Need Help with 3 Year Old Behavior and Potty Training Issues

Updated on October 04, 2009
A.S. asks from Chicago, IL
13 answers

I have a wonderful 3 year old son (just turned 3) who is having some issues over his diapers and going on the potty. I know there are many posts about potty training issues but I have not run across one similar.

A little background - I had another baby in July and I had wanted to potty train the 3 year old before the baby came but he was not ready early in my pregnancy and by the end I did not have the energy. I was not going to push it after the baby came until I felt he was ready. I feel like he may have some regression with crying and screaming but I felt like it was pretty normal. We have not been pushing the potty training at all but I think he may be stressed about it anyway. We stopped talking about it and stopped trying to get him to sit on the potty at all. He adamantly refused to sit on it in the past, but over the last few days has sat a few times without tantrums - but also without going.

My issue is 1) even though he has sat on the potty over the last few days a few times, he waits until I put a diaper on him to go and 2) when I do put the diaper on him and he goes he wants it changed immediately and when I do he screams that something is wrong over and over and has a complete meltdown/scream-a-thon if I don't keep changing him - even though the diaper is completely dry. I have tried everything from ignoring it (he will scream forever if I let him and LOUD), changing the diaper over and over (which is just giving in I feel), to putting him on the potty with the sticker/reward chart and all that (he will hold it until he gets a diaper). I have just had it and am going to do potty boot camp. I have a calendar that we are crossing off by day and a date set for "no more diapers" but in the meantime we are going nuts.

I know that it probably an attention thing and we are trying to be sensitive to the fact that his world changed and are spending special time with him. Also, I know he is ready to be potty trained but I just need some suggestions on how to get him to go on the potty without having a meltdown. Has anyone experienced anything like this or have any suggestions for a stubborn potty trainer? I can't wait any longer and deal with the daily tantrums and constant diaper changing. HELP!!!

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So What Happened?

Thanks Momma's for all of the great advice and suggestions. Over the past few days we have been more successful at getting him to sit on his little potty or even stand on a step stool in front of the big potty. I have taken him to Target and let him pick out a special toy for after he actually goes on the potty. He has not actually gone yet, but I am hoping soon. He seems to see this as a more positive process now. Things have been a little better with the screaming and diaper changing as well. I will be using a lot of the other ideas as well throughout this process, depending on how it is going. I am just happy that he is trying at this point. Thanks to everyone, I knew I could get some help here!!

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

Another tactic to consier: fill a clear jar with colored m&ms and put it in the bathroom. If he goes on the toilet, he gets one. If he has an accident, you flush one down the toilet.

Someone told me about this and I thought it was genius - what kid wants to see their candy flushed?

More Answers


answers from Chicago on

I think the Potty Training Boot Camp is a good idea. I think the drills he will have to do may have him think twice about going in the diaper, and hopefully will have him going on the potty sooner. Also, you may want to look at changing your reward. For some kids, a sticker on a chart is not enough of a reward for going on the potty. We used Matchbox cars for poops on the potty with my son. (We weaned him off a few days later when he was reliably doing it). Try to find something worth going on the potty for, in his eyes.

Good luck to you,



answers from Chicago on

Here are some resources that I hope might be helpful for you...

This one has suggestions for both pants-soiling and screaming...

I hope that this helps.

Best wishes,



answers from Chicago on

I had the exact situation (my boys were the same ages, and we had the same issues). Here's what worked for us when my son was about 3 1/4. We started out doing this just at home - he would wear only underwear all day(would still wear diapers to preschool). I kept a stack of pullups in the bathroom. When he needed to go, he'd go in the bathroom himself, take off his underwear, put on pull-up, use it, take it off himself (if pee), put in garbage, and put his own underwear back on. It took him about a week to get used to the routine - and then he did it for about 3 weeks, before he decided it would just be easier to use the potty, and that was that :) I know it may sound a little weird, but it worked for us (had maybe 3 accidents). He actually liked the independence of being in control of the pull-ups, and it solved the biggest issue that kids have of not wanting to stop playing to go use the potty- because he knew he was wearing underwear and he didn't wan't it to get wet.
Good Luck!



answers from Chicago on

Did you see this article?
Maybe some of the tips will inspire you. Since he showed some interest in the potty, sitting on it, what if you just put it in the living room or play room with his other toys-of-interest. That way he could explore (or ignore) it at his own pace. And if he begins, gradually move it closer to the bathroom. And leave a potty-picture-book around for him to find on his own?
I don't know. I don't have children, but I work with them and need to persuade them to cooperate so that I can teach them movement, primarily through play. We all have "mirror neurons" in the brain, so a lot can be accomplished through imitation / taking turns / games.
All the best,
C. Becker, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner(r)



answers from Chicago on

Hello A. S:

I read your request and felt a lot of confusion about potty training and re action of your son. It sounds like it has taken a turn towards the hardest training to do for you and your son. Pardon me if am wrong.

All this is happening because you have a lot to do in a day. You yourself, just had the baby, taking care of the new baby and the potty training at the same time. Your body is still recovering with the child birth.

Your son wants to be potty trained now, and he is not able to do so because of some drawback of the whole system in his mind that he is showing again and again when he goes in the diaper, and wants you to change him again and again.

To overcome this situation, you have to calm your nerves, be relaxed and feel that you have to find a way to help your son by overcoming this problem for him. Your mental readiness in a strong way to get the mission accomplished has to be there. You might feel it is there even now, but physically, mentally or unconsciously it is not working strongly to overcome this situation. Being a mother is the strongest power on earth that human race is surviving.

After giving yourself all the power to accomplish the mission, talk to your son in a calm loving and over protective manner about potty training. If you like let him observe his dad going potty. ( This fact is supported by expert child psychologists, and have proven helpful)

Let you child experience observing some other boys, if possible.

Let him watch a potty training video to feel that this is normal and everyone has to do it in a methodical way. Stress the importance of cleanliness also at that time.

After watching the video, seeing dad going potty or observing some other boys doing the same, whatever is possible, now talk to him about going to potty.

Try to make a set time everyday for # 2 training

Write down or just verbally find a method that suits you the best step by step. For example, five to ten minutes after breakfast every morning, when baby is sleeping and you can give him undivided attention and you are calm everything is in control, take him to potty. Make sure everything is comfortable around him. It is easy for him to sit on the potty. If he is not use the baby potty or potty seat. If he needs a stool to get up to the potty or wants to put his feet on the stool while on the potty give him that. Let him sit on the potty and be there for him.

Give him 10 minutes to go if he does not go. In case he does not go that is fine. In a very plain and calm voice tell him after ten minutes if you did not go potty you have to go in the diaper and I will change the diaper only one time. You will not ask me to change it again.
Use a firm and final voice. If you feel tell him not to throw a temper tentrum, as I want you to be happy and play or watch TV ( whatever the corse of action you have for him)

During the day let him watch the potty video, or talk to him before nap time again about the results and ask him to potty in the toilet the next day. Tell him good things about him and the fact that your son is good and he wants to do ever thing himself like good children and good people.

Ask him what he wants to do next after potty training and excite him about doing a special party or whatever he likes the most. Make him feel he is a doer. he can do anything that he wants to do as this makes him smart.

And eventually, a week of hard work or so will calm down this potty training activity once he starts doing it.

Your job is not finished here, you will have to keep the same practice for a while, may be months when he starts going by himself.

Also, make sure he is eating some veges and fruits, so he is not constipated and goes easily and his wait on the potty reduces naturally.

While giving him examples for potty training, make sure your son sees only male, potty training, because every little thing distracts the child. Seeing difference in
the body of a male and female will also confuse him. We do not need any confusion at this point in his mind. We need him to be relaxed and at ease to understand and adopt going potty. I have used all this in potty training for children and is an authentic method from the advanced experts.

I hope this works for you.



answers from Chicago on

My youngest daughter was horrible. Even when I thought she was trained, accidents all of the time. So, for me, that meant that she wasn't trained. I tried the stickers, she could have cared less. I tried special treats, only oreos would work. I couldn't give her oreos every time she went potty! So, we made oreos a treat for going #2 only. Great but we had #1 accidents. Like your son she would scream that she was wet and would want to be clean. My last straw was to promise her a trip to Toys R Us with just Daddy. She had to go one full week without any accidents. They are with me all the time so to be ALONE with Dad was the best part of the whole trip. When Daddy is with us, we are usually all together doing family things. The girls love having him to themselves. I'm sure your son would probably feel the same way about being with Dad. They spent an hour (not kidding) in Toys R US and came home with a big pink bouncy ball with princesses on it! She saw it, had her heart set on it, and although Dad walked her through the entire store, she found nothing that she liked better! We got off cheap, I think. lol Good luck and just remember, kids are always trained by kindergarten! :)



answers from Chicago on

you need to know you will have to stay home for a few days maybe a week. get rid of the diapers except for at night just do it no diapers and dont go back thats confusing. give him a reward for everytime he goes something that is meaningful to him an m&m worked for my kids because they didnt get much candy normally. be patient it wont be this bad for long!



answers from Chicago on

I hate to say it, but it sounds like he is not ready and is having some rebellionto not being the baby. I tried to potty train my daughter while I was pregnant. Didn't happen before the baby came so we had to postpone it until about 6 month after the baby was born. By then she was fully engaged. I must say we made it big with the big girl panties, a tea party, and a reward bag. We also made sure she understood how great it is to not be a baby. Good luck and many blessings.



answers from Chicago on

Hey A.,
I waited until my son was 3 1/2 to potty train him. We put together a sticker chart at first- just to just get him acclamated with the potty process- not to actually go. He was still wearing diapers, but 4 times a day we would put him on the potty. We set a timer and when the timer went off it was time for potty break. He got 1 sticker for coming into the bathroom, one for taking off his diaper, one for sitting for one minute (I set the timer for one minute), one laying down so we could put his diaper back on and 1 for washing his hands. If he got all 5 stickers then he could have a cookie (we used animal crackers and swedish fish).
We did that for two months. Then we knew he could do it by himself- as long as there were no zippers or buttons on his pants. So we set a timer and when it went off we said it was potty break time. If he gave us a hard time, or if he refused to participate willingly then he didn't get the sticker and then at the end he didn't get the cookie. This only happened a few times. After that he knew that he wanted that cookie and that he had to do all 5 things by himself to get it. We did this for another month.
After that I got some M&M's and told him 3 for pee and 5 for poop. This worked for pee, but not for poop. So I went and got some dollar store toys and wrapped them up and told him he could pick out a toy every time he went poop on the potty. That worked awesome, though sometimes I needed to put his potty seat behind the chair (that's where he did most of his diaper pooping). We did that for about two weeks and then faded it out and praised tons instead.
I also just put him in his big boy under pants (or let him go naked), whenever we're at home. We've had a few accidents, but I think that's all part of the process of them getting in tune with what's going on down there. The diapers we have today are so absorbent that I doubt they actually feel that they're going.
Anyway, when we go out we still wear a pull up just in case- but I tell him he can go on the potty if he wants to. And still a pull up for bedtime. He seems to do pee great, but poop is still an issue for him. His teacher said that developmentally he has to get used to pooping sitting down. Usually he's standing up. So I just try and stay off his case. He knows how everything works and what to do, he just has to want to do it. I hope that helps.



answers from Chicago on

Hi A.

I was totally dreading potty training my almost 3 year old daughter. My Mom sent me an e-book she found and we followed the method and it sure worked. I'll give you an overview. We chose 3 consecutive days to train. For those 3 days we did not leave the house (no walks, no errands). The first day I put her last diaper on her and told her after breakfast we were going to put on underwear. So I got organized (I have a 5 month old). She just wore the underwear and a t-shirt those 3 days. We put the potty in the bathroom and I showed her the treats I bought. She knew that if she went pee on the potty she would get 3 animal cookies and if she went poop she would get a chocolate chip cookie. During these 3 days you also want plenty of fluids on hand. I always had 2 sippy cups full of apple juice and when she would finish one I would immediately give her another. This ensures she will have to pee a lot. You have your son follow you everywhere-the idea is to pick up on cues he gives off when he has to go. The first day was horrible, she peed on everything (the curtains, her brother's play mat, the carpet, the chair, me) After my second load of wash we were both in tears and she just up and ran to the bathroom and went pee on the potty for the first time. She has really never looked back. A couple of accidents here and there but nothing major. We take her to the bathroom before bed, after she has been asleep for about an hour or so, and again around 5:00 or 6:00 am. Please feel free to e-mail me for the PDF or call me with any questions.

Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

A. - my second son was SUPER stubbborn aobut potty training (ok - about EVERYTHING in his life!) We tried and tried around age 3 w/no luck. I was getting tired of it and knew he could do it fine, but he just refused. Shortly before his 4th b-day in June my boys spent the night at my mom's. She told him she was out of pull ups and if he had any accidents he'd have to come home to me and not stay w/her and his big brother. Sure enough no accidents! He'd alaready been dry overnight for a year though by then, and was also a big boy at my inlaws house. So maybe you'll just have to give him some more time. I've been told it's totally normal for boys to take til around four or five. Sorry if that is no help - but I have been there! = J.



answers from Chicago on

Your son has a lot to deal with with a new sibling in the house! I don't think he's ready to be potty trained! I know it's frustrating. We went through something similar with our son. He was 3 when his baby sister was born. At age 2.5 we thought we were done potty training, but as soon as I got pregnant, the regression began! He flat out refused and had accidents all over the place. It was pointless. Even our doc said it was best to wait. He was closer to age 4 before we went cold turkey again with the pull ups. But he was ready that time and got it right away. When they're ready, it will be easy! I know we all dream of having our kids potty trained at age 2. But boys really are not physically ready until age 3.5 (my friend is an expert in early child development and a doc...) so, yes, some kids can be trained sooner (some regress from the trauma in other areas of their development when forced to be potty trained too soon). The best thing you can do is keep talking about it gently. Don't ever punish him. Just be encouraging and it will happen! And P.s. no amount of stickers would get our son to use the potty! You'd better think of something a lot more exciting than stickers that is more instantaneous. We ended up using m&ms even though I was totally against rewarding with chocolate but it totally worked in like 2 days time. But again, he was ready then.

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