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How I Potty-Trained My Stubborn 3 Year Old

How I Potty-Trained My Stubborn 3 Year Old

February 4, 2015 10:50 am28 comments


How I Potty TrainedOk, this might be a dicey topic to tackle but I’m going to share my journey to potty-training my very stubborn, strong-willed 3 year old.  Meet Rylyn, my adorable, fun-loving, very adventurous, super strong-willed 3 year old son.  Rylyn turned 3 in November of last year, depending on who you ask he is either ‘way past the age he should be potty trained‘ or ‘just barely 3.’  If you are still scratching your head trying to figure out how old he is, he’s 3 years old and 3 months.  Ever since he turned 2 I’ve had friends, relatives and random moms I’ve met ask me when I’m going to get him potty-trained.  It’s like there is some unwritten rule that every child must be potty trained as soon as they have their second birthday or you as a mom are doing a terrible job being their mom.  I’m here to say, that is absolutely WRONG!  Hate me if you want, but it’s wrong.

Here’s my story.  I’m a mom of 3 children.  Rylyn is my third child.  Oh I can hear the gasps out there – yes he is my third child, this is myrylyn_jeep third time down the potty training road.  Before Rylyn was born I was on the same team that said you should really have your child potty trained sometime after they turn 2, and if it took until they were 3, then your mommy potty training skills must be lacking.   Let me take a minute to explain my older two children.  My oldest son, Coen, is a very inquisitive, too-smart-for-his-own-good type of child and he was interested in the toilet and how it worked when he was a year old.  By the time he was 18 months old he was asking to use the potty like a “big boy.”  Before his second birthday he was completely potty-trained, and at the time I totally thought that was because I was an amazing mommy that deserved a “gold star” in all things potty training.  In reality his personality was one that went hand in hand with being potty-trained early.  I got lucky, and he was my first!

My middle child, Makenzie, is a very agreeable, easy-going girl.  She loves to please and do what she is told and is always wanting to help mommy with everything.  I was due to have my third child, Rylyn,  in November, and had no intention at all of trying to potty-train Makenzie before he was born since she had just turned 2 in June.  I vividly remember being hugely pregnant with Rylyn, and planning to go grocery shopping with Makenzie one Sunday morning.  Before we left she very shyly asked me if she could wear panties that day.  We had never talked about potty training or even had her sitting on the potty or wearing Pull-ups.  I was surprised she asked, and thought it was the worst possible timing to potty train just weeks before Rylyn was born.  But, I said ok, and she never once had an accident in those panties.  She knew she was ready and it was a non-issue.  Done and done.  Now, again, I was giving myself a huge pat on the back and claiming my next mommy potty-training trophy.  In reality, she’s a girl, she just got it, and she decided she was ready.  I got really lucky with her too.  (She’s like this with a lot of things so far, she’s just a great kid and easy to be a mom to – she makes me look like I’m doing a good job being a mommy).

Kat_Rylyn_zooNow, let’s move on to my third boy, Rylyn.  He is very sweet, but full of spice little boy.  He goes 100 miles an hour all the time, and would leap tall buildings if he was allowed to.  He’s very stubborn and loves to throw tantrums anytime he doesn’t get his way.  He’s like fire and ice – all the time.  Now, when this child turned 2 he had no idea what the potty was for and didn’t care one bit – all he cared about were his trains.  At 2 and half, I was hoping and praying he would get a clue about the potty, but still showed no interest and in fact cried when the little potty magically showed up in the bathroom one day.  Around this time a lot of his little friends were starting to use the potty, he still showed no interest at all.  When he turned 3, I was really starting to stress about it.  I had well-meaning friends and family members ask me over and over when I was going to get on the ball and get him potty trained.  I’ll tell you what mommas – I chose not to listen to any of them, and here is why.  I’m his mother and I know my child best.  Period.  What I know about my child was that he is stubborn and pushing him to do something was going to make him dig in his heels even more.  I also know that he is a very smart child – so trying to bribe him with little gifts, or toys, or candy wasn’t going to work (we had tried that for a few weeks and nothing was motivating him).   Thirdly, after having two other kids go down the potty training road, I do know that their body needs to be ready and so does their mind, the two have to work together in order for potty training to click – and Rylyn at the age of 3 just wasn’t ready – he just didn’t get it and he didn’t care.

So, we didn’t push him.  We noticed he was starting to put the pieces together when his favorite cousin was visiting for Christmas (his cousin is about 5 months younger) and was regularly using the potty.  For whatever reason, Rylyn really seemed to pay attention and we noticed he started to get embarrassed when his diaper was messy.   About three weeks later, out of the blue Rylyn asked me if we could go to the store and buy some Chuggington (his favorite thing in the world) underwear because he was ready to be a “big boy!”  And later that day, we did just that.  He picked out his new underwear and it was a done deal.  I knew he just needed to make up his own mind to do it and as much as I pushed him, he was going to push back.  So we just stopped pushing and removed all the pressure and he just decided.  He is now 3 years and 3 months old and wears his underwear proudly everyday and has had very few accidents.  I’m completely confident that he gets it and I don’t stress about him having an accident when we are out and about.  I’m so glad that I listened to my own intuition and I didn’t force it on him.   I’m very proud of my little guy and the potty-training journey we went on together!

My advice if you are knee-deep in potty training woes:

  • Don’t listen to what anyone else says is the right time for your child.
  • Listen to your intuition.
  • Pay attention to your child – after all you know them pretty well.
  • Don’t put any pressure on yourself or your child to be trained by a certain time or date.
  • Find what motivates them – if it’s a toy, or candy, etc – and use that to your advantage.  (For Rylyn it was being a “big-boy” like his siblings and getting special “big-boy” privileges such as going to the “big-boy” class a church rather than the nursery with the babies)
  • Encourage them through the whole process.
  • Learn to bite your tongue when you are frustrated or when they have an accident.

You got this momma!  Potty-training is so hard, but chin up!  One day you will look back and can have a party when you get to pass all those unused diapers on to someone else!  WAHOO!

Comment below and share with me what things you have tried on your very own potty training journey.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What mistakes did you make?  What do you wish you have done differently?  I’d love to help, if you need advice or tips let me know! Hugs!

How I Potty Trained

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  • Yogesh Kapoor

    Hi it was great to see and read about how it is hard do such thing well its just my concerns about my sweet daughter that she is 2.9 year old now and I am so worry about her daily potty routine vines to diapers when she s in needs and demands for that if not she’s crying very loudly we daily tried her to took to washroom and sit her WC but she doing nothing apart from peeing I mean to say potty she always ignore on WC so what should I do get potty sitter or wait for more time.
    Thanks and regards,
    Yogesh Kapoor

    • Katrina

      Potty training can be so hard! I understand and feel your pain! I would give her more time. For me and my son, it was quick and easy when HE was ready. I sure wanted him to be ready much sooner than he was, but when I left it up to him to decide, then he never went back. Plus, he thought it was his idea! Just give her more time and keep encouraging her. She will get it, just be patient and praise her when she does!

  • Sheray

    I’m in the same boat, my Johnny just turned 3 last week and is very stubborn. My first was potty trained in two days right after is 2nd birthday so I just knew Johnny would be the same way but boy was I wrong. But he knows when he has to go because he runs and hide and then say ” mommy, Johnny stinks”. Hopefully he’ll get it by Christmas.

    • Katrina

      I hope for your sake that he gets it soon too! It seems like the process takes forever when you are in the middle of it, but 10 years from now you probably won’t remember it taking that long! This too shall pass! Chin up momma, you got this!

  • Very uplifting. I had my son potty trained at 18months, AND THEN…. We we had a family loss and I lagged of the reinforcement. He is now 3.2 years old and in diapers. He will pee in the potty if he’s left naked, but hides for his “other businesses ”

    • Katrina

      Reinforcement is key, as well as building up his ego and self-esteem! Give him praise when he does anything positive with the potty and let it be his decision when he’s ready. My son had to make up his mind when he was ready and no amount of me pushing him helped. Once he was ready, there was no turning back. Good luck!

  • Candace

    My daughter is 3 1/2 and just plain refuses to potty train,she is strong willed, but I’m feeling pressured from her daycare provider to get her trained but the more we push the more she pushes back. I just can’t get my daycare provider to get on the same page with me that she will do it when she’s ready, it’s so frustrating because she is in daycare 5 days a week all day

    • Katrina

      That’s hard! Especially when you are not getting support from people around you. I can understand how frustrating that might be. Hang in there! She will get it and I would try encouraging her as much as possible, especially about how big of a girl she is and how fun it is to do “big girl” things. I know it was a big deal for my son to take a trip to the store and pick out his own underwear. That got us started and he really didn’t want to get that new underwear stinky or dirty. I’ll be praying for you and your daughter! You can do this momma!

  • Shannon

    My three and half year old daughter isn’t potty trained yet. We have been potty training for an year and a half now. She doesn’t mind wet pants and she likes sitting on her potty. Candy doesn’t work as a motivator. Nothing really does. She had three potty accidents at her preschool and the teacher was livid. The preschool only goes from 9-12. When she is at school, then I have no control over what she does. She doesn’t like going potty. I have bribed her with ice cream and other things. Nothing works. I am hoping that pulling her out of her preschool will help and doing everything consistently will help. It’s frustrating, but she will get there. I hope…

    • Katrina

      She will get there! She will! She has to! :) One day, when she is much older, you will look back at this time in her life and hopefully it won’t be a bad memory. Maybe what she needs is a break from potty training? Maybe the whole idea of it all is stressing her out and she’s fighting back to have some sort of control? If you decide to take her out of preschool, consider just taking a break from the whole concept and idea of potty training, for even a few weeks to a month. See how she does, maybe the break will give her a chance to restart and chill out to where she may surprise you and ask one morning to wear underwear?! :) We can hope right?! She will get there, but might need a whole new strategy. Remember, she’s only 3 and potty training can be a big deal for a young kids – it’s hard work! Hugs momma!

  • My little one is only 17 months old but is acting like she’s interested in the potty. She loves the run into the bathroom lift the lid and look in while signing “potty” a lot. She gets mad when i won’t let her go to the bathroom with me. I think she’s ready but i’m a first time mom and so unsure. we’re thinking of trying training this week and see how she does, if she resists then i guess we’ll just have to wait. So lost here though. :(

    • Katrina

      First of all, you are an amazing mom! Way to go! You know your child best and if you think she might be ready – go for it! One word of caution – although she might be mentally ready, her body may not be ready. She may know what to do, but not have 100% control over her bodily functions to the point where she can control her accidents. Keep that in mind if you decide to move forward with trying. If I were you, I would absolutely try to go forward with training and not put too much pressure on yourself or your child. See how it goes…see if she takes to it or not…if it’s too much stress and pressure on her, then ease up a bit and wait awhile. Either way, keep it fun! Continue to encourage her! Good job mom! You totally got this!


    Hey there,

    My son is 3 years 10 months. When I started potty training, he learnt to pee in bathroom but no poop with out diaper. So we let him do poop in diaper but after sometime we I started him to go potty in toilet. He didn’t agree. We encouraged him with toys and candies but no use.So we stopped talking about it. Later some days we started talking about potty he said “when I will be a big boy I go potty in toilet “. But now now he stopped using diapers and using pull ups. How do I know when he is ready as a big boy. What’s the instinct?

    • Katrina

      Hi there! I’ve taken a little time off my blog to spend intentional time with kids, so sorry for the late reply! You are on the right track with him no longer using diapers, and instead using Pull-Ups. Be careful though, because kids can tend to stay in Pull-Ups for a long time if you don’t keep moving them along the process. I think Pull-Ups are best on a short term basis. Once you make the jump to Pull-Ups, give them a little bit of time and then move them into underwear. Part of the learning process is the feeling of not liking being wet in their underwear. I think the best instinct to knowing when he is ready is when he lets you know he is ready! Pay attention to his cues, his interest in the potty, and do your very best to be 100% encouraging. You got this!

  • Nina Rose

    My three year old girl doesn’t seem to get it and we’ve tried lots of methods over the last year. She’s not into sticker charts and would only pee in the potty enough times to get the amount of candy she wanted before quitting. She doesn’t seem all that upset about soiling her underwear or cleaning up after herself. I know everyone says girls are easier than boys and one day it just clicked but that doesn’t seem to be happening for her. Help!

    • Katrina

      That is so hard when they are not interested! I’ve been there! Here is an idea you can try that worked for my oldest son. He was very motivated by Hot Wheels cars. I purchased 5 Hot Wheels cars that were all individually wrapped. Each day I would put one of them on a shelf above the toilet in our bathroom that he could see, but not reach. I told him if he stayed “dry and clean” all day long that he would receive that car at the end of the day. This was enough to motivate him to make sure he used the potty and kept himself dry and clean all day long. After a week of him seeing that car each day, he worked hard to not have any accidents and at the end of the week, it was second nature to him and using the potty had become a habit. This worked well for him because he understood the whole concept of using the potty, but just didn’t care enough to really stick with it. He was very motivated by these cars and having to work at it all day long was good for him – instead of him being rewarded each time he used the potty he had to stay dry and clean all day to get the big toy! Find something your daughter is motivated by, like maybe a toy, or a special treat of ice cream at the end of the day, or money, etc. Maybe that will work? Let me know how it goes! Good luck!

  • Amber

    My little guys turned 3 in November, and he seriously has no interest in the potty

    • Katrina

      Just give him time and don’t pressure him. Always encourage and keep it positive! He will get there!

  • We have 3 kids also. Boy, girl,boy. The first one has ADHD. I just had to get him to sit on the potty long enough. The girl was pretty easy. She watched Dora and was done

  • Hi Katrina,
    I have 3 year old that I have been trying to potty train for over a year now. Every time I tried or ask him, he said he not ready. I tried all the tricks in the book but nothing. It getting really frustrating and just embarrassing. I’m just afraid that he won’t be ready until 5 or so.

    • Katrina

      I understand! It’s so hard when they are adamant! :) I think if it were me, I would completely drop the conversation totally. Not a word about going potty, underwear, diapers, etc. Just end the conversation and trying completely for a couple weeks. Let your child take the lead and see what happens. Your child may surprise you and start the process on his own – either through natural consequences of not liking how it feels to be dirty or they might notice their friends are using the potty, etc. Don’t be embarrassed! Every child learns and grows on their own timetable and he will get it eventually! I promise! Let me know how it goes! You got this!

  • Vanesa

    I’m so happy to have stumbled across your blog, and this post especially! Currently trying to tackle potty training with my 2.10 yr old. I’ve been following my gut and waiting until he started showing signs of being ready, this is the second time we are attempting. I find comfort in knowing I am NOT alone in this journey, like almost brought to happy tears of relief! Thank you for your story and advice, and to all the other mommas that are going through it too, stay with it! I’m right there in the trenches with y’all!

    • Katrina

      I’m so glad you found Katrina’s World too! We moms have to stick together – this “mom” gig is super hard some days!

  • Shanna

    I have a 3 1/2 year old girl, my first, and she is super stubborn. She will pee on the potty all day long but not poop. She runs and hides. I try to catch her before she gets hidden. Now sometimes she will go on the potty no problem. This has been a long, long road for us. We have tried sticker charts (which then she started to eat the stickers. So we had to do away with that.), when she does go on the potty we praise her constantly, we have tried candy for when she goes, we have tried spanking, and we have also tried making it sound really nasty to her and let her know that we don’t like it either. We also have tried telling her she can’t go to big girl school if she doesn’t go on the potty. We have also tried ignoring the fact that she went in her diaper, and we have let her sit in it for a little while (no not long enough for it to hurt her bottom. This really doesn’t phase her. She doesn’t care.) She knows what she is doing and my husband is the one who gets really upset about it. Not saying that I don’t fuss at her either. I am really at my wits end. I really have tried just about anything. My son is about 4 months old now. Thought maybe that was the issue but we both spend special time with her and she is still treated like a princess. HELP!!!! Please

    • Katrina

      Hang in there momma! It’s so hard when they don’t get it, or when they do get it, but don’t want to get it. :) I promise it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but there is! I know it’s hard to think down the road, but one day you will look back at this time and laugh (at least I hope so)! I think what I would do if it were me is to walk away from the whole process completely for awhile. See what does. Don’t attempt anything at all, just walk away from the process. You might be surprised, it may be a ‘control’ thing for her and right now she’s the one in control because you are the one who is frustrated. Remove the control from her and she may realize how much she really does want to be potty-trained instead of being wet and dirty all the time. Take a step back, just let her get wet and dirty and don’t make an issue of it, don’t get frustrated, don’t react at all and see what happens. My hope is that she will realize that she’s no longer in control and is wet and dirty and that’s not fun. Let me know how it goes! Hang in there!

  • Yasmin

    I have two 4 year twins almost 5 in September… they’re both very stubborn when it comes to poop in the toilet. I try to be patient with them but it just gets frustrating thay they won’t poop in the toilet. They’re afraid of it. For some time they did poop in the toilet, four times or so and then they decided they no longer wanted to. They’re starting preschool soon, I’m feel I have fail teaching them. I talked to them about how big they are, that all the kids at the school poop in the toilet. I’ll keep trying and be patient with them.
    Thanks .

    • Katrina

      Keep up the good work momma! I can’t even imagine having twins, let alone trying to potty-train them at the same time! Phew! Give yourself a huge pat on the back and know that I’m proud of you! Potty-training is never easy no matter how old your kids are and it’s certainly not easy on you either! I can imagine that since there are 2 of them, they work together and if one likes using the potty then the other one will. I’d try to get them both to work together and if you can get one to use the potty the other one will not want to be left out! Patience is the key! You can do this! Keep me posted on how it’s going!

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