My son has been potty-training for about a month or so, with pretty good results. It started with a few days of wearing underwear instead of a diaper, and having accidents, since he didn't know how to go on the toilet, even though he was pretty good at holding it in.

The big breakthrough came when he learned how to go on the toilet, and since then he's been pretty good, with accidents now and then.

One of the first things he learned was to "stay dry" — in other words, no poop or pee in his pants.

However, this has led to an interesting dilemma for him — he thinks he can "stay dry" forever to avoid ever pooping or peeing. Lately, he has been expressing just how much he hates pooping and peeing. He will tell us he "has wees" and then run to the toilet, but when he gets there, he changes his mind and gets very upset - saying "No wees! Stay dry!" (He wants to try to stay dry and not ever do wees again.)

How do we teach him that staying dry is important, but that he has to go when he feels the urge and that's ok? This has led to a couple accidents, because he believes that he can stay dry, but then leaves it too long.

He usually does tell us when he gets the first urge, but then when he changes his mind, we don't like having to fight to force him to sit on the toilet at that moment (though, when we have, once he is on the toilet he will go just fine - it's just the anxiety of expectations that seem to be getting to him). I feel like a fight to sit on the toilet is a bad thing to associate with something he should be willing to do.

Any suggestions?

  • @TorbenGB I struggled with the title, so I appreciate your help. In our case, it's not that he doesn't know it's OK - it's more that he's scared, and believes that he can just hold it forever to avoid it. We want to teach him that even though it's good to hold it, he will have to go eventually, and he needs to do it when he feels it.
    – Nicole
    Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 17:18

4 Answers 4


A couple of suggestions that worked for us:

  • Stress that he has to sit on the potty, but doesn't have to actually go
  • Give him a distraction - a book to read on the potty will help take his mind off it
  • Lead by example and go together! My daughter would frequently say that she didn't want to go, but when we went together she would quite happily do so.

If I were in your situation, I would start having your son go to the bathroom at specific times throughout the day or before he gets something he wants. For example, before lunch, I would ask him to go to the bathroom and wash his hands, after which he would be allowed to eat. You could also have him do it before he gets to play with a toy or gets to play outside, etc. This will help diffuse the situation and reduce his anxiety towards using the bathroom by taking the focus off of the bathroom and more on something he wants (to eat, play, etc.). This typically works best if it is used consistently, always before a meal, always after nap, etc.

This doesn’t specifically teach him that it is okay to use the bathroom, but in the long run, the more he uses it, the more comfortable he will get with it.

  • I'm assuming your son is sitting for now for peeing. I'd suggest having him sit on Daddy's lap while Daddy "wees". This modeling of behavior will show your son that it's OK to "wee" on the potty.
  • If you have an older boy (5-8 yrs old) or nephew that can help demonstrate, little kids look up to older kids
  • Try running water to help him get the urge back when he's sitting on the toilet and not getting results
  • I think the title has been changed by someone else which really diverged away from the point of my question. When he gets on the toilet, he's goes just fine. But, he doesn't like it, so before we get him on the toilet, he tells us that he can just stay dry and not have to go.
    – Nicole
    Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 20:34
  • 1
    You commented that your son is scared. I think him seeing Daddy or other little boys go will give him courage and comfort. Seeing older people not avoid the potty might help him come to terms with it. Also, as the person raising the question, feel free to modify he title as you see fit. I had taken your comments into account with my answer. Good luck!
    – Rhea
    Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 20:53
  • @renesis the title was only changed once, by me, and your comment shows approval of that. Click the edit timestamp to see the history of changes. You're free to edit your question as you please - just click the edit link for that. Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 21:11
  • @Torben I know how the history works. I don't mean to be critical, but I don't believe my comment really meant approval, per se, which is why I left the comment to clarify my intent. I do feel that it has diverged from the purpose that I asked the question, but since you thought my original title wasn't good, and I couldn't think of a new way to put it, I left it.
    – Nicole
    Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 21:24
  • @renesis Then I have misunderstood you twice in a row. I apologize! Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 6:24

Check your library for a kids book by the name "Everyone Poops". (That's the english translation of the title, originally 『みんなうんち』 (Minna Unchi) in Japanese.) It's a great read and seems to really help kids wrap their mind around the concept that while dealing with wastes is gross, everyone does it, it's normal and a good thing.

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