According to this article, my three-year-old son is "resistant to potty training." That is putting it mildly -- he was getting so good, and then in the past month or so he's gotten worse than he ever was. So, my question is do steps like the ones outlined in that article work? It almost seems counter-intuitive.

For reference, here are the major bullet points:

  1. Transfer all responsibility to your child.
  2. Stop all reminders about using the toilet.
  3. Give incentives for using the toilet.
  4. Give stars for using the toilet.
  5. Make the potty chair convenient.
  6. Diapers, Pull-ups, or underwear? (use underwear).
  7. Remind your child to change his clothes if he wets or soils himself.
  8. Don't punish or criticize your child for accidents.
  9. Ask the preschool or day care staff to use the same strategy.

I feel like my wife and I have tried some of the things on this list. I know we've done 3,4,5,6 and 9 is a no-brainer (school needs to cooperate here).

  • If your child was doing well, and now is not, it could be caused by constipation or bowel retention. We learned this the hard way after trying for months to get our 3-year-old "back on track". He wasn't constipated, but he resisted sitting down to use the toilet, resulting in bowel retention and subsequent urinary issues. A year later, we're still correcting the bowel problem, but things are much much better.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 13:24

2 Answers 2


Anticipation is the key for the child to experience successful use of all modern plumbing has to offer. Anticipating the need to go is a viceral thing that has to do with the sensation of wetness and the associations around that sensation. The book I read was how to potty train your child in a day. I did it with both my girls and was a bit of a celebrity for getting the system to work. I am not sure it needs to be a elaborate as the book described (use of a doll that actually simulates urination), but for us the key was making the child aware of dry vs. wet clothes. This is, in part, why it is essential to get rid of the diapers, they are amazingly dry and comfortable feeling because of modern technology. So we gave alot of praise for dry clothes pretty heavily and pretty frequently for about a week leading up to the training day. This included as many people, real or imaginary, that we could think of either calling on the phone, visiting or just being referenced by us. For example: Does Megatron have dry pants? Yes, yes he does. He likes dry pants. He would be very proud of you with your dry pants. We actually had quite a bit of fun with it. We did the other side of the coin too, but not to heavily. For example: Grandma doesn't like wet pants, let's get some dry pants on, OK? Good that's better dry pants feel good, don't they?

I wish you the best of luck.


#1, #2 and #7, three you haven't done, are what made the BIG difference for our little girl (2 years old). #8 really depends on your definition of criticising/punishing, but certainly whatever you do, don't be angry about it. We don't discipline for toiletting accidents.

Toiletting is now entirely her responsibility. We assist her for aspects she cannot developmentally do yet, but she must take initiative. This means:

  • We teach her individual skills such as putting on pants and how to pull tissue off the roll (one skill at a time, not all at once). Once she knows how to do the skill, from then on we wait for her to do it completely by herself before she moves on to the next part of the process. It's okay if it takes an extremely long time, or the floor gets wetted twice.

  • She cleans up accidents. If she goes in her pants, she needs to change herself. If she wets the bed, she changes herself and the bed (I lift the mattress). If she wets the carpet, she changes herself and cleans the carpet. She learns some great skills and wetting herself is now a huge disincentive. #2s are different but the basic principle is the same.

  • We make life easier without taking away her responsibility. We use waterproof bed protectors. We have towels and spray bottles of vinegar in accessible places. We give her absorbent pants to wear. We have the potty seat available at all times. It's great that she is highly verbal and can ask for help very well, which we always give in some form without actually absolving her of responsibility (cuddles, time, explanation etc).

  • We respect her understanding of her own body in the hope that she will respect her body cues too. We might ask her if she is involved in a very engrossing activity or before going out but if she says no we no longer ask repeatedly or to a timed schedule. Similarly if she gets halfway undressed and then says that she doesn't need to go, we respect that too, encourage to put her things on again and we go back to our previous activity.

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