potty training

Asked January 10, 2015, 4:30 PM EST

My son understands that pee and poop go in the toilet but has a hard time relaxing to pee. Any suggestions or ideas? We have only been potty training for a few days, but he cries and it seems to cause him quite a bit of stress and anxiety. He is 3 and a half and we are not going back to diapers! Any suggestions you have for bowels movements are welcomed as we have yet to make it over that hurdle too. Thanks so much!

Cache County Utah

1 Response

Parents spend a lot of time worrying about toilet training. However, it can be surprisingly simple and smooth as long as the child is ready and it is treated as an “educational” experience rather than a “disciplinary” action. Your son at 3 and a half is developmentally ready as long as he is typically developing and has no medical issues that would hamper his training. By then bowel movements are more regular and bladder sensation is developing.

Choose a day or two or longer when you are able to stay with his training with a bathroom available. Do not try to train when there is a change in the family like a divorce, house move, or Mom going back to work. If possible make the plan ahead of time and ask friends or relatives to take siblings out so you can concentrate on your son.

Steps in the toilet training process:

  • Before beginning, tell your child what will be expected. Explain the procedures involved, using pleasant tones and simple terms but be firm. Be prepared to provide regular reminders and updates when appropriate.
  • Have the child “walk through” the procedures without actually undressing or eliminating. If you feel comfortable, allow the child to observe the same-sexed parent or older sibling “in action”.
  • Place your child on a “potty” chair, never for more than a few minutes. A stand-alone potty chair might be safer and less scary than a seat which fastens to the standard toilet.
  • Let your child know he should tell someone anytime he feels a need to “go”.
  • Regularly (every hour at first) ask the child if he thinks it is time to “go”.
  • Be ready to keep the child company for a while as he tries. However, do not insist he remain seated past the point where he becomes uncomfortable.
  • For inspiration, turn on the water tap and/or read a “potty” story as he tries.
  • Provide enthusiastic praise for every successful try at the toilet or potty, as well as appropriate praise for genuine attempts, even if they are unsuccessful.
  • Teach your son to point his penis down when urinating (whether he is standing or sitting) to avoid spraying.
  • Take the child off the regular toilet before you flush as this can be frightening.
  • Approach nighttime training after daytime control is well-established.

Tips for Successful Toilet-Training

  • Kids who train later (2 and a half to 3 years old or a little later) train well and train fast.
  • You must set aside the time to be consistent with training and include sitters in this training. Find a week where you can really concentrate on this.
  • Put the child on the potty chair when he wakes in the morning, after each meal, after nap, before bed and any time the child indicates he has to go.
  • Don’t give him a book or a toy while on the potty, it is for one purpose only.
  • Respond casually if he doesn’t go. That will indicate to your child that you have confidence in his ability to go the next time. Kids can feel deep shame if you punish.
  • Don’t over-praise for success. Praise out of proportion to his other accomplishments can cause a fear of failure.
  • Expect gradual not instant success. Don’t be discouraged by regression and accidents, especially when there is stress or change.
  • Switch from diapers to fancy underpants or those with characters work wonders, kids hate to get them dirty.
  • Dress your child in easy to remove pants or dresses.
  • Do not bribe or reward with food. Stickers for success are fine.
  • Your child’s physician is an excellent source of toilet training information.If his concerns or distress continue discuss with your pediatrician, he may need to work with a specialist.
  • Do not deny the child water if he is thirsty, but do try to restrict the intake of fluids as much as possible prior to going out or going to bed. Say that to them kindly, they want it to work too.
  • Keep the house warm at night and leave a small light on in the bathroom so the child will not be uncomfortable or afraid about getting out of bed.
  • Talk about the advantages of being trained and tell the child that success will be achieved soon. Be sure to use upbeat tones and avoid putting heavy pressure on the child.

If these steps do no result in reasonably immediate and significant progress toward success, STOP, then try again a few weeks later.