Children who refuse to be toilet trained wet themselves, soil themselves, or try to hold back bowel movements and become constipated. Many of these children also refuse to sit in the toilet or use it only if a parent brings up the subject and marches them into the bathroom. Any child who is over two and a half years of age and not toilet trained after several months of trying can be assumed to be resistant to the process rather than untrained. More practice won’t help him.
What he needs now is full responsibility and some incentives. The most common reason that children resist toilet training is that they have been reminded or lectured too often. Some children have been forced to sit in the toilet against their will, occasionally, for long periods of time.
A few have been spanked or punished in other ways for not co–operating. Many parents make these mistakes, especially if they have a strong–willed child.
The following strategies are often helpful in overcoming resistance
Transfer all responsibility to your child
Your child will decide to use the toilet only after he realizes that he has nothing left to resist. Have one last talk with him about this subject. Tell him that his body makes “Pee” and “Poop” every day and it belongs to him. Clarify that his “Poop wants to go in the toilet” and his job is to “Help the poop get out” of his body.
Tell him you’re sorry you punished him, forced him to sit on the toilet, or reminded him so much. Tell him from now on he doesn’t need help. Then stop all talk about this subject. When your child stops getting attention for not using the toilet, he will eventually perform for attention.
Stop all reminders about using the toilet
Let your child decide when he needs to go to the bathroom. Do not remind him to go to the bathroom or ask if he needs to go. Reminders are a form of pressure and pressure doesn’t work. Do not make him sit in the toilet against his will because this fosters a negative attitude about the whole process. He knows when his rectum needs to be emptied, when his bladder is full, and where the bathroom is.
Give incentives for using the toilet
Your child needs plenty of positive reinforcement for staying clean and dry. Give him praise, smiles, and hugs every time he passes a bowel movement or urine into the toilet. If he soils or wets himself on some days but not others, give him recognition whenever he stays clean for a complete day. Better yet, on successful days take time to play a special game with him or take him for a walk.
Special incentives such as chocolates, or pennies are invaluable for turning around a resistant child, especially one younger than five years of age. Take him to the grocery store and let him select bags of his favorite candies. Give him some whenever he uses the toilet. It’s best to err on the side of giving too much, such as a handful each time. If you want to achieve a breakthrough, you may have to make the child “An offer he can’t refuse.”
Record your child’s progress
Post a calendar in a conspicuous location and place a star on it every time your child has a bowel movement or urinates into the toilet. Stars should be accompanied by plenty of praise. Record the child’s progress in this way until he has gone two weeks without any accidents.
If your child doesn’t sit in the toilet, try to change his attitude
First, give him some choices: Ask him if he wants to use the big toilet, the potty–chair, or a newspaper on the bathroom floor.
The potty–chair is usually the least threatening. Then, try to establish a pleasant feeling towards the potty–chair. Encourage the child to sit on it while watching TV or listening to a story. If necessary, give him stars simply for sitting on the potty–chair. Once he seems comfortable with the potty–chair, have him sit down to urinate if he is trained for urine. Most day time wetters have used the toilet sometimes and will improve with this incentive system.
Some soilers have never used the toilet, and in the beginning will need a pleasant reminder once a day when they are clearly holding back a bowel movement. You can say something like, “Do you know how to make your tummy feel better? After your tummy lets the poop out, it will feel good and probably want some candy.” Don’t accompany your child into the bathroom or stand with him by the potty–chair. He needs to experience the feeling of success that comes from doing it on his own and then finding you to tell you what he did.
Remind your child to change his/her clothing if he wets or soils himself
Don’t ignore soiled or wet clothes. Remind your child to clean himself up immediately. Even though you have transferred responsibility to the child, you still must enforce the rule, “You can’t walk around wet or with a mess in your pants.” Don’t expect your child to confess to being wet or soiled or to apologies. If he is wet, he can probably change into dry clothes by himself. If he is soiled, he will probably need your help with the cleanup, but keep him involved. Have him rinse the soiled underwear in the toilet, for example. He may consider this “Yucky,” which is good.
Don’t punish for accidents
Respond gently to accidents. Do not criticize or punish your child and do not allow siblings to tease him. Do not put the child back into diapers in an attempt to embarrass him. Such pressure will delay a cure and could cause secondary emotional problems.
Your child needs a doctor if:
- Your child holds back his bowel movements or becomes constipated.
- Your child complains of pain or burning when he passes urine.
- The symptoms of toilet training resistance do not improve after one month on this program.
- The symptoms do not disappear after three months.