potty training blues
December 22, 2013 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone give us tips on getting our daughter to "let go" in the potty or toilet??? She can hold it in and knows when she needs to go... but can't do it in the right place.

So I wrote this post - http://ask.metafilter.com/227871/Toilet-training-dramas-Daughter-hates-potty over a year ago. But you don't necessarily need to read that to help me out here.

My daughter is now just over 3, and still not toilet trained. She is able to "hold it in" for hours and hours, but can't seem to consciously "let go". She loves to wear underpants instead of nappies and is proud of the fact. When she is naked or wearing underpants, she will not have any "accidents" unless she is completely socially distracted and having a great time. Otherwise she just holds it in. We can tell when she is visibly needing to go because she crosses her legs and holds her crotch. But when we sit her on the potty or the toilet, she DOES NOT GO. We sit her there, read her books, let her watch programs on the laptop, etc. BUt she just won't go. She says she "can't". The only way we can get her to go in these instances is to put her in the bath or the shower, where she forgets about it and wees.

Anyone got tips on helping her to wee on the potty or toilet? it seems like she is scared to or somehow very uncomfortable about it. But she will sit there willingly, and loves wearing her underpants, and is proud of the fact that she can hold it in and not wee on the carpet.
posted by beccyjoe to Education (17 answers total)
I've heard of floating cheerios in the toilet and making it a target practice gameā€¦
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:31 PM on December 22, 2013

Did you try giving her beverages while she's sitting on the potty? If she already needs to go that might help get things started.
posted by orange swan at 3:40 PM on December 22, 2013

Age old solution, run the water in the sink.
posted by raisingsand at 3:45 PM on December 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

First of all, stop making it an issue. She is ready, and she wants to. So the problem right now is the pressure. Remove the pressure.
Noone has ever stayed on diapers forever. But an increasing number of children have potty-problems far into school-age. As I understand it, it is because the children are stressed in various ways.

This is not at all something that can be addressed on the internet, in a single post. Because the issues involved are very complex and intertwined.

It seems you are doing the right thing: you see her crossing her legs and fidgeting and get her to go to the toilet. That should be good, but it isn't working.

I'm thinking of two different strategies I've worked with, depending on my own life situation.
With child no. 1, potty training happened while I was on holiday, and she ran around with no pants for several weeks. She learnt when she was doing stuff, but still caused problems at her daycare when she got back. Finally, she worked it out and was OK.
With foster-child here and now, he almost always wears a diaper, but we have a conversation about how amazing it is when he uses the toilet, so he really makes an effort to go there when he can (maybe 30 % of the time).

(THere are other children in my life, but they haven't seemed to have problems in this field).

Most important knowledge: this is something you never, ever want to fight about
posted by mumimor at 4:10 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

"When she is naked or wearing underpants, she will not have any "accidents" unless she is completely socially distracted and having a great time."

Good news - it sounds like she technically is already "potty trained" then. Now she's working towards consistency, and what you've described sounds totally normal for a 3-year-old girl.

Age 3 is a huge "I'll Do It Myself" phase. So maybe do everything you can to remove yourself from the process. Don't make this a power struggle. If you don't already have one, get a "potty chair" or toilet seat insert with a step stool that she can use all on her own without adult intervention.

Get rid of all the nappies and Pull-ups. Let her wear cotton underpants from now on. Make sure she wears elastic waist pants (leggins, sweatpants, jeans with no button etc) she can easily pull on and off all by herself.

Stop trying to "put" her on the potty - let her figure out where she needs to be and when by allowing her have a few more accidents. No big deal. When she has to urinate or defecate, don't touch her. Don't pick her up. Don't mention it. Let her do it all by herself. If she has an accident, show her how to clean it up and provide a change of clothes (with elastic-waist pants) where she can reach them, and show her where you are supposed to put your soiled clothing.

Recommended reading: Diaper Free Before Three by Dr. Jill M. Lekovic, and Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy? by Ames & Ilg.
posted by hush at 4:29 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

As I understand it, it is because the children are stressed in various ways.

I have a theory about this. I think it's that diapers are way better than they used to be. Now they're made out of some freaky chemical jelly that expands when wet. Thirty years ago, you got leaky plastic diapers or cloth diapers. Now, if you pee your pants, it's pretty freaking comfortable. Sit there all day why don't you.

Anyway, nthing, it's no biggie, three isn't an old age for potty training these days, it's fine. Let her take the lead a little more. Run some water. Let her play with a plastic glass filled with water while she's on the potty. Sit with her and read a book if she likes that, and if she'd rather be alone, close the door and be on your way.

I had a lot of potty training anxiety about my daughter. I don't know what I thought. That she'd be in diapers at the prom or something. I have an AskMe question somewhere in my history on this topic. It wound up not being a big deal -- I did take two days off work, Thursday and Friday, and Mr. Llama took two days off work, Monday and Tuesday, and we were just like 'hey, guess what, it's time to learn to use the potty.' She was a little over three.

It was non-traumatic. She was ready and although 'mom and dad took four days off work' makes it sound a little drama filled, it was just that we wanted it to be a kind of holistic thing as opposed to 'okay you're going to bed, pee...NOW' which really would have been drama-filled and ridiculous.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:11 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went and found it -- here's my old question, if it's helpful.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:18 PM on December 22, 2013

Thanks everyone. I should add - she has always worn CLOTH NAPPIES - so there is no "dry feeling" modern Huggies luxury...
posted by beccyjoe at 6:50 PM on December 22, 2013

Some great suggestions here. She is definitely feeling stressed about the pressure to pee. I always say "it doesn't matter if you go or not, it's fine either way and it's great that you tried." I read her books and whatever. Maybe I should leave the room, that's a good idea. and give her something to play with on the potty/toilet.
posted by beccyjoe at 6:55 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

My son really liked the book "Once Upon A Potty." It definitely showed going on the potty as a no-pressure, take-your-time activity, if that helps you.
posted by Mchelly at 6:56 PM on December 22, 2013

Reward her for going to sit on the potty - a few m&ms, a new marker, whatever. A bigger reward for a productive visit to the potty - a matchbox car, Lego minifig, etc.
posted by theora55 at 7:35 PM on December 22, 2013

I tell my kid to think about the ocean when she is trying to pee. She says it helps.
posted by rabidsegue at 7:55 PM on December 22, 2013

This one may be a stretch to try and explain to a three-year-old but I suppose you could try it if all else fails. A urologist once told me to imagine holding a marble in your bum without dropping it into the toilet. For some reason it helps engage the right wee initiation muscles. This has never failed for me. Hooray for over-sharing on the internets!
posted by unicornologist at 8:31 PM on December 22, 2013

Leave the room when she's on the potty and promise her a treat/prize when she pees. We went with 1 m&m for a pee. A " fun size" pack for a poop. The "potty prizes" reduced in frequency after 3 days and were gone after a week.

We also never did stories or toys while on the potty. It seemed to slow the process down. This also seems true of my friends kids who need an hour of stories on the potty to poop in the morning. That is not ideal.
posted by saradarlin at 9:50 PM on December 22, 2013

Sigh... we have been rewarding her with a sticker every time she tries, and a few M&Ms when she pees in the bath or shower.

Yes maybe reading to her there is distracting, but if I don't read to her, she just gets up and walks away. Its the only way to keep her on there.

@Mchelly I am downloading the "once upon a potty" app right now.

@unicornoligist I will give that a go but I imagine she's too young.
posted by beccyjoe at 3:35 AM on December 23, 2013

You're rewarding her for going where you don't want her to go!! M&Ms are for toilet only!! Otherwise, just go NO STRESS. That means you too, mom. Good luck!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:23 AM on December 23, 2013

I'm thinking that there's some reward in it for her for holding it. Otherwise, she'd be wetting herself regularly.

Instead of building a culture around sitting in the john waiting to pee, how about you just say, "When you're ready, you know where it is." And just stop altogether with the entertainments.

Put her in underpants, and let her have a few accidents. She'll stop it soon enough.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:21 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

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