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Mom Having Difficulty Potty Training 3-Year-Old: Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids

By Sylvia Rimm

Q.My 3-year-old is still not potty trained. At age 2, she started using the potty-chair and toilet regularly. She can stay dry for hours at a time and wakes up dry. She has yet to have a bowel movement on the potty. She usually tells me no when I ask her if she has to go, but if I place her on the potty, she'll go. She likes to wear big-girl underpants, usually ending in an accident. I can't get her to give up diapers, but she'll tell me when she needs them changed because she peed or pooped. I'm at my wits' end, especially with the birth of our second child coming soon! I know she's physically ready. Offering incentives doesn't have any effect. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

A. Your daughter seems physically ready, since she stays dry for hours at a time and even at night. Often it takes a combination of approaches that finally are effective, but they involve determination and perseverance. You can explain that it's time to say goodbye to her diapers because she's too grown-up for them. Then get them out of the house entirely. Then, every two to three hours, take your daughter to sit on the potty whether or not she thinks she needs to go. Each time she's successful, she can earn a sticker or a point toward a prize. She'll probably still have a few accidents in her "big-girl" underpants, but don't go back to the diapers. My best guess is that with that regimen she'll be totally trained in a week. For night training, use pull-ups at first, but when she awakens dry for three or four nights in a row, you can discontinue them. That may follow quickly after the day training.

Don't be too frustrated if she regresses and has a few accidents soon after the baby comes. That's quite common. You'll have to repeat the process again if the wetting recurs, but it probably won't take as long the second round.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com.

Categories: Toddlers, Children,

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