Recently while on the plane, O wet his pants. Lovely really. He’d refused to pee prior to getting on the plane. Refused to pee at home. Essentially, O refused to pee “on command.” No surprise for a strong-willed-spirited just turned 3 year-old. And after he wet his pants, he then proceeded to have about 14 accidents (yes, I’m exaggerating) later that same day as we traveled to his grandparents’ home. Instead of being patient, supportive, and perfect, the husband and I realized we were just plain-old disappointed. And full of judgment.
Potty training takes patience, perseverance and a positive attitude. Many days we don’t have all three, all at once.
O had mastered his potty-trained world well over the last month or so and the wetting accidents weren’t on our to-do list. He’d been dry all day for a number of weeks. The frequency he was wetting on that particular Wednesday coupled with the inconvenience of it being a travel day just wasn’t my pleasure. Although he’d delayed pooping in the potty for a few months (also totally normal but uber-frustrating, too), that had all resolved some months back. The accidents felt like an inconvenience. And although as a pediatrician, I know how to lend advice in this area, it’s the taking advice part that is more of a challenge.
After age 3, when a child shows resistance to using the potty the “right” thing to do, is to carry on with a smile, stop providing reminders for your child, show that you’re unflappable and continue to praise success. Ignore potty failures, praise potty success.
But it is a seriously difficult task at 35,000 feet when surrounded by pee. Consequently, we spent part of the holiday nudging each other about how terrible we were and how we needed to move from D&J (disappointed and judging) to P&C (patient and compassionate).
We kept asking ourselves, “Why now, why him, what’s wrong?” Even though we steeled our faces, stymied our disappointment, and did our best to remain positive we did share many glances. I’m certain we sighed. We vetted the story with our relatives, we sought advice. And we kept providing prompts to get him into the bathroom. I’m certain O knew our sentiment of disapproval on some level. And the urgency with which we kept trying to usher him into the bathroom wasn’t all that good either.
Knowing full well this was normal, I still noodled on why he’d regressed. It didn’t seem stress related since the wetting preceded the start of the travel day, although stress or changes at home are a common trigger for potty setbacks. It wasn’t an illness. He wasn’t constipated. He didn’t show signs of pain with peeing. It wasn’t ….well, really, anything I could pinpoint. And that’s typical. When it comes to setbacks with potty training, rule number one is that it’s the norm. There may not be a singular event that spawns a setback. They just come. And then they fade away again. Just like O’s did.
Children between age 3 and 8 may need reminders for the potty. Children should pee every 2 to 3 hours.
But knowing when to prompt your child to go potty and when not too, that’s a toughie. I believe you’ll need to rely on your instincts for this one.
Talk with your child’s pediatrician if you’re concerned that your child doesn’t empty their bladder all the way, has many accidents a day after age 3 1/2 to 4 years, has constipation affecting their toilet-training, or if you have any concerns about a bladder infection.
It’s knowing that these setbacks do go away, finding patience with yourself and with your child, and allowing a return back to baseline gradually where we need support. Avoiding outward disappointment and judging is a goal, too. Moving from D&J to P&C is just one step in the right direction…
Tell me, what did/do you do with potty-training pitfalls and setbacks, and what’s the best advice you’ve heard? What worked??
Yolanda Wong, MD says
*sigh* Currently in the midst of pottytraining two at once. Just wrote about it. So much easier and clearer on paper. These battles with disappointment and judgement, and the effort it takes to hide it, has drained me completely. I don’t know how to do it better, except to just keep showing love and acceptance every opportunity I’m sane enough to show it, and to make the effort to apologize to my kids whenever I do lose it. Sometimes going to my room, closing the door, and tearing out my hair with a silent scream helps too. 🙂
Thx for sharing your experience. It reminds me to take a big breath and realize what a process this is, not just a project on my to-do list.
this is a perfect post for me today as I start Potty training my second child an autistic three year old boy Friday. He has the signs of readiness. I need to remember my patience. My daughter trained at two in about three days and never had a single accident. I now already my boys aren’t going to be that easy. We are ready to tackle it. I will pack my patience and we will dive right in.
Carolyn C says
So true! Our child had accidents into second grade, and along with working closely with her teachers, we found the wobl watch (https://www.woblwatch.com/) and reverting back to the tried and true sticker chart (with more frequent rewards) to be the only things that worked with her. The wobl watch really took the pressure off all of us – so many people said to tell the teacher to remind her to go to the restroom, but we didn’t want to put another responsibility on a busy classroom teacher, or embarrass my daughter. It stopped us from harping on her and made it into something subtle and scheduled. This worked like a charm!
I am forever finding wet panties in my 3year old daughters’ room. She changes herself and moves on. Best thing is empowering her to be in charge of the clean up. Worst thing is that she cannot do laundry. On trips all kids wear pull ups. We joke that Dad needs them too (just in case) which seems to make them acceptable to even my older child.
I try to remember to give my two year old choices. Stand up? Sit down? Mommy take you? Daddy take you? And to remember that there isn’t much that the carpet cleaner designed for pet messes cant handle. That’s my beet advice — to buy the enzyme- based carpet cleaner.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
enzyme-based carpet cleaner. Who knew! 🙂 Thanks.
Great ideas, I’ll keep them in mind when we get started! I have twin 21 month old girls who are showing all the signs of being ready to start using the potty: awareness, communication & physically able… but I don’t know that I’m ready!
Best thing I did was let my son (3 next month) train himself when he felt ready. I trained my daughter when she was barely 2 and really haven’t felt up to the effort. When my son showed signs of readiness I asked him if he wanted to put his pee or poop in the potty. He’d say no, I’d say ” that’s ok, some day you will.” and he’d say, “no I won’t, I like diapers!” finally he decided one day he wanted to wear underwear while playing at home. He had a few accidents that I asked him to clean up. He put his undies and towel in the washing machine. (Front loader) Got quite the kick out of helping wash everything at the end of the day. I showed him where the bag of leftover Halloween candy was and said “if you get some of the pee in the potty, you can help yourself to one piece.” Total honor code! It took him an afternoon of dribbling and pooping on his play rug to get the sensation and timing. 2 accidents since.
If I say “the people in our family all try use the potty before leaving the house” my kids don’t resist. I go, too. 🙂
+1 for pullups on long car trips or airplane rides. Not always safe or possible to get to the toilet.
Also I think I’ll have my boy wear a pullup at night for another year. ( I put them over the undies so we can reuse if dry.) my daughter moved to no pullup at night at age 3 and occassoonally wet the bed (daylight savings, drinking too much at dinner, late bedtime). It would take several days to stop wetting. We got tired of washing sheets and she was frustrated. I’d rather wash fewer sheets and I think I’ll save him the frustration and disappointment my daughter felt. She only saw her failures and maybe he will see his successes?
Wow, Viki, I love that! It sounds like you found a really great and low-stress way of making potty training work. 🙂
K – thank you, though I can’t take credit! My sister is a preschool teacher who has a degree from a NAEYC-accredited program. I was felt very challenged by his strong willed personality and struggles with transitions/change. She noted that more child abuse happens during the potty training years than other developmental times because parents snap from the frustration. Sadly, I’ve seen moms scold, shame, discipline and spank their children for situations like the one in this blog post – where child resists sitting on the potty and has an accident as a result. I was content to follow my son’s lead until the end of September when we started a class where he was one of the only “older 2s/young 3s” children not even starting potty training. In playgroup several younger kids trained first. Luckily I had the encouragement to recognize that both wanting to wear underwear and wanting to sit on the potty were both essential “readiness” cues. If he refused, there wasn’t any use in forcing him. Can’t say free access to candy would be a good idea in general! 🙂
Kay Sue says
Can I ask why you use pullups instead of a regular diaper for sleeping? I’m just curious. My daughter (just turned 2) is potty-trained for daytime but almost never stays dry at nap and certainly not at night. We have her wear a diaper and just tell her that her body is not ready to stay dry while she sleeps yet and when her body’s ready we’ll get rid of diapers. We also put a diaper on her in the car (and tell her it’s in case she goes to sleep! ha!) because after one soaked-car-seat-and-still-two-hours-to-go accident I decided I wasn’t doing that again. So anyway, I’m just wondering if there’s a reason behind pullups vs diapers. Thanks for this post! And, Viki, for your neat response.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD says
“Pull-ups” are really just diapers that a child can easily control. They can put/pull them on and off, just like underwear. But of course, there is no NEED for Pull-ups. You can certainly go right from diapers (re-usable or disposable) to underwear. All up to you and your child!
oh! I share this pain! my older son trained in about 3 days at just over 2 (nighttime was a few months longer). My baby is just over 2 and is fully aware of how to use the potty. he was ‘trained” by the time he was 20 months old and now flat out refuses! He will not go on the potty. He will happily tell me when he needs to go and then will only go in a diaper. we have elected not to push the issue. I see very few 4 (developmentally typical) kids in diapers…..so at least there’s that to look forward to!
Vanessa Salazar says
My little boy is 2 he will soon be 3 in March!!! How in the world do I start potty training? He starts school in August fingers crossed.
My daughter is 18mths should I also start training her?
Courtney Schmidt says
I am also struggling to maintain patience in the potty training process. My daughter absolutely does not want to poop on the potty. However, she does talk to her baby doll about how the baby should poop on the potty. So, maybe there’s some progress on the horizon! Thanks for this post…at least I’m not alone.
The best thing I did was let my son (3 next month) to teach himself, when he felt ready. I trained my daughter when she was just 2, and certainly not shabby effort. When my son showed signs of readiness, I asked him if he wanted to put his pee or poop in the potty. He wanted to say “no, I would say that it is good for you one day.” And he needs to say no I’m not, I like diapers! “Finally, he decided one day he wanted to wear underwear while playing at home. He had a few accidents, so I asked him to clean up. He put his Undies and towel washing machine. (Wheel loader) You have quite a kick out of helping wash everything at the end of the day. I I showed where the remaining Halloween candy bag and was told: “If you get mad when the toilet, you can help yourself in one piece.” Number of the code of honor: he took his dribbling and pooping his afternoon off to play and the feeling of the time. two accidents from.
If I say “all people in our family is trying to use the potty before leaving the house my children not to resist. I am going, too. 🙂
1, on long car trips or airplane rides, pullups. It is not always safe or possible to get to the toilet.
Also, I think I have to wear my boy pullup at night for another year. (I put them in undies, so we can re-use when dry.) My daughter moved pullup at night 3 years of age and occassoonally wet the bed (day light saving, drinking too much at dinner, late night). It would take several days to stop wetting. We are tired of washing sheets and was disappointed. I prefer to wash the lower leaves, and I think I saved his disappointment and frustration, my daughter felt. She only saw his failures and he could see his success?
Hello everyone! Can I ask why you use pullups instead of a regular diaper for sleeping? I’m just curious. My daughter (just turned 2) is potty-trained for daytime but almost never stays dry at nap and certainly not at night. We have her wear a diaper and just tell her that her body is not ready to stay dry while she sleeps yet and when her body’s ready we’ll get rid of diapers. We also put a diaper on her in the car (and tell her it’s in case she goes to sleep! ha!) because after one soaked-car-seat-and-still-two-hours-to-go accident I decided I wasn’t doing that again. So anyway, I’m just wondering if there’s a reason behind pullups vs diapers. Thanks for this post! And, Viki, for your neat response.Thanks for your great reply
Kara Kaess says
My 4 1/2 year old is refusing to go poop on the potty. Unfortunately there has been some “I’m really disappointed in you talks.” I think she’s afraid of disappointing my husband and I. She is not in preschool yet, but will go starting in August. I have tried everything. I even thought she might be afraid b/c she has shown signs of being afraid of heights and other things. Any ideas or suggestions? Can I “undo” the shaming she has probably felt?