We started to potty train our 3-year-old daughter about a week ago, after she showed the initial signs by asking to wear underwear "like mom and dad". We explained to her it means she must use the potty or toilet for pee and poo and she appeared to understand.

Potty turned out to be "too boring" and she refused to sit on it, so we showed her the toilet seat for kids we also bought and she was all happy and cheerful, sitting on it without a problem and feeling really adult for using mom's and dad's toilet.

However, ever since then she just holds both pee and poo, and crying when it's finally arriving and causing either a puddle (usually on the floor) or a mess in her underwear. It happened many times by now. Things we tried, to no avail:

  1. Telling her constantly "you have pee? please go to the toilet to check". Most of the times she just says "no" and doesn't go, sometimes she will go, sit for a few minutes, say "I'm done" without doing anything and go away.
  2. Taking her to the toilet every 10 minutes or so even if she says she doesn't need to. Most of the time, she refuses to sit and when she agrees to sit, see #1 above.
  3. After every "miss" explain to her kindly that next time she has to tell us before it happens and go to the toilet. She just nods her head and says yes but... nothing really changing.

She goes to day care, where most of the other kids are already potty trained and while there she does reach the toilet in time (they also have toilet seats for kids) though not always, but it means she can tell when it's coming.

What else can we do at home to encourage her to use the toilet? Why the different behavior between home and day care?

Worth to mention that during the night she still wears diapers, we prefer to wait until she's trained during the day before starting the nights.

2 Answers 2


She might have some sort of fear or concern about going potty that she's unable to verbalize; talk to her. A lot. Maybe she's scared it will hurt, maybe the unknown is bothering her, maybe she's afraid that once she's not wearing diapers/pullups any longer, she'll embarrass herself? There are books that we used that helped quite a bit too: Everyone Poops and It Hurts When I Poop were greatly loved during our first bout of potty training (another one is coming up soon!).

Just anecdata but might be helpful: our daughter was all gung-ho for going potty like a big kid, but then would only go at school and at home she fought it tooth and nail. I sat her down once and asked her a bunch of questions about it and finally, after a long set of 'no's, discovered she was scared of what happens to the pee & poo after it is flushed. We have a septic system, and I explained that it goes under the yard to play with Mommy & Daddy's pees & poos, and after that she was just fine. And even though she was a very articulate 3-yr-old, trying to tell me exactly why she was reluctant to use the potty was past her ability to verbalize until I asked the right question.

  • Thanks, will try going in the questions route. Funny girl you have but somehow it does make sense, lol! However my daughter always ask to flush the water (even when she didn't do anything) so I don't think that's the case. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 13:53
  • 2
    You never know! Ours loved to flush too but when it came to her own personal waste apparently that was a whole different ballgame. Good luck!
    – Valkyrie
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 17:09

This sentence seems like a clue.

"Why the different behavior between home and day care?"

It's really important to consistently ask children to do age appropriate small tasks from 12+ months on. You have to create a system where they enjoy you asking them to do things, they do the task, you clap, they get all happy.

That is what they do at day-care.

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