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The past three months of potty training have been emotionally taxing. We've had a few glimpses of a light at the end of the tunnel, but the biggest lingering issue is getting our son to do #2 on the toilet. We know what his warning signs are, but convincing him that he needs to go is challenging.

When he needs to go (and we know it) my wife has started to take all of his clothes off until he goes to the bathroom. This works, mainly because he gets to put his clothes back on (he hates being naked). However, sometimes he'll be naked for an hour or more before he goes. Add to that the fact that he will play with himself during that time, and it feels a little awkward juxtaposed against our Christian background.

If we do nothing, he usually just poops himself without regard for his underwear or how it feels. This morning, for example, he locked himself in a room to poop his underwear alone.

Another time I saw some of the warning signs and asked him "do you need to go potty?" He said, "no," and then proceeded to squat and poop his underwear without breaking eye contact with me.

Even if we catch him and get him to go in the toilet, there's no guarantee that he's done. Sometimes he'll poop his pants 5 minutes after he 'finished.'

Reading through the other posts (this one was particularly influential), I've determined that our reward system might be wrong. When he poops his underwear, we turn it into a cleaning marathon. We involve him heavily because we want it to take him away from the stuff he wants to do. I worry that it is backfiring.

So my questions are this:

  1. Am I on the right track?
  2. If so, how can we change our reaction when poops his underwear? Should we involve him heavily in the clean-up process as we have so far?
  3. What are some other reward systems we could implement?
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  • "When he needs to go (and we know it) my wife has started to take all of his clothes off until he goes to the bathroom. This works, mainly because he gets to put his clothes back on (he hates being naked)." Why does he hate being naked? As to playing with himself, don't even give it a second thought. It is what it is. Sep 28 at 19:46
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    @anongoodnurse We haven't been able to suss that one out. It could come from a desire to wear clothes because we do, but it could also be that he genuinely feels more comfortable clothed.
    – ajsmart
    Sep 28 at 21:49
  • It might just be a struggle for control & autonomy. A lot of parents I observe don't let their children have age appropriate levels of either and a strong willed child will then just take any control and autonomy they can get. Maybe try letting him have more control. To your questions: 1) if it's not working, you are not on the right track. 2) positive reward usually works better than punishment, although I would punish for "defiance pooping" 3) Our four year old gets a sticker every night she does not pee the bed. She needs 30 for a loft bed which she really wants. She has 27 now.
    – Wulf
    Sep 30 at 9:41
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"Naked Weekend" is a pretty common way to approach potty training; often it just takes one weekend. Your modification - letting him put his clothes back on when he's gone - might work well for your child!

Don't worry about the "playing with himself" - that's just learning his body, it's totally okay and expected at that age. Of course, perhaps schedule this for a weekend you don't plan to have others around, but honestly if they're parents they probably also did the same thing, or at least understand :)

It worked well for us when our oldest had some issues with pooping - not perfectly the first time, but it was the sort of thing that, when he was ready, it worked.

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    From what I read about 'Naked Weekends', this is very similar to what we've been doing when he shows signs of needing to go. We'll take all his clothes off and leave him naked until he goes. (We just ignore the 'playing', but it is kind of awkward.) We don't just leave him naked all day though, is this similar enough to what you are suggesting, or is there a little more to your suggestion?
    – ajsmart
    Sep 27 at 21:25
  • Naked weekends are - well, weekends with entirely no clothes at any point :) (At least no bottoms.). It's a pretty common thing to do when attempting to cross that final bridge. I'm not sure it's particularly more effective than what you're doing, though it does put a bit more of the control in his hands - you're not prompting him at all. The idea behind naked weekend is basically to let him learn how to identify when he needs to go, and realize it's necessary to use the toilet, as otherwise it's quite a bit messier!
    – Joe
    Sep 28 at 5:50
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    @Joe - Messier as in he goes on the floor? Sep 28 at 19:41
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Sorry, English isn't my native tongue.

  1. Children begin to notice that they are defecating while they are focussed on something else when they are about 2 to 3 years old. This means that it doesn't make sense to begin toilet training earlier. Children learn to control their bowels completely around four years of age and to control their bladder completely around 5 years of age. This means that they will not become clean within a few weeks or months and that many mishaps will happen after they have begun using a toilet, simply because the child's physiology needs to develop first.

  2. It is best to begin toilet training when children signal curiosity or interest in the toilet.

  3. It is much easier for children to begin using a toilet if they are allowed to observe their parents or siblings using one. Parental shame will be an obstacle to potty training.

  4. A good idea is to start toilet training in warm weather when the child can run around naked. This will make it easier for the child to quickly get on the toilet when he feels the need. If the child has to undress first, mishaps will happen more often and dicourage the child. If the child wears diapers, it doesn't understand why it should use the toilet as it already wears one (so to speak).

  5. Mishaps will happen. The more relaxed you are about them and the less pressure you put on your child, the more easily and quickly he will become comfortable with using a toilet. If you try to force your child, he may develop fears (of failure, of the toilet) or constipation that might develop into encopresis or enuresis.

  6. Make sure the toilet is easily accessible and feels completely safe for your child. If your child sits on some shaky contraption or has to be lifted to sit on the toilet seat with his feed dangling, they might tense up and be unable to defecate physiologically.

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So I want to address this is a simple manner.

Every hour he is with you put him on the toilet. No excuses allowed, he is going on the toilet. Make sure you spend 2-3 minutes with him on the toilet no matter what he does. Explain to him that he isn't taking responsibility for his 'relieving' so this is what must happen. Let him know he can take responsibility any time he wants by never going to the bathroom anywhere but the toilet.

Never get angry, he's a kid. Just make this the pattern until HE CHANGES. I'm tired of all the games modern pretend psychologists play with how to game the kid. Our society already figured it out, nothing new is needed. Love your kid always, put the pressure on him to use the toilet, and continue loving them. No yelling, spanking, or demeaning is helpful. Just routine.

What a great story for the future about him staring you in the eye while taking a dump. I love it! But you gotta teach him the right way to do it and peace, love, patience, and a firm form of organization (not using discipline) is the key.

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It seems a bit mean for him to have all his clothes taken off when he wants to poop as you say he hates being naked so I would imagine it doesn't encourage him to be forthcoming when he wants to go. We went for the reward system with our boy and it seemed to work ok, although it didn't take him long to realise the more poops in the proper place meant more rewards, but you can always extend this to a biscuit, a trip to the park, or stars which accumulate to a bigger reward. My boy liked toy cars so we got an incredibly cheap multipack of toy cars (50 odd cars for like £10 - it was a while ago) and he got to pick a car from the pack when he pooped in the loo. I think by the time we'd run out of cars pooping in the toilet had become the norm. It is likely he may have the odd mishap still but don't be too harsh on him.

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