By five years old, most kids are fully potty trained. For those who aren’t, the delayed training can have a physical cause like urinary tract infections. It can also be caused by a developmental delay. But by far, the most common cause of delayed training is a child who simply refuses. He knows how to use the potty, but decides to wet or soil himself instead. He’s a willful child engaged in a power struggle with his parents, rebelling against the constant reminders to sit on the toilet. What’s a parent to do, especially since the bigger the child, the bigger the mess? The first step is to focus on daytime training.
1 Take your five-year-old to the store and let her choose some underwear with characters on them she likes. Then remind her that Dora or Diego don’t like getting poop or pee on them. If she’s holding her stools and becoming constipated, allow pull-up-type diapers for pooping only.
2 Tell him the poop and pee belong to him, and it’s his job to get rid of it. This transfers the responsibility to your child. Tell him you’re sorry for nagging him about it, and that from now on he doesn’t need any help because he's a big boy. Then stop talking about it. Pretend it doesn’t bother you whether or not he uses the toilet. When he stops getting negative attention for failing to perform, he may start using the toilet for some positive attention.
3 Avoid reminding her to use the toilet. Let her decide when and if she needs to go. She knows how it feels when she has to go and she knows where the bathroom is. Reminders feel like pressure, and pressure will keep the power struggle going. Allow her independence, and don’t accompany her to the bathroom (unless she asks you to.)
4 Reward him with incentives every time he uses the toilet, such as access to a video game, doll, a bike or remote-control car. Give him this incentive immediately, but only give him access to it for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. The incentive is a reward, not a possession (at least until potty training is complete). Limiting his access to the incentive will help maintain its value.
5 Give her lots of positive reinforcement when she uses the toilet, showering her with hugs, kisses and high-fives. Tell her she's such a big girl, and you're proud of her.
6 Tell him to change and help you clean up the mess. Make sure he knows people can’t walk around with messy pants. He can change his clothes himself if they’re wet, but help him clean up if he’s pooped his pants. Don’t scold him for accidents.
Items you will need
- Underwear (chosen by your child)
- It’s a good idea to have your child examined by a physician to see if there’s a physical reason for his delayed toilet training.
- Don’t withhold affection or time spent together if he has an accident. These social reinforcers are essential for his emotional and mental health.
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