I Think We Screwed up Potty Training

Updated on May 10, 2011
K.G. asks from Oregon City, OR
29 answers

Our daughter turns 3 today and is still not potty trained. I know some kids take longer than others, but I can't help but think that she should be going on the potty by now. I think it's in large part our own fault for pushing it, but now I need to know what to do to get her back on track.
The short story is that she went on the potty for the first time before she even turned 2. She knows how to do it, and can do it if she chooses to. However, she chooses not too. Not in the morning when she wakes up with a dry diaper, not after her nap when she wakes up with a dry diaper, and not when she says "I have a feeling." Anytime we ask about the potty, she simply says no.
I should note that we don't ever force her to go on the potty, we don't scold her for "accidents", etc. We just ask if she needs to use the potty. She has underpants and pull ups, but she asks for diapers most days. If she does ask to wear underpants she just pees or poops in them.
We have tried M&Ms, sticker charts, small rewards, etc. Nothing motivates her.
My question is: What do we do now? Do we completely ignore the issue? Put away the underpants, pull ups and potty and wait until she asks about it? Do we take all the diapers away and get ready for a messy week? I don't really care whether she is potty trained today or a year from now (I resigned myself to not being in control of this issue), but I don't want to be doing something that is slowing the process. Thoughts?
Thanks in advance.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all SOOOO much. It's so tough knowing that she is smart and capable, yet she just won't get on board with potty training. I think we will give the issue a rest for a month, and then try to go cold turkey. Maybe after a month of us not asking, she'll be more prepared to make the switch.
I really appreciate all the suggestions, support and encouragement. I'm telling myself that if I can get her potty trained, her sister will be a piece of cake. (I'm crossing my fingers that baby sister will want to do it because big sister does.)

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answers from Washington DC on

I didn't start either of my kids on training until they were 3y. Pick a long 3 day weekend and just go for it. Have her wear panties only. Nap time and bed time she can have a pullup, but as soon as she's awake that comes off. My kids would run around the house in just a tshirt and undies. It only take a few accidents for them to get the hang of it.

When you take her into the bathroom, leave the door open. Some kids don't like the door being closed.

When she does mess her pants, calmly take her into the bathroom, wash her down in the shower, if needed. Always change her outfits IN the bathroom. She'll get bored of having to take a shower, and will pay more attention.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

Let it go for now and try again in a month or two. At 3 my son was not into it either. I tried every month or so and at 3.5 he just decided he wanted underwear one day. I used an egg timer and set it for every 45 minutes and took him. Once he was ready, he was trained very quickly!

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answers from Seattle on

There are three things you can not make a child do--eat, sleep, or pee and poop when and where you want them do (sigh).

My son was 4 and still not trained. I was a relaxed parent. We went to meet his 4th year preschool teacher before school. I told her (within ear shot of my son) that he wasn't potty trained yet) and she said she did not normally take children that were not potty trained and did not change diapers.

Well, all his buddies were going to that class and there was no way he was not going to that class. We went home and he was potty trained in 2 days. By his own motivation. It was the easiest thing I never did. Really.

Perhaps you can find something that would motivate her in the same way. It also worked for my daughter but that is a much longer story, and I won't tell it here.

Good luck.

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answers from San Francisco on

{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}, ok, now take a deep breath and tell yourself the following:
1. I have a bright, healthy, lovable daughter
2. The age at which this bright, healthy, lovable daughter learns to use the potty independently has no correlation to a) her intelligence; b) her future school and career opportunities; c) her mom's parenting skills
3. This bright, healthy, lovable daughter is *not* the world's slowest potty trainee, and she *will* get it when she's ready

OK, now that we've got that cleared up, a few thoughts from my experience of parenting 9YO twin daughters who finally potty trained somewhere between 3.5 - 3.75 years of age: IMO potty training is sorta like climbing a mountain....
1. sometimes it seems insurmountable
2. sometimes you think you're *almost* at the summit and then you turn a corner and find you've still got a ways to go
3. some people will tackle the mountain with the most direct, dangerous, steep route (no diapers - it's potty or nothing!)
4. others will take a more gradual and longer route around the mountain instead of straight up

If you feel that the "gradual" approach suits you and your daughter - hey, you know her best, please don't worry that you're somehow irreversibly harming the process by not pushing the potty training. One mom of twins had an observation on weaning that I think applies to potty training too - she said that as our kids go through different developmental stages, sometimes they'll accept a change easily (e.g. weaning or using the potty), other times it seems like it'd be easier to raise the Titanic. And if you're at a "Titanic-raising" stage, sometimes it really makes sense to drop the matter for a while until your child is at a stage where she'll more readily take to the change. So it's a trade off- yes, you could try being pushier on the potty training and maybe she'd train sooner than if you dropped the matter for a while, but waiting might make less stress for both of you. You make the decision based on what you think works best for your situation, keep loving and encouraging your child, and know that while there isn't any perfect answer, your child *will* get potty trained without irreversible psychological harm :-)

Good luck! Right now it might seem that other parents are discussing potty training successes like they were college admissions, but hang in there - your daughter *will* get trained and honestly, by the time she reaches elementary school, no one's going to be asking how old she was when she potty trained :-).

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answers from Austin on

Our school taught me how to potty train my daughter. They just took her to the potty ever hour. There was no asking - just "it's time to go potty, lets go." We were not as good at home and kept wondering why she was having accidents. Well, as soon as we started the once an hour she got used to it and now it's a non-issue. Don't ever ask if she needs to go when the first start. My daughter always said no too so you are kind of setting her up for failure.

Also - we used pullups and she was never confused and didn't go in her pullup because she was on the potty every hour =)
She was potty trained by the time she was 2 1/2 months with just an occasional accident at night.

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answers from Milwaukee on

My son didn't get the hang of it until he was 3.5 years old. Give her some time.

AVOID Pull-Ups. Go to underware. It just confuses them.

Believe me, soon this will be a memory. I blinked and my son was potty trained and I almost missed it!



answers from Seattle on

My daughter wasn't potty trained until 3 1/2 and my son is past that age now and is still showing no interest. I don't think there is anything you can do to speed up the process. If you push before a child is ready, you will just become frustrated and upset the child. I would just leave your daughter alone until she shows signs of being interested again.



answers from Bellingham on

I have an extremely stubborn child that had absolutely no interest in potty training. She was almost four when i finally pushed the issue. I stripped her down and she ran around the house naked for about three days.

I tried doing underwear, pull-ups, giving candy, stickers. This was the only thing that worked for me. When they have underwear on, it still gives them the comfort to go even though it is running down their leg. Being naked, my child did not have one accident. She wanted me to put her underwear back on so she could go in them.

She finally semi-potty trained. She still pooped in her underwear, so we bought a present that she wanted. She got to look at it and was told that she could not have it until she started pooping in the toilet. It worked.

She is not night trained yet, but she is completely potty trained during the day. Hope this helps.



answers from Portland on

I don't know if this helps, but when our son was a bit older than three we gave him a choice: cloth diapers (which he rarely wore, but we had plenty) or underpants. Disposables at night only. We have the thick trainers from Hanna Andersson and really love them. In any case, the cloth diapers were tried once, and then he's stuck with underpants since. Having a choice, but not an easy one like disposables or Pull Ups, was helpful for him, and it worked for us that one of the choices wasn't very attractive to him. He wears underpants day and night now, but nighttime dryness can take a long time to achieve, each kid is different.



answers from Seattle on

My daughter is just over three, and she isn't potty trained either. We were well into training, and she was really getting it, and then daddy deployed, and the whole thing went to phooey. So I bought a bunch of pullups (diapers in your case), and I let her decide what she wanted to wear (John Rosemond recommends letting them decide). For a couple of weeks she was strictly pullups, and now we're back to half and half. It might work for you too.



answers from Appleton on

I don't think you can screw up potty training. I was great pottiy training my 4 kids but totally flunked while babysitting my 3 yr old grandson. I kept forgetting to ask him if he had to go.
Some kids are just resistant to potty training. Eventually they get it. All of my kids were very close to 3 yrs old by the time they were potty trained. If it continues talk to a kindergarten teacher to see if she can visit next school year at age 4. Maybe if she sees the fun the kids are having at kindergarten and knows she can't go unless she is potty trained it might help.
My grandson, 3 yrs old, is in a Montisorri school/daycare. They are all about independence at his school. If he has an accident he has to clean it up and change clothes by himself, no help. He sees that he misses play time with the other kids and doesn't want to miss play time so he goes potty.



answers from Seattle on

You're suggestion was a good one: Take away diapers/pull ups and prepare for a messy week. The first few days will be a nightmare with her fussing, but keep at it and she will be so proud of herself once the week is done and she is confident with her new big girl ways.



answers from Norfolk on

I'd stop asking her if she needs to go. I would tell her "You tell us when you're ready, I'm not going to ask you about this anymore." Then continue to use diapers. If you have truly resigned yourself to not being in control of this issue, it will become a non-issue. Maybe in a month, just ask her conversationally if she's thought about using the toilet. Repeat as necessary.



answers from Dallas on

I also have a 3 year old non potty trained girl.
People look at me stupid when I say she is not potty trained yet, but like you I have tried everything.
Now I do have some successes. One day I left her bottoms off, about 6 weeks ago, and I caught her just at the start of a wee, and I lifted her, and carried her, still weeing, to the potty, and she finished her wee. Ever since that day, she will always wee in the potty when she has no bottoms on, but bottoms on, she will wee, or poo in them every time. Plus it's not practical to have a nude bottomed girl when you are out, so it kind of sets us back every time I have to put a diaper on her again.
I am using the huggies cool alert at the moment, they make not one jot of difference.
Try and catch her mid wee, like I did, at least it's a start.



answers from Portland on

My daughter did the same thing after the first bowel movement. Her Dr. suggested I just go back to diapers and pull ups and 3 weeks later, she potty trained herself completely. I also used the My Potty video and book, which is gender specific. She loved them. Good Luck and keep breathing.



answers from Cumberland on

I agree-don't ask, just establish a once an hour routine with her--i'd say before drinking and eating and maybe 20-40 min. after drinking or eating. I've done that with 4 kids now starting all before the age of 2 and it has worked well. If I had asked my daughter if she had to go the answer would have been a stubborn no no matter what. I"d drop the diapers and pullups and go to underwear-and she can help clean up if she pees or poops in them. From what you say she wants control--well give her control, make the potty very accessible and try the once an hour routine ( try to limit drinks to meal and snack times so there is so regularity to when she has to go). Try a routine chart so she is clear about when there will be potty attempts. I found supplying books and small toys for distraction helped also. Good luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with minimes&mommy and mommyprovider, don't ask her, tell her. Just start a routine and take her to the potty, she sits on it, she goes or she doesn't go. She sits on the potty soon after waking up, after a meal, and on the hour. Yes, this is a lot of potty sitting time, but this is the method our daycare (and my mother) used. It can work. No rewards except for your enthusiastic "good job, you're a big girl" if something happens in the potty.

I didn't use the "wait until she's ready" method with my daughter. I started really early and didn't push, just made the potty a usual thing. I think older kids are more likely to make this into a power struggle. Or at least I believed my daughter would have, so I started early and it worked. She was trained by age 2. I read another responder to a similar question say "Someday she won't want to do her homework, either..."



answers from Seattle on

Hi K.,
By far pottly training is the hardest thing I've done with my kids! What worked best for my daughter was to go to the store and allow her to choose her "own" potty chair. It was pink and girlie and she used it all of about 5 times before she wanted to use the big potty and that was that. Best $15.00 spent. We tried rewards also but none of my kids really cared about them. When they're ready, they're ready. My oldest was 3 1/2 before he was trained. I would also suggest taking away the diapers all together. Tell her other babies need them now... :) Good luck and don't get discouraged. She will get it.


answers from Dallas on

Number one, NEVER, and I mean never, do pull-ups. They are completely ineffective as a training aid. Diapers or underwear.

OK Mom, you gotta pick one. All or nothing. Are you in or out? Your daughter may not be ready to train but then again you've been pushing the issue for over a year now, so if you give in now, you may be reinforcing her rebellion, which will make it harder later. Then again, if you cave now, and let her wear diapers for a few months, she may forget all about the pressure and go when she is ready. That is up to you but you HAVE TO pick one and stick with it.

If you go with training, I would suggest putting her in nothing but panties, every day. You already know that she knows how to go on the potty so when she has an accident, make her clean it up. I did that with my oldest daughter and it worked like a charm. AFter cleaning up her own pee, she never had another accident!

IMHO, I really think you should just give it up for a few months, let her wear diapers for a few months. When she's ready she will let you know. I don't think most kid really train until closer to 3.5 anyway.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck, I know it's frustrating, but be consistent and she will get the hang of it.



answers from Los Angeles on

my daughter was the same way. i backed off till about 3 1/2. my daughter still uses a pull up at night but during the day she is totally fine.
take a rest for a couple months then tell her that this is the last bag of diapers she will have and that she will get to wear big girl panties.
its hard to just let her pee her pants. but it will help her learn to realize when she has to use the potty. i would have my daughter wash her underwear when she would poop or pee in them



answers from Seattle on

It doesn't sound like you did anything wrong at all. My oldest son went through this exactly the same way and one day we talked about having him just wear underwear and not using diapers anymore like a lot of his friends. He was about three years and three months when we did this and suddenly within two weeks he was day AND night trained. We had been offering him all sorts of rewards before, etc., as well, and we too didn't force the issue or scold for accidents, etc. I think he just did it when he was ready. We were all excited because he had gone to the potty before he turned two as well, but then it took another year and a half before he was trained! I have heard the experts say that you can start training at two and have your child potty trained by three or you can start training by three and have your child potty trained by three. With our twins, who will be two in July, I have put the potty out, but I don't expect them to be trained for another year. They haven't even gone on the potty yet.
ANyway, as for your daughter, she will do it when she's ready, but you can try talking about it and building her up for a weekend without diapers or pull-ups and then go from there... Good luck!



answers from Portland on

You might try a potty watch. It's a digital watch you set with a timer and it plays a "potty song" when it's time to go. You can set it to go off in 30/45/60/90 min intervals. That way you aren't telling her to go and you avoid the whole power struggle issue.

If it were me I think I would just go cold turkey into under ware and let her know that she is a big girl now and big girls don't wear diapers. Brace yourself for the mess and do lots of laundry :oP .

If she is capable of staying dry and using the toilet then she should be. I would enlist her help when she soils herself. Make her clean out her undies in the the tub or sink. Make her wash herself off in the tub if necessary. Of course, you will have to be there to assist and scrub the bathroom later.

Just my opinion though. :o) Good Luck!



answers from Biloxi on

I went through that with my son. We were doing great on using the toilet, until he fell in...twice! After that he was all about diapers and hated the toilet. I let him use the diapers and then after awhile started telling him at every diaper change how small his diapers were getting and he'd soon be too big for them. Then, I mentioned pull-ups and underwear here and there. One day, after a few weeks of this, he told me that diapers were too small and he wanted to use pull-ups. Two weeks after going to pull-ups he was peeing on the toilet most times, with a few accidents. Now, a few weeks after that, he'll go all day without a pee accident in his pull-up and on Friday wore underwear at daycare all day. I think for him at this point it's a confidence thing. I never push him. I just say "maybe later" whenever he says "no" to anything relating to using a toilet. I know a lot of people say not to use pull-ups cuz it's a glorified diaper (I think it is too), but each child is different and will need a different approach. My son needs the security of a pull-up right now, but I also know that when he's ready, he'll go to underwear full-time. We're still working on #2, but I we'll get there in time.

Anyway, I think just letting her wear diapers for awhile and talking about the potty in a casual way might be a good approach. If she balks, just say "maybe later" and move on to something else. The less pressure, in my opinion, the better.

Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

Toss the diapers and the pull ups - make them not even an option anymore. Every time she has an accident she takes a bath - wont take long before she decides that bath time isnt so fun when you do it multiple times a day and that using the potty is a much better alternative. Try to make it fun and be positive, but don't put too much emphasis on it - reminders throughout the day. Potty times are the rules now - when she wakes up, after breakfast, lunch naps etc. Remember they will always put up resistance to change, but in a couple days it will become routine so don't give up. It probably seems like an overwhelming task right now, but you can do it and so can she! If she's waking up dry her body is more than ready. Forget the rewards, just use positive re-enforcement. We also called our Grandparents or whomever he wanted to tell them his successful pottying and he really enjoyed that. Worked for my son and it was rediculous how quickly he took to it once we stopped stressing ourselves out with it. Also if she has any older kids/cousins that are potty trained that she can play with and see that they have good bathroom habits that is a HUGE help. Kids usually want to immitate what their peers are doing. Dont give up and don't stop trying! She'll get it!


answers from Eugene on

Put away the diapers. I did something that was completely successful the first time and so I will advise you to do likewise. Underwear. When she wets her socks a couple of times she'll decide to use the potty.
Show her there are no more diapers day or night and you will have a wet week and a dry year.



answers from Portland on

My daughter was in her 3s when she day trained, she is 6 and she still needs a pull up at night. I remember I pushed and pushed, then I just stopped pushing and worrying, knowing that one day it would happen, she wouldnt be a 6th grader in a diaper... lol! It seemed when I relaxed about it and took it away as a struggle (and really meant it) it was nearly overnight she trained. Just pretty mush woke up and did it from that point on. It was almost like she was pushing back just to spite my efforts and desires. hmmmmm..... what lies ahead. :)


answers from Los Angeles on

I'd put away the diapers, pullups & whatever else, & keep the undies & if she messes, them, get her cleaning up the mess, in the bathroom sink. If she knows how & understands, she can have the control to do what she wants in her panties, but also be responsible for scrubbing them out. I would praise her for staying dry & going to the potty, but skip the rewards. The reward is, she gets to be a big girl and not wear diapers.



answers from Detroit on

I did pull-ups with my oldest and I did the pee and get candy, pee and get a prize, pee and get stickers and 10 other ways...BUT he (as all my Mommy friends told me.) when ready did it! one day he just decided he was done using pull-ups and until this day he has only had 2 accidents and none at night. he was almost 3.5 when he finally got it! but when he got "IT" he got it! I think when you push them it wears you out and them and from what I have noticed with some people that I know..pushing them only leads to peeing or pooing their pants time and time again (after the training is done) I refuse to clean up pee underwear from a child that is potty training..I HATE IT! and will not do it! I don't want pee on my furniture or my carpet..so I choose pull-ups.. I hope you find what works for you.. ALL MY FRIENDS told me stop fighting it he will get it when he is ready and they were right!



answers from Portland on

I'd take away the diapers and pullups. She's not allowed to have them, she's a big girl. Then I'd just deal with the mess.

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