How often should a 3 year old pee?
June 6, 2014 12:33 PM   Subscribe

My almost 3 year old son has still not been potty trained.

We haven't pushed it a lot, but every couple months since he turned 2 we have tried the 3 day method of training. I say tried the 3 day method, but stopped because he was always peeing every 2-15 minutes (I used a timer, this is not an exaggeration). He is still at this level now at a couple weeks to age 3. We tried a morning in underwear and between 9:30-11:30 we had over 12 accidents on the floor. He did go in the potty once.

We have a 3 year old appointment in about a month for him and I plan on bringing it up to the doctor then. I'm just trying to figure out to what level I should be concerned and if I should be requesting special testing, special doctor, etc or is this is a wait and see kind of thing.

Relevant background details

When I was pregnant we had 2 extra ultrasounds for him because they were concerned about kidney size and about the tube between the kidney and the bladder (i think, it may have been the tube between bladder and urethra?) Ultimately, they decided it was small, but in the realm of normal.

He is not resistant to potty training. We have been fairly low key because when we tried treats he just got upset that he couldn't manage to pee in the potty. ie. he couldn't pee in the potty, but then 3 minutes later accidentally peed on the floor.

Whenever he pees he sounds surprised that it happened. He can't seem to make a connection between the feeling of peeing and the sensation of having to go.

He will go on the potty at some predictable times, like when he just wakes up. Other than that we are out of luck because he goes so often.

He is not "dry" at any point in the day. He is normal developmentally otherwise.

Daycare REALLY wants him to be trained at 3. They tried for a couple weeks before I was done with school for the summer. They had no luck, I think he went all of once in their potty.

He says he wants to wear underwear and go in the potty.
posted by aetg to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I wanted to add that I'm not super concerned that he isn't potty trained, I'm fine with that taking awhile, I'm concerned that he is going so often and that he is expressing a desire to do something that he isn't figuring out.

Also, he does like fluids, but he isn't peeing huge amounts, so I don't think that is a problem. I usually just give drinks when they are requested.
posted by aetg at 12:36 PM on June 6, 2014

Have you discussed this with his ped? I had a friend whose son was in a similar situation, turned out he really couldn't feel when he needed to pee either. He ended up with a minor operation and potty-training issues went away immediately.
posted by vignettist at 12:38 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I memailed you.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:58 PM on June 6, 2014

One of the signs of potty training readiness that I remember reading about was "diaper reliably stays dry for over 2 hours at a stretch." To answer the question above the fold, when my son first figured out the potty thing at just shy of 3, he'd go every 1.5-2.5 hours, and now at 3.5, he usually goes every 3 or 4 hours during the day. If, when in a diaper, your son pees every 10-15 minutes, that definitely sounds like a "not ready for potty" signal.

(Oh, and for us the "not making the connection between the full bladder, the release, and the wetness" was definitely a thing before he was ready, because we also had a few aborted tries beforehand. When he got it, it was like a light switch. I'd definitely check the medical stuff with your ped, but it's totally possible that he's in the range of normal.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:03 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Talk to your pediatrician. It's possible that there's something medical going on, and it's also possible that your son is just not ready. My son is 3.5 and still not potty trained (though he can tell us when he needs to go and can stay dry for hours at this point, but that's a very recent development). Like you, we have not pushed it, and I can't remember where he was with the peeing frequency at almost-3 but he was definitely nowhere near ready to be potty trained at that age.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:10 PM on June 6, 2014

If he says he wants to use the potty, that's a huge signal for readiness. If he's surprised every time he goes, that points more to a physical issue than a developmental issue.
posted by vignettist at 1:25 PM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Lots of kids don't learn to use the toilet until way later than 3 years old. There's nothing abnormal about that. It's a shame that your daycare is pressuring you to get him out of diapers. Kids develop at different rates, and it's really unfair to put pressure on a kid to start using the toilet before they have developed the necessary body awareness. (It's also much harder for you to try to teach him before he's ready!)

On the other hand, the thing you're describing about his diaper being continuously wet sounds more unusual. Have you tried letting him run around naked for a whole morning, to observe how and when he pees? That might be worthwhile to do. It could help you understand what's going on, and also help him make the connection between what he feels inside and what happens outside. Obviously you'd do this in the kitchen or some other place where pee on the floor doesn't matter.

If you're concerned, though, for any reason, talk to your pediatrician about it. They should be able to help.
posted by alms at 1:40 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing 'ask your ped'.

That said. I had this frustration with my son at 2 3/4 when we were preparing to move on potty training and I was trying to figure out how often I needed to sit him on the potty to keep him dry. 2 hours? Nope. 1 hour? Nope. 30 minutes? Nope. It was driving me bananas. I also wondered if there was something wrong.

Then, um, life happened (complicated end of pregnancy, newborn, crazy travel) and potty training got put on hold. We restarted at about 3 1/4. I kept him naked from the waist down (only a couple hours a day at first) and put his potty in the living room. Kid was a rock star.

So, there might be a problem and you should sort of start looking into it but it isn't time to freak out. And I really do suggest going bare-bottom for a bit - either it will help your son figure it out, or it will give you extra insight as to what's going on. For your sanity's sake start with short periods - maybe an hour. During that hour, you could try letting him run around for 5 minutes then sits on the potty for 5 minutes. See what happens.

Good luck.
posted by telepanda at 2:02 PM on June 6, 2014

Obviously every child is different. Our now 3.5-year-old was not potty trained until just after he turned 3, so the timing is not a big issue in my mind. The frequency, however, is a little alarming. My instinct would definitely be to raise this issue with your pediatrician. I think by that age he should be going longer between urination, and you should be finding dry diapers at least some of the time.
posted by dellsolace at 2:02 PM on June 6, 2014

If he is not even aware of needing to go, then yes, schedule a doctor's visit.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:09 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is not normal. See a doctor sooner than later.
posted by 256 at 3:06 PM on June 6, 2014

So hey look, my daughter is going through potty training right now (early July she turns 3). Her brother was trained by 2 and a half - she was interested at 18 months, then at 2 years, but she kept basically flipping from interested to I'm going to smear poop everywhere in the house and pee intentionally in weird places. Yeah, fun.

Anyway, so two weeks ago my wife and I got frustrated, and she did some reading, since she shows *every* sign that she's ready except for a strong propensity to just ignore you on round 3 and then promptly smear poop on her brother's bed and pee in daddy's closet. (She'd spend parts of the day in training underwear, but wow - when she decided she was done with it - that was it)

Anyway, the diapers disappeared and it was told to her that she was going to pee like a big girl. For her? If she peed, she got 3 m&ms and a star. If she pooped, she got 6 m&ms and a star. 5 stars and she'd get a princess (small disney princess figures at the check out line in Target - maybe go with a match box car in your case). On the first day she goes a full day without peeing on herself (which *may* be today - she's got an hour to go before bedtime) she'll earn something from Brave. When she goes a whole week - she'll get an even bigger bribe. Yep - we're bribing... but hell if it didn't work. First and second days she had 3 accidents each, then it was two after that, and its been mostly one accident a day for about a week (and its generally after we've prompted her).

And at this point, she doesn't ask for m&ms, she's out of princesses, and she checks on the Brave item and the doll daily (yes, the items are in the house and she knows where they are. The incentive is something she gets to look at every day if she wants).

Anyway, she still wears pullups at night, so I'm going to go put her in hers and call today her day of victory for the Brave item... Tomorrow morning, she'll ask for it, and we'll hand it to her and she'll be proud - then her next goal will be to go a whole week with no accidents.

So yeah, 3 weeks ago, I'd have been asking the same question. If the kid is ready, but is just a bit defiant like mine ... well... this is what we did after researching it on the internet.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:32 PM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, much like my son, the most proud / terrifying sounds and words to hear are the sound of the toilet flushing and someone saying 'yay! I get an m&m!' when they didn't tell you.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:33 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay... So I've potty trained lots of kids with autism and zero neurotypical kids. But when we're first starting out the kids always sit on the potty until they pee. And not just a few drips but fully empty their bladder (or maybe a 4 second stream.) And we start out with short break times off the potty. If he can be successful staying dry for 10 minutes, go with that then up it by five minutes next time.
It's time consuming and probably not practical for eveyday life but just somthing to keep in mind.
posted by missriss89 at 5:43 PM on June 6, 2014

He's well within the realm of normal. I potty-trained one kid at 3.5 and it took a couple of days, and was very straight forward. He had no interest in potty-training until then and then one day seemed interested and bam: okay, pee and poop here? Sure. The 2.5 year old wants to potty train, is dry at night but like yours, is surprised when she pees unexpectedly. When they're ready, potty training is a breeze. If they're not, it's really hard and pointless drama. Your daycare sucks for pushing you when she's not ready - that's their convenience not your child's well-being.

If your paediatrician says she's fine, I would decide to revisit in six months and not stress at all about this. Have potty books around, ask her casually once in a while and just wait.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:29 PM on June 6, 2014

I disagree with all the doctor's visit and daycare says this. Boys just get potty trained later than girls, no need for alarm or shame. Of course, you can consult, but in my experience, they can be a bit later than the world wants them to be. Eventually, they get it, and sometimes, if you take them to the potty, they turn their head and their whole body too and spray the bathroom, LOL. Even at 3 or 4.

I'm not sure why the alarm, except for the day care, who should be told to stand down, IMHO. Sometimes boys are later, so what? They all get it eventually, and I think our society has this weird sort of timeline that doesn't coincide with little people's bodies. Give him a break, poor little guy.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:49 PM on June 6, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I am certainly bringing this up with the ped so no worries there. If anything I figure she can write a doctor's note for daycare so they won't push him if he isn't physically ready.

As for the other potty training suggestions, we have pretty much tried everything (including naked time, this is how I figured out he was peeing constantly). It is clear that this is a physical thing, just not if is a out of realm of normal physical thing or a just he is on the later end of normal.

Because of his med history I will push for some more extended testing just to rule out a few things and not worry about the training for now. I think that I will call for an earlier appointment, hopefully that will at least put my mind at rest for now.
posted by aetg at 7:05 PM on June 6, 2014

Ask your pediatrician and also everything else everyone said, but I will also just put out there that neither of my daughters (and boys are supposed to be harder to train) had any interest whatsoever in potty training until it came down to: you can't go to preschool unless you can use the potty. It was really a "now or never" kind of situation, they knew the whole drill, we'd done rewards and we'd done scheduling, but nothing really made them take notice until they realized that they couldn't go to big kid school.

Night training came later and the alarm was a freaking miracle, but day training was totally based on goal orientation.
posted by padraigin at 7:59 PM on June 6, 2014

This sounds exactly like my son. Potty training was a process of learning several steps: how to go when needed, how to empty the bladder completely, how to refrain from peeing when not on the potty. At first we were definitely putting him on the potty every ten to 15 minutes. Then we gradually lengthened that time. He needed to be coached to empty his bladder because he would pee a tiny bit and then want to be done. We made a game of seeing 'how many pee pees' he could make and that helped a lot.
posted by bq at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2014

Go to the doctor. My brother did not develop the appropriate muscle tone until he was almost twelve. He wet his pants a lot and he smacked anyone who made fun of him. Then they did not have those pants and he endured a lot of teasing. But, he had not a problem telling people that he had a bladder problem, it would go away, but he was willing to smack them if they made fun of him. He grew enough so that it went away but he had to stop his habit of smacking people, that took longer. Thank God my parents were pretty nonchalant about it and never pressured him a bit. He is a very well adjusted adult now. So, I say don't harass him, it will work out.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:34 PM on June 8, 2014

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