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Son Won't Use Potty

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: My 2-1/2-year-old son is potty training quite well, but has a problem having a bowel movement in the toilet. He will gladly go outside standing up, but will not sit on the toilet and go. I have tried reading books to him while he sits on the potty chair so that he will relax and go. Do you have any suggestions?

A: It sounds as if your son is right on target -- well within the normal range for toileting. He seems to be making excellent progress, so I wouldn't push him. When he is good and ready he will have his bowel movements on the toilet. I suspect he may be asking to be changed frequently after going outside, but I wouldn't necessarily drop everything. Tell him you'll change him as soon as you can. The sensation of a dirty load may help to reinforce independent toileting.

Making it a pleasant experience will help, but try to be patient. He may have some fears about the potty and the sensation of passing the BM out. Books on toileting are available in the library for you and specifically for him. Talking about it in a positive light and proper role-modeling from adults may make all the difference. Be sure to encourage and praise him repeatedly. Give him rewards for success and never punish or reprimand. Let him feel like he's in control and this part of toileting will be mastered sooner rather than later.

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Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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