Potty Training Advice for a Stubborn 3 1/2 Year Old - HELP!

Updated on May 06, 2011
D.J. asks from Honesdale, PA
10 answers

My son is 3 1/2 yrs old. We've been potty training him for over a year now. He will potty himself when he has to poop, but when he has to pee there's an issue. We potty him before bed, before meals, before we leave the house to go in the car, etc. and throughout the day we'll remind him and he goes every time. At daycare, he does well because they have scheduled potty times that the whole class goes to. He's not much of a napper anymore, but when he does nap sometimes he has an accident. We use pull-ups at night time because he's NEVER woke up dry. I say "you're a big boy, big boys use the potty". He'll agree. When I ask him where Mommy wants him to go pee, he'll say "the potty"; then he'll wet in his pants. We've tried reward charts with stickers and small prizes during the initial training. Don't get me wrong, he doesn't soak himself every time, but to me he's not completely trained if I can't trust him to just get up and go. When he's playing and I ask him to go potty...he gets upset because he doesn't want to stop playing. I even offered to buy him a bike if he kept his underwer dry...I know bribery. I talked to his ped and there seems to be no medical reason for his shortage of potty skills. Has anyone had a similair experience? I'm not looking for someone to pass judgement or offer criticism b/c they feel I've done something wrong...I'm looking for advice. Thanks in advance...

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from New York on

He's not going to do it just because "Mommy" wants him to - he has to want to himself. You don't say what you do when he wets himself - what if you make him clean the mess, then also make him have a time-out from playing for 5 minutes afterwards. He'll soon learn that peeing in his pants is much worse than stopping play for a couple of minutes to go pee in the potty.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Sacramento on

When I was potty training my kids, I made then run around naked from the waist down. Somehow the lack of anything touching them "down there" made them way more conscious of when they had to go potty (and also, there was nothing touching them that felt like a diaper). When you think about it, your son was trained his whole life just to pee whenever and wherever (diapers) so in essence you are teaching him a whole new skill now, one that requires him to think ahead and prioritize. Try the pants-off routine and see if it helps. The fact that he poops in the potty is fantastic; that's the hardest part usually!

Also, as another mom mentioned, night time potty training is totally different than daytime. It can take until kids are 7 or 8 to "get it" sometimes, and it will happen totally on its own. Just have him continue to wear pull-ups at night and don't worry about that.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Wetting the bed can be an inherited thing. I know of one family that has four generations of bedwetting until 8 or older. One difficult case until 13 years old.

Keep up the bribery. You want him to associate going to the bathroom with positive reinforcement.

I have grandchildren that won't go to the bathroom for their moms and dads. But when they are Grandpa's house they remember to go to the bathroom so they can have one of Grandpa's treats.

Good luck to you and yours.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Just keep telling him that 3 year olds use the potty. they dont go in thier pants, and he will eventually get it. does he use a potty ring or does he stand? my son is going to be 4 in aug and now loves to stand to go and he does very well with it. you could try letting him do that, even put a cherrio or somthing in the toilet for him to aim at. if do try a reward, maybe find a toy he really wants, or a fun activity he would look forward to and tell him if he can go potty without you asking and not have an accident all week he will get his reward. i would not worry about the night time yet, some kids just take a long time. my son still wakes up soaked to and wear a diaper yet just at night. during the day he is fine. he will get there just keep encouraging him. I know my son had an accident one time since started in big boy underwear at 3 and it was at church and we didnt have a change of cloths so he had to stay in his wet pants till we got home and he did not like that at all, and has not had one since. he will get there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Kids don't want to stop to go potty. My 6 y.o. and 7 y.o. and even 11 y.o. will hold it until the last min. They however can run fast enough to make it before they pee in their pants. I would just keep reminding him to go pottty throughout the day. When they are that young going potty is the last thing on their mind. This is totally normal.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I'm just offering support, not advice, as I am in a very similar situation. My son is 3 yrs 5 months old, and using the potty has become such a power struggle, it's driving me crazy. He knows how to do it, knows he should do it, but, honestly, playing is WAY more fun, and he doesn't want to leave anything fun to do something that he now screams "is boring!" We let him run around naked all the time, and he uses the potty more, but not consistently. And as soon as there is ANYTHING covering him, he just pees when he wants.

We started out using little rewards when he used the potty, and I think that backfired on us. Because once he got pretty good at using the potty, I said he now only got the reward for something harder... and then he simply said "no prize, no potty."

The other mistake I think I made is making it too easy when he has an accident. I would run and get clean clothes, clean him up, clean up the floor, and he just got to keep on watching tv or squirming around to get at his toys. I will say "Ok, time to wash hands" and he'll say "Why? I didn't touch anything dirty. You did."

[REASON TO POTTY TRAIN MY 2nd SON EARLIER: A 3.5 yr old has too much reasoning ability.]

So I think I'm going to back off for a bit, and let him stop associating potty with reward. He loves being naked so we'll continue with that, but now when he has accident is to make him stop whatever fun thing he's doing, and go through the motions with me. Hoping that he'll realize that if he has to take time away from what he's doing ANYWAY, he may as well use the potty.

I blame myself too. But you know what? There are a lot of kids and parents who struggle with this. And while I often feel my child WILL in fact be the first kid to go to college in diapers, in my head I suspect we'll work it out over the next 2 or 3 months. His time schedule, not mine. Be kind to yourself, too, in this whole process. It's tough.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

You have a lot of company. Your son sounds just like mine but a little younger. I put him in pull ups at 2.5 and showed him the basics. He got the pooping part but still was inconsistent on the peeing. I was pregnant and he didn't get it before the baby so I left him in pull ups until the baby turned 1. Finally at 3 and 10 months he went into underwear. There were frequent accidents for 3-2 weeks then only occasional ones since. At school he was good because the whole class went to have a bathroom break at set times. At home it's a power struggle if I send him to take a bathroom break but I still do it some times (bedtime, before we go out, etc.) Even though it is a struggle I just make him take the bathroom breaks (he gets consequences for not doing it or fighting with me about it, ignoring me and still playing isn't an option.) It's not ideal but it has gotten better slowly over more than a year. I tried setting a timer so he could go on his own when it went off. It helped a little but not a lot. I try sending him at natural breaks in the day. It helps a bit not not a complete solution either. Still if left on his own he often pees a few drops and then runs to the potty (just damp undies, not the whole outfit so he doesn't have to change everything). I also make him help clean up if it was a preventable "accident" (he was reminded to go before accident). Clorox wipes are good for that. If it was a real accident (sick, out and not near a bathroom, etc) I downplay it.

So at 5 my son is probably better than 90% good in the daytime and still in a night time pull up. He is fine with using public bathrooms (usually standing). He should be okay in Kindergarten in the fall. It is a longer and more frustrating process than I would have liked as well. I wish I knew why it has been such a struggle. My mom says girls are easier so hopefully there will be less drama with my daughter. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Buffalo on

Sorry not advice but don't worry he will get the hang of it!! My boy is almost 5 (July) it took till literally a couple months ago & we still have accidents at least once a week & I have done/did everything under the sun to get him to go before but finally I was like well w/e! Since then he has done great! Its not the power struggle anymore. We are not even close to overnite potty but 1 step at a time!! Good luck



answers from Phoenix on

my son did that too. he would poop fine but would pee in the pullup. one day he just decided to wear the underwear and use the toilet.......this was in march and he will be 4 this month. your son will also....just give him time and he will decide to do it. as for the night time stuff that could take awhile. and dont worry about that either. he will get it eventually. :)



answers from Buffalo on

It may not be a question of him being stubborn, but an issue w/his bladder. Some children take longer than others to mature the bladder mind connection. I have a friend who's son is 6 and he stopped having accidents w/in the last year mostly. There isn't much you can do to change it, just keep reminding him, scheduling potty breaks, and pull ups at night!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions