My 3 year old has been potty trained for over a year but hasn't gotten to the point where he can tell me when he has to pee. I just take him throughout the day and he goes. However, if I wait too long, or if he is in the midst of something (like watching TV) he will just pee in his pants. I feel like it is getting worse and he is peeing in his pants more often lately. He usually just does it at home.

He never pees in his pants at his early childhood class once per week and never pees in his pants at grandparents house or church - just at home. How can I get him to tell me that he has to pee and stop peeing in his pants? I know he can hold so I'm not sure why he doesn't at home so often. He doesn't wear pull-ups over night or during naps and wakes up dry. He used to tell me when he had to poop consistently but doesn't really tell me that anymore either - just goes when I take him. Fortunately he doesn't have pooping accidents.

To clarify - he doesn't have accidents outside the home (rarely) but I am still the one taking him potty in those settings. He doesn't tell me he has to go outside the home either, he just holds it until I take him.

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    what do you do when he does wet his pants?
    – WRX
    Feb 24, 2017 at 1:30
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    What do grandparents do, what do church folks do/ do they take him frequently? Does he ask there? Feb 24, 2017 at 2:26
  • I feel certain that this will solve itself in time, but will wait for your answer before I add my two cents.
    – WRX
    Feb 24, 2017 at 12:57
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    He rarely has accidents out of home (at school, church or people's houses) but nothing is really different. It is still only mom and dad that take him potty in those settings. He doesn't ask to go - we just take him and he holds it until we do with no accidents. Not sure why he does that when we are out but doesn't hold it OR tell us if we wait too long to take him at home.
    – Emilyh
    Feb 25, 2017 at 16:27
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    Willow Rex -that is a great idea about discussing with him how it feels to pee. I've been trying to do that and also role playing it with his stuffed animals. He seems to be processing it...
    – Emilyh
    Feb 25, 2017 at 16:29

2 Answers 2


We were in a similar situation with our boy. He would just wet his pants whilst looking at toys or watching TV. It was always whilst he was distracted.

What we did to avoid this situation is ask him regularly. This would break him from his distraction. If he wanted to go we would then encourage him to tell us that he wanted to go and at that point we would take him. Repetition is key here. They have to get into the habit of asking you as like anything with children it's new.

Quite often we found out boy didn't realise he needed the toilet whilst he was distracted. It was only once we broke that distraction he'd be able to think if he needed it or not. With time and a lot of persistence we managed to get our boy to tell us when he needed the toilet.

With our boy there were sometimes other tell signs. Light stepping from side to side, a bit like dancing was a big one for us. Tell signs are often automatic and they don't realise they are doing it. There are others and you boy may differ but it's worth trying to watch for these. They may be very subtle so watch closely.

I know it feels like sometimes you're not getting anywhere but you do so hang in there. Good luck.

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    Yes I think this is the same here. He's too distracted to realize it a lot of the time. Yesterday I actually paused the TV show so he could look at me and then asked him. He did have to pee so we went and then came back to the TV show which I think was positive and taught him that we can always come back to the activity. I'm starting to notice a tell sign and am trying to hint for him to tell me when I see that sign. Hopefully that will help. Its sooo frustrating that he won't just tell me!! Thanks for the answer!
    – Emilyh
    Feb 25, 2017 at 16:31
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    Yes that's definitely a positive. I remember being frustrated at our boy for not letting us know but after a lot of patient we managed to get him to tell us he needed a wee. You do get there in the end so stick with it.
    – anon
    Feb 25, 2017 at 18:43

Potty training is different for boys and girls and even between same sex children in the same family. Twins can learn it differently.

Try not be be exasperated or angry.

Before activities that you cannot control (church, movies at the theatre, standing in line for a treat) go to the bathroom first. Model this yourself. Your partner should as well. "We're getting ready to go, I am going to the bathroom/to pee before we leave." (Do this even if you don't need to go.)

When there is control, pick a time that makes sense to stop the activity and everyone goes to the bathroom. Your little guy might not want to miss anything or simply forget when he is enjoying the activity. Make it okay to stop and go to the bathroom -- never sigh or be impatient. Praise, but do not over-praise. Going to the bathroom is everyday stuff.

When the weather is good, play outside and if he wets his pants, do not offer to change him. Wet pants are uncomfortable. You should not leave it so long as to make his skin chaffed, but long enough for him to notice he doesn't like how it feels.Summer time is a good time to let up on the reminders and let him start saying he needs to pee.

Stop helping him change. This is hard because it makes a bigger mess of the bathroom and you'll ultimately have more work to do, but it is hard to get out of wet clothes. If he has to take care of it himself, he'll probably decide that he prefers not wetting his pants. It is up to him. This is not punishment. It is responsibility. Do not be mad, just give him his clean clothes.

The idea to discuss how it feels to need to pee was not mine, but struck me as a very sensible idea. He may not know what that feeling means. Sometimes the obvious to us is not at all obvious to them. (I wish I could find that terrific answer, but I looked and can't.)

  • It is so hard to be not be frustrated about it when he has been potty trained for a year and all of a sudden seems to be having this problem! Even though he has never really told me when he has to go, he at least hasn't peed in has pants as much as recently. Good idea about having him change his own clothes though - I think that will help. Thanks!
    – Emilyh
    Feb 27, 2017 at 15:54
  • @Emilyh is there a change at home or school/daycare? New baby/ friend's baby, new pet, divorce or upset, moved, new bed, illness -- his or another's? -- any change can cause a regression in toileting. Regression is unfortunately perfectly 'normal'. Not all kids do it, but enough for it to be a hassle rather than a concern. It only becomes a concern if you can't get him back on track.
    – WRX
    Feb 27, 2017 at 15:58
  • Willow Rex - we had a new baby almost 11 months ago. He had a very short period of regression initially when the baby was born but then went back to normal. The only thing I can think of is that we have been working intensely on his gross motor skills. He is late in jumping and we have been doing lots of gross motor activities working on jumping. He has been working really hard at it and starting to make a lot of progress. I think all of his mental energy is being taken up with that right now.
    – Emilyh
    Feb 27, 2017 at 20:04
  • I think some combination of new baby, gross motor is the 'why'. I think loving patience and him having some responsibility is the 'how.'
    – WRX
    Feb 27, 2017 at 20:29
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    I think he made some progress today. We've been talking a lot about where the water goes when he drinks it and what it feels like. We've been practicing by having him drink a large glass of water and then doing an activity until he feels it in the bottom of his belly. The first time, he peed all over the floor but since then, he's told me he has to pee like 3 times today. Yay!
    – Emilyh
    Feb 27, 2017 at 20:34

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