Getting Professional Help for Toilet Training
Berkeley Parents Network >
The Potty >
Getting Professional Help for Toilet Training
Potty Psychologist? No. I don't need a psychologist to evaluate my 4 year-old
pooping in his pants. I need help understanding my own feelings
about this potty-training. I feel like a total failure. For
centuries parents have been teaching their children where to
properly dispose of their excrement . . . where did we go wrong?
I HATE cleaning up giant amounts of poop in underwear (and other
places). I'm disgusted, angry, frustrated and then guilty about
my disgust, anger, and frustration. I want to physically hurt my
son when he has an accident after I've patiently asked him ''do
you want to use the bathroom?'' ''It's time to use the bathroom.''
When I see him having a bowel movement, I try to gently usher him
to go on the toilet and he vehemently refuses. We've tried
everything: stickers, potty charts, not making it a big deal
about it, making a big deal out of it, rewards, no rewards . . .
I give up.
Is there a counselor that specializes in working with parents? I
love my son and I know it's just poop so why is this causing so
much stress? This anger scares me. (I have health net if that
makes a difference)
fed up with poop
Oh, sweetie, I totally understand! I've just come out the other
side of a situation exactly - exactly - like yours. I tried
desperately to stay neutral when my kid pooped in his pants and
hated the panic, frustration, and ultimately uncontrollable
anger that came out anyway. The way I responded to the
accidents totally contributed to the problem and you're right
to see that. I started counseling for other reasons, but spent
much of the first several sessions talking about and venting my
frustrations. It did a world of good to be able to express my
feelings in a safe environment. I gave myself permission throw
underwear out! Not environmental, but totally necessary for my
sanity. I also made my child responsible for cleaning out his
underwear, wiping himself off and dealing with the consequences
(they are capable of doing it at this age, but I bought some
dishwashing gloves especially for this task, because it can get
messy). He hated it, but I found it easier emotionally to deal
with his frustration over the task if I didn't actually have to
handle the underwear or wipe him.
Neither rewards nor punishment worked. What did was about 3 mo.
of growth and development - he finally got to a place where he
was personally motivated to use the pot. I think venting the
full depth of my anger and frustration in a safe place helped
me to make it more his problem and not mine in the meantime. I
definitely think seeing a psychologist is a great idea. Don't
let insurance coverage be your deciding factor on whether you
see someone - you want the right someone and that may not be
found through insurance. Most counselors will do their best to
work within your budget. I went to Michael Simon and I found
him to be very helpful (check BPN for reviews). Breathe, find
ways to enjoy your child, and give yourself permission to feel
what you're feeling. This is frustrating and heart breaking,
and far more common than you would suspect.
You will make it through
I empathize. My daughter didn't have the same issue as your son, but
she potty-trained very late (finally gave up diapers right before her
4th birthday). I'd tried everything and was at my wit's end. I also
felt like a failure. Meg Zweiback (510-836-1450), a nurse-practitioner
with lots of experience regarding potty training, was a real help to
me. She's not a therapist, but helped me understand what was happening
and made me feel a lot better. I'd try a consult with her before
trying to find a shrink.
Dear Fed up with Poop,
I see you're very frustrated and I completely understand you.
I'm not a mom but I take care of twins almost 4 1/2 years and
they were still wearing diapers until 2 weeks ago. Being from a
country children ar potty trained at the age of 2 I was, at the
beggining, very upset about the fact that they couldn't follow
my instructions although I was remind them every 5 minutes
about their poop time. But then it just happened that I
remember studying children psycology at College and they always
say the children you'll be ready when they feel they're ready
and we have to follow that with patient even though it's pretty
hard. It's like a grown-up learning how to drive... It takes us
a while not to make the same errors and we hate being pressured!
After I stopped remind the boys about their poop time.... Poof!
They just said: I'll now poop in the potty and they just do it
now! It sounds like magic, doesn't it? But it just showed me
now they're completely ready and secure about this
important 'job' for them!
Please be patient and one day everything will change! And,
remember, he'll never be 4 years older again!
Hi - I can totally relate. My son is 4.5 and only recently was
potty trained. I thought I would kill him! He is a totally
normal little boy, but he is developmentally delayed and is
mentally about 1 year behind his age. that is the only thing that
helped me through.
I fought and fought with him to use the potty and he just would
not have it. Finally I just gave up and said 'fine - we'll use
pullups'. I was totally embarassed to have a 4 yr old in pull
ups but got tired of cleaning up poo everywhere. We let his pull
ups stage go for about 5 months before we tried again. Lo and
behold, he was finally ready.
What I learned was that I couldn't make him go - he had to do it
on his own time. I know everyone tells you that, but they have 2
yr olds! 4 yrs old is just old. But I had to let go of getting
mad at him, yelling, even spanking because it didn't help. My
letting go of it finally did.
Sounds like your son is just not ready. Don't beat yourself up.
I thought I was doing it the wrong way too, but all my friends
scratched their heads and said 'hmmm my kid never did that. they
just went.' well mine didn't and i used the same techniques. I
had to wait for his time clock to catch up.
I wish a I had a magic trick for you - I tried stickers, treats,
begging, etc etc and nothing worked. He just had to do it when
he was ready.
No more poop FINALLY!
Run, don't walk, to Meg Zweiback. She is child/family therapist
specialized in potty issues. Sounds like she could really help
you. Her number is 510-836-1450. Also, I don't know the details
of your son's refusal to poop in the potty, but do you know if he
has encopresis? Infrequent stools and/or willful withholding? My
son did, and that's why we went to Meg. In the end, she didn't
really help my son, but she helped us better understand his
condition. On a side note, if your son does have encopresis, what
DID help my son is the Soiling Solutions protocol (you can find
out more about it online). We tried it after two years of poop
issues and it literally changed my son's entire life.
Pediatricians are wary of it, but Meg supported us in trying it,
and we are so, so grateful for that program. Nothing else worked
(bribes, stickers, toys, lectures etc.) Our son now goes poop in
the potty every day like clockwork and just the other day said
''remember when I had problems with my poop?'' It was just six
months ago that we were struggling with these issues, but it
feels so long ago. Good luck!
Been there too
I don't have any recommendations, but I did want to say that
you're not alone. Our first kid was a tough potty trainer, but
we ultimately succeeded when she was about 4.
Our second, though, is another matter entirely. She was nearly
potty trained at 3, and then she just stopped. We went through a
couple months of hell, power struggles, etc., before putting her
back in pull-ups. Well, she just turned 4, we're trying again,
and I'm already at my wit's end. She seems to have no desire to
use the potty, either on her own or with reminders, on anything
other than a sporadic, random basis. And for us, it's pooping
and peeing. I find myself getting so angry when I have to sop up
yet another pee stain on our carpeting....
So what to do? I don't know. We might go back to pull-ups
(again!!) and just wait till she decides to do it on her own.
I wish you luck and peace...
Right there with you
It's very nice to read positive comments about my work with
families around poop
issues--and I 'd like to clarify a few things. First, I'm a
pediatric nurse practitioner,
not a psychologist or therapist. When a child is having
elimination difficulties, I
always work collaboratively with a child's health care provider,
since the underlying
cause is usually physiological or developmental. Sometimes
issues are involved, and I then will refer the family to a
Last, I will be giving three workshops at
Bananas in July for
parents who are in the midst of toilet training--one each for
parents of toddlers,
pre-schoolers, and late-bloomers. Please go to BananasInc.org
information. The workshops are free but you should register in
I also would like to echo what many parents have said about
letting go of the issue.
Once the pattern of constipation or withholding is resolved
(basically, most children
who skip days and then produce huge poops are withholding unless
that has been
the pattern since infancy) the best thing parents can do is tell
themselves and the
child, ''This will happen when it's the right time.'' It's not
a fun problem, but it will
get resolved . . trust your child.
As desperate as this may seem, I am contemplating having our
nearly 4 year-old daughter see a psychologist to find out if it
will help with potty training. We've tried everything else.
Has anyone used a pyschologist for this? Did it help at all?
I am a child psychologist and when I was working, I did work
with families around basic toilet training issues, especially if
they felt stuck. Keep in mind that a majority of the work will
be with you, not your child. If you go to a .psyccologist
trained in behavior management, you will learn howto use
schedule, reward system, etc. and the psych will also help
identify nutritional and other issues like stress that might be
getting in the way of potty training. Much of this you could do
on your own, but for some parents it really helps to have a
professional encourage them along and give them ideas.
is the local expert on these matters. We've
consulted her about a similar issue and found her to be really
really good. Give her a call. I think you can find her in the
phone book, in Oakland.
My daughter was on the cusp of turning four when she FINALLY
started peeing in the potty. I went through every single potty
training suggestion in the world and nothing worked. Around
three she agreed to start wearing panties, but would hold
everything in until she got her diaper back on. There was much
crying and gnashing of teeth (on my part, I mean) until finally,
after her baby brother was born, she decided to go pee in the
potty. The poop thing took another six months. And today, at 6,
she still pees in her bed three nights out of seven. Oh well.
Let me add that she's a perfectly normal, if rather mellow and
independent-minded, little girl.
My advice to you: Save your money. Back off a bit. Because
ultimately, only when SHE decides she's gonna go is she gonna
Although I can't speak to your exact situation, I would like to
wholeheartedly recommend that you call
Meg Zweiback. My husband
and I recently worked with her to help us with our 2-year-old
daughter's sleep issues... and got MIRACLULOUS results. I know
that she also works with families on potty training issues,
which is why I suggest you call her. I swear that getting her
help was one of the smartest things I have done as a parent.
Her number is (510) 836-1450.
I have been taking my 4.75 son to a child psychologist for a
couple of months now. I initially went to see her for potty
issues--going on two years of potty problems that were not
getting better. My son has a number of issues that are factors
in this problem, but it's not clear that any of them are medical
(in fact, I posted not long ago asking about whether one could
look into this medically without catheterizing the child). My
son has sensory integration issues that affect his ability to
''feel'' that he's wet, but also behaviour and attention issues
that cause him to ignore when he's wet. This is a long way of
saying that the problem is multi-faceted and there's been no
quick fix, but this woman effected a 100% improvement in my son
before she even saw him, by suggesting a chart system that was
not typical, in that it was about checking every hour to see if
he was dry, rather than focusing on peeing or pooping, and
incorporated a reward system that worked for my
very--hard-to-reward child. This system took him from wetting
all day to wetting once or twice a day, for the most part, and
going dry many days, something he's almost never done. One of
the best things about seeing this dr. was she was the first
professional I've consulted (I won't even mention all the
''methods'' of potty compliance I've tried) who didn't scratch her
head and say, ''Hmm, a 4 and a half year old who still wets, hmm,
how unusual. I wonder what that's about.'' She said something
like, ''Oh yeah, I see this all the time.'' And I felt, for the
first time, not so alone and freakish. I decided to continue on
with her to get my son fully diagnosed in preparation for public
school. She costs a fortune but I have felt it's entirely worth
it. I think as long as you don't expect the problem to be solved
overnight (but do expect fast improvement) you might find great
relief and help from a psychologist.
is the one for you. She's made a business of giving
advice to parents and she's great. She's into short-term advice
and is very balanced and non-judgmental. I believe her special
skill is potty training.
We saw a behavioral specialist when our daughter was having a
problem w/ constipation at age 3. The psych. actually worked
with us on potty training -- which had not been going very
smoothly up to that point -- as a response to the constipation
issue (it's all about control - sigh). It did help for both
problems. Now if we could just get out of those night diapers...
Hope this helps
this page was last updated: Nov 24, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network