How to Potty Train 3.5 Year-old Boy

Updated on February 23, 2008
J.D. asks from New Philadelphia, OH
12 answers

My 3.5 year-old son is very smart but he just refuses to potty train. I've tried to bribe him with candy, potty prizes (little toys he can get if he uses the potty), and new underwear that I let him pick out. He is excited about the prizes and underwear but isn't motivated to use the potty. Please help. I have a 5-month old daughter and buying diapers for both kids is really draining our family budget.

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answers from Elkhart on

Have you tried putting cheerios in the toilet and letting him try to sink them? Just a suggestion I heard works!

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answers from Fort Wayne on

You have to think about it logically. HE is choosing whether or not he is going to potty train , NOT YOU. All you have to do is make the choice, and then stick with it. Does he choose his bedtime, or other routines? In my opinion, you have to treat potty training the same way. With my little boy, I potty trained him at 30 months. What I did is from day one I put him in underwear. I sat him on the potty every single hour, until he peed. The first day it took 2 hours once, but he didn't mind because I brought the potty chair out in the livingroom and sat there and played with him the whole time. When he went pee, he got to stand on the counter and put a sticker on his potty chart. The second day, he started going pee a lot quicker after being sat down on the potty chair. On the third day, I started sitting him on the toilet with a potty cushion seat. I let him run around with no underwear on, because he was pooping in his underwear, and I thought I'd see if he'd still do it with none on. Well, after several attempts in a row, he finally did poop in the potty that day. He didn't like it, cried, but afterwards, I made a big deal about it and gave him a "poopy surprise bag" to reach in and pull a toy out of. So, after that, he wasn't so scared to poopy in the toilet. On the morning of the third day, he was starting to tell ME when he had to pee. On the fourth day, he had no accidents, compared to about 10 the day before (I kept the carpet shampooer out ALL DAY on the first three days.) By the 6th day, he was done with pullups at night too! I cut juice an hour before bedtime from day one. He only ever had 2 accidents after being potty trained. It's more about MOM being ready than the kid once they hit 2 1/2. Just don't give in. As soon as you do, it will be hard because they will know from then on that you DO have a breaking point, and if they fight hard enough, they WILL get their way. So, don't let them gain that control. If you dedicate yourself to it, it happens VERY quickly!



answers from Columbus on

My son will be 4 in April, He isn't fully potty trained yet but I did notice a big improvement when I bought him his own potty chair for downstairs and he uses the big potty for upstairs. He has 2 older sisters so he is very excited about going to school. I told him he has to go to the potty if he wants to go. That helped. I also have a chart I keep for all 3 that has little chores on it and each time they do one they get a sticker. After a certain amount of stickers they get a surprise, small toys or time alone with me etc. That helped also because for him he just loves earning his stickers. Also helped with brushing his teeth lol. He is into Diego and Spiderman so i bought him his underwear with those on it and he doesnt like to get them dirty. Other than those small things I'm not sure. I'm told boys are harder to potty train than girls. Hope this helps in some small way. Good luck.



answers from Columbus on

I have a 3y/o boy and we were/are having the same issue. I started a sticker chart. Everytime he goes to the potty like a big boy he gets a sticker. After 5 stickers he gets a sucker. If he goes all day with out and acident he gets to have ice cream with mom and dad for desert. It seems to be working. We have fewer accidents and more diaper free days.



answers from Toledo on

I know you'll get a ton of responses, but I have potty trained two children in ONE DAY using this method and I KNOW it works!!
I tried for about a year to potty train my first child and I was just about ready to give up when I came across this- the next day I tried it, and POOF!

Take away all distractions. Maybe get a children's illustrated book about the potty (to keep them focused). You should constantly be talking about the potty (positively).

PUSH fluids while you are training.

Every FIVE minutes, I asked my child to touch his/her panties/underwear. I asked them if they were wet or dry. This keeps them focused.

Every FIFTEEN minutes I sat them on the potty. Try for about a minute, maybe two- only enough for them to make an honest effort, but not long enough for them to get frustrated, mad, etc.

After toileting, give a treat to re-inforce the positive behavior. Even if they didnt potty, still give a treat. I used mini-marshmallows because they are small, easy, a whole bag last forever. If they went potty, I'd give them a small handful, if they didnt go potty, I gave them five. They quickly catch on that they get more when they go potty, so they'll be trying.

BE PREPARED for your child to wet his/her underwear the first time he potties while youre training. Use this as an example of touch (touch youre underwear- are they wet or dry) Also ask them if it feels yucky- Get some wipes or wet washcloths and have them HELP you clean up the mess, all the while talking about the potty and being positive.

With my daughter, all it took was ONE accident. We still went every fifteen minutes to the potty (For about four hours). At the time, she was still taking naps and I was worried she would wet the bed, but I put her down in panties anyway- she woke up dry and went straight to the bathroom to potty. That was it for her, she was potty trained!

For my son, he had TWO accidents before he caught on. But the same thing happened for him. It took a little longer (maybe six hours) with him because he doesnt like to focus, but it was still only a day. I must admit, i was frustrated when he wet his underpants the second time. I thought that by me having him touch his pants every five minutes and going potty every fifteen that he would catch on as fast as my daughter- i think he was just more stubborn. Anyway, just remember to push fluids and use the five/fifteen method and reward with something small like mini marshmallows, you'll be done with diapers in NO time, I PROMISE!!!!!

(My daughter was 3 1/2, very stubborn. We started trying to train her at 2 1/2, so this method did in one single day what I had tried to do for a year. My son is a year younger than my daughter, and I trained him about six months later. He was almost three when he was trained, again, in just one day.)

A lot of parents will say their kids are potty trained, yet their child goes to bed in a pull up or plastic pants. That is NOT potty trained.

I used this method to help three different friends potty train their children. I promise you it works- one thing to keep in mind though, one of my friends wasnt sure about the first few nights, so she put her son in pull ups for the first three nights (even after using this method). Every single night, he wet the pull-up. On the fourth night, I convinced her to put him to bed in his underwear, just protect the mattress. He stayed dry all night and has ever since.

Basically, if You give your child a chance to be lazy, he or she will RUN with it. Part of being consistent is keeping them in underwear at night, too. As a matter of fact, putting them in underwear at night is your best bet of finding out if your child will be a "bedwetter", something for which there is an underlying medical issue for, a lot of the times (such as an underdeveloped bladder).

My third child is 2, and I will be potty training him as soon as the weather warms up. I have found that it is easiest to potty train if your child wears nothing but underwear, and you have your child pull up/down the underwear themselves. Its easier for them to not have to deal with the other clothing getting in the way. In fact, my second child (my first boy) completely undressed every time he went potty for the first YEAR of being trained.

Also, I trained my son sitting down because boys often dont pay attention when their going potty- especially when theyre in a hurry to get back to something else.

I was heartbroken the first time I walked in the bathroom and he was stading up going potty. he had seen his father and decided he wanted to be just like him, so no more sitting down.

I would also suggest NOT using a potty chair. I used the kid's toilet seat that you place on the toilet, but with my daughter I had tried a potty chair, and the only thing it was ever used for was a place to sit while watching TV.

In the bathroom, kids know why they're there. With a potty seat, especially when it's put in front of the television, children are not going to potty train if they're not focused on what they're doing.

If you talk constantly about the potty and going pee and how your body works (in kid language) and how it feels to wear underwear instead of diapers, and being dry and flushing the toilet, etc etc.. keeping them focused on what they're doing works better than letting them go play. Children learn by repetition. You'll both be sick to death of hearing about the potty by the end of the day, but you'll have a potty trained child, and you'll both be happy as heck! Plus, after one or two accidents, when your child finally goes potty in the toilet, you'll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment- and by the second or third time, when your child is running to the bathroom on his own, you'll have jumped over a MAJOR hurdle!

(I STILL am screamed at to come wipe little bottoms, though!)

Five- touch
Fifteen- potty
Push fluids



answers from Columbus on

Sounds like you are doing prizes.

My son was potty trained about 3.5 years. It was very frustrating, as his peers were potty trained. I understand boys take longer. He hooked on the urinating in the potty better than pooping. At times, I would catch him filling his pants in the corner. I found myself practically yelling at him, then I re-thought my process. What worked for me was doing a "prize bucket." I bought a bunch of little toys (at the Dollar Store) and put them in a big bucket. I had him look at them, I popped in some of the favorites, like Spiderman and Transformer stuff. I told him that he could get a prize after he pooped in the potty. Initially, he was very interested and would pick out his toy in advance. When he did, we made a big deal out it. It actually worked, surprisingly. We kept the "prize bucket" filled enough where he could make choices. It cost me a little extra in the beginning, but in the long run I am not paying for pull-ups. I think sometimes, he "willed it" out of him to get a prize. Keep it cheap, Family Dollar and other discounted stores have a lot in stock for things cheap. Approach is key. Another parent friend did this too.

Good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

I had a really hard time training my now almost 5 year old. It was 3 and half before he was potty trained on days and we still wear pull ups at night. I was greatly concerned b/c I had tried everything that I could think of and that people suggested between the ages of 2 and 3 to potty train him. I'm talking EVERYTHING. Potty charts for 2 months with prizes for 5 stickers, He picked out the prizes, letting him run around naked or only in underwear for 24 hours x2 days. Sitting him on the potty every hour for 2 weeks straight with underwear on, praises and punishments, talks about why he couldn't seem to do it and nothing helped. He was showing signs he was ready he just wouldn't go. He was a very routine child. He went to bed every night between 8 and 9, he brushed his teeth tried to potty, said his goodnights to everyone in the house in the same order. Would clean up his toys without being asked, vaccum his room daily, had to be at day care the same time every day so that his routine there would not get messed up too much (if he missed circle time he would be lost for the whole day!)By 3, I asked the doctor what the deal was. She said that they are seeing smarter children potty train much later than others because they have too much other stuff that they want to learn and too much stuff going on in their heads right now to learn how to potty train. Also, clean child have problems b/c with diapers mommy and daddy have to deal with that mess and the child does not.
So, we gave it a rest for a few months in the summer. Reminding him to sit on the potty but not forcing any issuse. Then we got back on the horse a month before school started. He remained having one accident a day and needed continuial reminders. He was still pooping in his pants. When we got back to school, I showed him that his best friend was going on the potty now all by herself! Along with all his other friends. That did it, he realized that the other kids were doing something he hadn't yet. The next day he asked for the first time to poop on the potty. Went in and did it all alone. He didn't have an accident for a long time after that. We still have accidents sometimes if he is in a strange place and gets really busy doing something or thinking about other stuff. He had one a day when he was at his new school this year for the first month. Pooping and peeing. He just doesn't adjust well to change, he thinks about everything, every what if, way too much and forgets to "listen to his body" as we say.
So, hints I can give you...the less stressed you get about it the better. If there is anyone around his age to use as a little bit of peer pressure it might just work. And a lot of times when new sibling is around children regress in order to get attention. So any amount of progress you had made pre baby probably went down the drain. Try explaining that he's a big boy now and he needs to go on the potty like big boys.
I wonder if "mailing" his diapers away to a daiper fairy who will give them to babies that need them would help him? Just a thought. Best of Luck! I've been there. Hang in there momma your doing great!!!



answers from Cleveland on

My son wasn't fully trained until he was almost 5!!! I did all the praises, stickers, candy, rewards ... EVERYTHING! .. One thing that seemed to work that he just loved was I would put just a drop of dish soap (watered down, so it was an almost empty bottle) so when he went pee he made bubbles! He would be tickled, and it might have only been a coincidence, but he was trained within a couple of days. I had my husband show him how to make bubbles first and then he would take his turn. At first, it was a game to my son and he would come downstairs multiple times and ask dad to come and make bubbles for him, but once he realized that he could do it himself, he did! BIG BOY!!!! I would suggest not using the potty chair for pee pee because it can be a hard transition when it is time for him to start standing to pee. I don't know, as I didn't try, it was just something that was told to me, so I did it. So I'm passing it on! Good luck to you!!



answers from Indianapolis on

I just wanted to add another surprise for going potty. I had my dad call as Barney and tell him how proud he was that he went to the potty. Get someone to pretend to be his favorite cartoon character or hero. We also used the elmo potty training doll and had him show elmo how to go to the potty. He came with a sippy cup and a potty seat so they kinda get that drinking makes you go potty. And like others have said, I just didn't put him back in diapers except at night and then when he got it after a couple of days he didn't even wear the diapers to bed. He was not even 2 yet and I just told him no more diapers and he said ok and didn't have many accidents at all. He was always interested in the potty, so I would let him go with me. Just stick with it, consistency is the key.
Good Luck!!!



answers from Cleveland on

I know what your going through.My son was almost 4 when he was fully potty trained. What a chore it is. I had tried everything prizes,praise. I even got him a book just for potty time. Nothing seemed to work. So I just started putting him in underware and after a few times of wetting himself he didnt like it,so he started to use the potty. I had to still put him in pull-ups for the night but that didnt last long,no drinking after 7pm and no milk after 5pm they say milk makes you potty more. Dont give up It will happen. Boys are harder to potty train, my daughter was just shy of 2 when she got trained.



answers from Indianapolis on

Hi! I don't know if you've tried this yet, but my son just turned 2 on Xmas Eve, and he's already going in the potty for me sometimes. I actually take him with me when I have to use the restroom, and put his potty chair right next to mine. I know it sounds kindof silly, but it has really been working for us.



answers from South Bend on

I can feel for you, my son didn't start to use the potty till he was around that age...We had the same problems, we eventually just quit trying actually, because everyone was getting stressed about the whole process and it was making it harder...Take a break and he may surprise you like mine did, and just wake up one day and be completely trained...He has to want to do it, not be forced...Good luck!

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