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Late Potty Training Tips for 3, 4, and 5 Year-olds


Late Potty Training Tips
Just like every child is unique, the length of time potty training takes can vary anywhere from a couple of days (the over-achievers) to a couple of years (the late bloomers). Potty training is a gradual process, and accidents and setbacks are as much a part of the process as the victories. In this article, we’ll give you the facts on late potty training and share with you some Ninjawesome tips on how to deal with a 3, a 4, or 5 year old who has not yet been successfully potty trained. With a clear understanding of the issues underlying your kid’s potty training delay and positive outlook, you can help them tackle potty no matter their age!

What Is Late Potty Training?
What Can Cause Potty Training Delay and What Can It Mean?
What Are the Signs of Potty Training Readiness?
Tips for Late Potty Training
When to Go to the Doctor?
The Bottom Line on Potty Training Delay

What Is Late Potty Training?

Late potty training is when your child is over 3 years of age, shows no signs of developmental delays, and is still not toilet trained after six months of training.

Keep in mind, according to experts, most children are ready to begin potty training at about 24 months old, and it typically takes 3 to 6 months to complete their training, meaning that they know when to answer nature’s call and can go to the bathroom by themselves.

While the occasional potty training accident after being dry for several months is probably nothing more than a bump in the road, and potty training regression can occur after years of toilet mastery and is usually a result of a psychosocial stressor or medical issue, a delay in potty training is when your child has never successfully been potty trained at all.

What Can Cause a Potty Training Delay and What Can It Mean?

A potty training delay may stem from a behavioral or physical cause, such as:

  • a urinary tract infection
  • giggle incontinence (wetting during laughter)
  • poor muscle control
  • small bladder capacity
  • resistance or refusal to toilet train as part of a power-struggle between child and parent
  • an over- or underactive bladder
  • a speech delay or another developmental delay
  • a toilet phobia.

Additionally, late toilet training can be a sign of a number of things. Your child may be resisting potty training simply because they’re not yet ready for it. Another possible answer as to why your child may not be progressing as well as you hoped they would, is that they simply want more of your attention.

Wetting themselves can be a way of their trying to draw your attention and to engage you in emotional interaction and conversation. A potty training delay may also indicate the presence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, aka ADHD. While most kids are potty-ready by 36 months, children with ADHD may struggle with potty training beyond this age.

It can also happen that your child just gets lost in their current activities so much that they don’t even react to their bodies’ internal cues. If it’s a recurring accident, consider giving them a wristwatch with an alarm function. All you have to do is to set the alarm to go off at regular intervals and make your child understand that when the alarm sounds it’s time to go potty.

Some of these issues, such as having a toilet phobia or a smaller bladder capacity will likely be outgrown, but issues like poor muscle control or an infection may require treatment from your child’s healthcare provider. If you’re unsure what’s behind your child’s potty training delay consult your child’s provider for a diagnosis.

What Are the Signs of Potty Training Readiness?

The list of readiness factors includes having bowel and bladder movements at predictable times, pulling their pants up and down as a way to indicate that they want to use the toilet, and just flat out telling you that they have to go. If you don’t see these signs of readiness by 36 months, it’s worth asking your child’s healthcare provider for advice on what may be causing the delay in readiness.

Tips for Late Potty Training

Late toilet training and the resulting episodes of bedwetting and daytime wetting can have a huge effect on your child’s self-esteem and quality of life, from keeping him or her from enjoying sleepovers to making field trips a little trickier to navigate.

Instead of “waiting it out,” try these tips to help your child make the transition to being fully toilet trained and to put an end to their bedwetting:

  • Consistency. Your child may simply not be interested in remembering when it’s time to go to the toilet, so the best thing you can do is to remind them. Whether you put your child on the toilet every 20 minutes or remind them to go every two hours, make sure you stick to the routine you have set up.
  • Breathing exercises. Teaching children a deep breathing exercise (drawing their elbows slightly back, taking a deep inhalation through their nose, retaining their breath for a count of five, and slowly exhaling through their nose) can help them loosen up during bathroom visits. Eventually, they will learn to relax themselves well enough that they’ll be able to go potty while breathing normally.
  • Rewards. Try to make potty training as positive an experience for your child as you can: Giving incentives or rewards (for example stickers or small toys) for dry days or after each toilet use is a great way to motivate them.
  • Lead by example. For many children, peeing and pooping on the potty can be a scary thing. Instead of telling your kid that there’s nothing to be afraid of, why not show them? You can either put one of your child’s favorite plush toys on the potty, or sit on the potty yourself, thus proving how safe using the potty really is.
  • Make it fun. Make potty training more interesting and fun by keeping a favorite toy or book nearby to encourage them to see the toilet in a more positive light.
  • Encouragement. Recognize each success and overlook any setbacks. Make a big deal out of every small step your child has made towards being toilet trained (whether it’s going successfully on the toilet or potty, or a dry night) by giving them your undivided attention, hugs, and lots of praise.
  • Nighttime Underwear. Until your child learns the ropes, consider enlisting the help of the Squad! Ninjamas is a super stealthy, absorbent underwear that looks and feels just like real underwear. Ninjamas keeps your child comfy and dry, which is great for reducing any negative feelings around having a little accident.

You’ve tried it all and you’re still not making any progress? It may be time to take a break. Give your kid some time to relax, get the social pressure off their back, and reassess the past few months. Take as long as you seem fit, then give it another go. Your child will get the hang of it!

When to Go to the Doctor?

If you suspect a psychological or physical cause may be behind your child’s delay in potty training, don’t hesitate to turn to your child’s healthcare provider for advice. He or she will ask you questions about your child’s bladder habits and potty training history, give your child a physical exams, and perhaps run some lab tests to try to get to the bottom of what’s happening.

Once your child’s provider has made a diagnosis, he or she will create a treatment plan based on your child’s personal situation.

The Bottom Line on Potty Training Delays