3 Year Old Potty Training Resistance and Discipline Issues

Updated on May 07, 2009
S.E. asks from Bozeman, MT
7 answers

My son just turned 3 and for the most part has been wonderful. We recently started potty training after having the potty chair for a while just sitting in the bathroom. He would sit on it in his diaper or use the chair as a stool to get into the tub. There is a place to put toilet paper on the chair and he pretends that flushed his potty chair, so he is totally comfortable with it. Even before we got "serious" with the potty training my son would sometimes tell me he had to go potty. So we'd go to the bathroom, get the diaper off and he wouldn't have to go. Now that we are serious about it, he seems terrified of the potty - screaming and throwing himself on the floor to avoid going to the bathroom. He seems to do this at daycare as well. I don't want to force him to go, but at the same time I know he needs to. Any advice? Also, he seems to have become more defiant lately which may be part of the reluctant training. We do time outs, but they only seem to work for a little bit then he is back to doing things we just told him not to. Do any of the moms out there have any ideas on how to get through to him that he can't do these things?

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answers from Casper on

My son was 4 before we got him potty trained. I wouldnt just stop the potty training maybe just back off a little. Just ask him every hour or so if he needs to go potty. Tell him what a big boy he is becoming and you are proud of him when ever he does something like pick up his toys or trying to help you cook or clean. Even when he is being nice to other kids and animals. I dont know if your husband would do it or maybe even a nephew or something. But have him go into the bathroom with another guy so he can see how its done. Make a really big deal out of it when he does use the potty. We did not make make my son sit to pee. We also didnt use a potty chair. But thats me I just dont like them. We let him run around naked when we was home. If he has an accident just have him help clean it up. Anyways thats how we finaly got my son potty trained. I never believed it when people said boys were harder then girls. But from what I went through with my daughters and then my son. I am a believer. Good luck to you. It will happen when he is ready.

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answers from Provo on

First, I want to tell you that all of my kids were different when it came to potty training. There are no magical tricks. I had one son who would have been content wearing a diaper to kindergarten. My little girl was not even a year old. I know that it is very hard for a working mother, but when your son finally accepts the idea he will probably take to it right away. Since he is three, you might want to try to get him to stand in front of the toilet. He is probably a big boy and this will help to massage his ego. Discipline is not really effective when it comes to potty training. Positive rewards are the key. Find out what he really likes (cars, ninja turtles, motorcycles) and go with that. Maybe some Lightning McQueen big boy underwear with work for him. Just tell him to make sure and not get Lightning dirty. Maybe he can put a Lightning McQueen sticker in a special book when he goes. I think you are so anxious to have him potty trained that he feels the tension in the air. Make it a fun time for him so he will want to do it.

I deal with several defiant children every day and consistency is the key. If it takes fifty times for you to take him to time out-you need to do it. Again, children can sense all kinds of things and do not let him get you upset. Keep a calm tone in your voice and tell him what you want done. He is at the testing age. My daughter has always had so much attitude, but she always knew that mom had a bigger attitude and didn't test the boundaries for long. A calm voice helps you gather your thoughts also.



answers from Salt Lake City on

we are doing potty training right now too and some days my 3 yr old dd does great and other days she just wants her pull up. I take my cues from her. I don't want to push her when she needs a break, and not all kids can feel when they need to use the bathroom at the same time. I know until recently she had no idea what that feeling was, but now I notice she starts to cross her legs--and she is more consistent about wanting to use the potty.
When we do go potty we read lots of potty books and watch Go Potty Go (a DVD) We have "Everyone Poops" "Chuga Chuga Poo Poo" "The Princess and the Potty" "I want my Potty" and a couple of other potty books that I can't think of the title right now, but we read them together and talk about the potty, she also comes in when I am going potty and I have an open door policy with her right now because I want her to know how natural it is. Her favorite book right now is "Everyone Poops" it's one of the newer ones...lol but I like how she is adjusting to the fact that babies go in diapers, then they transition to the potty when they get bigger. as a 3 year old she is all about getting bigger!
We have a basket with rewards, some for peeing and some for pooping so when she pees in the potty she gets a smaller prize (like a sticker) and when she poops it's a little bigger (like a toy car, she loves them, or bubbles)
nothing over a dollar since the first time she pooped in the potty, that time she got a polly pocket set.
and I make up little songs to sing about potty time and washing hands etc. I also got her her own sanitzer for when we are out in public--she loves that it is her own smell. (from bath and body)
anyway that is what we are doing...
good luck!



answers from Denver on

Your son is not ready for potty training. I know that is a hard idea to accept, but in a few short months this whole topic will be history, and you will forget this phase in his life.

He's a little tiny kid. That's hard to remember when he's also a person with whom you can have intelligent discussions, but he's just three. Potty-training is a complicated process requiring full body control and full impulse control and the emotional awareness of being willing and knowing that he's able. The reason potty training lasts so long in some kids is that these varous physical and mental developmental stages do not always happen on the same day or week or month.

If he's NOT ABLE to do it right now, but he's feeling pressure and disappointment coming from the people he loves, that will make him feel terrible. I suggest dropping the topic entirely. He will re-visit this topic soon, and he will accomplish this milestone soon, and then you'll be on to reading and riding bicycles and whistling and blowing bubble gum bubbles. Life is a process.



answers from Denver on

At three it is very normal for them to test you, be defiant.Continue time outs, taking favorite toys away for the day and stay consistent. It will sink in eventually! :)
You cannot force him to go potty, let the potty thing go.

I don't believe in potty chairs just because it is one more transition again to the big potty. Go get fun cushy potty seat cover for the big toilet. Potty seat just are not good in my opinion. Have a stool and the cover and try a different approach.

If he doesn't want to go, leave him be.

Put up a chart and have him want to work for something he really wants, for my son it was a Transformer. It literally took two weeks and he was done. All I said to my son was "well here you go, when you have 7 straight days of all good faces for going on the potty, then you can get your Transformer, you let me know when you are ready to start being a big boy"...that was it. There were a few bumps but I stuck him in pullups, never did the straight to underwear thing and in two weeks it was done, in three and a half even at night! :) My son was 38 months then.

He has to do it because he wants to though and if you start pressuring him or the daycare does, he will fight you and you won't win.
If he doesn't get the urge, there is nothing you can do but wait. He has to know the urge, be able to hold it and make it to the bathroom. He needs to wake up dry and be able to pull pants up and down. Until that happens, you just have to wait.
For my son who is almost five, charts for behavior, potty training and all that have been miracle workers! He thrives on seeing visuals of progress, or discipline. He likes having something to work towards as well as when he does the wrong thing sees how it effects his progress. It isn't flawless, but works for us.



answers from Salt Lake City on


The average age for boys to be finished training is 3 1/2. A lot of that is physiology - his neural development and bladder size aren't far enough along for him to control it. If you spend the next 6 months fighting him, it will be even longer. Go ahead and leave the potty out and let him sit on it when he asks but don't push the issue. It's very common for children to show interest in the potty, even want to sit on it and all, before they are physically or emotionally ready to go potty. And then we get so excited and rush into the training. I made that mistake with my son, fought for a year before giving up, and let him wait. He was 4 before he was trained and I think it was partly because I kept pushing him. With my younger son, I waited. I don't remember when exactly I started 'potty training' him or any special "aha moments" for him - it was basically that easy and non-eventful.

So don't make it a fight or a power struggle. This is one where kids can always win. Even if he does have the control and understanding, you can't MAKE him go in the potty. Don't worry, he won't go to kindergarten in diapers!



answers from Denver on

Take a deep breath! Your son will learn how to use the potty at his own pace in his own time - the more you pressure him, the more chance it will take longer - my DD was not trained til she was 3 + 3mo. and she is now great at it and happy - no fears, no tantrums, no screaming. It was a test of my patience/hubby patience but the truth is you cannot force your child to do this very natural step - he has to be comfortable with it in his own time. That does mean that you give him the tools to learn and are supportive though - give him some room to be comfortable with the new thing his body needs to do - very different after 3 years of a diaper! It is a step of independence for him and at the same time maybe a bit challenging.
Pick the battles carefully - but be supportive and recognize his accomplishments on this path - however small they may be - it is a huge change

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