Potty Training Regression in 3.5 Year Old

Updated on February 27, 2013
C.M. asks from Freeburg, IL
4 answers

Your son has been pee trained on the potty for months. About two months ago he started pooping on the potty exclusively. Still wearing night time diapers.

1-2 weeks ago he stopped going poop on the potty. Refuses to when you try to coax him. Sits for one second and says he does not have to go. When you can tell he has to go (does 'that' dance - tells you he does not have to go even if you try to put him on the potty).

Stool is not hard but he does hold it so long that he'll eventually poop his pants. Candy and stickers do not work. Special 'potty' book he can read ONLY while pottying does not work. Explaining the scientific methods of why (it's waste, needs to come out, it will come out even if you don't want it to and try to hold it in, that will just cause your bottom to hurt). Singing a song, reading to him, sitting with him does not work.

Obviously we have no tried all of these methods at once......but he's had a history of not wanting to go on the potty even though he's been pee trained for awhile.

Right now he will just hold it until he can't any longer and then go in his underwear. Some days he won't go at all and then others he'll go 2-3 times. He has not problem having it in his underwear except he tells us that he went poop. He's not upset or mad about it. We have him help put it in the toliet, clean up his underwear, etc.

What would you suggest? I do not want to force him but know he CAN do it. I also don't want to regress and go back to diapers...but maybe that is best? I'm at a loss :( Please help!

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So What Happened?

**I should add he started preschool last week but only went two days due to the weather. And he has a cough/chest cold that just started on Sunday. Notsure if it's just too much 'change' for him to handle right now?**

**Also wanted to add he does NOT have accidents of any kind when we are out in public. We can be gone all day and he will go to the bathroom (mainly because we all go at the same time. He'll just hold his poop if he's out.**

More Answers



answers from Oklahoma City on

Diapers are not appropriate for his age. He needs a pull up that he can manage pushing and pulling all by himself. They also make clean up a lot easier. It's really nasty to wash poop clothes in the washing machine that your clothing goes in. It also makes you laundry expenses go up since you have to do at least one empty load with hot water and bleach to sanitize the washer. And there is always little spots of pooh in the holes that don't get washed out with this process.

So all in all, I'd use pull ups until he's going normally in the potty just to save money and time. He is just having his moment that all kids go through. He'll forget all about this one day and he'll start going on his own.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

There are a few things in life that you cannot force someone to do and those things typically involve dictating what goes "in and out" of the body. You cannot really force someone to eat nor can you force someone to go to the bathroom in any "natural" way. You can, however, shape his behavior and make it more desirable for him to go.

Time for a toileting schedule. He has to sit on the toilet every hour. He sits until he goes. Eventually he will go if he sits there long enough. It's not a punishment- there are no consequences. Run the water, keep him hydrated, etc. He should have a BM every couple of tries. Regardless, he sits on the potty until "something" comes out. Each time "something" comes out, he gets a sticker on a chart (posted in the bathroom). When he fills his sticker chart (pretty easy if he's going every hour), he gets to go somewhere or do something. Nothing huge, but something he would enjoy.

The natural consequence of not being toilet trained (but too old for diapers) is that you can't go anywhere or do anything. Have that conversation with him... not in a "punishment way", but in the "until you are back on track with going poop in the potty, we are going to have to come straight home because you can't have potty accidents in public." It's a fact. No threat, no punishment- just the "new state of normal" until he's able to regain control of his bowels.

No diapers and no pull-ups. Pull-ups are a cop-out and a step backwards.

Make sure that he is well hydrated and that his diet is balanced and full of fiber. Fiber will ensure that he has to "go" with some regularity.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

In that situation, if wearing a pull-up would result in him pooping as needed instead of holding it, I would let him wear a pull-up but only when he actually has to go poop. So I'd have him wear underwear and pee in the potty as normal. If he has to poop, put a pull-up on him and let him do his business, then take the pull-up off. If you put the pull-up on and he doesn't go in a reasonable amount of time, take the pull-up off and suggest he try again later. You would have to explain that he can go in a pull-up but he has to let you know when he has to go.

I had one that would withhold and it would end up being very painful for him to go. So I started with letting him tell me when he had to go, we'd put a pull-up on, he'd go, we'd clean him up, and put him back in underwear. Then, once that was mastered, we put the pull-up on and had him stay in the bathroom to go so he learned that's where we go poop. Then we switched back to going on the potty. We were going to switch to having him sit on the potty in the pull-up, but he didn't need that step. You can also cut a hole in the pull-up if he is on the toilet so the poop falls through. I didn't mind resorting to a pull-up for this as it still taught him to recognize the signs of when he had to go....it was just in a wearable potty (pull-up) instead of the toilet. Plus there was less stress and he didn't have withholding issues.

During this time, we let him see us poop and let him flush so the fear factor was diminished. We also discussed how it was normal and all that. I think at some point we even said there was a poop party going on in the toilet to try to lighten it up. And I would talk about how much less messy and quicker it would be if he went in the potty, particularly when I was cleaning him up. We didn't get angry or anything....we just kept repeating it in a calm manner. For example, "When you go poop on the potty, this will be a lot faster and you can get back to playing sooner."

We did do rewards too. He got a little toy and a big star on his potty training star chart if we went on the potty. (He only got little stars for pee on his potty chart.) When he went poop X number of times in a row in the potty, he got a bigger reward gift and then we stopped doing the poop reward gifts.

This strategy worked for us. It takes longer to be really done, but it was less stress for both him and us, and less mess overall. He hasn't had one poop accident in his underwear once we transitioned him to pooping on the potty.

Note however, if the child regresses to asking for a pull-up and then just going pee instead of peeing in the potty, then using pull-ups for just pooping won't work. We didn't have any regression with peeing so it worked well for us.



answers from St. Louis on

I would be very low key. If need be I would put him back in pullups. It might be that he had one painful experience and he is afraid of this. When he is ready for big kid pants then he can let you know. You indicated that he has a history of not wanting to go to the potty. When I was potty training my son at 3 1/2 he decided not to go poop on the potty. This can quickly turn into a cycle of withholding and constipation. At that point it will physically hurt so much that there are no amount of rewards, information, distractions, etc in the world that will help because they know it will be extremely painful. As a parent it was also very painful to watch. As a result we were on high dosages of miralax for 2 1/2 years - didn't solve the issue just helped. After going through this at this age, I believe at 3 1/2 as long as a child is healthy and developmentally close to whatever normal is they will figure out when to go on the potty themselves and it will surprisedly happen without a lot of extra coaxing etc, and relatively soon. At least that is what worked with my son. My daughter who is 19 months younger, pretty much potty trained herself at 2 by watching my son. Night time is another story for her. Make sure he is well hydrated and eats lots of fruits and vegetables to avoid constipation.

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