Is his potty training regression linked to the way his father treated him?

My girlfriend has a child from a previous relationship who is four-and-a-half-years-old. He was potty trained shortly before the age of two, at which time she got into a relationship with with her ex-boyfriend who was an abusive guy. After a year in the relationship, he started getting bad with verbal abuse and drinking issues, he would yell at the then three-year-old son, break his toys in front of him, get him to call his mother bad names. Since then he won’t use the potty, he would rather wet or soil himself and stay in it to try and conceal it until we notice it. We have tried rewards for good behaviour, punishments of no Mario videos or video games when he’s bad. He is also made to wash his soiled garments under our supervision. We have even bought him Mario underwear that he loves and we throw them out when he soils them which causes him great dismay. Is this linked to the abuse? What can we do? We are at our ends with this and very quickly running out of ideas, he is a very intelligent and witty child but also lies a lot and makes up fables.

I would encourage you to be patient and use positive approaches with this child. One cannot be certain but it is very likely that the abusive way his father dealt with him is a major factor in his problem.  So continue to use encouragement and praise and reduce the punishment. Be matter of fact. Do not get upset. Just focus on the good things he does and praise him when he is able to use the potty. I don’t see any harm in having him wash out his soiled garments, as long as it is done as a natural consequence. Don’t make it an emotional punishment. He needs to learn that you think he is a great kid and that he can learn to potty properly.

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