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My 3.5 year old boy is very well potty trained at this point, though he still usually needs us to tell him to go to the potty (he likes to hold it in a long time). He is capable of going completely by himself and prefers it this way. However, when he goes potty, he spends a long time either just sitting on the toilet after he's done with his business, or (after getting off the toilet after we tell him to) just laying on the floor in the bathroom. It often takes him 15 minutes to potty and wash his hands, even with us following up with him several times while he's in the bathroom.

While in the bathroom, when we follow-up with him to encourage him to wrap things up, he often yells at us and gets upset. And it's not like he's busy doing something: sometimes he is just laying on the floor, doing nothing.

This happens whether it is #1 or #2. In fact, times in the bathroom when he goes #2 can be faster because he's more excited about that achievement than #1.

What can we do to get his time spent in the bathroom down to a reasonable amount of time?

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    How much privacy does he get outside of the bathroom? Often, a bathroom is the one place you can go where people won't "bug" you. Does he have a room of his own? And if not, is there a room he can go to a hang a "do not disturb" sign on the doorknob? Maybe that's what he's trying to achieve. – Francine DeGrood Taylor May 14 '18 at 16:24
  • @FrancineDeGroodTaylor omg, the famous hiding spot of stressed mothers! Darn, now everyone will know our secret! ;-) – Stephie May 14 '18 at 17:06
  • @FrancineDeGroodTaylor, he has a room he shares with his baby sister. When she's no napping, he has full access to his room. This behavior started prior to his sister moving into his room though. Our apartment is so very small there's no privacy elsewhere. – NeutronStar May 14 '18 at 17:51
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If I had to guess, I'd say that the most likely cause here is that during potty training, he got a fair amount of attention related to using the potty. I suspect he got positive reinforcement, maybe even some treats, each time he went, right? Cheers for doing it? Or even just personal attention as you helped him?

Well, obviously at some point that has to go away. Potty becomes something he just does, without all that positive reinforcement and attention. But losing it can be difficult - so it sounds like he's trying to get that attention back, by staying in the bathroom until you have to notice him.

It'll go away on its own over time, as he ages and as he gets used to pottying without the attention. You can help it along by changing the attention to after he's left the bathroom - as much as possible just let him lie there, if he's not hurting anything; but once he leaves just a small "Hey, finished pottying? Nice!". That redirects him to get the attention afterwards, and lessens it without going totally cold turkey.

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Taking care of business (number 2) may actually be kind of tiring for a 3.5-year-old child believe it or not. One of my boys had the hardest time doing it by himself at first and it wore him out after doing it. My 3-month-old now gets lethargic post-defecation, and that is with us helping him move it along. Maybe your son isn't just lying down doing nothing; maybe he is recovering.

You can probably offer some encouragement to exit the bathroom at least though. Maybe have a small glass of juice or a single cookie waiting for him when he's done. Don't phrase it as a bribe though. Phrase it something like this:

"Hey bud, when you are finished up in there, there is a glass of juice (or cookie) waiting for you on the table, ok?"

A small glass of juice might actually be good, especially since a good #2 can purge some water from your body. Make sure he is staying hydrated and getting some proper fiber in him. This can make defecating a little less strenuous, assuming this is his problem.

  • What I describe happens whether he goes #1 or #2. The problem is more general than you're describing. – NeutronStar May 14 '18 at 16:11
  • "...especially since a good #2 can purge some water from your body." I'm a bit confused. Can you explain that? (I undertsand and agree with everything else.) Thanks. – anongoodnurse May 14 '18 at 16:22
  • @anongoodnurse A healthy stool is about 75% water. While the colon should be doing a good job to remove excess water before the purge, the majority of stool waste is water. This is why retaining poo can make it harder (as in solid) because the colon continues to suck water out, making it harder (as in straining) to push out OR when you have diarrhea, why it's so easy to quickly get dehydrated. – SomeShinyMonica May 14 '18 at 22:55
  • @Joshua then in that case, maybe Joe's answer is on the right track. – SomeShinyMonica May 15 '18 at 3:08
  • That's such an odd way to look at stool... – anongoodnurse May 15 '18 at 3:41

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