My son refuses to use the toilet and consistently pees in his pants

My three-and-a-half-year-old son refuses to use the toilet . He was able to go pee on the toilet up until a few months ago. He has yet to master the art of a bowel movement in the toilet. A few months ago, his babysitter got a new baby in her care, and since then he has decided to pee in his pants whenever he needs to go. He tells you he needs to go so he knows he has to, but just refuses to physically go into the bathroom. He announces proudly once he has peed in his pants, and when you ask why he did it, he responds with “because I wanted to”. Please help!

Your son is exerting control over his world, and doing it quite well. I would accept his statement at face value. He pees in his pants because he wants to.

The biggest problem that arises with wetting is making it into a power struggle. No matter what you do, you cannot make him pee in the toilet. If you make it a control issue, both you and your son will suffer.

The best way to help him use the toilet is to get him to want to pee in the toilet. Right now he gets more out of peeing in his pants.

Make peeing in the toilet a positive experience. Express your confidence in him that he can pee in the toilet. Tell him about the good things that will happen if he pees in the toilet. Have special toys that he can play with only when he is on the toilet. Maybe you can read to him when he is on the toilet. Use small rewards for him when he pees in the toilet. It could be a sticker or a special activity. Pay attention to his success even if it is only sitting on the toilet without peeing. Then reward even a little tinkle.

He may be using wetting his pants to get attention. So, don’t give him attention for wetting. Treat wet pants in a very matter of fact way. Have him change his pants and put them in the laundry. Don’t:

  • ask him why he did it.
  • make any fuss about his wetting.
  • scold or punish him for wetting.
  • humiliate him.
  • make fun of him.

Give him lots of attention for more mature behaviour.

Encourage your son’s babysitter to follow the same strategy.

It is possible that he is afraid of the toilet or the noise it makes. The same methods as above would be the right strategy.

Your son may need more attention from the babysitter. Can you encourage her to spend some special time with him each day? It doesn’t have to be long.  It will likely pay off.

Another strategy would be for you to decide to use diapers on your son.  You could keep diapers on until he decides to pee in the toilet. Don’t do it as a punishment but simply as a strategy to insure cleanliness.

Once your son learns to pee in the toilet, pooping in the toilet will come easier. I would not focus on that until he gets wetting under control but the same methods would work.

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