Late-to-train? Back off and shut out the naysayers

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  October 14, 2009 06:00 AM

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Hi, my name is Gina and I have a little boy who'll be 4 in March, but he will not cooperate when it comes to potty training. I tried bribing, even tried disciplining him, but nothing is working and I just don't know what to do. I really need help in figuring out a solution for my problem because this is stopping him from participating in some activities like soccer, which he loves. I tried telling him that he won't be accepted in "soccer school" as he calls it unless he is potty-trained, but nothing will work. Please help.
From: Gina, Windsor, Ontario

Hi Gina,

You're not alone; it seems there is a trend toward potty training happening at later ages and, believe it or not, many respected professionals applaud it. They say it means parents are recognizing that training happens more quickly and much more easily when it's on the child's agenda, not the parents'.

The more pressure you put on your nearly 4-year-old, the more he is likely to feel as if something is wrong with him that he isn't trained, pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton told me. And that makes a child less likely to take the leap to training because he's more fearful of failing. Brazelton is author of many parenting books, including "Toilet Training The Brazelton Way."

So the best advice is to back off completely, and tell your son that whether he uses the potty or not is his decision. Tell him, "You're in charge. I'll leave the potty in the bathroom. If you want it, fine; if not, that's fine, too." Tell him to let you know when he needs his diaper changed and, when he does, keep your tone and your facial expressions matter-of-fact and non-judgmental. This will be hard at times, but it's what will give him control, and that's what will make all the difference.

As with any late-to-train child, you should also:

Check with the pediatrician for constipation or other medical issues.

Lower expectations. Stop asking him to poop in the toilet; ask him instead to flush the toilet once you empty the diaper into it.

Remove the stress. Stop bragging about what other children have accomplished or complaining about what your child has not achieved.

Of course, not everyone agrees with Brazelton on this. Just a few months ago, family psychologist John Rosemond called Brazelton's approach to toilet training "toilet babble," sparking a controversy the parenting press has dubbed The Toilet Wars. I've never been a fan of Rosemond, but I offer his article in the interest of presenting the full picture.


I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

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25 comments so far...
  1. I am a Mom (Brenda) who invented Potty Training Rewards. I believe children need
    praise in every aspect of their lives including potty training. PTR offers this
    praise followed by a fruit chew reward. Please view my online demo at
    www.pottytrainingrewards.com If you decide to order, email me your order number and
    I will be happy to send you an additional one FREE. Being a Mom this is my way of
    helping other Mother's with potty training.

    Posted by Brenda October 14, 09 09:17 AM
  1. I do not know your education regarding children, but you can not be further off then you are here. The reason so many kids are out of control today is because the kids are "in charge" and not the parents. Kids set the agenda and parents work around the kids agenda.

    Gina, if your kid is almost 4, tell him simply, when you January comes around, the diapers are gone, no more. Kids that are stubborn need to feel the wetness of pee on them a few times and that will train the much quicker. The moment you tell you child " you are in charge" you have lost your kids to the "vogue society" of parents who want to be a buddy to thier kid and not a parent. Potty training is simple, some kids train young some older, by 4, no more diapers,, period, buy no more, let him pee himself and that will make him want to put it in the potty. It will only happen a couple of times.

    Posted by quantemlp October 14, 09 09:45 AM
  1. Barbara, not sure why you would even include this quack Rosemond as a counter point. Any"professional" who advocates gating a child after a high fiber breakfast in the bathroom and telling him he cannot come out until he poops should have his license revoked. Seems to me that it is bordering on abuse. What if the child doesn't have to go? Or is constipated - which is very common in youngsters. Let's hope nobody follows his terrible advice.

    Posted by Dad October 14, 09 09:47 AM
  1. Providing a link to an opposing point of view that the author disagrees with? This is so unusual in journalism (and especially blogs) today that I just had to thank you for doing it.

    Thank you for allowing the user to read opposing points of view and make a judgement of their own, instead of just preaching about the "right" thing to do.

    Posted by HBX October 14, 09 10:57 AM
  1. You have to discern if there is a good reason for the delay or if it has become a control issue/power struggle between child and parent. One of our children was potty-trained for #1 very early but two years later at 4, wouldn't do #2 except in a diaper. I decided I'd had enough and said if you're old enough for this favorite toy of yours (Bionicles), you're old enough to poop on the potty or toilet and I'm packing up all your Bionicles and putting them in the attic until you do. There was crying and tantrums but I stuck to my guns. This child was fully potty-trained in one day.

    Posted by mvparent October 14, 09 11:38 AM
  1. 4 year olds are all about WINNING. Toilet training is one area where kids have all the power. I'd suggest reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block for strategies to help her child "win" more every day, so that toilet training isn't the huge battle it obviously is. I doubt that the real thing that's at stake is actually toilet training...it's most likely control.

    Having said that, I don't think for a second it's okay to say to a 4 year old's parent's that it's acceptable to not be actively working on potty training. Maybe to take a two week break to end the stress and start fresh, but not to let the issue drop entirely. As the mom said, this affects ALL the aspects of the child's life. His peer group is trained, and he can't attend any sort of school until he is...it's actually a huge deal.

    I'm with Rosemond...Brazelton is a whackjob.

    Posted by c October 14, 09 11:38 AM
  1. I'm with the early potty trainers and John Rosemond on this one. Potty training early instills in your child a send of accomplishment and self-reliance. (Not only that, it is less expensive and more hygenic for the parents.)

    I feel badly for a child who is being kept out of activities because of his reliance on diapers. Potty training can be difficult and time-consuming but well worth it. Parents can approach the topic in the same manner that they would when discussing with a child to "eat their vegetables" or "not run into the street." None of us would hesitate to be firm with our children regarding these subjects...and often times talking to the child about potty training with the same mindset will work wonders.

    Suzanne Riffel, author of "The Potty Boot Camp: Basic Training for Toddlers"

    Posted by Suzanne Riffel October 14, 09 12:41 PM
  1. Four years old and not potty trained, that's just ridiculous. I agree with quantemlp's comments.

    Posted by dtigerr October 14, 09 12:41 PM
  1. We listened to all the advice about letting a child wait until we realized that our daughter was planning to wait forever. She agreed that at four she would wear underwear, and when that time came, she didn't want to remove her diaper. We refused to put a diaper on her and she screamed and cried for about half an hour. I forced underwear on her. We knew it wasn't a physical issue because she would let us know when she was going and didn't seem to have constipation issues. Since that day, she never asked for a diaper again and was almost fully trained immediately. She has had a few accidents, but never a #2 accident and fewer accidents than her sibling that trained much earlier. At some point, I think the parent has to insist. I knew she was just scared and would be fine once she got over that.

    Posted by Melissa October 14, 09 12:51 PM
  1. I know of many boys who are not trained through the night (but by day), even up to age 11! It seems that some bladders develop at different rates.

    Posted by Laura Boer October 14, 09 12:53 PM
  1. I can totally relate...my two boys both were late in potty training and it was very stressful. What ended up working for both of them was doing as Barbara suggested and backing off completely for a little while. Then after that short break, we told them "as of such and such a date, no more pull-ups, no more diapers." Then we stuck to it. In both cases, it was a hard couple of days with a lot of accidents (best to do this when you are home for a few days), but they quickly realized that we weren't kidding, and they didn't like being wet so they finally went. We made a huge deal of even the tiniest success and gave them a small toy/treat every day until they were going all the time regularly. One other thing that worked was having them sit instead of stand and then after a week of success, change to standing. Sometimes it is all just too much to learn at once.


    Posted by lc October 14, 09 01:11 PM
  1. Then there is the Star Wars method. This is for when you are pretty sure they are still using the diaper just because they want to. What you do is you get the Star Wars trilogy, and believe me there are very few 4 yr old boys out there who aren't obsessed with Star Wars, and you tell him - starting Monday no more diapers. If you go all day Monday without peeing or pooping in your pants then we will watch Star Wars IV on Tuesday. Then if you go all day Tuesday without an "accident", we will watch Star Wars V on Wednesday, and so on. If that doesn't work, well, good luck, you might want to try Melissa's method.

    Posted by BadDad October 14, 09 01:26 PM
  1. I am just glad my daughter really took to the potty training and was fully done with it in 2 weeks, including at night. She was 2 1/2. For the night training we did cloth diapers without any plastic or whatever the thing that covers it is called. She got wet the first night, hated it and was done.... no more diapers at night!

    I do think that we are letting the kids to go way too long before training them though. Most cultures start very, very young and do not understand why a kid over 1 yr is still in diapers. I have many friends from different cultures that have trained their kids before their first year successfully. Most where SAHM so it was easier since day care centers won't start training until they are over 2. We were lucky we have a center where they work with the kids before they turn 2 and 9 months if the parents ask (we did). We also didn't use pull ups as I believe she might think of it as underwear and would make the process more difficult. We made sure to take her to the potty religiously every hour on the hour while at home and the center was doing the same. It was a hard and long 2 weeks but she got it :)

    Honestly for a child that is already 4 and ready for "school" I will just let it go butt naked or only on underwear, unless there is a medical condition of course, and take him/her every hour on the hour. I am sure that after a few days or weeks they will get the message. Yes, it is time consuming but what must be done, must be done. Children are smarter than what we seem to give them credit for...

    Posted by eve October 14, 09 01:48 PM
  1. I have two boys two years apart. After trying everything and failing, here is what finally worked. When each boy was a little older than three, I picked a weekend where they would not wear any training pants! I know it sounds rough, but it really did work because they could feel everything happening. Training pants are so good, the boys don't feel the wet or mess. So, they got up close and personal with their bodily functions. It takes a little planning and some patience, but it does work.

    Usually one weekend did it. Try it, what you have to lose?

    Posted by Mary October 14, 09 02:17 PM
  1. This is from a Dad who happened across this. I know the frustration big time, as we had friends with potty trained kids at 2. My guys did it at 3.75 and 3.25, respectively. The older (now 5.75) still wakes up every day with a wet pullup. The younger (now 3.75) wakes up with a bone dry pullup every day, and let's it loose in the bathroom every morning...minime, as my wife likes to say. In both cases, I was getting pretty frustrated, but I backed off. In both cases we took a similar approach when it seemed like the little guy was ready. Took them to Toys-R-Us to check out bikes. We let them ride around a bike in the store and while they were riding them we said that these are really cool but that you have to be potty trained to use them because you can't wear diapers on the seats..."it's not allowed." So, when you're ready to wear big boy underwear, we can come back in your big boy underwear and pick out a bike. We then proceeded to Target to check out all the cool big boy underwear...Cars, Incredibles, Sponge Bob...each time they were in awe of the coolness big boy underwear...so we bought them each a packet, washed them, and put them in the drawer with the diapers. Every day, we asked if they wanted to wear underwear or a diaper, and that it was up to them to decide. Within two weeks of the bike and underwear purchase, they both awoke one day and asked to wear big boy underwear. We then said, are you sure? They each said yes, and that was that. With the older son, we never had a single accident...not one. With the younger, we had an attempt to regress the next day when he said he wanted to wear a diaper. Quick thinking, and we said that we're not allowed to switch back to diapers. Once you switch to big boy underwear, mommies and daddies aren't allowed to switch back because big boys cannot become babies and daddies can't turn into babies...that would be silly. We had some minor whining and an occasional leak in the underwear, but nothing like what I've heard from some folks that tried when kids were really young. So, this worked for us. Every child is different, and every child-parent dynamic is different...so hopefully, you'll see a bunch of different approaches and one will resonate with you and your son. Good luck.

    Posted by eric knapp October 14, 09 02:20 PM
  1. Please fix whatever bug makes all comments appear in uppercase - it makes this impossible to read.

    Posted by HBX October 14, 09 02:26 PM
  1. My daughter picked up potty training very easily and quickly. There is a product on the market that really helped while out of the house.

    We came across this GREAT product called the PottyFlip. This PALM SIZE package is a full size (supports 75 lbs), clean, safe, portable, disposable, bio-degradable potty that is truly a better way. It simply flips open and is ready to go!

    PottyFlip was a life save while driving in the car, at the beach or in the park. If nature called we just opened the back of the SUV set it up and my daughter took care of business. When she was done just fold up and throw away. It was so much easier then any other product that is on the market.

    They can be bought on line at buypottyflip.com I recommend them to everyone who has small children. Weather your are potty training, spending an afternoon at the park or beach. This is a clean safe alternative to public restrooms and port-a-pottys!

    Give it a shot it really helped us!


    Posted by Happy Dad October 14, 09 02:36 PM
  1. My son trained in a single day when he was 3.5. He was remaining dry for long periods of time and we knew that he was ready, but that he needed both encouragement and opportunity. That summer, I blocked out a 10 day period of time in which I was prepared to defer all other activities to toilet training. My son cried for about an hour when I insisted he either wear underpants or nothing at all. I equipped myself with all supplies necessary to clean up accidents and prepared to hunker down. A few hours into our training, he realized he had to make a bowel movement. I encouraged him to use his potty, but he resisted. I firmly redirected him, but I also noticed that more than reluctant, he seemed anxious/fearful. I acknowledged his feelings, told him it would be okay and he would be fine and to try not to worry. He made his BM without further incident. He was ecstatic. He called all of his family members to share his proud moment; examined his creation in textbook Freudian fashion; and never had a single accident thereafter. I believe he was truly afraid of what would happen and that fear had kept him from attempting to use the toilet sooner.

    For the next two weeks, we never left the house without a portable potty in the trunk. This was extremely helpful because it reduced the possibility of accidents and eliminated any need to resort to pull-ups to maintain our busy, bathroom not always right around the corner, lifestyle.


    Posted by Hucksmom October 14, 09 02:39 PM
  1. I think most of the parents have got it right here. If he's not sucking on a binky, then he shouldn't be in diapers. You are in charge, not the child. So give the kid plenty of notice. Three days ahead of time say "On saturday we are saying goodbye to the diapers!". Remind him two days ahead of time, and the day before. When saturday comes, he gets changed out of his diaper FOREVER, into undies. There are no more diapers in the house. Praise and rewards if he can keep himself dry and clean. No big deal if he can't. Make sure you've got wet wipes for tender bottoms at the toilet (many children do not like the feel of dry scratchy TP, particularly for #2). Put a plastic protector under the sheet at night.

    Posted by Alquimista October 14, 09 02:40 PM
  1. Our son had to be trained to start Montessori school at 2.9. We were quite nervous and had tried several times and failed. We got some advice to just take the diapers off him and tell him that's it (no pull-ups, nothing). The first two days we were miserable . . . The accidents were frequent but on the third day, he started to get it. Within one week it was finished. He rarely has had an accident since then and this includes at night. They hate to be wet and the diapers don't let them feel it so they aren't aware until the diapers are gone. We chose a vacation week to untertake this and that worked for us because we were both there to monitor him and rush him to the bathroom. Really the pull-ups just prolonged it and were more expensive.

    Posted by sally October 14, 09 04:08 PM
  1. Sorry, Barb, you are too laid back on this one. The LW has to adopt a consistent approach, give the kid a deadline of a few days, buy big boy underwear, and hunker down until the job is done. Sometimes you don't let the kids decide. P.S. At that age, the kid should at least be changing his own diaper. Gross!

    Posted by just_cos October 14, 09 05:07 PM
  1. I thought my now four year old son would never toilet train. We tried everything. Then when we finally backed off he decided to use the toilet and at about 3 and a half almost 4 was using it consistently. It just happened overnight, WHEN WE JUST LEFT HIM ALONE!! It took a little longer to get rid of the overnight pullups, but he now goes to bed with underwear on and stays dry through the night. He is fully trained. It drives me insane with parents who are in such a hurry to toilet train the kids that they create anxiety in themselves and in the kids. Just relax and it will happen. Every kid is different and what works for one, may not work for others. Yes its a long, frustrating process, but creating a power struggle won't help.

    Posted by Heather October 14, 09 07:53 PM
  1. If there is anything I have learned in raising four healthy sons, it is this...no two boys are alike! I have a 16 year old down to a 4 year old and all of them potty-trained at different ages and in different ways. What worked with my first son, did not work with my second son and what worked with my third son certainly is not working with my fourth son. So, if anyone thinks that there is one remedy or one solution for all children and judge the mothers of "the untrained", I dare you to come spend a day with my son and let him put your methods to rest.

    Posted by kim October 14, 09 09:14 PM
  1. With my first child, we did it in 5 days, no pull ups, just big girl undies. We spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Kid #2, I used pull-ups and that was the worst! It delayed us by about 6 months. You may want to use the thicker cotton diaper (looks like underwear-can be purchased at Kmart) and just expect accidents, but keep at it! DON'T BUY ANY MORE DIAPERS OR PULL-UPS!

    Posted by Niki October 14, 09 09:22 PM
  1. Toilet training was the worst time of my parenting life. I hated every moment. But it did work. My daughter was 3.25 and the last in her preschool class to try. When she started back at preschool in the fall, she decided to give it a try. We bought her “panties” with ballerinas on them, pink M&Ms, and a few prizes for pooping on the potty (a purse, a bracelet, etc.) We’d give her one M&M for trying and 2 for succeeding. Shortly after she started, she thought she could switch back to diapers, but we wouldn’t let her. (Well, we did put some pull ups on her, which was a mistake. She’d just go in them every time.) It was so hard to stand firm. She was miserable. We were miserable. We tried the every hour thing, but it was a disaster. She is just the kind of person (still is!) who doesn’t need to go often and can’t go if she doesn’t have to. So, schedules were not working. She had a ton of accidents at first, including at least one a day at school. We were angry, because they wouldn’t let her play in the dress up clothes until she could stay dry. I tried to be non-judgmental, but she frustrated me! We rolled up our rugs, had her run around naked and just went forward. We kept the little potty in whatever room she was in. And then, like 2 weeks in, she got it! We went to a birthday party where I kept nagging her, because I was so afraid she’d have an accident in the gymnastics room. Then I panicked and forced a pull up on her. Of course, she then went in the pull up, and she was upset. I apologized to her and asked if she was ready for “no more diapers ever,” and she was. It’s been a year, and we are working on weaning her off the little potty at night. She uses the toilet every other time. I think by a certain age, you have to stop waiting for them, but expect to stay home a lot and don’t back down.

    Posted by Joy October 17, 09 08:33 AM
 
25 comments so far...
  1. I am a Mom (Brenda) who invented Potty Training Rewards. I believe children need
    praise in every aspect of their lives including potty training. PTR offers this
    praise followed by a fruit chew reward. Please view my online demo at
    www.pottytrainingrewards.com If you decide to order, email me your order number and
    I will be happy to send you an additional one FREE. Being a Mom this is my way of
    helping other Mother's with potty training.

    Posted by Brenda October 14, 09 09:17 AM
  1. I do not know your education regarding children, but you can not be further off then you are here. The reason so many kids are out of control today is because the kids are "in charge" and not the parents. Kids set the agenda and parents work around the kids agenda.

    Gina, if your kid is almost 4, tell him simply, when you January comes around, the diapers are gone, no more. Kids that are stubborn need to feel the wetness of pee on them a few times and that will train the much quicker. The moment you tell you child " you are in charge" you have lost your kids to the "vogue society" of parents who want to be a buddy to thier kid and not a parent. Potty training is simple, some kids train young some older, by 4, no more diapers,, period, buy no more, let him pee himself and that will make him want to put it in the potty. It will only happen a couple of times.

    Posted by quantemlp October 14, 09 09:45 AM
  1. Barbara, not sure why you would even include this quack Rosemond as a counter point. Any"professional" who advocates gating a child after a high fiber breakfast in the bathroom and telling him he cannot come out until he poops should have his license revoked. Seems to me that it is bordering on abuse. What if the child doesn't have to go? Or is constipated - which is very common in youngsters. Let's hope nobody follows his terrible advice.

    Posted by Dad October 14, 09 09:47 AM
  1. Providing a link to an opposing point of view that the author disagrees with? This is so unusual in journalism (and especially blogs) today that I just had to thank you for doing it.

    Thank you for allowing the user to read opposing points of view and make a judgement of their own, instead of just preaching about the "right" thing to do.

    Posted by HBX October 14, 09 10:57 AM
  1. You have to discern if there is a good reason for the delay or if it has become a control issue/power struggle between child and parent. One of our children was potty-trained for #1 very early but two years later at 4, wouldn't do #2 except in a diaper. I decided I'd had enough and said if you're old enough for this favorite toy of yours (Bionicles), you're old enough to poop on the potty or toilet and I'm packing up all your Bionicles and putting them in the attic until you do. There was crying and tantrums but I stuck to my guns. This child was fully potty-trained in one day.

    Posted by mvparent October 14, 09 11:38 AM
  1. 4 year olds are all about WINNING. Toilet training is one area where kids have all the power. I'd suggest reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block for strategies to help her child "win" more every day, so that toilet training isn't the huge battle it obviously is. I doubt that the real thing that's at stake is actually toilet training...it's most likely control.

    Having said that, I don't think for a second it's okay to say to a 4 year old's parent's that it's acceptable to not be actively working on potty training. Maybe to take a two week break to end the stress and start fresh, but not to let the issue drop entirely. As the mom said, this affects ALL the aspects of the child's life. His peer group is trained, and he can't attend any sort of school until he is...it's actually a huge deal.

    I'm with Rosemond...Brazelton is a whackjob.

    Posted by c October 14, 09 11:38 AM
  1. I'm with the early potty trainers and John Rosemond on this one. Potty training early instills in your child a send of accomplishment and self-reliance. (Not only that, it is less expensive and more hygenic for the parents.)

    I feel badly for a child who is being kept out of activities because of his reliance on diapers. Potty training can be difficult and time-consuming but well worth it. Parents can approach the topic in the same manner that they would when discussing with a child to "eat their vegetables" or "not run into the street." None of us would hesitate to be firm with our children regarding these subjects...and often times talking to the child about potty training with the same mindset will work wonders.

    Suzanne Riffel, author of "The Potty Boot Camp: Basic Training for Toddlers"

    Posted by Suzanne Riffel October 14, 09 12:41 PM
  1. Four years old and not potty trained, that's just ridiculous. I agree with quantemlp's comments.

    Posted by dtigerr October 14, 09 12:41 PM
  1. We listened to all the advice about letting a child wait until we realized that our daughter was planning to wait forever. She agreed that at four she would wear underwear, and when that time came, she didn't want to remove her diaper. We refused to put a diaper on her and she screamed and cried for about half an hour. I forced underwear on her. We knew it wasn't a physical issue because she would let us know when she was going and didn't seem to have constipation issues. Since that day, she never asked for a diaper again and was almost fully trained immediately. She has had a few accidents, but never a #2 accident and fewer accidents than her sibling that trained much earlier. At some point, I think the parent has to insist. I knew she was just scared and would be fine once she got over that.

    Posted by Melissa October 14, 09 12:51 PM
  1. I know of many boys who are not trained through the night (but by day), even up to age 11! It seems that some bladders develop at different rates.

    Posted by Laura Boer October 14, 09 12:53 PM
  1. I can totally relate...my two boys both were late in potty training and it was very stressful. What ended up working for both of them was doing as Barbara suggested and backing off completely for a little while. Then after that short break, we told them "as of such and such a date, no more pull-ups, no more diapers." Then we stuck to it. In both cases, it was a hard couple of days with a lot of accidents (best to do this when you are home for a few days), but they quickly realized that we weren't kidding, and they didn't like being wet so they finally went. We made a huge deal of even the tiniest success and gave them a small toy/treat every day until they were going all the time regularly. One other thing that worked was having them sit instead of stand and then after a week of success, change to standing. Sometimes it is all just too much to learn at once.


    Posted by lc October 14, 09 01:11 PM
  1. Then there is the Star Wars method. This is for when you are pretty sure they are still using the diaper just because they want to. What you do is you get the Star Wars trilogy, and believe me there are very few 4 yr old boys out there who aren't obsessed with Star Wars, and you tell him - starting Monday no more diapers. If you go all day Monday without peeing or pooping in your pants then we will watch Star Wars IV on Tuesday. Then if you go all day Tuesday without an "accident", we will watch Star Wars V on Wednesday, and so on. If that doesn't work, well, good luck, you might want to try Melissa's method.

    Posted by BadDad October 14, 09 01:26 PM
  1. I am just glad my daughter really took to the potty training and was fully done with it in 2 weeks, including at night. She was 2 1/2. For the night training we did cloth diapers without any plastic or whatever the thing that covers it is called. She got wet the first night, hated it and was done.... no more diapers at night!

    I do think that we are letting the kids to go way too long before training them though. Most cultures start very, very young and do not understand why a kid over 1 yr is still in diapers. I have many friends from different cultures that have trained their kids before their first year successfully. Most where SAHM so it was easier since day care centers won't start training until they are over 2. We were lucky we have a center where they work with the kids before they turn 2 and 9 months if the parents ask (we did). We also didn't use pull ups as I believe she might think of it as underwear and would make the process more difficult. We made sure to take her to the potty religiously every hour on the hour while at home and the center was doing the same. It was a hard and long 2 weeks but she got it :)

    Honestly for a child that is already 4 and ready for "school" I will just let it go butt naked or only on underwear, unless there is a medical condition of course, and take him/her every hour on the hour. I am sure that after a few days or weeks they will get the message. Yes, it is time consuming but what must be done, must be done. Children are smarter than what we seem to give them credit for...

    Posted by eve October 14, 09 01:48 PM
  1. I have two boys two years apart. After trying everything and failing, here is what finally worked. When each boy was a little older than three, I picked a weekend where they would not wear any training pants! I know it sounds rough, but it really did work because they could feel everything happening. Training pants are so good, the boys don't feel the wet or mess. So, they got up close and personal with their bodily functions. It takes a little planning and some patience, but it does work.

    Usually one weekend did it. Try it, what you have to lose?

    Posted by Mary October 14, 09 02:17 PM
  1. This is from a Dad who happened across this. I know the frustration big time, as we had friends with potty trained kids at 2. My guys did it at 3.75 and 3.25, respectively. The older (now 5.75) still wakes up every day with a wet pullup. The younger (now 3.75) wakes up with a bone dry pullup every day, and let's it loose in the bathroom every morning...minime, as my wife likes to say. In both cases, I was getting pretty frustrated, but I backed off. In both cases we took a similar approach when it seemed like the little guy was ready. Took them to Toys-R-Us to check out bikes. We let them ride around a bike in the store and while they were riding them we said that these are really cool but that you have to be potty trained to use them because you can't wear diapers on the seats..."it's not allowed." So, when you're ready to wear big boy underwear, we can come back in your big boy underwear and pick out a bike. We then proceeded to Target to check out all the cool big boy underwear...Cars, Incredibles, Sponge Bob...each time they were in awe of the coolness big boy underwear...so we bought them each a packet, washed them, and put them in the drawer with the diapers. Every day, we asked if they wanted to wear underwear or a diaper, and that it was up to them to decide. Within two weeks of the bike and underwear purchase, they both awoke one day and asked to wear big boy underwear. We then said, are you sure? They each said yes, and that was that. With the older son, we never had a single accident...not one. With the younger, we had an attempt to regress the next day when he said he wanted to wear a diaper. Quick thinking, and we said that we're not allowed to switch back to diapers. Once you switch to big boy underwear, mommies and daddies aren't allowed to switch back because big boys cannot become babies and daddies can't turn into babies...that would be silly. We had some minor whining and an occasional leak in the underwear, but nothing like what I've heard from some folks that tried when kids were really young. So, this worked for us. Every child is different, and every child-parent dynamic is different...so hopefully, you'll see a bunch of different approaches and one will resonate with you and your son. Good luck.

    Posted by eric knapp October 14, 09 02:20 PM
  1. Please fix whatever bug makes all comments appear in uppercase - it makes this impossible to read.

    Posted by HBX October 14, 09 02:26 PM
  1. My daughter picked up potty training very easily and quickly. There is a product on the market that really helped while out of the house.

    We came across this GREAT product called the PottyFlip. This PALM SIZE package is a full size (supports 75 lbs), clean, safe, portable, disposable, bio-degradable potty that is truly a better way. It simply flips open and is ready to go!

    PottyFlip was a life save while driving in the car, at the beach or in the park. If nature called we just opened the back of the SUV set it up and my daughter took care of business. When she was done just fold up and throw away. It was so much easier then any other product that is on the market.

    They can be bought on line at buypottyflip.com I recommend them to everyone who has small children. Weather your are potty training, spending an afternoon at the park or beach. This is a clean safe alternative to public restrooms and port-a-pottys!

    Give it a shot it really helped us!


    Posted by Happy Dad October 14, 09 02:36 PM
  1. My son trained in a single day when he was 3.5. He was remaining dry for long periods of time and we knew that he was ready, but that he needed both encouragement and opportunity. That summer, I blocked out a 10 day period of time in which I was prepared to defer all other activities to toilet training. My son cried for about an hour when I insisted he either wear underpants or nothing at all. I equipped myself with all supplies necessary to clean up accidents and prepared to hunker down. A few hours into our training, he realized he had to make a bowel movement. I encouraged him to use his potty, but he resisted. I firmly redirected him, but I also noticed that more than reluctant, he seemed anxious/fearful. I acknowledged his feelings, told him it would be okay and he would be fine and to try not to worry. He made his BM without further incident. He was ecstatic. He called all of his family members to share his proud moment; examined his creation in textbook Freudian fashion; and never had a single accident thereafter. I believe he was truly afraid of what would happen and that fear had kept him from attempting to use the toilet sooner.

    For the next two weeks, we never left the house without a portable potty in the trunk. This was extremely helpful because it reduced the possibility of accidents and eliminated any need to resort to pull-ups to maintain our busy, bathroom not always right around the corner, lifestyle.


    Posted by Hucksmom October 14, 09 02:39 PM
  1. I think most of the parents have got it right here. If he's not sucking on a binky, then he shouldn't be in diapers. You are in charge, not the child. So give the kid plenty of notice. Three days ahead of time say "On saturday we are saying goodbye to the diapers!". Remind him two days ahead of time, and the day before. When saturday comes, he gets changed out of his diaper FOREVER, into undies. There are no more diapers in the house. Praise and rewards if he can keep himself dry and clean. No big deal if he can't. Make sure you've got wet wipes for tender bottoms at the toilet (many children do not like the feel of dry scratchy TP, particularly for #2). Put a plastic protector under the sheet at night.

    Posted by Alquimista October 14, 09 02:40 PM
  1. Our son had to be trained to start Montessori school at 2.9. We were quite nervous and had tried several times and failed. We got some advice to just take the diapers off him and tell him that's it (no pull-ups, nothing). The first two days we were miserable . . . The accidents were frequent but on the third day, he started to get it. Within one week it was finished. He rarely has had an accident since then and this includes at night. They hate to be wet and the diapers don't let them feel it so they aren't aware until the diapers are gone. We chose a vacation week to untertake this and that worked for us because we were both there to monitor him and rush him to the bathroom. Really the pull-ups just prolonged it and were more expensive.

    Posted by sally October 14, 09 04:08 PM
  1. Sorry, Barb, you are too laid back on this one. The LW has to adopt a consistent approach, give the kid a deadline of a few days, buy big boy underwear, and hunker down until the job is done. Sometimes you don't let the kids decide. P.S. At that age, the kid should at least be changing his own diaper. Gross!

    Posted by just_cos October 14, 09 05:07 PM
  1. I thought my now four year old son would never toilet train. We tried everything. Then when we finally backed off he decided to use the toilet and at about 3 and a half almost 4 was using it consistently. It just happened overnight, WHEN WE JUST LEFT HIM ALONE!! It took a little longer to get rid of the overnight pullups, but he now goes to bed with underwear on and stays dry through the night. He is fully trained. It drives me insane with parents who are in such a hurry to toilet train the kids that they create anxiety in themselves and in the kids. Just relax and it will happen. Every kid is different and what works for one, may not work for others. Yes its a long, frustrating process, but creating a power struggle won't help.

    Posted by Heather October 14, 09 07:53 PM
  1. If there is anything I have learned in raising four healthy sons, it is this...no two boys are alike! I have a 16 year old down to a 4 year old and all of them potty-trained at different ages and in different ways. What worked with my first son, did not work with my second son and what worked with my third son certainly is not working with my fourth son. So, if anyone thinks that there is one remedy or one solution for all children and judge the mothers of "the untrained", I dare you to come spend a day with my son and let him put your methods to rest.

    Posted by kim October 14, 09 09:14 PM
  1. With my first child, we did it in 5 days, no pull ups, just big girl undies. We spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Kid #2, I used pull-ups and that was the worst! It delayed us by about 6 months. You may want to use the thicker cotton diaper (looks like underwear-can be purchased at Kmart) and just expect accidents, but keep at it! DON'T BUY ANY MORE DIAPERS OR PULL-UPS!

    Posted by Niki October 14, 09 09:22 PM
  1. Toilet training was the worst time of my parenting life. I hated every moment. But it did work. My daughter was 3.25 and the last in her preschool class to try. When she started back at preschool in the fall, she decided to give it a try. We bought her “panties” with ballerinas on them, pink M&Ms, and a few prizes for pooping on the potty (a purse, a bracelet, etc.) We’d give her one M&M for trying and 2 for succeeding. Shortly after she started, she thought she could switch back to diapers, but we wouldn’t let her. (Well, we did put some pull ups on her, which was a mistake. She’d just go in them every time.) It was so hard to stand firm. She was miserable. We were miserable. We tried the every hour thing, but it was a disaster. She is just the kind of person (still is!) who doesn’t need to go often and can’t go if she doesn’t have to. So, schedules were not working. She had a ton of accidents at first, including at least one a day at school. We were angry, because they wouldn’t let her play in the dress up clothes until she could stay dry. I tried to be non-judgmental, but she frustrated me! We rolled up our rugs, had her run around naked and just went forward. We kept the little potty in whatever room she was in. And then, like 2 weeks in, she got it! We went to a birthday party where I kept nagging her, because I was so afraid she’d have an accident in the gymnastics room. Then I panicked and forced a pull up on her. Of course, she then went in the pull up, and she was upset. I apologized to her and asked if she was ready for “no more diapers ever,” and she was. It’s been a year, and we are working on weaning her off the little potty at night. She uses the toilet every other time. I think by a certain age, you have to stop waiting for them, but expect to stay home a lot and don’t back down.

    Posted by Joy October 17, 09 08:33 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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