19 answers

Slow Potty Training

We've been going through the potty training process with our daughter for at least a year now, on and off. She'll be 3 years old in 3 months. She understands the process of using the potty, knows what it's for, etc. But I can't get her to tell me when she needs to go. Sometimes she will tell me, but most of the time not. I've tried taking her every so many minutes, but if I say we are going to the potty, most of the time she fusses & refuses, so nothing happens. And of course she will not poop in the potty at all. I've talked to her about how she stinks when she poops in her diaper, but most of the time she won't even bother telling me she has pooped. If I smell it and ask her if she's pooped, she will just say no!

At daycare she will pee in the potty when they take her (of course, she actually listens to them!) and she's going with other kids. But they can't get her to poop in the potty either. At home I can't get her to go to the potty on a regular basis.

I've tried keeping her in panties at home. Sometimes it will help with getting her to pee in the potty, but other days it's just me cleaning up everywhere!!

Do I need to just leave her alone and wait longer? Is there something else I can try?

Not sure if this is part of the problem, but her dad has been deployed for several months now, so it's just me and our daughter at home. We do chat with him often on the Web, including with a Web cam. She is very much a Daddy's girl & talks about him often. She still seems to be a very normal 2, almost 3, year old.

Any suggestions?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you for all of the responses! I think I may try the reward idea. We have lots of Halloween candy anyways! I'll try restricting her candy to only when she uses the potty. We'll see how this goes tonight!

Featured Answers

Bribery!! Specifically: M&M's One for pee and two for poop. Keep a jar of them in or near the potty and don't give them out for any other thing but good behavior results.

Many babies aren't potty-trained til they are 3. You might just need to wait a month or two and then try again. Apparently it's easier and quicker to do it when they are truly ready; if you try before they are ready it can take forever, I've heard.

More Answers

I would tell her that you can tell that she just isn't ready and put her in diapers and completely DROP the subject for the next month or two. Then, try again. This is really a common problem in this age group and they ALL potty train eventually!

I went through the same thing with my daughter. She was very strong-willed and determined to not do what I asked of her. I would get her up in the middle of the night to pee and she would just refuse. I finally kept a large plastic bowl in the bathroom for warm water and would put her hands in it as she sat on the potty. Not even she could resist that sensation!

At four, she reverted to wetting the bed EVERY night after our son was born. I think your Daddy's Girl is really missing him and has just decided to "postpone" this new thing until he returns.

Try buying her some really pretty, big girl panties. Reminder her how surprised and PROUD Daddy will be when he finds out she's being a big girl for him while he's away!

Bribery!! Specifically: M&M's One for pee and two for poop. Keep a jar of them in or near the potty and don't give them out for any other thing but good behavior results.

Mine turned the corner when I put her only in panties (except for nap and bedtime) she improved within a few days and within about 2 weeks she was doing awesome. She also had to clean up her own messes. She hated touching the wet panties, but I wouldn't take them off for her she had to clean the floor (I cleaned it later when she was napping) and if she pooped that was a little more complicated, but she had to clean that up too-natural consequences. She never did get to the point where she told me she needed to go-I always told her when it was time (when she got up in the morning, after lunch, before nap etc... Now she will go on her own if she has to without me telling her. But we still have to tell her to go first thing in the morning, before nap and before bed. I also read recently that the goal is clean and dry so rewards for dry and clean panties, bigger rewards for keeping them clean and dry by using the potty. So say every 30 minutes ask if her panties are dry if she says yes, she gets 2 M&M's (or whatever is her favorite), when she keeps them dry by using the potty she gets 5 M&Ms or as we are doing, a treat from her trick-or-treat bag! Hope this is helpful-God bless you!

My friends had this kind of trouble and they finally tried this method and potty trained that kid in one day. They put him in underwear and when he went in his pants they would put him fully clothed into the shower fully dressed and turn on the cold water. Not warm, not hot, cold. They would take his clothes off him and make him rinse in the cold water and then dry him off, re-dress and start over. It took two times and it really worked. He did not like that cold water and decided using the potty wasn't that bad. Sounds a little harsh I know but it really works and in one day too!

What a lot of pressure! I know with daycare they really emphasize potty training. As you know, it is time consuming. It is possible she just hasn't physically developed enough that she can tell if she needs to potty. She is busy learning about her world and that is not a top priority for her. With her Daddy gone, please just relax and let her work it out on her own. She understands what it is and what it is for, keep gently reminding her. She'll get it. And you can depend on peer pressure at daycare to help out. The more she sees the other kids doing it, the more she will do it too. Please don't make this an issue for her.

Hi S.,
We tried the "gummy Bear" technique (she got 1 gummy for Peeing and 2 if she peed in the potty AND her undies were dry). She pees in the potty regularly at 2 yrs 8 mos.
She also started pooping in the potty daily when I told her she got a kiss for every Poop (The Hersey's variety).
You don't have to use candy, you can use stickers an inexpensive toy etc... We use candy b/c it's the only sugar she gets most days (except yogurt).
She still has accidents and still wears diapers for naps/nighttime and pullups when we go out.
I agree with the idea another Mom had about giving a reward for good behavior only. I also think the Mom who said her kids regressed when their Dad was deployed was on to something. If your daughter got "worse" or didn't improve any more after Daddy was sent over, that might be the case.
What if your Husband got into the picture. What if he started asking her if she had kept her diaper/pullup/panties dry that day?? Not in a judgemental way, just asking as in "how was your day today honey, good day at school? Did you pee and poop in the potty all day :-)??" Something like that.
Just my 2 cents, I SAH w/ our daughter so if I can't get her to do something (eat, get dressed etc...) Daddy CAN.
:-) Just my 2 cents,
Hope it helps & Good Luck.
:-) C.

Hi S.! You might try giving her a special surprise everytime she goes on the potty. I'm a mother of four and that's what I had to do with my oldest three. I would always use their favorite candy like M&Ms. Everytime they went pee on the potty they got 3 M&Ms and if they went poop they got to have a little handful. This gives them something to look forward to and they knew they couldn't have any unless they went on the potty. It's kind of like rewarding them for doing something good. Eventually they got the hang of it and by then they were potty trained. I hope this helps you and good luck! I know how frustrating it can be at times but hang in there. V.


Just a thought here.....but I wonder if daddy encourages her to use the potty more often.....then you could put a fake web cam in the bathroom? Would she use the potty more if she thought daddy was "there" to encourage her?

Sounds very odd....but maybe the whole "daddy's girl" thing with the added support from daddy will assist in the completion of the potty training? If that sounds too weird (its not meant in the weird way, I promise!) what if you were to put his picture in the bathroom?

Another thought.....You could box up some new panties and let her open them like a present? Special pretty panties from daddy because she is using the potty like a big girl?

Maybe let her make a short video or snap her picture for daddy after she's used the potty successfully?

I'd use the father/daughter relationship, if you think it will help you complete the training process.

It may just take a bit more time. Hang in there.

If you ask your pediatrican you will find out that this isn't even age appropriate. Until she can pedal a tricycle she doesn't have the muscle control to hold her urine or feces all the time. 2. Telling her she stinks and is bad for a normal body function can backfire you. She could start withholding etc and become impacted. 3. if she is refusing to potty, fussing etc, then she is under stress about this situation. 4. THe daycare is pushing for this because it is easier for them. THe AVERAGE child is potty trained at 3 years 4 months. So, half the kids are sooner and half are later. She is several months away from the average. THe reason she will go at school is because all of her friends are and she is programmed to line up and do what everyone else is doing.
Back off, relax and don't even mention it for a while. She knows where it is. Show it to her one last time and tell her it is there and she can use it anytime she wants. She doesn't have to ask and mommy isn't going to bother her about it. You will be so shocked but one day she will suddenly start using it. You said you have been trying for over a year that would mean she was barely 18 months old. Lots of kids are still on a bottle at that age . This is a huge stresser for everyone, relax, enjoy your baby and each stage of her development. Don't push her to be bigger than she is, let her be her. She will be a grown up for most of her life, let her be a child while she is one. Good luck

Hi S.-- Congrats on your progess so far with potty training. It is quite an ordeal. My daughter is 3 1/2 and now fully potty training and the poop part was definitely the hardest. What seemed to help my daughter was to buy her really pretty themed panties (Dora, Princesses, My Little Pony). She really didn't want to get poop on her little friends. LOL! It just really helped her to turn the corner on this one. Other than that, just give her some more time because the day will come when she will just start doing it. It's going to be amazing. Good luck to you!


I'm a military mom as well, and the mother of three kids. My husband has been on a lot of "business trips" over the years. You are definitely not alone! Right now, your daughter has one thing in her little world that she has complete control over...you guessed it. When and where she goes potty. My kids had problems when their dad left also. It's common even for kids who already have been potty trained to lose that skill when under stress. It's called regression. She might also start wanting more snuggle time with you, suck her thumb if she did that before, etc. It sounds like you are in tune with keeping her connected to Daddy. I think when she physically is able to go in the potty, and feels more in control of her world (when does he come home?), she will go in the toilet. I praised my kids when they did, and even had a "potty party" complete with hugs and stickers. In the meantime, relax! She may just not be ready.

Hi S.. My daughter had basically potty trained herself really early on. It was wonderful, amazing, felt so fortunate.....and then my husband deployed. I was so frustrated! It was if she had never heard of peeing in a toilet! Only if I physically picked her up and sat her down would she go. So I eventually just gave up and dropped it for a while. Well now, my husband has been back home (WooHoo!!) for 2 weeks and she is already doing a little better. She's still having about one pee accident a day and not at all pooping on the potty yet, but it's still a lot of progress compared to when he was gone. So keep your chin up! You're doing a great job, and if you need to drop the potty training a bit for everyone's sanity's sake then do it girl! :)

Sorry this is late... John Rosemond in "Making the 'Terrible' Twos Terrific!" says potty training, for the child, is not about cleanliness but independence, so he recommends leaving it to the child to self-regulate. If your child makes a mess, then teach him/her how to clean it up so they learn responsibility for their messes, too. He says if the child is allowed to personally direct the process, they will do so, rather than feeling like they're doing it to please someone else or to avoid getting in trouble.

As for pooping in panties - my husband pooped in his underwear up until age four, when his parents in frustration handed him over to his grandmother. The first time he did that, she made him wash the underwear out himself. He never pooped in his underwear again, I guess because he learned that the potty was less messy!

Best advice I ever got was leave 'em alone. They *will* get tired of messing on themselves. My son was 3 when he decided he was through messing his pull up. That's the only thing I suggest. Get pullups and just act as if gross and sad if have accident in pullup. Talk about big kid things and tell 'em can't do big kid things unless wear big kid undies. For my son it was the excitement of going to big kid school. I told him babies can't go there. They won't change you if you mess urself. You'll be stuck with poop and pee all over your bootie. Nasty.. Heh. That worked for us. Good luck!

Personally I would drop the whole potty training bit for a while. Kinda wait for her to attempt it on her own and when she does do it all out get rid of all diapers and pull-ups and go for it and don't give up, it can be a bit frustrating but she will get it. I do believe her Daddy being gone has something to do with it. At 2 she can't express her feelings or even understand what she is feeling. I personally believe that the biggest key to potty training is to get rid of all diapers and only use panties. It worked for my 5 kiddos.
Good Luck

I feel your pain! My son is the same age and had the same problems 3 months ago. I let it go for awhile. He was doing great at daycare, so we cold-turkeyed it and went to underwear. Occasionally, I would put pull-ups over the underwear-this is annoying for them because they feel the wetness, but she can wear her favorite cartoon character this way. We also rewarded with jellybeans-1 for pee, 2 for poop. This slowly faded, but he will stil remind us from time to time and we get out the jellybeans. He was very stubborn this summer and wouldn't go if I suggested it, but was better with everyone else. Another thing we do now is potty before transitions (transitions that she wants, that is!) If she wants to play with chalks or play-doh, say ok, then (really excited) let's go potty real fast so we can _____! This has worked really well for us. If you plan transitions with potty, then she doesn't get the new desired thing until she goes! (Don't use for things she doesn't want, just yet) And you don't have to be nervous thinking she will potty any minute!

I never thought I'd be saying this, but I highly believe in theh power of positive rewards (bribes) now. My 3 year old son was highly resistant to me taking him to the potty and still is. He will wait until he is leaking before he will actually go. I think it's a control thing. To potty train him, we had success with bribes. He gets candy only rarely, so we used an M&M every time he peed in the potty and a matchbox car for pooping...we had to go big for that one. It really worked and wasn't too hard to break the cycle once he got good at it. The key is to start easy, like give her an M&M every time she SITS on the potty at first and get harder...eventually only when she pees and doesn't miss at all. You just have to make sure she knows the rules. I hope this helps! I had to keep telling myself...no one goes to high school in diapers!

Many babies aren't potty-trained til they are 3. You might just need to wait a month or two and then try again. Apparently it's easier and quicker to do it when they are truly ready; if you try before they are ready it can take forever, I've heard.

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