My child will be in Depends at his 2032 freshman orientation.
May 6, 2013 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Potty trainers of MetaFilter - parents, non-parents, if you have any modicum of experience potty training, please help!

I have no prior experience with kids or potty training them. Even our animals came to us trained to use the litter box or backyard. I need some serious help with a dose of reality. Are we doing this right? Are our expectations in line? Is our kid going to be in Depends at his freshman orientation?

Kid is 3 years (just turned on St. Patty's day) and it seems like we're in a holding pattern on potty training. We started him on training in January but it was piece meal and there was lots of disruptions for the first few months. We really got serious about 6 weeks ago.

We have a training potty for him that frankly seems too small (he's easily 3.5 feet tall and about 45lbs). We have a seat for the top of the big potty that he refuses to use. He wears underwear most of the time. He goes to daycare M-F where they also work with him to potty train. And yet, we're not making any headway on pooping in the potty, letting us know when he needs to poop, or using the big potty. Here's a typical day:

He's in overnight diapers. We get up, ask if he wants to go potty to which he usually replies no. I have him pick out his underwear which he can put on himself. This morning, he did this and then told me - Look mommy! I'm peeing! - IN THE BED. I reminded him in a somewhat stern voice that he needs to do that in the potty and asked him why he didn't tell me he needed to go. His answer was basically like, I just told you I went. I made him take off his underwear and put them in the hamper.

At school, they will put him on the potty anywhere between every 1/2 hour to every hour. So, his pee accidents are pretty low. But, he also gets really aggravated at them for making him sit on the can so often. He has pooped in the potty once at school on purpose. The rest of the time, he has either gotten off the potty and then pooped in the corner OR he graduated to just pooping in his underwear. We've offered no small amount of bribes for pooping in the potty, which he knows of and apparently lusts after, but they haven't sealed the deal.

I asked him the other day why he doesn't like to poop in the potty and he mentioned something about there being bears in there - whether it's the potty or his poop, I don't know. Apparently, he will go and inform a teacher that he pooped and that they need to clean it up. I want to tell them to make him clean it up next time he does it (not to do the revulsion thing, but more that he needs to be responsible for the consequences).

When he gets home, we ask him again if he needs to use the potty and the answer is usually no. If we insist that he sit on the potty, we get a meltdown. I'm sure it's because he's tired from his day and just wants to sit and watch Backyardigans but his level of pee accidents increases exponentially around this time so it almost seems like malpractice to not put him on the pot.

Is 6 weeks too long to be at this point? Too short? Is there something we can try that we're not? He has no developmental delays or issues. He's got great verbal skills and understands the basic concepts. My gut tells me he's enjoying the attention of Skittles for peeing but can't really be bothered to do the harder stuff like sitting on the big potty and pooping. I'm completely out of my element here, so any advice, anecdotes or resources would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Leezie to Human Relations (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What finally got my daughter to use the potty at age ~3.5 was telling her "whatever, I'm not fighting it any more, but you have to clean up your own mess." "Cleaning up her mess" was wiping up the floor, changing her clothes, putting the poop in the big toilet and flushing it, and taking the soiled clothes to the laundry basket in the laundry room. That changed everything in about 3 weeks. We had hardwoods, though, if you have carpet that could be a risky endeavor.
posted by KathrynT at 3:07 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have no children, however I have watched way too many nanny shows.

1) I think your main issue here is that you are asking him. I have always heard that you need to not ask, but say "Let's go potty" and put him on there. The school is doing this it seems from your statement saying that they put him on the potty every half hour to an hour. You have to be the parent and have your kid "try" even if he says no. You already know he is not being truthful about using the potty.

2) Make him relax. I saw a trick in Super Nanny where they read their child a book while they were on the potty. It distracts them from throwing fits or being "scared".

3) Are you congratulating your child enough when he does use the potty? Perhaps he is getting too much negative attention for doing it wrong, and not enough positive attention for doing it right? For kids, attention is attention. He is getting a reaction from you when he does the wrong thing.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:09 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

We used books with our kids. Just bribe them with some picture books to help them get over negative associations with sitting on the potty. The downside if that we have a family of toilet readers, but one problem at a time. And by "bribe" I mean keep some books he likes in the bathroom. It's more incentivize than bribe. This may help offset the meltdown of being told "no tv". Also, make the "no TV until potty" rule explicit. Expect that like all changes, this will be greeted by meltdown for a couple weeks when he'll suddenly act like it's completely normal and that he's never been upset by it.

But don't feel too bad, kids potty train at all different ages. In my limited experience i think only children potty train later than kids with siblings who either want to differentiate from "the baby" or emulate an older sibling, but I dont exactly have a statistical sample.
posted by GuyZero at 3:10 PM on May 6, 2013

I asked this question last year and you might find some of the answers and information helpful. The parents in question just stopped dealing with the issue all together---other than supplying the child with the pull ups. The child was fully responsible for cleaning himself up, disposing of the dirty diapers, etc. And then last summer, the child had enough and just starting using the toilet (and was quite proud of himself I might add). So I just wanted to highlight this story to emphasize that there is a lot of variability for how this ultimately works for each child.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:21 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

My daughter (who was in all other respects quite advanced) took aaaaaaaages to potty train. We tried everything. She didn't go on for peeing until around 3y3mo and then it was another 6 months or so until she pooped in the toilet (although she would ask us for a pull-up to put on her so she could poop in it.) In the end, we're pretty sure that she just decided on her own to do each one. Unhelpful, I know, but it seems to have happened that way with a number of my friends' kids.
posted by gaspode at 3:22 PM on May 6, 2013

My daughter was in diapers, just after 3rd birthday. When she was around 2/2.5 I put little toilets in our bathrooms and she played at using them. Then... nothing for about 7 months. She came to me and said she wanted to stop using diapers. I told her I really didn't want accidents, was she sure? She was and toilet trained herself in 2 days.

Prior to that she had pooped once in the big toilet but found it frightening. So I left it alone.

In your situation, I would put the kid back in diapers, pull ups probably and let him figure it out. It sounds like his potty training has reached persecution stage - and you don't really want to get into a battle over his biological processes. If he is diapers, he has his agency back and he can take his time...
posted by zia at 3:29 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not a comprehensive plan, but a few tips:

- Ipad, or videos, or something else relaxing and enticing for sitting on the potty.

- We had better luck catching pee when he was bare instead of in underwear. It's harder to hold, easier for them to notice they need to go.

- Do two days in a row bare-bum, at home, in the same room as the potty, with lots of fluids and popsicles to create lots of chances to get it right.

- We used rewards for poop. He got to choose the reward and we wrote it on a chart that he could see from everywhere. It was a series of seven rewards so that it wouldn't be a one-off deal.
posted by xo at 3:32 PM on May 6, 2013

A pediatrics professor of mine told me an instructive anecdote about a colleague of his. This pediatrician had an appointment with a mom who was equal parts enraged and terrified that her child, at the age of 4 or so, still regularly had to wear diapers. She was certain that potty training was a doomed effort, and this would keep him out of the elite kindergarten she wanted him in, setting him for failure in the rest of his life, etc.

The doctor told her, "No one gets married in diapers."

The upshot here is that kids will potty train themselves, because becoming continent is more a function of maturing neuromuscular function that allows for control of bowels and bladder, and not something you need to teach as such. Crapping and peeing in appropriate places at appropriate times are something humans have been doing before spoken language, and land mammals have been doing it for even longer. It'll work out.

You can take steps to encourage your child to use the bathroom, but putting pressure on a kid to get toilet trained can end up with the kid resisting the only way they can: not pooping. As posters above have mentioned, kids realize that soggy diapers and soiled trousers are no fun at a variety of ages.
posted by demons in the base at 3:39 PM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

I used with my first kid and it was wonderful. With the second, an about to be three boy, we are still working through the training process but the techniques used for the first don't seem to apply to him.

I admit to bribing with M&Ms. It's the only thing for which I use food as a reward and he's pretty M&M motivated. I also found a child sized toilet on Craigslist and had it installed in the kids' bathroom ao that makes it kinda fun.

I do NOT ask him if he needs to go - I TELL him that he needs to go sit on the potty now. When he poops in his undies, I tell him how gross it is. Conversely, when he poops in the potty, we talk about how nice it is to not have poop on his butt. I've been pretty low-key about the whole thing because he's a very chill kid, but I am frank with him that using the toilet is important. It's a big boy thing to do and as he gets better at using the toilet he gets to do more and more (previously off-limits) big boy stuff. We, of course, hi-five and hand out chocolate, I'm not that low-key!

Is he constipated, by chance? The bears comment has me wondering - did a daycare provider say 'bear down' or something similar? I'd try to make sure they are not shaming him at daycare as that can complicate things. Do you give him a book or iPad/leap pad when he sits?

Good luck- potty training is crazy making!!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:40 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I toilet trained my 3 children this way:
I had a countdown chart to the big day for a week, scratching out each day with my child and making a big fuss of the date he or she would become a big boy or big girl, showing the potty and big boy/girl pants.
Big day arrived and they just did what they were supposed to do. I put up with a week of occasional accident, taking each one calmly. After a week there were no problems, night or day.
posted by francesca too at 3:41 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree that you need to tell him not ask him. Just tell him that when people get up in the morning, the first thing they do is visit the toilet. That's just the way it is. Also, we used M&Ms. I was so against food bribing, so, so against... but I got desperate. Three for pee and TEN for a poo! It helped. My kids were SO unmotivated by stickers. Also, I know you said the potty chair is too small for him, but what about a cartoon marathon in the living room, while sitting on the potty chair? He gets up from the chair, the TV goes off. After my boys finished potty training, I learned about the Cheerios in the toilet trick. Apparently boys think it is great fun to aim for the Cheerios. Good luck, it's awful, and every kid is motivated differently, and some piss you off months and then abruptly decide "it's time to ditch the diapers". Usually right before a 10-hour car ride, grrrrr. (Not that I would know personally, oh no.)
posted by molasses at 3:43 PM on May 6, 2013

My potty training:
No pants for a week, potties all over the house.
Yoga pants, no undies for a week.
Then we added undies.
Then we moved to normal pants.

He was 3 and a quarter?

I tried some sticker bribed but he didn't care.

We removed nighttime dipes a month later.
posted by k8t at 3:43 PM on May 6, 2013

I so feel your pain. My second child turns 4 in two weeks, and is still not 100% potty trained. He's finally getting close, but not quite there yet (for comparison, his older brother potty trained in about 2 weeks at age 2.5). But this guy is stubborn, and is not having it. We have been potty training for just over 6 months. We have stickers on the reward chart. We have books in the bathroom. He has a little potty he likes, and a potty seat he sometimes likes. He wears a pullup at night, and underwear during the day. Daycare is 100% on board with us, and if he has an accident at school, he has to clean it up, get clothes etc. We do the same at home except for poop, because OMG I'm not going to try and make him clean up poop, I shudder to think what kind of mess that would result in.

I don't have any silver bullet type advice. Just give it time. The more irritated I get with him (which I know is bad, but after 6 months its HARD not to be irritated sometimes), the more he will rebel and have accidents. So while its very difficult, try really hard to be all cheery and happy and unphased by accidents, and get him to help you clean up.

We did recently try doing the bare bum at home thing, with the potty placed in the middle of the living room one weekend. Things did improve around this time, though I can't be certain if that was the cause of the improvement or just coincidental.

He may just not be ready yet. If you think he has bought in to the potty training being a good thing, then dont go backwards and put him diapers, as this will kill his self confidence on the issue. If you think he hates it, then just put him pull-ups and try again in a couple of months.
posted by Joh at 3:46 PM on May 6, 2013

Before you move to candy rewards, a common little-kid motivator is stickers. Like a page on the wall where he gets to put a sticker of his choice when he uses the potty. It's a pretty remarkable motivator - kids loooove stickers.
posted by GuyZero at 4:08 PM on May 6, 2013

Our four-year-old isn't trained yet. I'm not worried. Every kid does everything at their own pace. At some point he'll decide it's what he wants.

Rushing the process only means dealing with nasty-ass public facilities when out and about.
posted by colin_l at 4:30 PM on May 6, 2013

As often as you can, take your child over to the home of friends who have children who are already potty-trained. That way, they can see the behavior and model it if they're comfortable with it. After months of trying with my twins (and no success), all it took was one afternoon and seeing their child using the potty to give them the idea, and that was that.
posted by davejay at 4:50 PM on May 6, 2013

I recommend a video called Potty Power.
posted by Dansaman at 5:01 PM on May 6, 2013

I was pretty sure that the whole "training" racket was a scam and that if I just provided an example to follow and access to appropriate facilities I wouldn't have to do a thing -- and that worked great for me. Here's a little toilet that doesn't flush, for children. "Can I do poos in it as well?" Yes. Remaining disposables went out the door to a neighbour days later; potty went to another neighbour in a matter of weeks. (Kid was 2.5; we used a flip-down kid-size toilet seat.) No drama, no bribes, very simple.

Anecdote-wise, that non-approach approach has worked for everybody who has been confident in it, but half-assing in either direction? That way lies madness. Either dig in and throw out the diapers (I would not, but if you are determined to press on...), or throw your hands up, talk to your kid about how the toilet/potty will still be there when he is ready, and leave him alone. But -- anecdotally, anyway -- for the leave-'em-be approach to work you really, really need to be not just not pressuring, but pretty disinterested. No bribes, no rewards, no "Licensed Character Uses the Potty!" board books, nothing. Leave the door open when you go, put some underpants in his sock drawer, and hush.

The thing with the day care sitting him down that frequently strikes me as bizarre; that is not something I would ever pay somebody to do with a kid. I would think it's not really a good use of anybody's time. That level of this-is-a-big-deal, you-have-no-control-here may be delaying the whole thing rather than helping.
posted by kmennie at 5:07 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

We didn't even try until our son was 3 years, 4 months. We waited because he showed no signs of readiness and was perfectly happy in his wet or dirty diaper. His teacher said he was ready so we thought we would give it a go.

We put him on the potty literally every 15 minutes for the first 2 days. We lengthened the time a little bit over the next couple weeks. It was exhausting but he rarely had an accident. That said, he avoided pooping in the potty for two or three weeks. He did it once early on, then held it forever or pooped the moment we put a nighttime diaper on him. I literally followed him around the house and would not leave him alone -- he did not want to poop in front of us -- we were all frustrated. Finally, about 2 or 3 weeks into very consistent potty training, he just got it and wanted to poop in the potty too.

I don't have a magic answer -- we just that we tried every reward/strategy possible hoping something would work. We also put him on the potty (not asking) at frequent intervals religiously. We never punished and stayed vigilant to clues as to what he might want in order to poop in the potty. Turns out, giving him privacy worked better than any reward offered.

Good luck. Looking back, it didn't take our son very long to learn (and he has been remarkably accident free). But at the time, it did seem like an eternity so you have my sympathy. Hang in there!!
posted by murrey at 5:15 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My son has issues that have made him a late potty trainer, and he still doesn't have it down.

But you know what got him to be more reliable? Something his ABA therapist taught us. She'd set a timer. It'd go like this;

"Kid Zizzle, do you have to use the potty?"
"Okay. We're going to set the timer for 10 minutes, and when the timer goes off, it will be potty time."

It's been BRILLIANT.

But, FWIW, he has to be ready to use the potty. And at just past three, he may not be yet.
posted by zizzle at 5:21 PM on May 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

For peeing, we'd put a square of toilet paper in the toilet and my son got to do target practice. His Dad demo'd this for him. He had a small stool so stand on to be able to pee in the toilet. We noted that he was doing well being in control of his peeing; he liked th eidea of having control. Every time my son sat on the potty, he got a few M&Ms and an attaboy. If he sat on the potty and pooped, he got a Matchbox car. It took about a dozen matchbox cars.

Don't ask so much. Take him to the toilet every hour and tell him to attempt peeing; especially take him to the toilet 1st thing in the morning. Even if it's just pulling down pants and facing the toilet. After a meal, take him to the potty and have him attempt pooping, even if it's just sitting on the potty. Be as unemotional and matter-of-fact as you can be. "Diapers are a drag; it's time to pee in the toilet" "It's time for a poop opportunity; it feels so much nicer to poop in the potty and not in your pants." Don't push the big boy routine too hard; he may be scared of being too grown up.

No Koolaid, gelatin, frozen pops or other food with lots of artificial dyes or flavors; they can irritate the bladder, and prevent the child from being able to control the bladder. Diapers at night are no big deal; focus on daytime control.
posted by theora55 at 5:23 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not a parent, but I suspect that the school is making the situation worse. It sounds as though your kid has come to associate potty training with being pulled away from things he likes doing and being made to do something boring and irritating and frustrating on a fairly frequent basis. Basically, they're making toilet training both stressful and unpleasant. With that as the baseline, I wouldn't be interested in using the toilet either. In addition, they're making it all about them controlling him, and he's reacting by exerting control in the only way he can: refusing to comply. This question is a version of what you're asking about, and the child there was reacting much the same way yours is.

I'd tell the daycare to cut it out entirely. They're not helping, they may be actively hurting, and they need to just stop trying to get him to use the toilet ever. Put him back in diapers for a little while. Leave the little potty in your bathroom at home, and tell him that he's welcome to use either the little toilet or the big toilet if he wants to, but don't ask him to do it or tell him he has to. Just neutrally put him back in diapers, and stop talking about it. You can say "good job," if he does use the toilet by himself, but don't say anything if he chooses to use the diaper instead, and don't make a big deal out of it.

In a few months, he'll likely have forgotten how irritated he was at the constantly being forced to sit on the toilet when he didn't need to. At that point, still without involving the daycare, and in a totally non-dramatic way, bring the topic up again in conversation. Ask him whether he'd like to try not wearing diapers sometimes and using the potty. But talk with him about it, and help him enact his own wants. Don't push, and definitely don't reward or punish.

Absent a real medical or psychological issue, which your question gives us no reason to believe is present, kids all potty train eventually. Your kid is only 3. He's a baby. There's plenty of time. I think everyone just needs to chill out, drop the issue for a few months, and then try again. He'll come to it on his own time. Just don't let this be something that drives him and everyone else in his life crazy.
posted by decathecting at 5:30 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tried at three years for about a month - no go. Two weeks of refusing to poop in a toilet or training potty or diaper and a big constipation belly. Mostly tears for the parents...

Three and a half? She started asking me to change her and I said, forget it! This is the last bin of diapers I'm buying! I said it to my kid, that from now on she had to use the bathroom. I didn't even use a training potty. I just said she was big and it was time. It took two days and that was it. Not an accident since. I know people train their kids way earlier but honestly, my kids are stubborn little things and I really think she didn't see the use before that time. Your kid will absolutely not be in dipes in college. If this is causing YOU to be constipated with stress, then it's time to let your little one worry about things other than bears in the potty for a little while and revisit a little later. It's really not worth the tears, IMO.
posted by takoukla at 5:32 PM on May 6, 2013

Daughter is almost 4 and we are really just getting out of the woods with potty training. We tried and aborted around 3yo and then really put our foot down around 3.5yo.

What worked for us was: Complete stoppage of diapers except for nighttime. A break from preschool - we had two weeks off to stay at home and just focus on potty training without too many schedule interruptions. Also: bribery. Stickers didn't work, but M&Ms and gummi bears sure did. We also had a "treasure chest" - a box full of temporary tattoos and cheap dollar store toys - that she could pick from whenever she pooped. Watching the Elmo Potty Video was also helpful.

We make sure she goes and sits on the potty about every 3 hours. We just got rid of the training potty and migrated to the potty seat. If I did it over again, I wouldn't even use the training potty.

In the end, it will take patience, it will take your kid being ready, it will take finding what works for him, and it will take repeatedly cleaning pee and poop off various household surfaces. And even when he gets it, expect occasional accidents and regressions and handle them with aplomb.

Also, tons of praise and positive reinforcement, never ever any shaming, threatening, punishment or negative reinforcement.
posted by gnutron at 5:53 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not trying to frighten you, but: though your son doesn't have any developmental-delay issues, is it possible that there's some physical issue bothering him? I ask because my little brother had similar issues potty training - the comment about there being bears in the toilet set off alarm bells for me - that required medical intervention.

Now, my brother's case was different, as he had Hirschsprung's disease, diagnosed shortly after he was born, and my understanding is that symptoms of that show up very quickly, so it's highly likely you'd already know if it was that specific ailment. Nevertheless, it might be worth a trip to the doctor just to see if everything's all right in terms of abnormal constipation or other bowel issues.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 6:19 PM on May 6, 2013

My nephew was potty trained at 3.5 years. Pooping was his final frontier also.

The DVD Potty Power that someone mentioned was a good tool. The little plastic potty was a no go, so we used a stool and a potty seat.

We also tried keeping him on a regular schedule, keeping track of when he usually needed to go potty and setting him up for success by taking him to the potty when it was highly likely that he'd need to use it.
posted by dottiechang at 7:13 PM on May 6, 2013

Just a suggestion if there does seem to be a fear issue getting in the way of toilet use: in the past I've used "monster spray" (water with a drop of food coloring in a spray bottle) with kids to spray the toilet water before they use the toilet, on the same principle as bug spray. They're reassured that they've repelled monsters (or bears, in this case) and no harm is done to the toilet. It would work just as well with a training potty, provided you don't have an overly vigorous sprayer. Also, it is perfectly normal for kiddos to still be potty-training at 3--I certainly can relate to your frustration, but (unfortunately) this is totally normal behavior. Best of luck!
posted by epj at 7:17 PM on May 6, 2013

All I can say is, some kids learn earlier, some kids learn later, but unless there is a serious physical, cognitive, or emotional disability or underlying disorder, your kid will learn eventually. I have found that embracing this idea about everything to do with my kid and her development is very helpful to my mental health.

Good luck!
posted by latkes at 7:33 PM on May 6, 2013

Has he ever asked for a diaper to poop in? If he asked, would you give him one? I'm thinking an intermediate step here might be to tell him that when he needs to poop, you'll give him a diaper, and he can poop in it, and you'll clean him up as usual. At the same time, tell daycare to ease up on the pee-related visits to the toilet. In other words, get him to take control over both peeing and pooping -- for peeing, he gets to the toilet; for pooping, he asks for a diaper -- while eliminating (har har) the variable of the very common toddler fear of pooping in a potty.

Then, if you've seen that he's capable of controlling both types of elimination, you can give it a few weeks and then work on the fear of the potty. That fear can be worked on with the stories and tv time while on the potty.

If, on the other hand, you've found that he really doesn't seem to get it -- that he can't control his pees without being put on the potty every 1/2 hour (which does sound like the most unbelievable waste of his entire freaking day, turning it into this constant back-and-forth to the toilet when he's trying to hang with his friends or build with blocks or play outside or whatever he's into at daycare -- totally agree with decathecting there) -- then you can put him in a pull-up and wait another few months.

Aaaaand, just to address the title here, which I know was a joke but still: the person who recommends potty-training the latest of anyone I know is a pediatric urologist, who has never seen a teenager in diapers but has seen plenty of kids with difficult medical issues rooted in parental potty pressure. Err on the side of later potty training.
posted by palliser at 7:44 PM on May 6, 2013

This is going to sound nuts, but we ditched nighttime diapers and daytime diapers at the same time. If I had waited until my daughter woke up dry, it never would have happened.

Also, I think that the associations your son is making with the potty are getting mixed up. Going to the potty should be somewhat fun, with a sticker or something for even trying. We used a sticker chart where she could earn a prize. Usually something from the dollar section at Target. On the other hand, while you shouldn't shame a child for accidents, they need to own it. You poop your pants while you're watching tv? The tv goes OFF instantly and now we clean up. You pee your pants? Heck, I put DD right in the shower a couple of times when there was a big enough mess. Stick with it!
posted by checkitnice at 7:45 PM on May 6, 2013

We're currently wrestling with our daughter - she will be four in September, and is mostly pretty fine with the whole thing. She's still in nappies overnight, and has the occasional accident through the day (wets pants or floor near toilet). Some things I have noticed that have made a massive difference with how successful any given day is are: a LOT of praise for successful visits to the toilet and minimal negative response to fails (disappointed tones, 'better luck next time', 'let's try harder next time'); bribes; and asking if she needs to use the toilet. In the beginning we'd get her to just sit until something happened, but pretty quickly and after a few accidents we moved to asking. We feel it gives her a little more control, and also means when we dish out the rewards, she earns them a little more.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 8:31 PM on May 6, 2013

Know where my son first used potty?

At school.

He would refuse to go in when it was his turn. So they started having one of his peers tell hm it was his turn to go in. Then they'd have him change his pull up on his own. Eventually he peed in the toilet on his own. But sending him in with two to three other peers is really what did it. He became pretty consistent and out using the potty at school while not using it at home until several months later.
posted by zizzle at 3:55 AM on May 7, 2013

A little bit of future advice: with the next child (assuming you're willing to go through all that again), forget pretty much all the advice that worked this time. Your next child will be completely different.

With our first son, a single M&M was enough bribery for him to toilet train. With our second, not even a $30 toy he talked about obsessively for months was enough to bribe him. It just didn't matter. But once he was physically ready, and we made the choice that it was happening no matter what, it took about three days. As mentioned above, don't ask. You're the parent, and when you know it's time for your child to go (either they're in a regular daily pattern or they're doing that little squirmy dance), put them on the potty or toilet.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:02 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like he's just not quite ready. My kid will be four next month, and when he was your son's age, we honestly just gave up fighting with him about it. He had picked out his own little potty as well as his own potty seat for the regular toilet, he had picked out his own underwear, we tried the sticker reward thing, we tried Elmo, we tried letting him have his own accidents in underwear...nothing worked for very long, and we were all frustrated.

So we switched to pull-ups instead of diapers, even overnight. After a few months of that, we switched to wearing underwear sometimes during the day, or even just part of the day, but we kept the pull-ups at school and at night. We also noted at what times during the day he was likely to go, and we'd put him on the potty or encourage him to go at those times, working around his schedule rather than trying to force it. We'd regularly ask him if he needed to go before we left the house, etc., just to remind him to pay attention to his body, but if he didn't go, no big deal.

Over the last couple of months it clearly became an issue of confidence rather than ability. We forced the issue by simply not buying more pull-ups and going straight to regular underwear all the time, even at night (he'd been dry overnight forever anyway), and providing lots of positive, mostly verbal reinforcement. In the last month he's gone from wearing pull-ups to wearing underwear full time and peeing standing up (!) in the "big potty," with only a couple of accidents early on. It's kind of amazing. We still check in to see if he has to go, but the majority of the time, he handles it on his own. Well, except for wiping his own butt, but that will happen eventually.

He's tall, like your son, and he much preferred the little potty until very recently, even though the thing looked much too small for him. I think the process of getting on to the big toilet, even with the kid seat and a proper stool, seemed intimidating. I also think peer pressure helped in the end; he made a couple of close friends at preschool this spring who were in underwear all the time.

I do think you and the school need to be on the same page. My son's class (a group of 3 year olds of various potty ability) started the year with a regular potty break during class but didn't make a big deal of accidents. Now I think they've gone to potty-as-needed, combined with asking if anyone needs to go, rather than a set break time. Our approach at home was (eventually!) similar, and I think that consistency helped.
posted by percolatrix at 9:49 AM on May 7, 2013

He just doesn't sound ready to potty train yet to me.

Hang in there - he won't go to college in diapers!
posted by waterisfinite at 11:08 AM on May 7, 2013

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