Extreme Difficulty Potty and Diaper Change with a 33 Month Old

Updated on July 26, 2012
M.T. asks from Saint Paul, MN
19 answers

My son was always very active but now he's getting close to 3 he's big and strong. It's always been a challenge changing his diaper, with him moving around on changing table, but now it's getting really hard. If we put him on the changing table he curls up with his face down, knees in, or stands up, or worse, tries to slide down from the table head down. When we try to change him on the floor he spins around like he's break dancing or kicks the door non stop.

We're just starting to try pull up diapers so he doesn't have to lay down to have diaper changed - since it seems like he has never liked laying down. But then he often has sore butt and we have to put butt cream on him - wiping poop (any info on tricks for wiping well standing up welcome) and putting butt cream on the right places with him standing up have been difficult. And then once he fell with butt cream on and the cream got on the carpet....There is also a chance that he may start running around the house with butt cream (or poop) on him.

And this is if we can bring him into the changing room. When we tell him it's time to change diaper or go to potty, he runs around and around the house. It seemed like he thought it was kind of like a catching game so we stopped chasing him around but then we have to wait a long time before he comes in or we eventually have to go pick him up - at this age and with him struggling against us, it is hard.

Often at the end of the day when we have to change his diaper and change him into night clothes, it is such a struggle. It is a two people job and one of us often needs to restrain him, both to put diaper on and to put clothes on him. Today he threw a ball (we told him he can bring it - it made it easier for him to come to the changing room) towards my head twice, so I held his hands, looked at him in the eyes and was saying with a firm voice that he shouldn't throw a ball towards a person's head (I said calmly, but I understand that maybe it's a hard concept to grasp - balls are for throwing but not towards people's head?) - then he pretended to bite me and then when my husband took him he tried to spit towards me for a while. I've worked with young kids with behavior issues and he's starting to behave and feel like one of the kids that I used to work with. I've also seen dads restraining these kids and it escalating out of control. I don't want my family to take that path. What can I try to improve the situation?

Maybe this hyperactive avoidance of diaper change/potty comes from him having bad diaper rash most of his babyhood (and still often does). We're trying baking soda bath every day and cream at every diaper change (and sometimes corn starch).

Some additional info. At day care, he does fine with diaper change and sitting on potty.

Also, recently he hasn't been napping well at day care and maybe that has been causing him to be more wound up in the evening (or falls asleep on his high chair before or during dinner). Maybe trying to do his last change earlier may help but it is difficult to do it early enough before he starts to be affected by his lack of sleep (since sometimes he starts to feel it as early as 5:30pm).

Also we don't really experience behavioral issues with our son other than with this diaper and coming to potty issues. Maybe at times we still have to work on him throwing things.

Also maybe the guidance we'd like is that it's hard to takce ontrol of him physically now that he's so big and strong. It can turn into a serious power struggle and escalate. I know that we should have gotten a hold of it when he was tiny and easy to manage, but we are at where we are now (can't make him smaller). Any suggestions on how to take control of the situation at this stage?e

More additional info: We do try him on the potty - he sometimes goes at day care but never at home so far. He sits for about 10 seconds or less, says "all done" and wants to get up.

Thank you for suggestions to get him potty trained by having him naked waist down. We've been told that before but have been hesitant because most of our house is carpeted. Do people who do that accept that the kid will pee (or even poop) on carpet and that they would just have to clean it up? Does the smell completely come off (especially if the kid goes multiple times on carpet)?

Any suggestions will be welcome. Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thank you for all your responses! So far, by using pull-ups and changing him standing up, things have been much calmer. I close the door, and so far no running or sitting on the floor with poop/butt cream exposed! -- although my husband says he had a hard time taking a pull-up off when there was a lot of poop on it.

Your responses renewed our motivation to toilet train him soon. We haven't been able to do an intensive training this weekend because of plans we had, but hope to find a weekend soon to let him wear underwear and sitting him on toilet frequently.

Again, thank you for your comments and advice!

Featured Answers


answers from Minneapolis on

As a daycare provider of 15 years, with an additional 10 years as a child care professional, I highly recommend looking at Lora Jensen's 3 Day Potty Training method. Consider this as a base model for getting him trained.

I had a parent approach me with this several years ago and now push it on most of my families with great success. It has never NOT worked on any child when the parents really were committed to it at home. I was fully supportive of their efforts once the long weekend was done at home. All my kids are trained now between 22 mos and 28 mos.

But its a good base for training. Hard...but with the right training, anyone can make it work!

Best of luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

All my kids needed for that was a pop on the booty. Biting, hitting, throwing= NOT ok! He's old enough to know that it isn't ok behavior.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Lexington on

A 3 yr old definitely knows what they can and cannot do. I agree with a swift pop when he tries to hit you, spit at you or throw things at you. Talking nice also is not going to get you anywhere, find your "mom voice", just like with animals, a sharp deep no will get you a whole lot farther than fluttering eyelashes and sweetness. My daughters half-sister was the same at that age and hasn't grown too far out of it. While her mom can't get her to do anything, even something as simple as sit at the table when she doesn't feel like it I never have the issue when I am with her. I haven't touched the child, but she responds immediatly to being solidly told what to do.

Stop thinking of your child as some delicate little flower that has to be protected, sometimes being mean is the best way to show your love. Setting limits and real punishments will help your child grow into someone to be proud of, and for goodness sakes potty train that child! (Changing earlier will make no difference, you should change when they are dirty, not when the schedule dictates...)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I would try two things.
Plan on staying home secluded for a few days...no visitors, no playdates - and keep him butt naked.
Have him pee in the bushes and keep the potty chair out and about wherever you are.
You could even line a few large bowls with plastic bags and keep those handy.
He's old enough to reason. Tell him this is it. No more diapers. Your done fighting with his squirming body. Be serious and don't back down.
And a good swat on the tush to grab his attention for a moment might work wonders with type of behavior.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Since you can't control him during diaper changes potty train him. He's not a baby, he hasn't been one for awhile. Treat him like the little boy he is. Time to make it his responsibility.

Get rid of the diapers, keep him naked from the bottom down at home, sit him every 15 minutes, don't ask, tell him it's time to go potty. Right now it's a joke or a game to him, and if he does it at daycare, he can do it at home.

Sorry, I tend to be pretty matter-of-fact and to the point ☮

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If he hates having to lay down for diaper change, it may be the loss of control of himself, in which case restraining him is only going to escalate the behavior. He probably feels thwarted, and like he's being treated like a baby.

He's almost three. Any reason not to let him start using the potty?

He's not a baby, maybe he'd rather his diaper changes take place in the bathroom like other big people's potty business?

My suggestion would be to
-introduce the potty (gently).
-let him have a bit more control in the diaper change (let him help unfasten the diaper, pull on the clean pull up himself).
-have him sit on the potty between diapers, and wipe him there.
-He's almost 3. Let him dress himself and stop making yourselves crazy.

The other behavior has nothing to do with diaper changes. Hitting, spitting, biting, throwing etc. are aggressive behaviors. Tell him it's not allowed, and if he doesn't stop immediately put him in time-out for 3 minutes. Every time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have lots of carpet in my house too, and a potty-training 3 yr old. I am not willing to sacrifice my carpets to fecal matter, so I just let him wear underware. A few days after I switched him to underpants, he no longer pooped in his pants. He now only does it in the toilet, or if he is wearing a diaper during his nap/overnight, he might do it in the diaper.

Do you do baths at night? Night time baths have always worked very well for us, and I can get the younger kids in diapers with a good dose of diaper cream on them for the night right afterwards.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

The rash is NOT causing his behavior problems. It's a pattern and a game for him. Are you using time out? Does he have a favorite toy that could go into time out when he misbehaves? A sticker chart for good behavior? If you start the behavior chart, put something on there that would be easier to attain, maybe cooperating when brushing teeth and cooperating while changing. Buy a new toy he only gets to hold during changing time, take it away the minute he fights or runs.
You should amp up the potty training esp if they are doing it in school. I never did the naked thing. Just put him in underwear and take him to potty every 20 minutes. Have two potty chairs and let him choose which one to use to give him some control over the situation, have a timer by the chair, he must sit till timer goes off (60 seconds) Give him a chocolate chip for sitting and a choc kiss for performing.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

To me...it sounds like he has your number :( Also sounds like you have made excuses for his behavior thus he continues with it. Once you take control, things should change. I am a firm believer that kids only do what they are allowed to do. That doesn't mean that a parent hasn't tried to discipline but it is how they discipline and the consistency that makes the difference. No nice talk in situations like this. No excuses! No allowing behaviors such as biting or spitting - swift and strict punishment needs to be immediately applied. If you really think he has behavior issues (BAU kids) then you obviously need to take him to a doctor and have him evaluated. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

How has he been disciplined for this behavior? Any consequences for the biting and spitting and other shenanigans? Maybe it's time to try potty training again - just take the diapers away and stick him in underwear and make him start sitting on the potty every 2 hours? Have you talked about this with his pediatrician?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

My son is 3 years old and is not yet potty trained. He is big and strong willed!

I've been changing him standing up for at least a year. When he poops, he still gets changed standing up. I have him turn away from me, and I say, "Touch your toes." He does. He touches his toes and sticks his butt straight up in the air. It's very easy to clean. When that part's done I let him turn back around and face me, and I clean between his legs and just get anything that I've missed.

I found that with my older son, having been changed this way really helped him to understand what needed to be wiped. At first, when we would wipe him, I would have him touch his toes. He does a fabulous job of wiping. It might have been this practice or his personality. He's always liked being a clean boy.

Good luck! Isn't this age fun?!?

ETA: I might approach discipline differently from many people, because when I read your question I wasn't even thinking about punishing him for his behavior. Rather, I was thinking, what could you try that might work. (Sorry, that's just my parents in me. They always think of life that way. Why make something into a battle if you can think outside the box and come up with a solution everyone can live with.)

I would not spend so much energy trying to figure out why he's doing this or what other things in his life are upsetting him or anything of that nature. The fact that he does just fine at daycare and doesn't for you tells me that he's a very normal kid. Many kids will do great at daycare or school where there is structure and routine and very calm teachers. The kids just go with the flow. They know what to expect, the teachers are used to many different personalities, everything is predictable. Most kids come home from school or daycare and relax. Not that their lives are stressful, but home is their soft place to fall, the place where they can just relax and know they will always be loved. They know Mom and Dad will always love them, even when they misbehave, so they don't always behave as they should. This is normal!

Find something that works. Yes his behavior is inappropriate, and you might need to address that. But your real questions was how to make diaper changes successful. Maybe what i do will work for you, maybe it won't. But I would focus on trying a few ideas with him until you find something that works.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

He's 3 and probably needs out of the diapers.
It's summer, I'd spend a lot of time outside and teach him to pee on trees or whatever things you have in your yard. Once he knows his weiner is a squirt gun that he can control, he'll start using the john in the house.
My boys were nude, summer trainers, they actually squatted and pooped in the grass--- but only once. We examined it, talked about it, and thus they were able to understand that it's supposed to be in the toilet.
Also, have dad carry him in the bathroom with him and let him watch while he stands and pees.
Good luck.

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answers from San Francisco on

1) make him stand on a stool when you're changing him. I did this when my older daughter was a year old - she was quite the live wire at that point! That was the only way I could make her not act like a total spaz when it was time to change her diaper.

2) Potty train him already. He's almost 3. Pick a weekend when you have 3 days in a row, take the diapers off, have him run around naked from the waist down. Put him on the potty every 20 minutes whether he likes it or not. Lather, rinse, repeat, until he's potty trained. Just do it in a matter-of-fact way, same as you would for teaching him to put his clothes on, or teaching him to eat with a fork. It's just another skill he needs to learn. Save your sanity and do it now.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Potty train him. Summer and his age are the best combination. Train him outside with underwear on. He will learn to sense his need to use the bathroom. Let him pee in the yard or in a potty chair outside. Just have a lot of clothes on hand for the first few days. He will get it..especially if he hates diapers as much as he sounds like he does. And yes my girls peed on the carpet a number of times. Why do you think there are so many carpet cleaning services out there. Cause we are all in the same boat with you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Do not use pullups as a substitute for diapers. That is where the bad reputation of pullups come from. They should only be used as a potty training tool when you are ready to formally commit to potty training. You can let his bottom air out right after a diaper change but do not let him "run around" naked because he will pee and poop on your carpet and that is unsanitary and will not come out completely without some major cleaning (especially the pee). I think you might really need to commit to potty training your son. By commit, I mean that you need to dedicate 1 week potty training him on a schedule. The first few days he sits on the potty every 20-30 minutes. You give him a small reward for just sitting and a slightly bigger reward for going. You can put the potty in front of the t.v. if that is what he likes. After 2-3 days he should start asking to go. This is when you switch to pullups. I would not fight your son on this if as you say he really doesn't have dicipline issues besides this. Time to potty train.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My daughter was hard to potty train too, she was 3.5 before she was. And yes, I juts had to let her pee on the carpet sometimes, I would watch her like a hawk, and when I saw her positioning herself, I would grab the potty and stick it under her! I have a rug shampooer, so I did that regularly.
Nothing much worked for my child, other than just keep on keeping on. She is still in diapers in the night, at 4.5! I despair of it, but at least daytime is dry!
You will have to find a little treat that he really likes, and keep it only for when he pees or poos by himself, at his age, he is old enough to be reasoned with a little bit. Maybe a dum dum lolly each time he does it - yes I know its a lot of candy! but for a short period of time, something nice a substantially "treatish" like that, may be the push needed.



answers from Washington DC on

Ask daycare what they do. He may be fighting you because he gets a greater reaction out of you than the daycare providers. Or maybe they reprimanded him a certain way and he knows not to do whatever he did.

After a monster change, does he "win"? Or does he lose something? What is the consequence for the fight? When you tell him not to throw the ball, what about taking the ball and that's that? No throwing or no ball. Not even a discussion. It's not that he can't understand it. He's almost 3 and I'm pretty sure he does what he does for a reason - power struggle (are you clashing with him in any other way re: control?) might be why.

Not that you want to negotiate with him, but have you tried saying, "Son, in 2 minutes I'm changing your diaper." And that's that? If he fights you, he gets your attention. Bad attention, but he's got the spotlight. What about taking that spotlight off diapering and putting it on something else? Catch him being good?

That he can behave himself at daycare says there's something going on with you. He CAN behave. He just doesn't want to.

When my DD decides to do things her way and it screws up our timeframe, I tell her simply that if she wanted to do x or y, she needed to not act up and waste my time. Waste time? No time for the library or the park or whatever. Now I can say "you're wasting time" and she often straightens up.

So what's your son's consequence for wasting time and trying to bite you, etc? And are you consistent or can he wear you down?



answers from Bismarck on

We had a difficult stage changing diapers. I'm sorry I can't tell you the tricks we used, we just powered through and I really don't remember what we did.
Now at 3.5 he is finally potty trained. We basically did 3 intense days of training and no diapers. Yes we had some messes to clean up. Yes it seemed frustrating. We did have to bribe with candy after the potty and then a toy (2x after milestones each about $5 that he picked out). 2 weeks later and he is accident free and even dry most nights. We have had problems when driving 1 or more hrs at a shot which is hard to avoid living 1 hr from a city.
We didn't have poop in the carpet, although from extra messy diapers i know that diaper wipes clean the carpet well. Baking soda helps get the smell out.



answers from Sioux City on

An important developmental step for every child is potty training. Most children begin using the toilet as toddlers, usually between 18 months and 3 years old. (Note: It usually takes a little longer to potty train boys than girls. Boys, on average, can be successfully potty trained in 12 weeks. Girls, on average, can be successfully potty trained in 10 weeks.)

Signs that your child may be ready to start potty training include:

Staying dry for at least two hours at a time.
Having regular bowel movements.
Being able to follow instructions.
Being uncomfortable with dirty diapers and asking for them to be changed.
Asking to use the potty or saying that they need to urinate or have a bowel movement.
Showing interest in the toilet and/or wearing “big kid” underpants.
When you begin potty training:

Dress your child appropriately for potty training. Garments with elasticized waists, Velcro, and snaps are usually easy for your child to take off and put on.
Choose a potty seat that your child can easily use on their own.
Your child may want to personalize his/her potty: by letting him/her write his/her name on the little potty, a sense of ownership can develop. Your child may be more likely to use a potty if s/he feels it is uniquely his/hers.
Assure your child that s/he will not fall in the potty (many children have fears of falling in a toilet while sitting on it).
Encourage your child to use the potty at regular intervals - or whenever s/he show signs that s/he needs to go.
Use proper terms (urinating and defecating) as well as the terms your child may be more comfortable with (peeing and pooping). Make sure that you define your terms so that your child becomes adept at using the terms him-/herself.
Start with the basics. Both boys and girls should be shown how to potty from a seated position first. Once boys master urinating from a seated position, they can “graduate” to learning how to urinate while standing. The reason boys should learn to urinate while seated first is that bowel movements and urination often occur in the same bathroom visit . . . additionally, the delay in learning to urinate while standing minimizes the likelihood of your son making messes while enthralled with the spray he can create by urinating.
Teach your child to wipe properly. Show him/her how to remove toilet paper from the roll, wipe, and throw the used toilet paper in the toilet. Instruct girls to wipe from front to back, which helps avoid urinary tract infections. (Note: your child may need help to wipe effectively, especially after a bowel movement, until about age 4 or 5.)
Be supportive and use rewards, such as stickers, when your child is successful on the potty.
Use praise, applause, special songs, reading a special book in the bathroom, or whatever else resonates with your child.
Avoid pressure: your child will likely have accidents during the process. Don’t punish him or her for any setbacks.
Be sure that your babysitter understands your approach to potty training and is consistent with rewards, praise, etc.
Let your child pick out new ‘big kid” underpants with his/her favorite characters (Dora, Thomas the Train, etc.) on them.
Use potty-themed books and videos to reinforce key messages.
Don’t begin toilet training during a stressful time (e.g., moving, new baby, starting a new preschool, etc.)
Recognize that your child has control of his/her bodily functions, and you can’t get him/her to “go” on the potty until s/he is ready. Don’t turn this into a power struggle because it’s one that you won’t win. If your child seems to develop a resistance to potty training, don’t continue the potty training. You can resume potty training when you child again expresses an interest in learning to use the potty.
When your child has completed a visit to the potty, show your child how to flush the potty. Some children experience fear of the flushing mechanism: they fear that they themselves may be flushed away. You may need to flush the potty for your child for a period of time, until your child observes no harm resulting from each flush. At that time, your child should naturally develop a desire to try his/her own hand at flushing the potty. Once the potty is flushed, show your child how to wash his/her hands.
Calmly and patiently teaching your child how to use his/her potty can be a trust-building, bonding experience for both of you. Let the potty begin!

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