Our situation is that potty training is going well at home, but really badly at daycare. We have an appointment with the daycare staff next week to discuss strategies. My son, who is 2.5 years old, is showing signs of stress for the first time in his life, which also means he is being unusually obnoxious: doing everything he's not allowed to, uncluding dangerous stuff such as opening the oven. I'm finding it difficult to strike a balance between being supportive and putting my foot down, which in turn makes it difficult to come up with decisive requests from the daycare staff. For example, my son has begun peeing in defiance: when we put him in timeout, or when we don't want to play with him at that very moment, he'll look us in the eye and pee in his pants. To my mind, this is a situation where he should be told this is a bad thing to do, but every single source on potty training says to never be negative about accidents.

Here is a breakdown of our situation:

  • My son is 2.5. We began potty training 5-6 weeks ago while on holiday. He had zero peeing accidents by the third day. Pooping is more difficult as he can't hold it in for very long, but he does know to tell us in advance when he needs to go. We know he can hold in urine for something like half a day, as well as all night. He was very proud of his underwear, and of every potty achievment. He's generally very motivated to follow rules and to stay clean, so I'm not surprised that it was easy.
  • After holidays, in daycare, it worked well for a few days, but he gradually began resisting more and more. They try asking him frequently, asking him rarely, asking him at different points in the day, giving stickers, congratulating, talking, letting him choose if he wants to use the potty or the tiny toilets, but he's resisting more and more as time goes by.
  • At first he was greatly distressed by his accidents, but he slowly stopped caring. By now he mostly messes his pants, 4-5 times a day, and only very ocassionally uses the potty.
  • I have a vague notion that he might be peeing in defiance in daycare as well, rather that not being able to communicate his need. Maybe he's angry if they interrupt his playing or something of that sort. It's hard to know.
  • He started having occasional accidents at home as well, and wetting his bed multiple times per night. He also mostly stopped caring about being wet when it happens. This is very unusual for him.
  • The daycare staff are clearly uncomfortable about the situation because they feel they are stressing him out by insisting he uses the potty (I also bet they're not too crazy about the messes, but they don't say this). They even put a diaper on him twice so far. We told them not to after the first instance, but the second time he asked for it and they thought this was a good enough reason to do it. We think it's confusing for him to be able to pee freely sometimes and need to go potty at other times.
  • We haven't been entirely consistent either, as we returned night-time diapers after a week, with the idea that we should tackle daycare first and nights later, and that's it's too much stress for him to be having accidents every night on top of every weekday.

I would appreciate any input or suggestions for what to tell the daycare staff, or what to do differently at home.

  • Have you considered the possibility that he goes during time outs due to stress rather than defiance? Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 2:27
  • Are any of his peers potty trained? He might not want to go to potty since no other children go to potty?
    – Ida
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 19:18

6 Answers 6


I have an inhome daycare and am battling this same issue with one of my little guys. I have five children of my own and know very well about potty training issues. My oldest children are in college. I understand that we aren't supposed to be negative about accidents. Accidents is the key word here. Your son and my little guy aren't having accidents. I will always be positive if a child is running up to me telling me they have to go potty and simply can't hold it any longer. That's an accident. When a child is deliberately peeing or pooping his pants when they know how to use the potty.....that's a behavior. I am struggling with this now. How to change the behavior! I feel that negative consequence would be more effective than making sure you stay positive. I have been talking to this childs parents about putting him back in diapers (which he doesn't want to do). When he decides to behave like he knows how to then he can be rewarded with his big boy pants again.


Have you thought of just taking a break? Some kids are gung-ho from the start, some go in fits and spurts. Maybe yours is indeed stressed from training and daycare and just needs some down time. Try going back to diapers for a week or two, or until he settles down and indicates he's ready to try again.

  • Thanks for your input! Have you thought of just taking a break? We have. I'm not particularly in favour of that solution, but it's definitely a possibility.
    – Ana
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 11:50
  • 1
    I hear you. Throwing out diapers and then going back STINKS (no pun intended) from our side. But so often we're kinda stuck with what the kids want. ;) Just remember: very few kids go to college in diapers. You will all get through this. :)
    – Valkyrie
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 13:08
  • I guess my issue is that it doesn't make sense to go back to diapers at home, but it makes sense at daycare. However, all the potty training advice says to be consistent, and not use diapers sometimes while not at other times. I think we might do the 'inconsistent' thing anyway, and let them put a diaper on each day after the first accident but keep him in underwear outside daycare. That way, he can still opt to stay in underwear at daycare if he decides to use the potty at some point, and they can still put on a diaper if he opts not to.
    – Ana
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 14:41
  • 1
    Yeah, I've always been in the consistency camp all the way. I think I am here too, though; if he doesn't like diapers at home, then you can remind him he'll be out of diapers and back in big-boy undies when he decides to use the potty both at home and daycare. Use whatever leverage he gives you.
    – Valkyrie
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 14:43

I have always just waited til they are 3 yrs old. I have 4 kids, & that seems to work MUCH better than trying to train a 2-yr old. Cognitively, I just think they're better equipped. And mine are extremely smart (so it's not that they can't), their brains are just more well-developed by then. They understand more not only about their bodies (& its functions), but more about consequences, being able to hold it a bit longer, pleasing others, etc. I tried training my 1st at age 2 (girl) & it was 8 grueling months of horror. I waited til my 2nd & 3rd were 3 (both boys)... Took 1 week both times.


He apparently knew how to go potty from the beginning and if he is looking at you and intentionally peeing in his pants when he knows he is not to then its time for more then just a time out. I know your not supposed to be negative about every accident but this is kind of different . Maybe you should try swatting him a few times. It doesn't even have to be that hard just enough to get his attention. With that being said we all are peeing and pooing in the toilet. He will learn don't worry


To those who think putting them back in diapers is the solution, does not work with mine. To some wearing big boy underwear who cares, diapers are comfy. Finding other ways to undermine the strong will is better. Ask which toilet he prefers to use as opposed to use this potty. Some kids honestly cannot feel the mess when they are in disposable diapers. Also like with mine it is a permission slip for accidents. My solution is find a different child care with a different approach. Use cloth underwear, make it boring underwear. Make it loose underwear. Might be the underwear is way too tight. Might be underlying medical issues that are not uncovered. Mine has IBS which when you gotta go you gotta go, not every 20 minutes.

  • Hi Marie - it is very difficult to understand what you are trying to say here. Can you edit your post to clarify.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 20:01

I would consistently offer a replacement behaviour. I agree this is not an accident and is a behaviour therefore should be treated differently. I would chose a message that works for you and consistently teach the child that peeing in defiance is not the way we get what we want. do not reward this behaviour with what the child is wanting, no matter how tired you are. reinforcing this behaviour will only make it stronger. instead, say something like (in a calm, kind, firm voice) "johnny, you peed. Now we need to clean it up. We cannot have <> until we clean it up and use our words to ask" This will probably instigate a temper tantrum. Wait it out and facilitate him helping clean it up. Then get really excited about how he clean up his own mess and get him to ask nicely for what he wants. Then give it to him. Repeat this process until he just uses his words. remember: behaviour is sustained by the payoff. What ever is reinforced will persist. For more information on this strategy google search "the premack principle"

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .