Resisting potty training

Question: My wife and I have a home daycare one of our children has potty trained themselves into there diapers. We will put him on the potty during the times he normally has to go potty but he will wait until you get his diaper on and as soon as you do you will go potty. Do you have any suggestion we can use and give his parents. I asked his parents to let him go naked the whole weekend to force him to have to use the potty or deal with the mess himself but they where not very receptive to this idea, and with this being a home daycare we are not aloud to let him do this at our home. Any suggestions you have would be helpful. Tony

Answer: It sounds to me like this little boy has decided the diaper is a safe place to go to the bathroom. For whatever reason, he needs a little more time to build his confidence before he can “let go” into the toilet. Depending on his age, you may or may not be feeling some urgency about his readiness. Remember, though, that urgency on your part often means stress and resistance on his part. I think that if all the other “potty learning conditions” (physical control, cognitive understanding of the potty sequence, language, and self care skills) are in alignment, the emotional motivation and readiness will soon follow. He may need a short time to regain his security without pressure.

He is exerting self-control by waiting for the diaper to relieve himself. Build on his need for control and independence. Explain that you’ve noticed that he is choosing to go potty in the diaper and its okay with you if he still wants to wear the diaper sometimes. He may want to wear underpants and ask for the diaper when it’s time “to go”. Or, he may choose to wear the diaper and, assuming he has good language skills, tell you when he needs a clean one. Try to engage his participation in other aspects of the potty sequence so he is taking responsibility for himself even though he is still relying on the diapers. He will soon discover that he doesn’t need the comfort of the diaper.

I understand your recommendation to let him go naked at home for a weekend. You might explain to his parents that, by going naked in familiar environment like home, he can safely experience all those new sensations like the breeze on his bottom. Disposable diapers do camouflage the sensations of pottying – children do not feel the wet, the warm, or the cold. With young children, just the changes in sensations may be enough to procrastinate being ready. He may need time to discover that the new sensations of pottying without a diaper feel okay to him. I would not be bothered by the “mess” – accidents will happen and, for sanitary reasons, an adult is probably the best person to clean it up. I also don’t believe anyone has to “force” him to go on the toilet – he will in good time.

Lastly, I suspect he may be receiving mixed messages from daycare and from home – different expectations, different options, and different emotional responses. Children learn quickly how to manipulate opposing forces. Get united! Plan another meeting with mom and dad, preferably when he won’t hear you discussing him. Try to arrive at some mutually acceptable strategies – how to talk about pottying (if at all), how to respond with similar expectations, and how to support his need for time while still supporting his efforts for independence.

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Good Luck,
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.

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