HELP!! 4 Year Old Having Trouble Potty Training

Updated on January 29, 2011
D.A. asks from Patterson, NY
7 answers

I have a friend who has been struggling with potty training her daughter for the last 2 years. SHe currently only goes "pee pee" on the potty at home but still will not "poop". She has social anxieties and started pre school where she has bee suspended for having too many accidents. Due to her phobia of public bathrooms but also doesn't want to raise her hand or ask the teacher to go. My friend has to travel with her potty because she refuses to go on anything else. I don't know how to begin to help her and she really needs it. If any of you have experience with this please write.

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answers from New York on

Dear D.,

I have a son who's a year younger than your friend's daughter and has both social anxieties and related potty problems as well. Do I have the solution to this problem? H**l no. But I do have one very strong opinion about this little girl's situation.

I honestly cannot believe that a preschool is SUSPENDING a socially anxious child for "accidents." I mean, if a child didn't have social anxiety going into a situation like that, she'd have it coming out. Please forgive me for speaking so strongly, but these actions on the part of the school sound profoundly irresponsible and deeply, fundamentally unkind. Just so I can be super-clear, socially anxious people have oversensitive "shame meters." Using a shaming method like suspension over an issue that this child obviously cannot control is -- well I'll just say it -- abusive. If someone ever did that to my son, not only would I take him out of the school that minute, I'd be talking to a lawyer.

Okay (M. takes deep breath, tries to calm self). Wherever your friend lives, there have got to be other preschool options out there. I cannot recommend this strongly enough. Please suggest that your friend look for a new preschool, and sit down with the director and the teacher before enrolling her daughter. The right preschool should make accommodations for this. They can, for example, assign one adult, perhaps a teacher's aide, to be the little girl's "friend." It's likely to be a lot easier for your friend's daughter to signal to one person rather than raise her hand in front of the whole class. It also sounds within-reason for the mom to be able to drop this little girl's potty off with her daughter and pick it up with her. Finally, putting the social issue slightly aside, it sounds like there are a number of potty-related issues here: fear of pooping, fear of using an unfamiliar potty, fear of letting people know. I think it might make the most sense to address them one at a time -- first poop, then telling people, then the "big toilet." And new school. Please, new school.

Finally, forgive me. I realize that I sound crazed and fire-breathing in this post. I'm not, I mean I'm not like that normally: read my past posts. It just hurts my heart to hear about a child being treated this way.

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answers from Rochester on

Many parents have been in the same situation. Those who have consulted with their child's MD achieve success easier, less drama/trauma and quicker. You are mentioning social anxieties and being suspended from activities for repeated "offenses". Clearly peer/adult pressure is not effective - have the child ruled out for infections, etc.



answers from New York on

After two years, if toilet training is not successfully completed, something is wrong. If the child has anxiety issues, I'd be concerned with having those treated, it's a medical issue, regardless of whether or not she is having toileting issues.



answers from New York on

I have to agree with Miranda on the changing schools thing. Yes, the child needs help, and suspending her from PRESCHOOL is not the help she needs. I would never allow my son to attend such a harsh environment at 4 years old. My son is almost 5 and will not poop at school. He never has. He is afraid to wipe or not wipe well enough himself and not have me present to finish cleaning him up. He either never has to go at school or if he feels like it, he will hold it until we get home.

We too had some issues with pooping on the potty long after he was fully potty trained. He would ask for a diaper or pull up instead of using the potty. I have seen other posts before regarding that issue. Pooping on the potty can be scary. I would recognize the "poopy dance" right away and direct him to the potty. I encouraged him to go, "your tummy will feel better", "you can do it, I know you can", "EVERYBODY POOPS-mommy, daddy, grandma, etc". After a month or so of this, all was well.

As for the social anxiety thing, I also suggest a change in schools and possibly adding a playgroup or sport or art/music class to her weekly activites to help her build her confidence and get used to kids in a smaller setting.



answers from New York on

Whatever your friend is doing, she needs to change. The child probably has social anxieties because she fears messing herself. It seems your friend has made too big a deal of a normal part of life. So many parents have anxiety issues over potty training that they give them to their kids. Games and points and charts and rewards and cheerios and begging and celebrations. GOODNESS ME. Parents do not do any of this when they teach their child other things. Lets ate a pea. Give her a star.
Tell your friend to TELL her child to sit on the TOILET, not potty, every hour for 5 minutes or until she makes in the BIG toilet. At four she is old enough to sit on a regular toilet seat. If she is small teach her to hold on. Also show her that she cant get flushed and can only slip in so far and its not a big deal if she does.
The phobia of public bathrooms Im sure comes from mom lining the seat with all kinds of stuff and yelling 'dont touch anything.' Well the fact is you do NOT get diseases from toilet seats. Tests have proven there are more germs on faucet & door handles than from toilet seats. So mom has to lighten up too. Stop dragging a potty chair around.



answers from Cleveland on

hi, my son has social anxiety, he's 3years &7 month now.he goes to special school where they accept kids with diaper. i finally succed to potty train him at home. but he still refuse to go to the toilet anywhere outside home even at his grandma's house. i don't know what to do. can anyone help me????



answers from New York on

You are a great friend. But her mamma is going to have to insist she use the toilet and not play into her phobias and anxieties or even her own. She may even consider taking the child to the doctor's office for a visit to rule out any medical reasonings.

We all have to learn how to use the toilet, it is not optional. As parents it is our role to encourage children to exceed their own limitations and limitations placed on them by others.

Both the mother and the daughter need to be encouraged to face their fears and work through them. The toilet is not optional but mandatory. Not going to the toilet at 4 is even more embarrassing that actually going to the toilet.

Perhaps you can help by taking the child with you for a few days to help with this process if possible or go over to the mom's home to help there because sometimes it really does take a village. My 8 year old neice did the finishing touches to my 3 year old's potty training experience in one week from Christmas to New Years. She just insisted he use the toilet and he complied. They are now 15 and 20 years old. She is still bossy and he is relatively compliant. It's fun to watch. Hope this helps.