Potty Training Help for 3 Year Old Boy

Updated on May 26, 2011
F.M. asks from Temecula, CA
7 answers

My son turned 3 in March and he is all but refusing to potty train. He doesn't seem to care at all being in dirty diapers and never tells us when he has gone. I spent a couple days putting him in big boy underwear and encouraged him to go on the potty (he would sit for 3-5 minutes and then refuse to go). I would remind him to go on the potty and ask him every couple of minutes if he was ready and he would say "no, not yet." And then minutes later he would tell me, "I'm peeing, Mommy" and by then it would be too late to make it to the potty. He starts half day preschool in less than 3 months and he is required to be potty trained. We've tried bribery with his favorite action figures, candy, etc...any other thoughts or recommendations from experienced mom's? I am starting to really stress out over this and wonder when he will come around.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I potty trained my reluctant daughter in September. Here are the highlights of what worked for us:

*No bottoms. Also, no trips, lol.
*Watching for her cues (squirming, grabbing herself... and she cried out if she had to pee or poop at first).
*Setting the timer. At first I set it for every five minutes, then every 10. That is just insanity. After I had a sense of her schedule, I would begin setting the timer when it was close to "the right moment." When the bell went off, she was obliged to go and try. Sometimes she asked for the timer to be set, so I'd give her a minute.
*Positive reinforcement for having a good try. I didn't make her stay for minutes at a time. Have you sat on the pot for that long? Your butt gets numb! So as long as she didn't try to pop off immediately upon feeling the potty against her cheeks, I praised her for a good try. (If she did not have a good try, I just said *gently*, "Well that wasn't such a good try. Hopefully you'll have a good try next time." Once or twice I directed my comments to her baby sister, "That wasn't a very good try, Fynnie. Maybe she'll have a very good try next time. Yes, I hope so, too." LOL, That was most successful, but I didn't want to overdo it.)
*Rewards (or bribes... whatever) for doing the deed. We started with one M&M or Skittles for pee, two for poop. We have refined it to one for being asked/made to go, two for doing it on your own. Nothing for trying, nothing for fighting us about it (now that we've had the mechanics down for a while... at first she ALWAYS got a reward if she went, no matter how big of a deal she made about it).
*Sticker chart for waking up dry. Every four stickers equals a trip to the park.

Best wishes, Mama. It's daunting, but can definitely be done.

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answers from Houston on

Look up the book 3 Day Potty Training. I don't remember the author. The jist of it though is just take him. Don't ask. It really worked for my son and the pee-pee. (He also turned 3 in March.) We're having some issued with the poop, but he's good on the other.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Do you know of any other kids around his age or a little older that are potty trained? Can you spend some time with them? If he sees them going on the potty, and you mention how they are a big kid for that, it can help. He really doesn't sound like he's ready, which is why you're having issues. You might be able to make him ready by example. Seeing his friend go to the bathroom really helped my son. He wanted to be a big boy like his friend, and we talked about that a lot.

We also just sort of stopped using diapers. There were some accidents, but it will help encourage your son to learn if he knows he can't go back to the diapers. I would make sure he is interested in it before this though, so get there first. And don't make a big deal about the accidents, just encourage him to make it to the toilet next time.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I was in your shoes as well - 'time to start pre-school' - so I forced the issue and concentrated really hard on it and then I lied and put him in pre-school, where he wet his pants every day, and it has BACKFIRED so badly. It has led to major, MAJOR issues in our house hold and in my relationship with my son. The most important thing - wait until HE is ready.
My cousin waited until her son was, and he was older, he was 4, but he trained in a week-end and has been dry night and day ever since.
A family therapist told me that forcing things on others opens a whole can of worms - power struggle, conscious and sub-conscious resentment, defiance, shame, guilt, etc., etc. that all comes bubbling up in some nasty ways later on. We have really suffered from this.
If I could only do it over - I would wait until he was ready, he initiated it - potty training seems so small, but it really is so much larger than we know.
Maybe you should find a different pre-school, or maybe you might have to give up on it at this time and go later.
Good luck.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Every child is different, and trains in their own time. And each child has their own personality and responds accordingly. so what works with one child won't necessarily work with another. My two older children were quite different, my daughter hated being wet and changed her own diaper at 18 months on her own (I knew because she put it on backwards) and continued to stay dry, but resisted using the potty for poop until she was 3. At that point her grandfather had a talk with her and told her that "everybody uses the potty or toilet to poop." She asked, "Even you, Tata?" and when he said yes her whole view changed and she never pooped in her pants again. (Which reminds me, it is OK for your son to see his dad using the toilet while he is on the potty, kids do learn from example.) My older son was the opposite of his sister, being wet didn't bother him, but being pooped did.

This link has tons of information on toilet training to guide you ~

And, a helpful, FREE video on potty training put out by Pull-ups can be found at ~
(it came quickly in the mail, and yes, of course they do promote their product heavily, but the video is good for parents and kids.)

It sounds as if your son isn't quite ready to train, which is crucial to successful training. He may not want to leave whatever fun activity he's doing to go to the potty. Or he may have a problem of putting a part of himself in the potty, this really frightens some children. Or he simply may be showing his independence by refusing to do it.

I so empathize with you and your situation since I'm preparing to train my 25 month old. We have the potty chair out for him to see and sit on (with clothes on so far) and tell him this is where he's going to be peeing and pooping, and he's started telling ME that, too, when he sits on it :) I have the cute underwear ready for when he finally stays dry a couple of hours. And I'm getting him books with his fave characters (Elmo, etc.) talking about potty training, and stickers for rewards (he LOVES stickers!)

Hopefully after checking out some info you will find an approach that works with you and your son. Also, inquire at the preschool if they really won't accept him if he's not completely trained, if so you may need to make a change from there or have him start later than in 3 months.

Take a deep breath, and relax, (stress can affect him, too.) He'll eventually be trained and NO MORE DIAPERS, yay! : )

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I've gone through this with both my boys. I consulted experts in the area, and the answer they often gave me was that some kids do it later. We tried bribery, talking, insisting. Each method we would attempt for one month. Even knowing they couldn't go to school wasn't a deterrent.

I would find one method that he seems to respond to, and stick with it for several weeks. In the meantime I would also search for an alternative preschool that does not require potty training. Of course you don't want to go there, but what I found with my second kid is that if I pushed too hard, the problem only got worse. Better to let him do it in his time, if he needs to. When he was ready, he just did it, without any coercion on my part.



answers from Santa Fe on

Have you taken him to visit the preschool? My son also was not interested at age 3. I took him for a tour of the preschool and the teachers told him he had to be potty trained to start in the fall. He saw the other kids doing some fun things that REALLY interested him (the sand table and the water table were what got him excited). We did not stay and play with anything...he just got to walk through and see everything. He talked about it off and on all summer and I kept reminding him he could not go with the other kids until he used the potty like a big boy. Well, about a month before preschool started he potty trained himself...it was great. Perhaps this might motivate your son too (?).

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