called daddy and grandma and got a reward. Pee wise she was good to go after that. Pooping was more of a challenge. The doctor said to sneak fiber into her diet as much as I could so she would have to go. We started putting the potty chair in our living room in front of the TV. Gross but effective. I had to make up a silly story about sending her poop to a party in the toilet bowl. I also had to invest in the rewards that she wanted. She wanted tastycakes. She picked several kinds out at the store, called her potty treats. After a hostess ho ho she was trained.

My son was a bit more of a challenge. I had to take his diapers away and clean him up multiple times. When I knew he had to go, I held him on the potty while he cried (sounds mean, but I really think they have to understand the feeling). Once he went, it was like a light bulb went off. Oh, that was what I had to do. he called his daddy at work, and we went to the store to pick up the prize he wanted. It took a while to find out what he wanted as a reward too. His was a giant candy jar of candy he could pick from. And you have to find out if there is a fear involved.

Now my nephew took the cake. He was well over 4 and refused to go. My SIL was pulling her hair out. She left him with me over the weekend. I took him aside and told him that I really couldn't clean up pee and poop on the floor and he would need to use the toilet in my house. He shrugged and said okay. Every 2 hours I would take him to the potty and tell him to go. And you know what? He went. I told my SIL and she was floored. He still wouldn't go for her. A few weeks later, when they came to our pool, he clearly had to poop. She said she didn't care if he went in the pool. I very much did, as they have to shut the pool down for 8 hours if a kid poops in it. I took him aside and said, "if you go in the pool they will kick us out and we can't come back. Either you go in the bathroom or I can take you to my house, but either way you can't get back in the pool. If you go you get a treat at the snack bar." It was the first time he went for his mom. He got his treat and was trained. Grandma, you will probably have more success with your grandson than his parents will, because they are his parents and he doesn't want to give them the satisfaction. Just firmly tell him that he has to use the bathroom. And put a diaper on for naps. We kept them on at nap time and bedtime for a year after training.

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answers from Des Moines on

I hear you, D.! I am getting outside pressures to potty train our 3 year old daughter and all the signs point to "not ready"! I think it will be like flipping on a switch like in Keri W's response about how it clicked and her son began going in the potty. I hope that is what happens for you...and for me!

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answers from Hartford on

What stuck out the most to me was you saying that you can't stand to see him upset. Oh well! Let him get upset. If you're going to toilet train then you have to be consistent in the method and take charge about it. If he's a typical child and doesn't have any sort of developmental delays, then there's nothing wrong with taking away the diapers and saying, "Hey, this is it. When you're here at Grandma's house you're going to use the toilet and wear underwear." Don't let him on the couch until he can learn to hold the pee and use the toilet. Put plastic down on the floors.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My 3.5 yr old daughter is just as stubborn, but she gets that from me :( I was almost 5. My parents told me that if I didn't, I couldn't go to school and a week later I was good to go. I've tried that with her because she's already super excited to go to school, but to no avail. I recently bought a travel potty seat and the first time we used it she went potty. She'll go when she's on it, but we can't get her to tell us WHEN she needs to go. I'm curious to see what advice others have.
Peg M- kids that age believe everything we tell them, so telling them they're good is not a bad thing! My daughter tells me I'm the best, so why wouldn't I tell her the same thing, even if she isn't?

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answers from Dayton on

I'd give him books and some small toys and a TON of juice. Tell him that he isn't wearing diapers anymore, and you are going to help him learn to go potty. Then have him stay in the bathroom playing until he goes on the potty. Have him naked from the waist down and a little potty he can get on easily. Hopefully, he'll get bored of being in there and really have to pee. He won't like, he'll get upset, but he'll figure it out if you keep it up.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Have you (or his parents) talked to his doctor about it? Maybe he has some suggestions for you and he can also make sure there is nothing medically wrong that would prevent him from potty training.

You may also want to try letting him use the real toilet instead of a child's potty seat. Or, let him run around naked in the backyard and practice peeing out there - try to get him to go on command so he gets used to controlling when and where he goes.

Don't feel that you can't put a diaper on him for naps. A lot of children have a harder time training while they're asleep, and you don't want to have to change your sheets every single time.

Also, when he does wet his pants, don't change him right away. A friend of mine waited about 3 minutes before changing her kids so they could really feel what it was like to stand around in wet pants. It was short enough that it didn't give them a rash or cause any problems, but long enough to feel gross. (that was for pee, not poop)

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answers from Detroit on

We also went right to underwear with pullups at night. However, we tried this at 2yrs 11mo. and every 3 months after that and it finally clicked for him 6 weeks before turning 4. Try googling the 3-day potty training method. That's what we used as a gradual method did not work on either of our children. GL!

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answers from Duluth on

I had a stubborn boy as well and I would get upset when he didn't use the potty because I knew he was able to, he just didn't want to which in turn made him upset and then he had more accidents.
My best advice would be to wait. He'll know when he's ready. Don't try to push him too much. Don't punish him or be discouraging when he has accidents - they are just accidents, instead do lots and lots of praise and maybe treats if that helps when he does good. I found that the more positive and understanding I was to his learning, the faster he learned.
Good luck!!

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