Resistant 3 Yr Old and Potty Training

Updated on July 08, 2010
J.J. asks from Clackamas, OR
15 answers

Yes I know it's another frustrated mother. My son turned 3 in March and potty training has been more potty and less training. I admit I haven't been real consistent until this week, and so far he's only gone pee once in the potty chair, and the rest in his pants. I've ditched the pullups, he's comfortable going in them, and sitting in them wet, not to mention he doesn't care if he goes in his underwear either, but he does notice it more. I've tried offering him rewards, but he refuses. I'm doing the naked times (thank god it's summer), and I read something on here about trying to have him help clean himself up after accidents, but anyone else here have any good advice? He's going through the "NO" phase at the same time too, especially with me. Ugh! My daughter was easy compared to this guy! Help!

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

So What Happened?

Wow thanks for the responses. Unfortunately I've been trying for almost a year off and on, I've backed off enough. He's too comfortable wearing diapers and actually wants me to put one on him! The longer he stays in diapers the harder it's going to get. I waited for that "readiness" that my daughter showed, but my son has no indication of interest because he's so comfortable going in his pants. Hes currently sitting on it right now with his stuffed cow in front of cartoons and books and is content right now. I know he'll get it and I have got to be patient, no matter how frustrating it'll be. Thanks again!

Featured Answers



answers from Denver on

Potty training is one of those things they do on their own time- I don't belive we can push it on them. In fact when we try - they resist more. Maybe take a break from it until he shows some real interest - going to sit on the potty or wants to when you ask. Make it a fun game (and as hard as it is) try not to get frustrated or punish him.... I would just ask often, and when they showed interest I'd put her/him on the potty, and if he/she went we did the "potty dance and song".... i.e. Lily made a potty, Lily made a potty with lots of singing and marching through the house.... Good luck - each child is different, so keep trying, but be patient if you can.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Portland on

When the child is ready, training can happen almost by itself, just as learning to walk and talk are natural developments once a child is ready. You don't have to reward a baby to start walking, and when the child is physically and emotionally ready; rewards usually aren't needed for potty success, either. Though you can and should celebrate, just as with walking!

You can start the process earlier, but the child will seldom be truly trained until they are ready – usually it's the parent who get trained, to take the initiative to get the child to the potty. For boys, training is often pointless before the age of 3.5 or sometimes 4 or so. Pushing a child will often make him resistant, and everything will take longer.

My suggestion is that you back off for awhile on requiring him to use the potty, put him back in diapers, and let him know you are confident that he'll do this big-boy step when he's ready. You can continue with positive messages, books and videos about using the potty and how the body works, puppets going potty, etc. Point out occasionally that any "big boy" your son shows admiration for uses the potty (don't overdo this, or your little guy will get rightfully sick of hearing it and tune you out).

And then trust the process. That's the hardest part, probably. But enter "potty training" in the box at the top of the page to read many stories by moms who did exactly this, and their kids were suddenly ready to take the initiative themselves.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Put him back in diapers. He obviously doesn't want to train. It's a lot less frustrating to have him in diapers wehn he is saying "no" I think he means it! He will come to you when he is ready to be out of them, or you can try again in a couple of months. Try to say something along the lines of, "we are going to put you back in diapers! It's much easier than cleaning up the messes. When you feel like you are ready to go potty in the potty, let me know!" It may just be a power struggle for him right now, with you offering him everything under the sun and him able to refuse you. Just my 2 cents!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Throw a couple of Cherios in the toilet and ask him if he can use his pee to push them under.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Do not give up, do not put him back in diapers!! Stick with it, you said yourself you have not been consistent, so how would he be consistent? Give it a few days, stay in the house, in underwear alone, or naked, and just keep it up. He will get it eventually. Once he sees that you are not going to give up he will not give up. There is no reason, unless there are other issues why a 3.5 year old can not use the potty. Let him clean his own mess, use very little words when he has an accident, and when he uses the potty cheer, as loudly as you can, and praise him!!!! Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

One thing we did with our son was when he had an accident (no matter the size) was he had to take a bath EVERY TIME. This was fine for him at first, but when he found out potty accident bath time was a strictly all business no play i.e. no toys the novelty quickly wore off. It didn't take very long for him to figure out that if he didn't want to take a bath, then he needed to go in the potty. We werent forceful with it, just mater-of-fact, plain and simple, these are the rules. As long as you are consistant they will accept it.

Forget the rewards... They don't really work and who wants to bribe their kids to do things for the rest of their lives! We did start off with rewards-the best one we had was a bucket of toy soldiers (check out the Hobbytown shop in Everett by the mall they are super cool-better than the toy story ones and they are all different! (next to Mashalls etc.) and he could pick out 1 for pee and 2 for poo's,.. He LOVED collecting the different guys, probably one of the best imaginative toys for boys we have purchased... This worked great to get off the candy reward and to give a new excitement to the potty training, but in the end it was the verbal rewards of how proud we were and the phone calls to grandmas and aunties that really made it special.
Our son also enjoyed picking out undies, he began getting upset if he would pee on "Spiderman" or whomever. We would keep telling him what a big boy he was and he really took pride in it. I suppose it did help that he had an older boy cousin to look up to who wore big boy pants and went potty on his own.
Good luck! Dont go back to diapers! You can do it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

leave him naked on the bottom at home.

Then again, a child will do it when they are ready.
My son is now 3.5, and he recently just started going on his own.. and we didn't have to force it. It just came.
He is not perfect yet... but that's fine.
He is better with it and his body's cues now... and his ability.

Don't make it a battle. It can't be won.
My son even told me once "IT'S MY BODY... !!!!" and that was that.
So I backed off a bit.

Boys, often take longer and are older when getting the hang of it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I know you said no more pull-ups (I did too) but have you tried the Cool-Alerts? We used those with my oldest and within just a couple of days he was trained.

Also, are you in an area where maybe you can have him pee outside (gross? > not when you're a boy). We told ours to do it to "keep the snakes away" and it really worked.

He will get it eventually :)



answers from Portland on

I just have to share my experience with you. I have twin boys. I started to try and potty train with they were 2 1/2. Most of the boys in their daycare were potty trained so why shouldn't mine be too, right? Wrong. I tried three different time with no luck. I too tried stickers, m&ms, cleaning up after themselves, reading books long enough to keep them entertained to keep them sitting there. Nothing worked. I just felt they weren't totally ready. I was frustrated. So I just decided to train one at a time to ease my time in the bathroom. The first one was basically potty trained in 3 days. (And he was the one that showed the least interest. ) Really no rewards unless he asked for an M&M or sticker. And I was happy to give him one. Then I waited about two months to train my second twin. He was the one that had done better in previous attempts, but like your son, he could careless about when and where he went in his pants. And he even liked the idea of cleaning up after himself. I just needed him to stay on the potty long enough to get results. Mind you he had the choice of two different potty chairs, and a kids potty seat on the toilet or just the regular toilet seat. I went to Walmart and found some cheapy electronic hand held game toy to play with only when he sat on the potty. They were not aloud to play video games at this age yet, so I think this was a real treat for him. Plus he is really into anything electronic. I WORKED!!!!! He would sit there for at least 5 minutes each time. It still took him a good month to where I felt comfortable to take him places in his underwear but we have finally got over that hurdle. I also set up a buzzer for him for every 30 minutes and then eventually it was every 45 minutes. That only last about a week and then he got pretty good about telling me when he had to go, when I asked of course. And also, don't think of it was rewards, think of it as creative parenting. lol.



answers from Portland on

I'm hoping not to be redundant but one of the most important signs of readiness (in my opinion) is emotional readiness. Maybe he's just not ready to give up his diapers yet. It's irritating, I'm sure, since you probably are ready to be done with diaper changes. But 2 things we can't control - what goes in and what comes out. Take the battle away and in due time he'll be interested enough for you to come back to it. Probably once all his friends are trained and there are group trips to the bathroom.

One thing we did months before potty training was diaper changes in the bathroom. This sort of started the idea that potty belonged in the bathroom not the bedroom or elsewhere in the house or yard. I started noticing that when he "hid" to do #2, he went to the bathroom to hide.

In short, take some time off and come back to it later. When HE'S ready, it will be a quick and easy process.

Good luck!



answers from Portland on

We are taking it slowly. My son will be 3 in Aug. and we started him on a bedtime potty routine and he has that down now. Not too long ago, I added a morning potty routine. He fights it now and then, but will usually go. It is a good thing, since he has been dry in the mornings for a long time now. He just doesn't want to go on the potty. We are getting to the point of being more regular at going in the morning. I sometimes add in a nap time potty, but get lots of resistance there. Now that the weather is warmer, I am taking him outside with a potty seat and underwear and let him play and, hopefully, he gets the hang of it.

He still wants to be my baby and often tells me he doesn't want to be a big boy, that he is little.



answers from Bellingham on

Maybe you already got this advise, but I had a son exactly like yours, he was very late into his 3rd year before he finally potty trained, close to 4. I finally got rid of diapers completely, bought those plain plastic pull up cloth diaper covers and a dozen pairs of padded training underwear. I told him I was sorry, but we couldn't afford diapers anymore, but that these were pretty much the same thing. They evidently felt yucky enough with the plastic pull up thing that when he wet - he wanted them off- then I told him that he was a big boy and I needed his heIp. I would walk him to the bathroom and have him rinse them in the bathtub, and make it a big enough job that finally he realized he wouldn't lose so much play time if he would just go potty. If he pooped, then he had to dump it in the toilet and swish it around to clean it most of the way off. He potty trained pretty quickly when I started doing this. He decided it wasn't fun.
I didn't make it like he was being bad and I didn't act like I was mad or upset with him, just that he was big enough to help mommy take care of his pants since he didn't want to use the potty and this was the way it was. It was totally up to him. It worked.
Good luck, I know it is trying, and frustrating when you hear people say they potty trained their kids when they were 11/2, or 2 years old. I say, THEY were just trained well, and knew when to put their kids on the toilet. To much work to me. Definitely easier to wait till they are ready.

No matter what- he won't graduate in diapers! He will potty train before long!



answers from Portland on

Hi J.,

I've potty trained many children when I was a Nanny, I'm a parent coach now helping more parents with potty training issues.

To me, it sounds like your son isn't ready. Often boys train later than girls. Before I list some things to watch for, let me address "clean up accident" theory.

I think having kids clean-up accidents is GREAT when kids just stop trying, when parents know kids can do it. But it does not work for training.

Now, you probably know the signs, since you trained one before, but here are a few:
1) He can stay dry for hours
2) He knows when he wants to go
3) He dislikes his wet diaper
4) He can undo his clothes himself

If you think it's a point of training, I like using a watch with a timer as a "reminder" so your child is in charge. Kids like doing things on their own and using a watch with a timer helps them feel in charge.

You set the alarm for 30-45 minutes and it's his job to go & try.

Lastly, you may want to look at a urinal style potty chair. I've never tried it, but it may help for training boys. Here is an example.

Best of Luck-

R. Magby



answers from Seattle on

My son was 3yrs 4 months when he was finally potty trained. (He's an October baby). We tried hard the summer before he turned 3 and he did go in the potty when he was naked but always wet his pants when clothed. I agree- I hated the pull-ups too. The early childhood eduacator at our preschool coop suggested backing off and telling him his body was not ready yet. I was thankful to just put him back in diapers and quit for awhile. He would tell people "My body isn't ready yet" in his cute little baby voice. Well, at 3 yrs 4 months he woke up dry two days in a row and I said "guess what, your body is ready now." He started using the potty consistently from that day forward. It was simple once he was ready. I don't know if you want to use anything from our experience, just throwing it out there. Take care, this too shall pass.



answers from Phoenix on

Sounds like my sister! She has her boy practice in their backyard and bath tub (at the end of the bath of course) for aim and control. I have potty trained my daughter and will be potty training my son in a couple of years so I know methods that worked for girls. In trying to help my sister though we have discovered the practice of putting the potty training sponges in the toilet or cheerios or fruit loops (something flushable) for boys to aim at to make it more "fun" or exciting to go that and consistency is what worked with my daughter. Though it can be a big pain you have to develop a routine as I am sure you did with your daughter. Let us know what you try!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions