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Ask Rene: Help! I Think I Made A Big Potty Training Mistake

Child on the toilet

Ask Rene:
Help! I Think I Made A Big Potty Training Mistake


Dear Rene,

Our three-year-old is in the final stages of potty training. Honestly, we began what may have been far too soon for her so there were many setbacks and do-overs before we got to a point of consistent daytime toileting wearing “big girl panties.”

Recently, when she should have been napping, she repeatedly asked to go to the toilet but did not produce anything. I interpreted this as her making excuses to get off the bed and told her sternly not to get up again until nap time was over at which time I would come to retrieve her.

Lo and behold, in her fear/reluctance to ask to be allowed to the toilet again, she removed her panties, squatted and dropped two, well-formed poop balls onto her bedroom floor. Going about my activities, I soon caught the odor of her “accident” and found her sheepishly standing next to her bed. In my surprise, I yelled, startling her and sending her into tears. We cleaned up the mess together and I explained that if she truly has to go potty, she doesn’t have to ask at naptime, she should get off the bed and go straight to the potty while also alerting mommy.

I am afraid that somehow my handling of this incident sent the wrong message because she has since repeated this episode several times both peeing and pooping on the carpet in her room. I am becoming weary with the repeated clarifications and carpet cleanings. We have no pets, so this is not a learned or copied behavior. At three years old is this acting out or just another potty training setback? And most importantly, how do I stop it?

Thanks GEM,

Worried mommy


Dear Worried Mommy:

I’m so glad you wrote. I hear this issue a lot from mommies and I have the same advice for all of them, RELAX! Like so much of life I think we make things worse when we apply too much pressure and this is one of those situations.

This is the biggest task of their young lives to date and children really need to be physically and emotionally ready to take this on. Someone once told me potty training is the first time a child has the rules of the world imposed upon him/her. It’s a pretty daunting task. How would you feel if you had to struggle to pull off your pants, jump up onto A huge hole filled with water and seat yourself precariously on the edge with your feet dangling? Then when you’re done, oh the noise that thing makes! You can see where the whole prospect could be overwhelming to a toddler.

Okay so here’s what I would do:

1. Give Her Some Power Over The Situation

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In the morning (or at naptime) lay out the big girl panties and the pull-up and ask which one she feels like wearing. If she chooses the pull-up, no big deal, she may just decide to go for the comfort of something she has known. She will eventually get into the big girl panties and without pressure, probably before you know it.

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