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My wife and I are on day 3 of our potty-training bootcamp with our 2 1/2 year old daughter, and things are not going well. Our daughter, who can generally gives us pushback any time we ask anything of her, is fighting us on every step of the potty training effort. We have had her in underwear only the past 3 days (with pull-ups for sleeping), taking her to the bathroom every 30 minutes or so to try sitting on the potty. We have encouraged her to let us know whenever she has to potty, and have plied her with stickers, candy, and toys for successfully going to the bathroom on the potty. We have been nothing but encouraging to her, even when she has had accidents, and have tried not to force her to sit down on the potty.

Three days later, and she has not gone to the bathroom on the potty a single time. She will sit on the potty for anywhere between a minute and a half-hour, and we will never get more than a drop out of her. Within a minute of getting off the toilet, she will pee or poop on the floor. We rush her back to the potty and put her back on as soon as this happens, letting her know that she had an accident that should have happened on the toilet, but not reprimanding her.

We are at our wits end. She knows how to use the toilet, and has done so successfully several times a week for the past few months, but she seems determined to thwart us now. She shows no interest in any of the bribes we have tried and shows little interest in using the potty without or insistence. How can we better motivate her?

Edit

This afternoon we decided to get more strict with our daughter: shortening the time between potty trips, fewer distractions, keeping her near the potty until she used it successfully. We went from six accidents in the morning to only a single accident in the afternoon/evening, and many successful potty uses. I am a little worried about her getting enough attention at daycare tomorrow, but the ball is rolling now.

  • I would also recommend reading the various other questions tagged potty-training, as there are many of them with often similar answers. – Joe Mar 16 '15 at 17:43
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Why are you insisting on forcing potty training? This is a classic example of a battle where your child holds all the cards. That means she can 'win' if she wants to: and it sounds like she does. She sounds like she has good control and understanding of her internal systems, she just doesn't feel like cooperating.

If it were up to me, I would go back to diapers, no blaming/faulting, just tell her that you're going back to diapers until she is ready and comfortable to go to underwear. Wait a month or two, then periodically ask her if she's ready (ie, once a week maybe).

Our first (and only trained so far) was sort of like this, except he wasn't quite so stubborn - he wasn't having accidents immediately after, he just argued about going in the first place, and didn't have 100% of the control at first (this was just after his 3rd birthday). We stopped after a few weeks to a month, back to diapers full time, then a month or so later asked if he wanted to start going. This time he agreed, we gave him a bit of help by doing the no-pants thing for a few days to help him make sure he understood his body better, and after that it wasn't too hard at all. Relatively little fighting about going, except at night (when he's tired). Almost no accidents. Some poop trouble for a little while but nothing unusual.

The one thing we did to help the poop issue when that was making him frustrated was to have "iPad potty time"; he could have 10 minutes (or whatever) of iPad time each day a couple times a day to try and poop, and got 5 minutes bonus if he did poop without an accident. He loves the iPad and so this was an effective bribe, but it also helped counter his frustration and get more positive vibes associated with the toilet. It also gave him something to do while waiting for his body to work (we found that he was often more able to poop after sitting there for five or ten minutes, and since he only got the bonus if he had poop, he often tried right after the first ten minutes expired). He still takes his allotted screen time as "iPad poopy time" most days, even though it's not "bonus time" anymore (as he's been nearly accident free for five or six months now).

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    A bit of a side note, some preschools don't allow diapers. Ours will allow non-potty trained kids but aren't certified for diapers - or whatever the qualification is. I can understand the pressure. Our 2 1/2 year old refuses to use the toilet also. So I wouldn't say we're trying to force her exactly. Just encourage or somehow convey that it is good to send the yuck down the toilet instead of smear it all over your body and stew in the waste. – Kai Qing Mar 16 '15 at 23:25
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    I'm surprised a preschool that accepts 2.5 year olds doesn't accept diapers. In my experience (with other parents/children at our daycares) 2.5 is normal for girls but not for (average) boys to be trained... and certainly not the far majority. I could see a 3/3.5 yo preschool but not 2.5... – Joe Mar 16 '15 at 23:57
  • It has to do with some kind of certification for handling diapers. A technicality since it's got to be just as nasty to handle soiled clothing. None the less, if one has this restriction there may be many others. Also, my comment was misleading. She is currently 2 1/2. She will be 3 by the time she attends. I believe 3 is the minimum age unless their birthday is pretty close to the start of the school year or you can prove they're ready for it. – Kai Qing Mar 17 '15 at 0:01
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    Seems like a bar that doesn't have a liquor license to me... – Joe Mar 17 '15 at 0:02
  • Thanks for the comments. Perhaps our daughter was not 100% ready to start this, but we are on our way and committed now. The problem has been that most of the advice we have gotten has not been useful, and now that we have deviated from our original plan, we are having more success. – woemler Mar 17 '15 at 0:26

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