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My 5-year-old isn't potty-trained
Q: My son will be 5 years old in less than a week, and we cannot get him potty trained. We have only managed to get him to sit on the potty three times in the last three years. We have tried praise, rewards and having him wear “big boy” underwear to no avail. Is there anything else we can try? He is the second child. He has a sister who's 7, and a brother who's 2 ½. The youngest will sit on the potty. The son who is not trained is a very immature 5. He is now getting occupational therapy for small motor skills, specifically, his pincer grasp.
A: It sounds as though your son’s refusal to sit on the potty is part of a general pattern of immaturity. Also, it is possible that you tried to start him too soon and built up resistance. I base that on your statement that you’ve only been able to get him to sit on the potty “three times in the last three years” and he is not yet 5.

A first step is to make certain you know his pattern—when he is likely to have a bowel movement, how long he can go without having to urinate. Write down your observations; don’t trust your memory. Then try the potty when you are pretty certain something is likely to happen. For his urine, I wouldn’t hesitate to let him go in a somewhat private part of your yard (if you have one). Little boys often like that privilege, and it’s a lot easier to manage an arrangement for urination without the ordinary potty equipment for boys than it is for little girls.

Finally, I would try to use his sister and brother as allies. Ask his sister to stay with him in the bathroom and perhaps share a book with him while he sits there. Try to keep him in the bathroom with you when his little brother uses the potty. After you praise the little one, casually ask, “Do you need to go now?” I know it’s hard, but try not to shame him, and do your best to keep your 7-year-old from doing so.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education