Advice Needed for Potty Training

opinion 2 I babysit a 4 1/2 year old girl full-time Monday-Friday. She is very smart for her age, I can point to any dinosaur in any book and she will say the name of it and what it eats, but I am having a hard time potty training her. When I interviewed with the family, I wan under the assumption that she was almost fully potty trained. This was not the case at all, the first day I started watching her I noticed her pants were very bulky so I asked the dad if she wore pull-ups and he informed that she did and that he forgot to tell me. The first few weeks were a struggle, I had to teach her how to pull down her pants, pull up her pants, wipe, flush the toilet and wash her hands. I have a feeling her dad does it all for her, I refuse to, I am all for helping her but I am not going to do it all. She will be starting kindergarten soon so she has to learn how to do it on her own.

She goes through a couple pull-ups a day, for the most part she will not tell me when she has to go and she will not tell me when she goes in her pants she will just sit in it. When I ask her if she went in her pants she tells me nope. Occasionally she does tell me when she has to go, so I know that she knows how to go on her own and I really think it is just a power struggle/her being lazy. The other day she told me she had to go pee so I said ok go in the potty, she walks into the bathroom and comes out a minute later and says "no thank you, I'll just go in my pants."

I have tried reminding her to go and asking her to go sit on the potty every 45mins to an hour, but that's not working either as soon as she gets off she goes in her pants. When I asked the dad what he does at home and what he would like me to do when she goes in her pants he told me to tell her to "try better next time." There is no consequences and she knows this and continues to go in her pants.

The past 2 days the dad has brought her in underwear, yesterday she peed all over my floor and didn't say a word, until I almost stepped on it. Today she pooped all over and again didn't say a word, I found out because she went on the potty and it was all over her back, the toilet and floor. I don't get any response from the dad and I have a feeling he is not working with her at home. I am 100% willing to work with him on potty training, however I will not do it for him, it has to be 50/50.

I don't know what to do, I feel like if he is not being consistent at home, there is no reason why I should continue to potty train her here. I have been doing some research on this and most of the advice I have read says to stop potty training and let the child know that they are responsible for their body and when they go in their pants don't make a fuss about it, just have them clean it up. I am considering doing this. I don't know what else to do. Has anyone had this problem? Any advice? Help is appreciated!


oh well said...

I have not potty-trained that late, but I think you really need to get the dad to help you. Also, she needs to stop the pull-ups entirely (except at night if she wants them) and yes, she needs to clean up any mess she makes (with minimal help if needed) - it should be at least as long and boring as going to the potty. On the positive side, a system of rewards (like a dinosaur sticker if she goes in the potty, and maybe a special prize if she does not wet herself for a certain amount of time) might help too.

nycmom said...

I think it would be almost impossible for you to train her without her father's help. I'm sure many nannies have run into similar problems where they work hard in training all day M-Fr, then parents are too lazy to do it on weekends and evenings.

Oh Well makes some excellent, core points. She needs no more pull-ups, except perhaps for sleeping as nighttime training is quite different than day and more based on neuro development than behavioral readiness. Only underwear during the day or naked bottom. It wasn't clear, since she comes to your home, if she is the only child and naked would work but it is much easier in some ways.

Have her sit on the potty every 30 minutes for the first week, no matter what.

I also fully agree with a reward system. Yes, we all hate the concept of giving candy or toys for behavior, but for potty training it really does work for most kids! Keep a little bowl of M&Ms in a cupboard and after peeing on potty, she can pick 2 and after poop she can pick 4 (or whatever candy and ratio works for you).

The one thing I might do differently than you are doing is to be more willing to help her with pants and getting on the potty. Some kids are very resistant to those steps. I think getting her to actually pee/poop on the potty should be the first goal, even if it means you walk her in to the bathroom and help her pull down her pants and wipe. Then once you get that down, you can work on the other steps. I am sympathetic here as my #3 (3.5yo) is fully trained, but still scared to actually go into the bathroom alone, still not good at getting pants up/down, and still not good at wiping!

I understand the more strict approach of "clean up yourself," and "do it all yourself" especially with a 4.5yo. However, I would not look at this little girl as a 4.5yo who has been resisting potty training for 1.5-2yrs. It sounds like Dad has *never* really tried to properly train her so I would give her a few weeks of leeway before taking the hardline.

VTNanny said...

I agree that the You and the father need to be on the same page when it comes to potty training. When I potty train two year olds I tell the parents " so and so can do this! Can You bring a few changes of clothes and a few pairs of underwear." it shouldn't be a huge deal or messy at all. The accident part is going to depend on you. Set your watch, cell phone or a timer to go off every hour or even half hour if the child needs. When the timer goes off have her go to the bathroom. The child should absolutely bE trained by now. The child has had enough leeway when it comes to potty training. She needs to let go of those diapers cold turkey. If you are good when it comes to using the potty when it goes off and the child gets into a routine with the potty then you will surprised in how easy it is! I have used a "potty party" as a bribe or incentive when it comes to potty training.. Tell the little one that when she is trained and doesn't have accidents or needs
Diapers as well as let's you know when she needs to use the big kid potty that you will have a special potty party for her. With my daughter I took her to a local fun restaurant at had a play area...we did cake make a huge deal about the awesome feat that she had overcome and gave a new package of underwear s a present. It was a huge incentive and a great way to show her how proud I was of her. Show that child that you have the confidence in her also show her that it is time and diapers are not to be out on at all....except for maybe bedtime....which even then at 4 1/2 it should be just underwear worn....
Good luck! You can do is and so can your charge!

Nanny nanny bo banny said...

Hah, wow. 4 and a half. that is a job that I would turn around and run away from. Tell her if she wants to pee on the floor, than she is going to have to clean it up.

Phoenix said...

she is not that smart. If she is four and hasn't been potty trained. That is really strange. Every girl in my family was potty trained around 1 year to 18 months. If you can walk you can walk to the bathroom and use a toilet. I don't know she sounds like a brat. I wouldn't continue to potty train her. Her parents will figure out when she can't start kindergarden that they needed to step up to the plate.

Ms.Nanny said...

There are some really great suggestions in the comment section of this post. I agree with nycmom that because she has not had consistant potty training from her father that almost starting from scratch with a reward system might be the best thing.

Here is one or two points I would add. Having her wear pants, skirts or dresses that are easy to manage might also be helpful. I potty trained a little boy and always made sure he was wearing sweat pants that were easy for him to pull up and down. As he got better at potty training he was able to wear pants with snaps and zippers.

If problems persists then I would definitely have the parents consult a pediatrician. If this is their first child then they might not understand that the vast majority of children are potty trained by 4 1/2 and might just be generally stressed out and unprepared for the potty training process. It is too bad that they aren't communicating well with you about this, it might take a doctor to help them help their daughter be potty trained. They have to work as hard as you have been working.

Best of luck. I would love to hear an update about how this goes for you and what helped your charge reach the milestone of being potty trained.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I agree that a four and a half year old should most def be potty trained by now. The fact that she isn't is quite unusual to me. Anyway, I do not blame the child..sure she may be spoiled as someone pointed out, however the blame here lies primarily with her father (of mother if there is one in the picture.) I think that there is no incentive for the child to start using the potty on her own and that is why she is staying in her "comfort zone" so to speak. Unless an incentive is offered, she will see no reason to use the potty. I would offer her stickers, little candies as well as cheap little toys every time she uses the potty. Also, I would definitely talk to the Dad and stress how much you need his support in aiding you on this. You're right, you cannot do this alone successfully. Stress to him how unusual it is for a child this age to not be using the potty.

When she is dirty, you can tell her how "yucky" it is to wear a pull-up with poo in it and that if she stays in it too long, her skin will get sick. Emphasize how much nicer it feels to wear a clean and fresh pull-up and hopefully she will not want to mess herself up and refuse to be changed. (I most recently did this with my current charge and it worked!)

As for letting the child clean up the mess herself, I am on the fence about this. It doesn't sound like such a bad could be an effective deterrent from her messing up her pants...however I do not know if doing her own cleaning up will make a difference, I have no actual experience doing this so I am not sure. Like nycmom stated, perhaps this could be a last resort after you try some of the other measures offered here.

Good Luck to you OP. Being a Nanny is tough work and there are many aspects that are tougher than others. You definitely have your work cut out for you and I wish you only the best of luck as you walk down this road. You sound very patient and it is a shame to me that the Father is not doing what he should be doing in this situation.

NervousNanny said...

I think you need to eliminate the pull-ups all together. You may need to force the dad into this. Is he a single parent? I find it's harder for dads to do the whole potty-training thing, especially when busy. (Not that I am stereotyping-just my experience!)

Make it absolutely clear to the child that there will not be any pull ups around ever again. Force her to sit on the toilet every couple hours, especially after meals and before outings. You don't need to be rough about this, maybe sit with her and read some books. At least getting her in the habit of sitting on the toilet without it being a bad experience may help the situation.

Also, just talk to the dad about the consequences. There need to be some. She is old enough to know better. Maybe having her clean up her mess? Sounds extreme, but it might give her a sense of why she needs to use the toilet.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Well, I agree that she's probably pretty smart - after all, she's avoided having to use the potty for a good 2 years now...

OP, since you take care of her at your home (if I am reading correctly), you do have an advantage. You can tell her that you don't allow 4-year-olds to wear diapers in your home unless they are sleeping!!

I would try to get the dad on board though first. Ask him what the policy is regarding toilet use at the school she'll be attending this fall for Pre-K (K?), and then ask him to talk with you about how you and he (and mom, if she is in the picture) can work together to help his child learn to use the potty consistently. You might toss in a few words about how a kid you know was bullied because he wouldn't use the potty, or about how a kid you know was not allowed to stay in a private school since he wasn't a consistent potty user. Get dad thinking about long-term consequences!

If he isn't willing to get on board, then you need to make it clear to him that you plan to train her to stay clean and dry when she is with you, and tell him what you need from him. (many changes of clothes that are easy on and off, and undies, no pull-ups at all, etc.)

Of course, he may decide that he isn't going to keep her with you if you want her trained, and you'll lose his business. Is that a risk you can take? If so, read on...

I would approach this as if she is being trained for the first time, but due to her age, I would use an accelerated schedule. Take the next week or so to casually discuss with her when you are changing her pull up that she is going to start using the potty soon, and will get to stay clean and dry. Decide on a date and do a count down to "No more pull-ups!" day.

When that day comes, have her either go naked or wear only undies when in the house. If necessary, restrict her to only rooms without carpeting, and tell her that she'll be allowed out on the carpeted floors when she is putting her pee and poop in the toilet all the time.

When she has an accident, be matter of fact about clean up, and enlist her help. IOW, make the chores related to accidents even worse than stopping to use the potty!

When she uses the toilet, don't over praise or over reward. I'd say something like, "I bet you are proud of yourself for using the potty!" Because, ultimately, she is the one who has to take control of the issue. You are helping her learn, but you can't making her go.

Give positive attention when she tries to use the potty with minimal encouragement. Offer to set a reminder timer for her, but if she resists, don't do it. The wet and the mess will hopefully help her remember better next time.

I seriously cannot stress enough the need to stay neutral when accidents happen, because I bet she will test you to see if she can make you give up and allow her those pull-ups. Even if she has an accident and doesn't let you know, stay cool when you find the evidence, go get her, and tell her there's an accident to clean up before you and she can do XYZ.

If you are going to use "encouragers" (AKA bribes), give her your time and attention instead of candy or stickers. "If you stay dry until rest time, we will have time to read an extra story!"

Good luck!!

Alex said...

that is horrible & ridiculous. At 4.5 she should definitely be potty trained by now (unless there were other issues and you make mention of how smart she is so I doubt there are).

There is no way you can potty train her during the day without her dad working on it at night. She is way too old to be in pull ups (except at night).

I agree with other posters than an award system would probably be beneficial (something simple like stickers or m&ms) and I don't think it is a bad idea to make her clean it up. I had a charge that knew what he was doing but would do it anyway just because he felt like it. Making him clean it up worked a bit.

How long do you have her? The dad definitely needs to be on board.

Good luck!


This is all kinds of nasty! I hope you have had all your shots and wear rubber gloves! It is just a matter of time before this kid gets pin or hook worms.


also, you have to bribe a kid with candy to do a normal function like dump in a toilet! Why do kids have to be rewarded for every little thing?

another nanny said...

OP, I agree with many other people here. Give her a reward system (candy is fine...this is just a short term thing), eliminate pull-ups altogether for daytime, and have her assist with cleaning up when she has an accident (of course don't make it into a punishment, just a matter of fact thing). Stress to dad that this is what will happen at your house, and that it will be much faster if he follows the same steps at home (realizing, though, that you can't force him).
Also, go to Hulu and watch the Supernanny ep called the Van Acker family...she potty trains a VERY resistant 3 year old. Might give you additional ideas or at least encouragement


I love hulu, I watch Gilligans Island and Lost In Space but don't watch The Munsters because it is not the original series it is a awful re make

Someone's Nanny said...

If I were you, I would insist that she be seen by her doctor to rule out any medical problems. Then you and dad need to sit down and work out a plan to get her potty trained, and you both need to be consistant. At this point, a lot of it is probably just testing and manipulating you. If dad is doing one thing, and you're doing another, it's never going to work. If he is unwilling to do his part, then it might not be worth it to keep watching her.

Manhattan Nanny said...

It isn't this girl's fault her father hasn't trained her. He probably doesn't have a clue how to go about it. You need to have a serious talk, and agree on exactly how the two of you are going to do it.

I once had a boy who wasn't potty trained until he was 4 due to his having had heart surgery with a long recovery period. He was extremely bright, and stubbornly refused to try the potty or give up diapers. I finally figured out that he was worried that he would be somewhere away from home and have to go. When I assured him that the library, museum, book store and even the playground had bathrooms, we moved forward. I think you have to look at it differently with an older child.

Here is what works for me.
A potty seat that is easy to get on and off, and comfy to sit on for a while.
A chart with stickers, stars for #1. special stickers for #2. A side benefit of this is learning about calendars.
Fancy underpants with Disney characters on them.
Positive reinforcement. I would never ever make a child feel ashamed of an accident, or make them clean it
up. Aside from the psychological factor, and sanitary considerations (I'm thinking poop), it could backfire and make them reluctant to give up pull ups.

Good luck!

vegasgrrl24 said...

Sorry if this has been mentioned. Incorporating books or TV shows about the potty may help.

MissMannah said...

I'm going against the crowd here and going to say no awards system on a daily basis. That's fine when you're training a toddler, because of their short attention span, but this is a 4 year old girl, who obviously knows she can manipulate her father and knows she can be lazy and poop her pants without any repercussions. If she starts getting candy every time she uses the toilet (which she should have been doing regularly for at least a year now), it will turn into a huge power struggle when you try to taper it off when she is successfully trained. A training tip I always use is to go to the store and let her pick out whatever panties design she likes so you can continually say "You don't want to make a mess on Dora/Barbie/Ariel."

I was potty trained at a year but when my baby sister was born when I was 2 years and 9 months, I majorly regressed. My mom didn't have the patience for it though and I would just get spanked whenever I would have an "accident." (It wasn't always accidents, she's told me how I would pull my pants down and pee on the floor right in front of her.) Eventually it got to the point where my bladder became under-developed and I was still having occasional accidents even when I was 11 years old, and I was still quite frequently wetting the bed at that age. So my point to telling this story is maybe the father does need to take the girl to the pediatrician and find out if she has an under-developed bladder or if she doesn't have proper control of her sphincter muscles. I'm guessing everything is normal and she just can't be bothered to go potty, but you never know.

Babinurse said...

I'm surprised nobody else has mentioned this, but this behavior could be a sign of child abuse.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Miss Mannah, I think using a reward system is a good incentive when potty training a child. Sure, this particular child is a little older than most kids who get potty trained, however I still believe that if she is given an incentive, she will change her ways.

I do not suspect there is any abuse, I think if the Dad IS a single parent and he works, then this situation has two strikes against it. #1 Working parents are usually tired when they get home from a long day and have less patience and tolerance than a parent who is a stay-at-home parent or who works part-time. #2 He is a man after all and may not know as much as a woman about the dynamics of teaching a child to use the potty. Anyway, I think it wouldn't hurt to offer incentives such as stickers and other fun stuff. Desperate situations call for desperate measures and this child needs to be potty trained ASAP for goodness sake.

My current charge is younger than this child, however to encourage him to someday use the potty, his parents have bought him a few books about potty training. They illustrate a little boy like him who is going from diapers to the potty. These books are gender-specific and show the pluses of using the potty such as not having to wear a dirty and uncomfortable diaper as well as how much fun it is to go to the store and buy "big boy" underpants. We also have his potty in his bedroom where he takes turns putting his different stuffed animals on. Overall if you make it into a game, offer incentives and offer positive feedback when any type of accomplishment is achieved, it can be a rewarding experience for all those involved.

Good Luck.

Village said...

I agree with Babinurse; I just didn't want to write it.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Just because a child is having a difficult time being potty-trained does not signify she is being abused. Where do you guys get this idea from? I am not ruling it out as a possibility since I would need to know more details about the situation, but I would not jump the gun on this one. I have seen cases where a child is not potty-trained at an older age, but I never have assumed it was due to child abuse. I usually blame the parents for not enforcing it or the child could have developmental delays. If the parent has done all the right things, I would personally talk to the child's Dr. for some advice.

Reese said...

I agree that just because this child is delayed in being potty trained, it does not automatically mean she is being abused by her father. Sure it is a possibility, but so is anything. What needs to be the focus here is getting this child into underwear as soon as possible as she is going to be attending Kindergarten very soon and needs time to be fully potty trained. She needs to get to the point where she doesn't wet herself on occasion (this can be unacceptable for a Kindergarten teacher to deal with) and feels comfortable going to and from the bathroom independently. If the Original Poster focuses too much on the possibility of the child being abused, then she may lose some of her focus on appropriately potty training said child. Unless there are other signs of child abuse such as marks on the child, etc...I would ignore the remarks here on child abuse and put on my focus and energy on properly training this poor little girl! We need to stay on track here!!

babinurse said...

That's great. Dismiss the abuse idea. And in the meantime, if the child is being abused, the abuse continues. If I was a teacher, nurse, or doctor in this child's life, I would refer her for an evaluation. Her behavior is unusual, and it needs to be investigated further. If you don't know or understand the signs of child abuse, it is dangerous to suggest dismissing the possibility. All it takes is a phone call. She doesn't have to stop trying to potty train the child. She just needs to make a five minute phone call. It is in the best interest of the child. Please don't dismiss it. Children are abused every day, and to ignore any signs of abuse is neglectful.

MissMannah said...

Babinurse, in your first post, you said this "could" be a sign of abuse. Now you're practically convinced it is abuse and are encouraging the OP to call CPS. You're insane and trying to get OP fired. You were right originally, very delayed potty-training "could" be a sign of abuse but generally it would not be the only sign. Any good caregiver is going to be aware of multiple signs of abuse and she is going to be vigilant about reporting them. If she sees one that "could" be a sign but sees nothing else, why risk losing a perfectly good job and possibly ruin her (and the family's) reputation?

Reese said...

Yikes....I am not usually a fan of MissMannah but I have to hand it to her...she sure is making a lot of sense now. *cough*

Anyway, babinurse you are totally blowing this out of proportion here. Gee Whiz. Or Cheese Whiz, whichever you prefer on your crackers. LOL. Anyway, if the child were being abused, there would be other signs as well. I am pretty sure if the OP saw any other signs of possible abuse she would do something about it. I agree that many children are being abused and I think it is horrible if any adult suspects abuse and does nothing. But that is not the case here. The case here is that a 4 1/2 yr old is delayed in her potty training. Stick with the subject here.

To suspect and even worse, to accuse a parent of child abuse is a very serious thing. I would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS make such a claim against someone just based on the fact that their child is delayed in her potty training skills. If the OP reports the parent as a possible abuser, she will not only get fired, but she also could permanently damage this family beyond repair.

another nanny said...

I don't think anyone said anything specifically about the father abusing her.

But anyway, it certainly can't hurt to rule out a medical cause for the delayed potty training. Maybe recommend to dad that he take her to a urologist. If the doctor notices any physical problems (including inflammation/other signs of abuse) then you can cross that bridge when you come to it.
But just there a mom? If not, what happened to her? Maybe the child has some kind of anxiety related to that

MissMannah said...

Don't worry, Reese. I won't let it go to my head. It often surprises me when I start making sense, too.

Reese said...

Miss Mannah...I hear ya! :)

Yes, I agree the child should be seen by a physician and be checked out medically. I think all avenues should be taken before the conclusion of the child being abused is even an issue. I disagree with you another nanny that the child could be anxious about not having a mother. Unless the mother recently left the picture, I don't see the fact that a child has only one parent living with them would make them delayed at using the potty. There are tons of single parents out there and I don't see all of their children being delayed in using the potty.

Heidi said...

Since the child has said "no thanks I'll go in my pullup" or something like that, it sounds like there's an "at her convenience" factor contributing to the problem (along with the list of issues already mentioned.) My friend's son had problems with her son choosing to poop in a pullup because he didn't want to stop playing to use the potty. She had an effective solution: She'd wait until he was ingrossed in play and she'd keep interrupting him and bring him to the changing table to "check to make sure he wasn't wet or poopy." Then she'd make sure she talked about how nuch fun he'd have if he could play when he wanted and use the potty! Took a few days to get him into underwear! LOL

Reese said...

@Heidi: Good strong advice. I have never heard of that, but I bet that one is a very effective tool.

another nanny said...


I apologize if I implied that children of single parents are necessarily going to have a harder time potty training. That is certainly not the case, and I mean no disrespect towards single parents. However, if this little girl experienced the traumatic loss of her mother, I think it MIGHT have some sort of impact on her and MIGHT be part of her hesitance to give up pull-ups. It's just another factor to consider, since we don't know what happened to the mom.

Reese said...

@another nanny: point well-taken.
I agree that if something happened to the mother of this little girl, then maybe she is acting out or emotionally disturbed. When my mother died, I was very young and my father has told me that I started wetting the bed soon after. He had to get me into counseling and it did in fact cease the bed-wetting. I have no recollection of any of this personally, but it does make sense.

world's best nanny said...

I told my 3 year old charge that we had a new kind of pull-ups that had to go into the potty. So if she feels like she has too pee or poop she'll have to go over and pee or poop on the potty over the pull-up.

I know it sounds nutty but it worked! I turned the pull-up inside out and she went to it every time. We did a dance every time and she either got a sticker to decorate her potty or I gave her a crayon if she wanted to write something on it. Within 2 days she was using the potty all day, and within the week she was staying dry all night. The older kid I find the quicker they get it!

anonynanny said...

Generally, the sign of abuse is reverting to not toileting after the child has been toilet trained. However, refusing to toilet train is still a possible sign of neglect or maybe abuse, and I'm surprised at all the people completely dismissing it as something that couldn't be true. I guess we don't have many people here who have studied education in school and know the signs of abuse.

Mother of Six* said...

To accuse or even just suspect someone of abuse is a serious allegation anon. I do not think in this situation it is wise to jump to that conclusion until other options are exhausted. If all suggestions fail, then the abuse claim can be considered...but only as a last resort.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Assuming the worst (abuse of some sort, likely sexual) based on OP's post is kind of foolish. Why? Because all OP said was that the little girl is not potty trained.

Nothing was said about the girl exhibiting other signs of possible abuse (google them) so leaping to the abuse conclusion is like hearing a herd of galloping animals and assuming they are zebras.

Is abuse possible? Sure. Is it more likely based on WHAT WAS POSTED that this little girl is suffering from misinformed parenting? Yes.