2 Yr Old Boy Withholding Pee & How to Potty Train

Updated on April 08, 2010
M.B. asks from Decatur, IL
11 answers

My 27 month old son is withholding his pee all night & then will only go 1 or 2 x's during day. When he goes he becomes very fidgety & whines that his "bottom" hurts. We took him to the dr b/c I was worried he had an infection. Dr said he was ok & urine test came back ok. SO her advice is that its time to potty train. We had tried this a few weeks ago b/c he has been dry over night for months & tells us when he has gone, he does not like having a wet diaper and he would talk about the potty. We did the underwear thing for a weekend & he showed us he is not ready - he does not want to actually sit on the potty - he has all other signs but I refuse to force him to sit on the potty. We decided to walk away from it & try again in a month or so. In the past week he has started throwing "fits" when he has to go - screaming & crying, wanting to be held BUT he does not do this for the sitter - only my husband & I. We know its when he has to go b/c he has not gone in 5+ hours & he is grabbing at himself. I dont know what to do!? I have tried tough love - telling him to sit on the potty or in time out corner. I have never thrown a fit about messes or him not going potty - we tried all kinds of rewards when doing the potty training & you could tell he was very disappointed when he did not go & get his reward (I gave him stickers for trying but had candy for going). We need advice - my patience is wearing thin but I feel horribly for him...any other pee withholders with good tips?

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answers from Chicago on

My son was potty trained in the summer. This allowed him the opportunity to pee on trees, and bushes outside (where no one else could see him). This was exciting for him, and he learned how to control his bladder. It may not be the most proper of training, but it really worked for us.

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answers from Portland on

I find your request confusing, because at one point you say you refuse to force him to sit on the potty, but you also mention tough love and punishment. Perhaps because of the latter, it sounds to me as though your son has made some very unhealthy associations with peeing/pottying. Since he doesn't cry with the sitter, I'm disinclined to think there's a medical problem (assuming he does pee when the sitter is with him – if he stays dry with her, then maybe he still does have an infection, a cyst –something).

I hope you'll be able to try this idea on, because it could be the root of your problem. Parents often can't see that they've got an emotional investment in their children "succeeding" at certain things (eating, eliminating, behaving in front of others, etc.) that actually gets in the way of normal functioning and development.

The process subtly changes, from the child simply and automatically developing new capabilities and skills, to the child needing to please his parents by doing same. Some kids can do this, and some simply can't.

I have a very determined and autonomous younger sister who could not abide my mother's excessive need to manage everything her children did, and the outcome was horrible for her, for my mother, and for other siblings. Even as a child, I could see what the problem was, and yet had no way of telling my mom to put down her parenting concepts and back away slowly. That would have given my sister the space she needed to do things at her own pace, and there would have been SO MUCH less stress in our family. (And my sister, who is disabled by stress, would quite possibly be emotionally healthier today.)

This is an extreme case. But I've seen lesser versions played out in dozens of families during my lifetime. Mostly the parents are not asking for advice. Since you are, so I hope that means you'll consider the possibility that because this has become such an emotional hook for you, your son can't possible connect all the physical and emotional dots needed to make this process his own.

Can you consider just changing the subject when the need to pee arises? I expect you can tell by the clock that the pressure is building. Can you get him involved in a good physical game that involves fun and laughter? When he gets anxious and grabs himself, can you just hold him and assure him it's okay, he'll be able to go when he's ready? If I were in your position, I'd want to reassure my child that he will NOT be punished or pushed, and that I'll always be there to comfort him if that's what he needs.

Good luck. This must be anguish for you and daddy, as well as for your little boy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Let him stand and pee. Place some cherrios in the toilet and let him aim and sink them or put a drop of hand soap in the toilet and ask your son make bubbles.

When I first started training my son at 18 months, I thought he had to sit down to train. Then someone told me to try having him stand and shoot and that was what did it for him.

Also, let him go into the bathroom with your husband, so that he can see how big boys go potty.

He'll get there in no time.

Good luck.

P.S. When it's nicer outside, have him pee outdoors! Little boys love peeing outside! Just explain that he can only do it in your backyard when you are around. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

In my opinion, very few 2 year old boys are ready for potty training and it seems yours is not. I would keep him in diapers and when he cries and wants to be held because he has to go then I would sit and hold him and reassure him its ok while he goes. I think once he feels reassured in mom's or dad's arms for a while, this problem(as long as it isn't medical) will go away.

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answers from Chicago on

I agree with the advice you've been given. Don't time him out b/c he's not sitting on the potty. Tough love in that regard produces the opposite results. Two years old is very young for a boy so, yes, I would put him back in diapers. When he's ready, you'll know :) Withholding pee definitely is not a sign of potty readiness so I'd be a little concerned that your doctor gave you that advice - so, yes, perhaps a second opinion is in order. Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

No tough love or punishment needed. In fact, they're the opposite of helpful in this situation. If he's not anxious with the baby sitter, it's probably not a physical problem--or at least the anxiety part isn't. Take a step back from the potty training. You've got to resolve his anxiety first. If he asks to be held, hold him. If he starts throwing a fit, open your arms wide and say "Come to Mama; I'll hold you." Hold him and rock him and sooth him, and when he pees, praise him and tell Daddy he peed so Daddy can congratulate him, then change his diaper. Leave the potty out, but don't make him use it. Until he becomes less anxious, I wouldn't even ask him if he wants to use it. If you get upset or impatient, try not to let him see it. He is truly distressed and worried you're upset with him. He's making all sorts of negative associations with his body right now, and you don't want that. So even though it can be frustrating, for now, hold him and love on him and let him know he's OK and you're there for him. Also, remember he's quite young to be potty trained, especially for a boy. Holding his pee is a sign of anxiety rather than a sign of being ready to train. I find the emotional problems so much more difficult than the physical and behavioral ones. Good luck to you and your little guy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My son would hold his pee for hours and refuse to even try the potty. Most toddlers won't be ready physically to potty train before the age of three, but if you need to do it earlier like we did (for preschool, for example), a reward system and positive reinforcement are great. My son's doctor agreed, said to find your child's "currency", if he wants something bad enough he'll work for it.

We got him "Elmo's Potty Time" and he watched that for a couple of days. Then we introduced a reward system - it helped train him in just a couple of weeks and he had fun using it.

We made up some "coupons" on the computer (or you can buy tickets at Staples). We used these for potty training, and also to reward good behavior for when he does chores, or for outings (grocery shopping, errands) or when shares his toys at playgroup. We decorated each coupon with a picture of a sun but you can use whatever you want.

We also made up "super special coupons", for things that we really want to encourage or that he really doesn't want to do. For example, if he stays dry all day, he gets one of these. Or if he gets a shot at the doctor's, he'll also get one as a reward for being brave. We put two suns on these and he understands these are worth a lot more than the regular coupons.

At first, we gave him one coupon for just sitting on the potty for 10-15 minutes (he used to run away before), every hour or two (how often depends on your child). Then we gave him a coupon only if he went #1. If he went #2 as well, he would get another coupon.

He reedems the coupons for rewards. Find your child's currency - what they value - to see what will work. For our son, for example:

1 TV show = 1 sun (Curious George, Bob the Builder, Superwhy, etc.)
1 trip to the playground or to library = 3 suns
1 book = 5 suns
1 outing with his tricycle or car = 5 suns
1 little matchbox car = 5 suns
1 toy = 20 suns

He keeps his coupons in a little plastic bowl. As he redeems them, I save them in a separate place to give to him later.

It doesn't always work, no amount of coupons will get him to eat his veggies, but it's worked for many other things. We've also found out that punishing bad behavior by taking away coupons doesn't work - I think he's too young to understand this. Rewarding good behavior has been a lot more effective.

Another great tip I got was to use cotton training pants (sold at Target) instead of regular underwear or pull ups. These look like thick underwear and are allowed in his preschool - it absorbs enough to prevent a huge accident but will let him feel wet. You can use a plastic training pant over the cotton one (at home or at night) but he hated these enough to try to not have accidents. Our motto is Elmo's, "accidents happen and that's OK"! In all, it's been a positive experience for him and he rarely has accidents now, day or night.

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answers from Charlotte on




answers from Chicago on

I would do naked potty training ie spend the weekend at home and let him go bare from the waist down. When he needs to go, have him run to the potty. he will have a bunch of accidents but normally, this works well in a few days. It is a little like training a puppy. We also got a singing potty at Target and that was a great hit. When the pee hits the bottom, it sings - oh the excitement!! good luck


answers from Kansas City on

You need to decide when you want to start the training and then talk to him and tell him 'today we are going to start going in the potty' and then do it. You need to get the chart, stickers, or reward you decide to use ready and tell him about it and be sure it's something he's excited about. One of our kids got a small miniature marshmallow or two when he went. That was a big treat to him but to some of the others that would not have done it. Some got stickers and one got to pick a small toy at the END of the training. So whatever works for your son is good. Then I would take him, don't ask him but you take him, to sit on the potty every 15 min. Yes, that often. If he wets the underwear tell him that he needs to go in the potty and next time you're sure he'll try harder or something like that. Don't yell or punish him. Don't make him clean it up. Just clean it up and put dry pants on him. Go every 15 min. until he's going only in the potty and then you can go a bit longer from then on but it should only take a day or 2 to do this. My grandson did it in one day, one big mess with urine on him, pants and floor and that was it. He went to bed for his nap and insisted on wearing his underwear and no pullup and was dry from then on. That was it. My own kids were a bit younger than my grandson, about your son's age, and they did as well but took more than one day, usually about 2 days. No pull ups as they are a crutch and the child will nearly always go in them. You can do it if you are consistent, patient and firm. Hope it goes well.



answers from Chicago on

lab tests can be wrong. doctors can be wrong. Please seek a second opinion. I have pottied train a lot of kids, refusing to urinate at all is NOT a sign that they want to be potty trained.

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