HELP! Defiance, Regression or Too Young?

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-20-2006
HELP! Defiance, Regression or Too Young?
Tue, 09-15-2009 - 3:46pm

Hi there...long-time lurker and first-time asker...

We're so frustrated, we just don't know what to do or even what *not* to do... please help!

Our 3.5 year old son has been "working" on potty training for almost a year on and off. He expressed early interest at 2 - 2.5 yrs and we let him give us cues about pace. He had some successes with pee on the potty and we made a concerted effort to support and encourage him but we had several "false starts" where his pee on the potty seemed to be just a one-time novelty to him.

Each time we tried another means of keeping him motivated but nothing worked for him. Stickers, M&Ms, dancing and singing, etc. all worked for a couple of days, then lost their power to motivate. We tried the naked method. We tried letting him wear underpants so he could "feel" it.

He cannot start preschool until he is trained and self-sufficient in the potty. But we brought him to the orientation to show him how much fun school was and hoped this might be the motivator for him. It was. For two days. He wore underpants and was almost 100% dry (only two accidents) for two days - pee and poop. He even held it while out on a walk until we got to a public restroom and went pee there. He would even go to the bathroom by himself and inform us afterward. We were so excited and encouraged!

Day three it seemed like he was barely trying and had many more accidents. Now, day four, it seems like he is just being willfully defiant about the whole thing. The times he went it was in his pants, each time, but we calmly called them accidents and encouraged him and went on with our day. I noticed at one point that he looked like he needed to go and asked if he needed to go potty. He said "no" with a scowl and went back to what he was doing. He did "the crouch" and got "the look" so I said in an upbeat way, "come on, let's go put your poopy in the potty!" He crossed his arms, said "no way!" and proceeded to pee and poop in his underwear while standing there. I admit, ashamedly, that I lost my perky, upbeat and "it's just an accident" attitude, and lost it a little. I feel like a horrible mommy.

Now, this happened during one of our false starts before. I thought I was a smart mommy and read up on potty defiance and took the advice of playing it cool, not mentioning it and letting him think I didn't have a preference where he peed. Well... let's just say *that* didn't work.

Please help. I don't know what to do or even what not to do. He can obviously do this. I don't know if it's regression or defiance or if he is just emotionally immature... I feel like a bad mommy for being so frazzled, frustrated and *clueless*!

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-22-2005
Tue, 09-15-2009 - 4:34pm

It sounds like he hasn't been consistent... and you haven't been consistent. So he goes potty when it is fun and when it is work, or boring, or when he's being scolded, he'd rather just wet himself.

Have you considered getting plastic pants for him to wear over his underwear so that there isn't a mess in your house when he goes, just on him? KWIM? This might make it a bit less frustrating to you. Kids can really pick up on our frustrations. I think the only way he will become consistent is if it in inconvient for him to continue to wet himself. If you are SURE that he CAN do it - but is being defiant - have a going away diaper party, put him in underwear with vinyl pants over them, and don't turn back. If you are out in public and he wets himself, change him as soon as is convenient. Don't yell at him, he's already humiliated enough, but don't drop everything to take care of it either. Let him deal with the natural consequences of not controlling his bladder.

My little girl did something like this for a couple of weeks whenever we told her to eat a food she didn't like. She'd scrunch her face and try with all her might and was usually successful at creating a little "present". At first I would get irritated and we'd rush her off to get cleaned. Then I realized she obviously knew what she was doing and that I was frustrated by the mess, so the next time she made a present when told to eat a greenbean she soiled herself and I told her she had to sit there until she ate her greeenbean. Once she knew I was serious, she stopped. She didn't like sitting in her waste.

I know it sounds horrid to let our kiddos sit there, but if we are sure they can control their bowels/bladders we should expect them to...

And your little man is NOT too young! My youngest was potty-trained by the time he was 2 (well, not today - we've regressed as he has nasty tummy virus - poor thing, hopefully the potty-ing will return with his appetite).

Good luck! Defiance is no fun!

Thank you Karen (Singingclaypearl) for my totally awesome siggy!

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2006
Wed, 09-16-2009 - 9:08am

Big ((hugs)) hon!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 09-24-2009 - 5:36pm

Hello Zoe.

This is a faze of finding out that potty training is work and takes time away from his playtime.

with his age,I would use the three strikes method,as he is showing you,he knows what he is doing.

Buy about a 1/2 dozen pair of plastic pants and take all but 3 pair of his big boy pants out of site.

when you are set,let him know first thing in the morning,that he is only going to get the three pair to wear for the day.

first wet or mess,just change and clean-up as normal,no words or faces.

second time,the same.

third time,be sure he knows,this is the last pair till the laundry is done the next day,and put a pair of the plastic pants over this pair and tell him,these are all that is left,and if he goes in this last pair,he will have only the plastic pants to wear till bedtime.

As he is 4 years of age,you can almost bet he will try to take them off,if so,he will be sent to his room for 5 minutes after you put them back on.

Now,if you try this,be sure you are consistent,you can not falter.

Good luck,and Many Wishes.