Potty Training a Resistant 3 Year Old

Updated on May 26, 2009
M.A. asks from Chicago, IL
7 answers

Hello Moms,

My daughter turned 3 in March. At the advice of my pediatrician I have not been very forceful with pursuing potty training as she always seemed to be resistant. I've stopped and started too many times and I feel like the situation is getting more difficult. She often laughs when she poops in her diaper and likes to sit in it. She will run away when we try to change her and she thinks its funny to sit in her soiled diapers. Last night she took her diaper off and threw her poop on the floor. Today, I decided I have to nip this in the bud. Since she has turned 3 she has become much more defiant and striving to be independent....anything I ask is now a struggle. I don't want to end up in a power struggle with her, but I want her potty trained, but I have no idea how to do this given her new 'independent' fiesty self. I'm obviously frustrated. I've found some tips and am trying them out today(i.e. having her changer her own mess, not prompting her to go to the potty, etc) Anyhow, I would sure appreciate advise from moms who have been there. I don't feel 'waiting' for her to be ready will happen magically on it's own!! Help!

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answers from Chicago on

It sounds like you're setting yourself up for a huge power struggle that, no matter what you do, you will never be able to win.

Why? Your daughter has control over her bowels, not you. She gets to decide if and when she uses the potty and it is likely that she knows it is frustrating for you. She throws the poop? Calmly clean it up and don't make a big deal. It sounds like everything she is doing gets a big ole rise out of you - sounds like a fun game for a 3 year old, doesn't it? She really does have control over the situation; the situation being "let's see how much attention, negative or positive, I can get from mommy!"

Back off and let her take the lead. She'll go when she is ready. Pushing her and forcing her to do what YOU want her to do instead of what SHE is ready to do will only backfire. You could even put away the potty movies, the potty books, the potty chairs, the new big girl underwear. When she's ready, ask her if she's ready to be a big girl and try again. If not, then wait.

Edited to add - you guys are so sweet!

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answers from Chicago on

SHe's not ready. I felt the same way as you do right now 6 months ago. My 3 year old son told me he LIKED to poop in his diaper and liked to sit in it.

The tips you got are awful. Do not make her clean up her own mess.. OH. MY. GOSH.

I will tell you that I thought that my son would never be potty trained. Until he was almost 3 1/2. ONe day, he just announced that he would use the potty now. He has used it ever since. It took ONE DAY.

I have since been told by a friend of mine who is a PHD in psychology that this is what happens at around 3 1/2. They just DO it. Please please please don't force your poor daughter.

You have a strong willed child and she is very smart. You have gotten in to a power struggle with her and this is not what you want to do. You have the potty, she knows what it is for. Just hvae it around and do not say another word about it. What is the rush, seriously? Do you think she will go to college still in a diaper? It WILL happen. Be patient. ONce she makes the choice, it will be made, and you will be kind of sad in a way that it happened so fast and that she is out of diapers so soon.... trust me. :(

Just hang in there!

I am editing to totally agree with M R above. Do not engage in a power struggle... completely pull back, forget the books, movies, etc. Just leave the little potty out in plain view and don't talk about it. :) SHE will tell you when she is ready, and then there will be no struggle. ONly good times. :)

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answers from Chicago on

I couldnt agree more with MR......i just want to add that if she continues to take off her diaper to put her in a onesie. You can find them a target or carters. I did this with my dghtr to stop flying poop. What finally got my dghtr to go on the potty was a big girl car seat. She got to pick it out at the store & we kept it out for her to look at but she couldnt sit in it til she went pee & poop on the potty. We also let her pick out big girl princess underwear but again wouldnt let her wear them or play with them til she did her duty. So find something that she REALLY wants & get it but be very stearn not to give it to her til she is completely using the potty. Good luck



answers from Chicago on

I 100% agree with Elizabeth and MR...When she is ready you will know and it will go MUCH smoother. Myt almost 3 1/2 year old wanted nothing to do with potty training. Like you, I started and stopped over and over and over. One day he told me he wanted to wear his big boy undies...he had a couple accidents over the next 2-3 days and that was it...like magic he was trained. He went from peeing in his pants 7-10 times a day to never. He started going on his own right away without me having to remind him. It was such a drastic difference...one extreme to the other.

My advice is to continue to suggest she uses the potty, but DON'T force her to wear underwear, clean-up her mess, or get upset when she has accidents. She'll decide she's ready and then it hopefully will happen easily. Good Luck.



answers from Chicago on

I potty trained my twins a month before their third bday.i got the book at the library called "how to potty train your child in one day". Basically it's a potty party for your dolly in the morning.You give the baby big girl underpants as a gift. You teach the baby to use the big potty and celebrate with a sticker chart,treats,etc. When she goes in her pants you tell her "no baby don't go potty in your pants". at the end of the morning when the baby has been sucessful , she gets a toy and party. Your child will be so jealous . After lunch and naptime you will follow the same thing except don't scold your child for accidents . the book will help you with it all. It worked like a dream. I thought I would never potty train them. The positive approach really worked.Good luck!


answers from Chicago on

MR is spot on. Drop the potty stuff. Keep her in diapers, but let her know that you will change her when she needs to be changed. That it's okay to tell you if she needs to be changed too.

There will come a time when she won't be able to do things because she wears a diaper. So, when she asks to go to school (or other activity), you can say she can't because she won't go on the toilet. You can say all the other kids don't wear diapers and they can do those big kid things. If she doesn't care, let it go. But eventually, she's going to want to do those things and it will motivate her to get potty-trained. There will be a day when she says, "M., I don't want to wear diapers anymore."

Just be patient.



answers from Chicago on

I just wanted to say Good Luck, I am actually going through this with my 3 year old girl, too. Just hang in there, as some of your advices say: it will happen, so let's not stress that much over it. Best of all!!

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