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My daughter is 4 years old and has no desire to be potty trained. I've tried giving away her toys, trying to bribe her with things that she wants, making her sit on the potty for long periods of time, etc., etc., etc. I've been working on this for almost 2 years!! I don't know what else to do. She does pretty good with pee-peeing in the potty but has yet to poo-poo in the potty. Also she tries to hold her bowel movements which just end up making her constipated. I'm at my wits end. I like to think that she will just do it when she is ready, but I'm beginning to wonder.


Brenda Nixon, M.A. Replied: Back off mom. Your 4-y/o daughter is literally resisting your pressure to perform. If you ease up and act like you don't care, then she'll regain control over herself and use the toilet. (There is no reason to work on toileting for 2 years. If a child is ready, has parents who are ready to commit the time and energy to the task, and is given encouragement (never punishment) she will be movitated to use the potty.) Of course she's constipated -- this is called anal retention. She is learning to stubbornly "control" the situation even if she has to retain her stool. And it's physically and emotionally unhealthy. Beginning today, simply say to her, "You're a big girl now. You can put your pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty. If you don't then you'll have to clean up yourself." Try to be calm and matter-of-fact about it. In life, when you make a mess, don't you have to clean it up yourself? Then so should your daughter. Go on about your day and don't say a thing. When your 4-y/o messes in her pantiess, calmly announce to her that she must go to the bathroom and clean up herself. She may not like it, but then, who does?! By taking ownership of her mess she'll be more invested in using the toilet for good. There's a list of readiness signs and more specific encouragment on toilet teaching in my book, Parenting Power in the Early Years available on Also, I have a helpful 1-hr CD on potty training. If you'd like to order a copy, please mail me off my website Best wishes from a mom of two daughters.
Posted On 2007-09-11 19:32:21
Dr. Steven Kairys Replied: Be good to see a pediatric gastroenterologist. She appears to be stool holding and then finally defecates but it is then even more uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Uusally for this a doctor gives some sort of laxative that is titrated so the stool is soft but not runny- the child can not hold back and then the toilet training can begin.
Posted On 2007-02-15 11:29:50
Pamela Waterman Replied: First, pat yourself on the back for patience; with some children, that's simply what it takes. All three of my daughters were over 4-years-old before the concept finally seemed to sink in! They just didn't care. And one of them still wet her bed until 7, at which time we had the doctor give us a prescription for the nasal spray that did the trick. So, I'd back off on your efforts in the bathroom: try going a month without making any big deal about it, then revisit the topic. Just make sure she is getting lots of water, some juice, and applesauce, and at the same time, start talking (casually) about different activities that she'll be allowed to do when she's potty-trained and can wear big-girl panties. Gymnastics? Swim in the big city pool? We also let them pick out their own packages to have in the drawer for when it's time. We found that the children would get so involved in what they were doing they didn't want to leave it (a game, a book, a video) to go, even when they knew they needed it. You could bring the toy or book into the bathroom, if you observe her "going red." Does she have any friends who are already there? Will she head to kindergarten in the Fall? You don't want to do verbal comparisons, since everyone is different, but I wonder if over the summer (which is a great time to have this all come together!) the thought of kindergarten amongst the friends will be an incentive. If she's not frustrated, just indifferent, I'd wait and ride it out. They always say no one goes to college in diapers, and I think it's pretty much true for kindergarten, too (barring the occasional understandable accident). Good luck, deep breath, and keep us posted. PS I'm assuming you've spoken to the doctor to make sure she is otherwise in good health.
Posted On 2007-02-07 16:32:31
Trish Booth, MA Replied: Children and parents can pretty easily get into tugs of war over potting training. Unfortunately, children have the advantage. Daytime bladder training usually comes before bowel training. Because your daughter is able to control her bladder, the issue is not likely to be a physical problem. It is most likely a battle of wills. I suggest dropping the issue for a month to let things cool down. Use pull-up diapers that allow her to use a potty if she wants but allow for easier cleanup when she doesn't. It will be very hard, but say nothing about toilet behavior. This means no praising when she uses the potty, no statements of disappointment or disgust when she doesn't. Then, after things have cooled down and you can feel it's no longer a big issue between you, set a date for P day that is two weeks away. Make it a day that has nothing else planned. Make a big deal of this - put it on your activity calendar and each day announce how many days until P day—the day she starts wearing real panties (cotton underwear). Two days before P day take her shopping to pick out her underwear. Buy whatever design she likes. Do this even if she already has "big girl" underwear. Then, the morning of P day box up her pull-ups and give her a pair of her new underwear to wear. Cheerfully tell her that is what she is wearing from now on because she is a big girl. Big girls wear panties because big girls use the potty. For the next few days there will a lot of accidents of both kinds. And this is the hardest part, with every accident you will need to stay matter-of-fact and positive when you tell her to clean herself up and put on dry clothes. You may need to help with cleaning after bowel accidents, but leave as much of the cleanup as possible to her. You can suggest she use the potty a few times in the day, such as, "It's almost time for ____. Do you want to use the potty before you start?" But, don't hound her or set consequences if she doesn't. After she discovers that she isn't pushing your buttons by not complying, she will start paying attention to her own comfort. The number of accidents will decrease. When she does finally poo-poo on the potty, tell her warmly that you are proud of her and you knew she could do it. Praise her but don't make a huge deal of it. Expect the process to take a month or six weeks before the accidents are rare. You'll see improvement week to week. Most parents use diapers or pull-ups for nighttime until children have a good track record for not having accidents at night. Because nighttime dryness is more complicated than daytime, you may want to use pull-ups for a while. Although the nighttime transition takes longer, there usually isn't the same battle of wills.
Posted On 2007-02-05 21:19:01
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