Doctor Betti
Dr. Betti Hertzberg Ressler is a Board Certified Pediatrician on staff at Miami Children's Hospital. Dr. Hertzberg developed the toilet training video "Let's Go Potty." She is the co-author of "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Children."

Accidents while potty training

Question: My son turned 4 in March and he is still not potty trained. I've tried everything I could think of- rewards, sticker charts, punishment, telling him that everyone else in his preschool class already is...nothing is working. In fact, I think that now it's become more of a power struggle and he knows that he is in control. I need to get him out of diapers both for my sake and because I don't want the kids in school to be cruel with him. What do you think?- Maria

Answer: Dear Maria,
Control is an issue and you are exactly right! It can be quite frustrating on both parts, you and your son! He is aware that it is a power struggle and as time goes on, it may become even more of a "control" issue.

A few questions that I have for you is "How long have you been in the process of potty training your son?" "Was there anything that may have caused him to become insistent on not wanting to potty train: i.e." a major change at baby, new house, etc? "Are you aware of any physical problems that might be present?"

If you have not done so yet, please have the pediatrician make sure that your son has no physical problems. If there is a family history of a similar scenario, there is a greater likelihood of same.

If he was trained and then regressed, try to pinpoint what it was that happened to cause regression.

Most of all, as you said, "punishment doesn't work." It will only increase frustration levels. Control is a major issue and nobody wins. Your son is well aware that YOU want and need him to be potty trained for school. All the more reason for him to have it his way!

Getting professional advise from someone that can work with your son and the family (it's a family affair) in dealing with this major issue is in order if you cannot pinpoint the "why" of your son not wanting to potty train. Being objective with your own family's issues is sometimes difficult.

Good luck potty training!
Dr. Betti

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  • Ask Dr. Betti your questions

    This information is not intended to be a substitute for visiting your pediatrician. If you or your child has specific concerns, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.