My Almost 3 Year Old Has No Interest in Potty training,..what to Do?

Updated on January 18, 2011
C.M. asks from Saint Paul, MN
14 answers

Okay everyone, here's the deal. I'm due with my second child in April. I will not lie, I really would like to have my 3 year old (turns 3 in Feb) daughter potty trained. This is my wish, but I don't know what to do. She shows NO INTEREST. She did about 6 months ago, she went on the potty for about 3 days with no success, but at least sat on it and tried. Once those 3 days were up, she had a melt down threw a fit and screamed for diapers. She wouldn't want to even see a pull-up nearby. Not wanting this to be a bad issue, I backed off and decided she was not ready. For the past 6 months I've put her on here and there, I don't push it, but try and we talk about it all the time. We talk about how Mommy sits on it, Grandma, Auntie, even her friends....etc. She always agrees with me that she'll try and sit on it, I'll announce it's potty time, and she'll go willing into the bathroom but once she is on the toilet she screams and cries and says "she can't". I'm always very positive, and thank her for trying, give her high fives for the effort. She watches me go 100% of the time during the day since she was a little baby, so it's not like she has never seen someone go. Seeing April is coming fast, for the past 2 weeks I've been putting her on a few times a day, each time she cries. I don't know what to do. I don't like forcing her, but I really want to give this a good effort seeing she is turning 3 next month. Again, she shows no interest, she would sit in a wet diaper or soiled one for a long time if I let her. HELP!

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answers from Dallas on

My son went part time to Kindercare in my area while I was working from home and he got to see other kids pottying ALL the time. They did a great job and really did all the work training him, which I reinforced at home. They let me know when he was ready to switch from diaper to pull-ups so he could practice pulling clothes off/on, and let me know when to drop the pull ups for underwear (except for night time). It may be worth getting her into something like that, even for a 1/2 day 3-5 days a week - it'll be a break for you, socialization for her, and may help when babytime comes as well. Good luck!

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answers from Johnstown on

It's not uncommon for kids to train later these days. We had a heck of a time with all 3 of our girls despite what we did. Then one day, it just clicked with them and they were trained all on their own, almost over night. What worked great for us was letting our girls see other kids their own age using the potty. If that's an option for you, please consider it. It's easier getting them to learn from someone on their own level than it is from an adult.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I would explain to her that it is time for potty training. Get her some big girl underwear and throw away (ok donate) the diapers. Suggest to her when it is time for her to sit on the toilet (after waking, after each meal, before bed). When she has an accident, calmly (without yelling or shaming her) help her get out of her wet clothes and into dry ones. I would not force her to sit on the toilet. I suspect she will figure it out herself after a few pairs of wet underwear. She will learn and she will not be psychologically scarred for life.

Toilet training appears to be the ONLY issue that we seem to believe a child needs to be 'ready' for. We do not ask them when they are ready to start brushing/having their teeth brushed, we do not wait for them to want to have baths, we do not wait until they are ready to wear clothes, we do not wait until they ask to eat solid foods to feed them.

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answers from Chicago on

I'm in the same boat with my 2.5yo DS. Sometimes he'll go. Usually not on his own. And days like this morning, he freaked out when I tried to put underpants on him.

You can control this one. You just have to let it go.

I have a friend whose son wasn't trained until 4!

Other kids will help. So I think that being around older kids who go might be an incentive. I'm going to try the sticker chart thing. But personally, I'm waiting for his friend (next door neighbor) to get it, and then I think it'll be smooth sailing. (PS: neighbor just turned 3 and isn't close to being trained)

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answers from Boston on

My DD didn't train until 3.5. She had ZERO interest before then. She would go in the morning and before bed, for a while, then she refused. When I startedt o get more anxious about it she got more stubborn. This is one of the few things the children can control, so you really cannot force it. I wish I had trained my DD much younger, I think if you can get them during the little window around 18-20 mos it can go well, but if you miss it, then you make it more difficult.

I told DD we weren't buying anymore diapers after the box was gone and she strongly disagreed with me, but I didn't say anymore about it. Then I bought princess underwear for her, which she loved and told her she could wear them when she was willing to use the potty consistently. Then about a week later she told me we weren't going to buy anymore diapers and she started asking to use the potty. So we started using it. I put her potty in front of the tv (we don't use a lot of tv) at the time when she usually pooped and just let her sit there and watch until she did it. So she figured out it wasn't scary, it worked fine and that was that. She only had an accident or 2 after that and it was all underwear.

I think training pants are counter productive. They are confusing. My DH had bought some for DD but they feel the same as diapers and take away the feeling of being wet. Once I took all pressure off about it, just informed DD it was diapers or underwear, she then made the decision to do it and she did it.

DD is very smart. Peer pressure did not work at all with her. We read books about pottying and talked about all her friends older and younger who used the potty, she saw others going to the bathroom. She could not have cared less. We don't do rewards for behavior modification here so didn't consider stickers or candy, and I think that works better with the younger ones anyway. So I guess the jist of this is that you can provide the opportunity for her to go but until she is ready you cannot force it. And at that age, the more of an issue you make of it, the more she is likely to exert her independence and fight you. Do whatever you can to lessen the pressure on yourself about it and she will get there when she's ready.

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answers from Boston on

I think you have your answer - it's just not the one you want! It's frustrating, but she's absolutely not ready. The harder you push (positive or otherwise), the more she will push back. I know you don't want 2 in diapers, but the flip side is, it's also going to be difficult to put the baby down and rush the other one to the potty. Just wait. She may decide, when the baby comes, that she wants to be the big girl and not be in diapers. But she also may not feel the "urge to go" right now (which is developmental, not stubborn), so sitting on the potty is just restrictive and boring. As you are changing the new baby, she'll watch and maybe get the idea in her head. Otherwise, you just have to wait it out. Take the stress of yourself, and be comforted by the knowledge that she will not go to kindergarten in diapers!

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answers from Eugene on

You really can't push and force it on her....This is the ONE thing YOU will not have any CONTROL over. Sorry to say. But - what we did with our son was a sticker chart. I went and got poster board from the Dollar Tree. Cut it in half and made a large calendar. Put it at his level on the kitchen wall where it was the most visible. Bought some fun stickers and some really Special COOL ones for when he did it himself without me asking or when he would go #2. We got him trained in about 2 1/2 to 3 months. The cool thing about the sticker chart is that he can see his accomplishments with all the stickers and he got to pick out some of the stickers too. Good luck.

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answers from Minneapolis on

After two kids and many friends I have learned. They will learn when they are ready. You can't "train" them. Give her time. besides if you get her going by april odds are it will take close to the time that the baby comes before she really "gets" it and then she will more then likely regress after the baby comes. Also to be honest I loved having my kids in diapers when a newborn was around because seriously trying to go and take a toddler to the bathroom while you are breastfeeding is not an easy task. Leting her soil a diaper and run around with it for a few minutes is much easier IMO! LOL We struggled a bit with our sone wasn't going good during the day in the toilet till 3.5 and now at almost 4 he is doing day and night by didn't really take much "training" just patiently waiting.

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answers from Sioux City on

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:

Choose a potty seat that your child can easily navigate on their own.
Encourage your child to use the potty at regular intervals - or whenever they show signs that they need to go.
Be supportive and use rewards, such as stickers, when they’re successful on the potty.
Use praise, applause, special songs, reading a special book in the bathroom - whatever resonates with your child.
Let them pick out new ‘big kid” underpants with their favorite characters (Dora, Thomas the Train, etc.) on them.
Use potty-themed books and videos to reinforce key messages.
Avoid pressure - your child will likely have accidents during the process. Don’t punish him for any setbacks.
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 bodily functions, and you can’t get him to “go” on the potty until he is ready. Don’t turn this into a power struggle - because it’s one that you won’t win!
Be sure that your nanny understands your approach to potty training and is consistent with rewards, praise, etc.
And, remember, some children potty train very easily, while others require more time and effort. With your patience and encouragement, your child will (eventually) be potty trained.



answers from Miami on

My 8 year old daughter shows no interest in doing her homework every day but I hound her to do it until it gets done. Potty training is one of these situations that must be led by the parent as well. IF we let our children dictate every area of their lives, shoot, we'd be in big trouble....and I know of parents who allow their children to dictate and control the parent(s) and this is wrong on so many levels. You were not consistent with her potty training. She screamed, had a temper tantrum, begged for her diapers and you gave them to her. She has no incentive to do what you want her to do because you don't enforce what you want her to do. I have 3 children and pregnant and due in late April with my 4th. My first two children were out of diapers completely at 2 years old and my third child, a boy, was totally out of diapers at 2 yrs, 5 months. You need to begin making potty training a routine, first thing in the morning, at night just before a bath, and if it's feasible for you, providing you're a SAHM mom, let her run around the house with NO diaper, no pants, no underpants and put her on the toilet every hour. She understands much more than you give her credit for. Figure out a reward that you can use that you will only use for potty training. I used Gerber gummy treats and only used them for potty training. Explain to your daughter that pee-pee and poopy is in her tummy and she's a big girl now and big girl's go potty in the toilet. Point to her tummy and show her where she will feel the pee-pee and poopy. Explain that when she feels it in there that she needs to go to the toilet or let you know. She will wait until the last possible minute to tell you so you will need to watch for the pee-pee and poopy dance. Not hard to miss. It's not likely at her age that she will go on the floor BUT if she does, do not yell at her BUT do bring her back to the toilet and show her where she goes to the toilet...not the floor! My children had very few accidents but none of them ever pooped on the floor. BTW, accidents (the wet ones) happen because they wait to long so you need to watch for the signs she may give you AND put her on the toilet every hour. No rewards for just sitting there either. NO, she must do something to get a reward. She would rather sit in a soiled diaper because she is being stubborn and is calling the shots. You need to change this immediately. Good luck!



answers from Rochester on

Just try putting regular panties on her, when I started training my daughter we did pull ups just briefly and then went to the padded panties. This did not work, I think because she thought the pull-ups and padded panties were still a diaper and she continued to wet...took the padded panties away and put on regular panties and it was instant potty training done? Try it, it might work....good luck! K - in MN



answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with TB on this one, that you should take charge, be consistent, and make this happen. IMO training a three-year-old is harder than starting well before two, because they know how to push our buttons when they are older.


answers from Saginaw on

I know it will stink to have two in diapers, but I wouldn't try to rush it for that reason. Because, even if you do succeed in potty training her, she could very well have a set back when the baby is born anyway. (My friend has a daughter that was fully potty trained, then baby brother came and its been over a year and she is still pooping in her undies. And they've tried everything!)

I'm not saying don't try, if the opportunity should arise, I'm just saying rushing her before the next baby comes along isn't always the best scenario in the end.

FYI, my youngest didn't like sitting on the potty either. Finally one day I decided to force her. I gave her lots of drinks, put her on the potty, worked through the screaming and crying, by reading a book and sat with her until finally she peed. After that we worked from there, she saw that peeing on the potty was not so scary. We threw away all diapers/pull ups and went straight to undies, with no looking back. Pull ups were never helpful with either of my girls when potty training.

Best of luck to you!



answers from Madison on

One thing you may want to try is to take your daughter to the store and let her pick out a special kids potty or potty seat that is "just for her". Maybe even let her decorate the lid or sides to make it even more special. Letting her have some say in the potty training (without giving up total control) may be the incentive that she needs. Then when she is ready, let her pick out her special big girl panties. Giving kids choices is a good thing, as long as you only let them choose things that you can live with! Good luck!

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