Support for PBS Parents provided by:

  • Arthur
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Curious George
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Let's Go Luna
  • Nature Cat
  • Odd Squad
  • Peg + Cat
  • Pinkalicous and Peterriffic
  • Ready Jet Go
  • Splash and Bubbles
  • Super Why!
  • Wild Kratts
  • Sesame Street
  • Ruff Ruffman Show
  • Mister Rogers
  • Cyberchase
  • SciGirls
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Martha Speaks
  • The Electric Company
  • WordGirl
  • Caillou
  • Oh Noah
  • Fizzy's Lunch Lab
  • Maya & Miguel
  • Postcards from Buster
  • Clifford
  • WordWorld
  • DragonFly TV
  • ZOOM

Super Sisters

About the Supersisters

Jen, Kristen, and Patience

Three real-life sisters sharing their kids' antics, milestones and adventures through this crazy journey called motherhood. Find out more »

Join the Supersisters!


Join the Supersisters and help spread the word.


See our topics »

Home »

Potty Training Failure

Posted by Patience on January 13, 2009 at 7:00 AM in PatiencePotty Training
Bookmark and Share

potty magic.jpg

This is a magic potty. It will make all your parenting potty training dreams come true. It's pink, it looks like a royal throne, it will even play music for you if you fill it. Lucy picked it out and promptly decided it will never work after we got home from the store.

To say I'm the world's worst potty trainer would be an understatement. I should also add that the potty training gods haven't exactly been kind to me. Here's my report card:

1. Josiah- trained at almost 4 years old, you read that right, 4. years. old. He showed no interest whatsoever. I played it cool until a hair past 3 and when I finally asked him if he was ready he said, "No mom, but I'll try." We did (after consuming about 20 dum dum lollipops) and he wasn't. Fast foward 8 months and he trained in one day.

2. Jack- Oh Jackie-boy...he trained around 3 years 8 months after many tears and much drama. He showed interest much earlier but I either "missed the window" because I wasn't ready for the hassle of potty training, or he wasn't as ready as I thought when we started trying.
Now I'm a pretty gentle parent but potty training brings out the absolute worst in me. Jack would act happy to sit on the potty to try and as soon as he got up he would run to another room and pee on the floor. My favorite was when he would hold it until we got to the park, climb to the top of the jungle gym and and look at me while he pooped.

I did everything horrible to try to get him to train and made every mistake in the book- I made him clean up his messes, I shamed him, I even punished him by sending him to his room. It was clearly about control. When I gave up, he trained in about 3 days. For the life of me, I still can't figure out how it became such a big deal.

3. Lucy- 3 years, 3 months- in process. I was determined to not repeat the Jack debacle (especially with this stronger personality) so I acted very cool and laidback. I brought up the idea 6 months ago and was met with resistance so I immediately back off. We had a baby shortly after so I decided I would try again in January. So here we are on day 5. The pullups had to disappear. She wasn't crazy about the idea and did a tiny bit of testing to see if it was really true and has done well since. She still will not #2 in the potty but other than that she's training very quickly. An ideas on solving this problem?

So when potty training was one of the top contenders on the question list, I was nervous. What can I possibly tell you? I'm hoping my other sisters will come to my rescue, especially the one who is currently successfully training her almost 2 year old boy.
This is what I know so far:

1. Our reader Becky was so wise (she's trained 3 boys)- get rid of the pullups, stay home and let them run around without clothes on. Pump them full of drinks and let the practice begin. Be willing to stay home for a few days until you can get into a good routine.

2. Training is easier in the summer. You can wait until then. Follow the "so what" advice of this smart lady with those around you who are giving you the Judgey Joanna eyes. The preschool teachers reminded me of this very thing last week when I was stressing about Lucy. There is no required time or age, it is just some crazy expectation we like to put on ourselves as parents.

3. Look for signs of readiness. No BM's at night. Routines are developing and shows signs of awareness (hiding, squatting, etc.). Longer periods of dry diapers. Can begin to dress him/herself. Shows interest in the toilet and can follow simple directions.
If your child isn't showing signs quite yet, wait. Emotional readiness is just as important as physical. I'm pretty sure no one will be heading to college in diapers so don't worry too much. You can always consult your pediatrician if the questions are multiplying in your parent mind.

4. Being consistent in a casual way is the key. No judgement or frustration can be looming in the air. Keep creating opportunities for success yet still leaving room for your child to guide.

5. Candy rewards are a toss up. They never seemed to work for us but it might be the particular personalities we are working with. I know other families where a Rolo went a longway so the jury is still out on this one.
General celebration, potty dances and high fives seemed to do the trick. Picking out special underwear and a bottle of kid's smelly handwashing soap also created some potty buzz.

5. Books, books, books. Buy books about the potty, read books to your kids while they try, save special books for kids to look at during potty times. It's a great time to promote some literature love.

So there are the lessons learned by a potty trainer still very much in training. Now we need you to weigh in, share with us your best potty training tips in the comments. Help a sister out, will ya?


nicole writes...

Great post, Patience. I have felt your pain! My 4-year-old daughter brought me to tears on many a day b/c of potty issues. She finally got it at a few days past 3.

My son got it together a lot faster. He was potty-trained by a little after 2 yrs. I can't take credit, though. He did it on his own. In fact, his preschool teacher asked me to stop sending him in in diapers! He's still working on the poop issue, but I can't complain.

Thanks for these great tips!

Amber writes...

Oh, I know so well how crazy you can make yourself about toilet learning. I do have one tip.

Our favourite thing is a little fold-up potty seat that you can take with you anywhere. Ours is Diego-themed. It really helped with the strange toilet anxiety, because my daughter loved the thing. Best $12 I ever spent.

Beth writes...

No advice -- potty training brought out the worst in me as well, and it took my daughter 1 1/2 YEARS of training to successfully transition to underwear -- but I just wanted to thank you for your honesty. Really, you have no idea how much it meant to read another mom's potty training experience that didn't start with "My brilliant son trained himself at 13 months old..." If I'm the class dunce of mommy potty trainers, at least I don't feel as alone now. :)

Becky writes...

My one son refused to poop in the potty, so by early evening, we were forced to put a diaper on him and within minutes, he did his business. I say forced because I was in deep fear he would get a blockage or something like that. I just hoped that eventually, he would sit long enough while peeing, and the other would "slip" out thus ending the fear of knowingly doing it in the potty. It took at least a month before that moment happened. Then he willingly gave up the diapers. That's why I think it helps to teach little boys to sit at first so they can take care of both issues without getting confused. Unfortunately, the younger ones were eager to start standing because the older one did...lets just say I had a lot more "cleanup" around the toilet than with my first. Oh well. No matter how you "try" to potty train EVENTUALLY they will get it, you just have to hang in there!

nancy writes...

Oh I cannot TELL you how much better you make me feel!

My daughter, 3 next month, will not use the toilet. I don't mean CAN not I mean WILL not.

She is bowl and bladder trained, she just will not use the toilet. If we are at home, she does not wear a diaper. She has never, ever had an accident while she is without a diaper. However, she can hold it FOR.EV.ER. When she has to pee or poop she will ask for a diaper. "How about trying to toilet?" I ask in a very easy going tone. She has flat out told me "I'm not going to do that."

I have no idea why. We have never pushed, we are very, very relaxed parents, but this is her thing and she will just never give it up.

Apparently I will have to go to college to both nurse her to sleep (yes, that's right) and change her diaper. OY!!

Thanks for your post. It makes the potty training experience much easier for parents if we discuss it with humor and honestly.
While I was potty training my son (which I can say I still am really) I looked into the minefield of potty training books. I put all my research onto my website. I hope this helps parents find the right book for their family.


Amy writes...

I guess the only thing that I'd add that helped us was I enlisted the help of the everpowerful siblings (this of course doesn't work with child #1). their encouragement and positive peer pressure was helpful although not everything. there was no privacy at these times, I'd ask the person on the potty if whoever was training at the time could come watch and they were happy to oblige. they were such cute teachers, "look (trainee)" they'd say, "then you get some paper and ...." you know the rest.

as far as waiting for #2 to appear in the potty, stay your course, she'll get there, keep doing everything just as you did for the pee and it will work. it always came a bit later than #1 in our family. staying calm and almost disinterested at times helped me.

the #1 rule I remembered when potty training (that no one ever told me) was that accidents are every bit a part of training, just as much as hitting the potty is. good luck!

Gwyneth writes...

Potty Training book saved my Sanity!!
(to use with the magic potty)
Men’s Health Magazine (Sept. issue) recommends Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day: Proven Secrets of the Potty Pro by Teri Crane. My husband picked us up a copy after reading the article. IT REALLY WORKS!!

Everyone is talking about throwing a "potty party" to potty train a child. I was so desperate; I was willing to do anything. Her book outlines 10 themed parties. What kid doesn't love to play and pretend? All my mommy friends have successfully potty trained their kids with her book too.

Honestly, when I first learned of this book, I thought NO WAY! Maybe this would work on a little girl, but NOT a BOSSY, 2-1/2 year old BOY. NO WAY! Guess what? It REALLY WORKED!!! Teri Crane SAVED MY SANITY!!! Her book was easy to read, funny and extremely helpful. I can't thank Teri enough. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to EVERY parent. It will save you much grief and frustration. Potty training shouldn't be difficult, we as parents make it difficult because we don't know what to do. Teri teaches you. Buy the book, it's the best money you will ever spend

Most amazingly, I had some questions, so I called the author, and she CALLED ME BACK!!

Heather writes...

I am so happy I'm not alone in this resistant potty training. My almost 4 yr. old (April) Is refusing to go pee in the potty. we started training her last monday 1/19/09. We told her for about 2 weeks prior this was going to happen. We told her diaper don't fit anymore and they don't make your size. the first day was not happy she threw her panties,said I don't want to wear panties!! about and hour went on and she finally put the panties on, this actually turned out to be are best day. she held her pee all day even during nap time finally around 7pm she said she had to go sat on the potty and went pee. we were so happy we danced around huged kissed her, you could tell she loved it.she went to bed that night with a pull-up on. woke up the next day and same thing, would hold it all day no accidents. but later that night when she had to go, she peed in her pants, then went and changed herself and did'nt tell anyone. It has gotten worse each day to where now she told me she'll sit on it but she'll never pee in it,and she has'nt

Holly writes...

You know with all the people out there who make sure they let me know that their children were positively all potty trained before age two, I'm so glad to hear that there are also many who are where I am. My daughter is about two months shy of three and she gets only certain parts of the potty thing. She loves washing hands, using toilet paper, taking off her pants and her diaper all by herself, and especially putting stickers on her potty chart on the wall. She pretty much enjoys everything not pertaining to sitting on the potty and hasn't progressed past anything besides just sitting on it either. I thought originally that it was because the potty chair that we had was uncomfortable because she would stand up and rub her leg like it was hurting, so we bought a new chair with a cushy seat, but she sits on that one even less than she did the first one (not that that was much). I'm getting ready to try the much tabooed candy rewards because I need to find something that will push her towards wanting to make progress.

Personally I think one of the biggest frustrations about potty training is just the fact that we can't control it. The child is the one who makes it happen, their in the driver's seat, and I think many of us parents wish we could just turn on the switch and make it happen. I can't give advice from where I'm standing, but I think that once I learn to control my urge to control the situation I will probably have more luck.

Meg writes...

I just want to say God Bless You for this post.

I have been feeling like The Worst Mother because I am getting so impatient with my almost four year old.

I just about cried on the milkman's shoulder earlier. Really.

I know all the things I'm supposed to do, but the third time I cleaned up a giant pool of urine today I thought I would lose it (and yes, this was about five minutes after another fruitless try on the potty).

So, thank you for writing this-at least I know I'm not alone.

Carrie writes...

Thank you all for sharing your hints, dilemmas, successes, and reminders to perservere. We have a very strong willed 3 1/2 yr. old boy. He has been telling us for months when we broach the p/t subject that he doesn't want to be p/t. But he is just horrible these days about getting his diaper changed, he tells us right when he is pooping, he asks for a clean diaper, he is talking about poop and pee issues, and is drawing poop when he draws, etc... so I decided today would be the day we start p/t because we have the time this week. I prepared 2 "prize" bags - one for peeing and one for pooing on the potty - and showed these to him last night. He was excited about the prizes in the bags! This morning, he all but turned inside out throwing a fit about not wanting to be p/t. I left him alone for the first hour, and then told him we were putting a pull-up on and then setting the timer for every 30 min. to have him go in and pee. He couldn't go, and then about 1 1/2 hrs. into all of this, I discovered he had peed and pooped in his pull-up. So of course then he didn't have to go on the potty chair. We tried unsuccessfully a few more times this morning before calling a break at lunch time, with plans to resume trying again after his nap later today. I am feeling like the worst mom in the world because I can't figure out how to help him want to try potty training. So I have spent much of the day in tears - sometimes he's seen me crying. I hate that! I told him I was just having a bad day. It's ridiculous and I know I should "get a grip!" I just don't know what I'm doing since he is our first child. So all of your comments have helped me know I'm not alone in my feelings.

J writes...

Love this site and its honest advice!

I've had a day of 'No!' and 'Mummy, fix it' and 'I've done wee-wees' as I've mopped up another puddle off the floor despite my son having just sat on the potty and successfully filled it. Where is the order, routine and sense in that?

All potty-training advice should begin with..."Your child will continually wet the floor, no matter how many times you do or do not remind him. It's ok to spend all day mopping it up and changing your child's outfits - this is normal."

If all advice began with that, mothers across the world would realise they are not the ones who are failing - it's about survival and minimising puddles if possible.

Apparently it will 'click' eventually - I eagerly await that happening in my household!

Kristin writes...

I'm so glad I found this. My 3 year old just will not train. I felt like the dunce mom also because the only stories you hear are "my baby trained at 13 months, 2 days, etc. We are about 13 months into training and still not trained. Thank you for having real moms.

jolene writes...

Can anyone help me? My 4 1/2 yr old son will not go poops in the potty at all. But he go in his underwear and then clean up the poops in his underwear and put new ones on. I am lost here please help me

Gia writes...

Wow, thank you so much for this post. It doesn't make me feel so alone here.

My son is 5. Yes 5. He is STILL wearing pull ups. Sometimes he goes in the potty, and other's not consistent to say the least.

We finally decided to do an MRI to see if he doesn't feel the urge to go or what. He does have mild autism and PPD but he stays dry during the night, and my mother in law watches him during the day and watches him like a hawk.

Just recently he's been interested in going to the potty, but has yet to go #2 in the potty...sigh.

I will check out those books, they might help us out somewhat.

Susan writes...

I have a child with Autism and sensory issues, and I'm trying to potty train a 7 year old. She can't recognize the signal her body sends to tell her she needs to go. I no longer care about the judgmental looks. She will train when she's ready, as will all other children.

Please don't feel bad if your child isn't trained yet. They'll get there, some just take longer than others.

Beth writes...

While pregnant with my third, I realized I did not want two in diapers (again) and embarked on a year long potty training expedition. I would love to say that my efforts paid off but really it all ended when my then 3 year old purposefully, I mean squatted on top of and peed on her precious "Green" blanket. She was so distraught that she used the potty after that. Our saying about our stubborn second child is that if it is not her idea then it is not a good one.

Meg writes...

I feel for the first time in my 2 1/2 year-old's life: "Wait, I didn't sign up for THIS junk!" I just don't see how we're ever going to do this, and how anybody ever walks around the world with a potty-training or even recently potty-trained kid. We had friends over tonight and I learned that their 2 1/2 year old boy was (of course) a quick and easy potty trainer at 2, and in underpants already...and besides being jealous, I worried the whole night that he would pee all over my new rug. (Yes, I know, I need to relax and let go. Easier said.)

My daughter is strong-willed and bright (and stubborn as Hell) and she shows all the text book signs of readiness...but refuses to sit on the potty when she really knows she has to go. Her bowels are like clockwork, and if you every suggest it at that time, she'll throw a screaming fit that you would be inclined to punish with a time out. Tried that, she just poops in her pants/diaper/pull-up during the time out. Other times she'll sit and sit and sit on the potty, and she never settles down and relaxes enough to actually go.

I'm lost. I'm also pregnant wtih #2, so we'll see how this goes. This was a nice thread to read, thanks.

Pam writes...

Our four-year-old son will use the potty for pee pee when we are at home and sometimes in public, but only once has he used it for poopy. He does hold it, though, so I'm not so concerned about poopy in public as I am pee pee. I end up putting him in pull-ups in public, which is often, so he doesn't have an accident. How do you all handle this situation? And what about furniture? We've pulled up the rug, but I really do not want him to have an accident on our brand new sofa and love seat!! Any suggestions?!

DUSTY writes...


Nancy writes...

I tried several things with my son from treats to stickers but what worked for him was a paper trophy with Diego on it. I told him if he would use the potty and in his pull-ups he would get a Diego trophy. He wanted it right away. So I decided to put it on the back of the toliet and let Diego "watch" him. He would talk to him and I would talk back in a "diego" voice and tell him was a super hero for being a big boy pottying in the potty. But when he had an accident I would take Diego off of the toilet and out of site until he got back on track. I wrote his name on it and had SUPER HERO. He done excellent and was trained in a couple of days. You can do print out of Diego characters on the computer and put it on thicker paper or cardboard and fix a stand so he will stand up. Or if you are talented craft one yourself. Hope this worked like a charm for me.

Carla writes...

Thank you all for the comments. I was feeling helpless. I have a 3 year old girl who will pee and do number #2 in the toilet. However, she is having issues at school even that the teacher reminds her to do go, she will say I don't want to and won't go. I have to send extra set of clothes with her every morning. She knows she is doing wrong and she does not care. I guess she'll do it when she is ready :)

Carla writes...

Thank you all for the comments. I was feeling helpless. I have a 3 year old girl who will pee and do number #2 in the toilet. However, she is having issues at school even that the teacher reminds her to do go, she will say I don't want to and won't go. I have to send extra set of clothes with her every morning. She knows she is doing wrong and she does not care. I guess she'll do it when she is ready :)

autumn writes...

hey there everyone...arrrggg, my son is 3 and a half andhe wont go potty...but when he does, he sits there and flushes the toilet and pulls the toilet paper and puts it in the toilet, lol....we love to sing the alphabet when he does get on there.....

heres the thing, he knows when he has to go, how do I get him on the toilet without a fight??? help

Jill Bradlie writes...

Potty training tips for regression are hard to come by but this article was very useful!

Cortaflex writes...

Do you know what worked for us? Teddy wants to do potty!! Of course after half a dozen times of teddy doing potty then he wanted to have a go too :-D

Rebecca writes...

I have no doubt that there are children that are stubborn enough to NOT potty train until an older age, however, I do find that a lot of times when a child shows signs of being ready, parents don't pursue b/c the time isn't convenient for them. Some tricks (that certainly WON'T work for everybody - what does in parenting?) - NAKED - when kids play naked in the privacy of their own yards (or even home if you have the hardwood/tile floor), and they are ready (between 15 mos. & 2yrs.), they start to recognize the signs pretty quickly. EXPOSURE TO ANOTHER CHILD POTTY TRAINING - 2 year olds are VERY curious creatures & watching another child potty training is a powerful way to create enthusiasm. DON'T PASS UP AN OPPORTUNITY - my son decided @ 2 yrs. & 2 days old that he did NOT want to wear diapers anymore (we were in Malysia visiting an area that didn't exactly have great bathrooms - mostly holes in the ground). Well, my husband and I took our own, VERY HARD, advice & took the diapers off, dealt with some accidents that weekend, and he was potty trained by the end of the week. Some kids have NO respect for their parents' schedules! My last comment - thank God I am past that stage - Rebecca, a mom w/o potty training issues, but a laundry list of other parenting faux pas :)

suzy writes...

Becky's advice is what worked for me too. We cleared a week - no playgroup, daycare or scheduled outings (I know this is really, really hard for a lot of people). Day 1 we went to Kmart and my son (then 2 years and 4 months) chose his own potty and undies. The potty was a talking Elmo monstrosity and the pants have Ernie and Bert on them. Usually he doesn't have branded things, so I think this was a big incentive.

Then we went home, put him in the undies (no pull ups - I think they're just confusing. Kids are smart. They will work out really fast that they are just another kind of nappy. And they're SO expensive), gave him lots of drinks and waited for him to learn about cause and effect. Lots of praise when he got it right, and a no-fuss clean up when he didn't. We basically stayed close to home for 4 days, or went places like the park and the beach where accidents weren't a disaster. At first he found it easier to be naked - it seemed like when he had NOTHING on he knew he couldn't wee, but maybe wearing undies felt like a nappy, so it was good to be at home (and, we are very lucky - our place has tiles and floorboards). Anyway, he has been nappy-free daytime ever since then. Day 1 we had lots of accidents. Day 2 and 3 there were a couple. And by Day 4 he was pretty much trained.

That was 4 months ago, and he still wears a nappy overnight. There have been a couple of accidents, usually if we are doing something exciting, so I try and remind him to use the bathroom before we go out or if I realise it has been a while. He used the potty for a couple of months, and then transitioned to a small insert toilet seat.

Good luck to everyone working on this at the moment - stay calm and be sure that it will happen eventually. I've shared my experience here in case it helps anyone, but to be honest I think it's mostly good luck when children learn quickly - they all seem to get the hang of it in their own time.

Joe writes...

Thanks for the ton of great ideas. My youngest brother was the same took him around 4 years to get potty trained. I guess when we all stopped making a big fuss about it he eventually learned it on his own. It takes great patience but it will eventually happen! Tow Truck

Carmelia Belter writes...

Does this toilet work if im potty training boys or potty training toddlers?

Recent Entries

Support for PBS Parents provided by: