We have a wonderful 3 year old boy that we are at odds over potty training with. The issue is, I can’t potty train my son or at least both of us are having difficulty. Both my husband and I have been watching for the typical signs of readiness and thought we were ready. My son can explain why he needs to use the potty and quite often can tell you that he is ready to use it. He has asked on occasion and will often go to the bathroom to watch when ever either one of us go. He is aware of being wet and will sometimes ask to be changed.
We set out with some rewards such as a sticker book or the odd treat to offer when we had success. For the first couple of days we set a timer and when it would go off we would head off to the potty. We have tried to encourage him to stay on the potty for a bit by using his favourite song as a reason to sit for a few minutes. This was working fine. We praised him for trying and made a bid deal out of his successes. The accidents that did happen, we down played and tried to talk about them. Then came the next day and since then it has been nothing but tears, refusing to even try and then peeing all over the floor after sitting on the potty for 5 minutes.
My husband is currently staying at home with him and after trying several different avenues is really at a loss for what to do next. Perhaps he isn’t ready yet? We don’t obviously want to discourage the training, but I don’t see how the tears and frustration are helping. Do you have any suggestions for us? Thanks Sherry.
Thanks for your letter. One of the first things that comes to mind when reading it is that you’ve obviously tried hard to make potty training a positive experience for your little boy, so well done.
I think the most likely explanation for your problems is that you may have inadvertently, in your enthusiasm gone a little too far the other way. What exactly do I mean? Well, I think your son is feeling pressured and whether it’s negative pressure or positive pressure, as it is in your case, it’s still pressure. Sometimes that causes significant behaviour issues something I work with through my behaviour intervention service.
Too much pressure
He obviously desperately wants to please you and he knows that when he’s successful on the potty he does please you. He also liked those treats. Now he wants to be able to repeat his success but if he fails, he loses something…..your approval and possibly a treat as well. That would explain the tears. After all, how many of us are scared off doing something by the very thought of failure.
So what do you do now? Take the pressure off. Put the ball back in his court. Tell him that you want him to use the potty when he feels ready. Put a pile of pull ups next to a pile of underwear (new and cool ones, if you can) and praise him when he goes but don’t overdo it. If he chooses the pull ups for the time being, that’s fine. He will come around once he feels the pressure is relieved. Either way, if he tries and fails, give him some praise for trying but keep it all fairly muted as he is obviously sensitive. Your goal is to make it comfortable for him to continue trying and believe me, success will eventually follow. I wouldn’t provide any tangible ‘treats’ otherwise that again, builds pressure. For more help with your parenting, please visit my parenting services page.
I hope this helps. Best of luck.