This is the third day of our basically unsuccessful potty training with my three-year-old daughter. So far she has only used the potty once. All other times have been "accidents" either in the house or outside. Our approach has been from "Stress Free Potty Training" which is to patiently clean up these accidents and gently suggest that my daughter use the potty next time. The result has been that my daughter fights us when trying to get her to sit on the potty when it looks like she has to go or just going wherever and whenever she feels like it in her underwear.

We asked our pediatrician for advice and he said at three years old, our child knows that she is supposed to be going in the potty and that these accidents are not accidents but simply part of a battle of wills. He recommended disciplining her (to whatever level we felt comfortable) when didn't use the potty or refused to sit on it when we asked her.

Has anyone else dealt with this? Discipline seems harsh for learning a new skill but maybe it's necessary?

I should also mention that her very mild stuttering (or repeating of words) has gotten more noticeable since we started.

asked 18 Jul '11, 00:18

blue's gravatar image

accept rate: 26%

edited 18 Jul '11, 18:40

@blue has your daughter been evaluated to rule out a physiological reason for her difficulties? Are you sure she is getting the proper signals? If it were me I would want to make sure before punishing her

(18 Jul '11, 18:27) Tammy ♦♦

@Tammy: can you expand on what you mean by proper signals? Also, we haven't had her evaluated but I'm not sure what that would entail. She was able to pee in the potty once, at the very beginning, when we started (but after that, refused to do it again).

(18 Jul '11, 18:39) blue

@blue Was the first time possibly a fluke? She just happened to be sitting on the potty when she peed? By signals I mean the sensation that you need to pee, the ability to release when you need to, etc. I'm not an expert but I know there are medical reasons why some kids have potty training difficulties. There are medical specialists in this area. Of course she could be stubborn, our daughter was.

(18 Jul '11, 18:56) Tammy ♦♦

@Tammy: a fluke is certainly possible. Or maybe she was just completely turned off by the experience? She seems to know when she has to go because she will ask for a diaper or, today, ask to go outside to go out there. It's been fun.

(18 Jul '11, 18:59) blue

@blue all are possible

(18 Jul '11, 19:29) Tammy ♦♦

@blue - It can be a miserable experience. I think we initially started too early. Then we put it off for a long time, and it worked well when we tried again, but it still involves plenty of "accidents". Definitely start clipping coupons for carpet cleaners. :)

(18 Jul '11, 22:21) Scott ♦♦

I am not sure about your Dr's comment about 3 year olds should know what to do. I say this because I thought that we were failing because our son was 3.5 before we really got into toilet training. When I talked with various parents and the nurse at our Drs I was reassured that hear it is not unusual for kids not be toilet trained at 3. Our son by 4.5 was complete dry day and night.

(20 Jul '11, 16:18) K D
showing 5 of 7 show 2 more comments

I'm going through this too with my almost 3 year old. He knows what to do, he just doesn't want to take the time to do it most of the time. At this point we are on a reward system. If he will do something on the potty, he gets a couple Tic Tacs. So far this is getting him excited about going potty. You could try giving her a reward just for sitting on the potty at every diaper change. When she is doing that regularly you can graduate her to getting the reward when she does something in the potty - from there it goes to not just doing something on the potty, but no leakage on the way to the potty.

If a reward system is not enough incentive, it may be necessary to pick her up and set her down on the potty. You could try using a timer and make her sit on the potty. If she does something, set the time for 15 - 20 minutes (expanding the time between trips as she has more successes) then make her go again. If she does nothing, set the timer for 5 minutes before she has to go back.

Another method that was once suggested to me - If she gets up, goes in another room, and does it in her diaper, make her "practice" going potty by having her go from the point of her accident to the potty, pull down her pullup or panties, sit down, stand up, pull her underwear up and return to the "scene of the crime" and repeat this 10 times.

There will be a lot of screaming and crying on her part, and you may want to scream and cry too, but I agree with your doctor. It is most likely a battle of wills and she has to learn that you, as the parent, are the one in charge. If she doesn't learn to obey you now, imagine the issues you will face when she is a teenager.


answered 20 Jul '11, 11:12

mkcoehoorn's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

@mkcoehoorn: We plan to move out when she's a teenager.

(20 Jul '11, 13:01) blue

Is it really that urgent?

It's your call, but I'd be inclined to let it slide for a few weeks, then re-introduce the subject again. Maybe try her on the toilet, just to see if being a 'big girl' motivates her more.

If backing off a bit can reduce the stress, you may end up getting there quicker than if it degenerates into a battle of the wills (which it will become, even if it's not already, if that's what you believe it is).

Adding the stuttering into the mix, I'd be inclined to proceed with caution - unless you think she's doing that to annoy you too...

I'm admittedly not at the strictest end of the scale, and I'm not a qualified anything, but I'd be very wary of any kinds of 'battle of the will' over bodily functions.


answered 11 Aug '11, 07:44

Benjol's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

Quit. Just quit, for whatever reason she isn't ready. Try again next week. If she's decided she just isn't going to do it, or doesn't recognize the feeling of "having to go", trying to make her or punishing her for having accidents is going to delay potty competency by a lot longer than a week or two. Some kids arn't ready when they're three, some are ready when they're two. Every kid is different and it isn't a reflection on anybody's parenting (regardless of what those parents at the playground say!).

Good luck, and remember this is a lot more important to you than it is to her. Try and keep it that way.

University of Chicago Pediatrics training reference paper


answered 18 Aug '11, 11:04

Neen's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

Great reference, thanks!

(19 Aug '11, 12:28) Scott ♦♦

I am generally quite strict, however I've not punished any of the kids for accidents during potty training. My eldest was still in a nappy at night when he was five, and he saved pooing until he had a nappy on. This got him told off when the nappy was taken off in the morning but nothing more. Both the boys were pretty late being trained though.
Our daugter went to pre-school one day in a nappy as normal and asked them to use the toilet. After that she didn't wear a nappy again during the day.

I think having a battle of wills over potty training will be like having one over eating. Very difficult to win.


answered 15 Aug '11, 12:25

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Asked: 18 Jul '11, 00:18

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Last updated: 19 Aug '11, 12:28