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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Do Pull-Ups Work?

Written by  Esther Boylan Wolfson

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Q Dear WholeFamily Counselor,
My son is three-years and three months old. We have been trying to potty train him for almost six months now. He shows signs that he's ready. He gets excited when he goes tinkle, although he has never told us he needs to go. We put him on the potty every one and a half hours or so. Sometimes his pull up is wet after only an hour. Tonight, he was wet twice in about 45 minutes. Yet sometimes he'll go two hours. On a car trip it was three hours with a nap and he was dry (no consistency). The more I tell him not to go in his pull up, the more he goes in his pull up, yet he will also sometimes say, "I'm supposed to tell mom/dad". So far, he has never once told us he has to go. He even will go tinkle standing up now. The last two mornings he was dry upon wake up. When he wakes up he's real excited about going.

Poo poo he will never do on the potty (never has), only in his pants. Now, he will sometimes say I'm going (which is our cue that he needs to go). If you try and get him there before he goes, he runs away and it's a fight. 10 minutes later he's got a dirty pull up. If you try and run him to the potty, he won't go either, or he will tell you as he's going. We do notice that he does like to be changed right away if it's a dirty pullup. We only recently made the change from diapers to pull ups.

My next thing is to try training pants or real underwear so he feels wet.

I guess our main question is how to get him to tell us he has to go. We know he knows what the whole potty training thing is about. I feel like if all we do is make sure he goes every one and a half hours, when will he get the chance to tell us? If I extend his time to see if he'll tell us, he goes in his pull-up. If we ask him, "do you have to go?", he'll say "no." We then say, "make sure you tell us when you do have to go". Ten minutes later he's wet. It's almost like if we remind him to tell us, that's his signal to go in his pull up. Also if we say "do you have to go?" He'll say, "I'm going". We quickly say, "No, let's go in the potty, not your pullup". We have better luck just taking him without any warnings. But it's not getting us anywhere.

Can you help? Thank you!


A I know that to you it may seem like your son still has a ways to go, but sounds to me like you are doing a great job on the toilet training. My first comment is to point out to you that the transition from diapers to pull-ups is not necessarily a meaningful one for a child. It seems to me that you are disappointed that putting him into pull-ups, has not improved his toileting skills. In my experience, pull-ups do not necessarily add anything to the toilet training process. While you feel that your son has gone on to a new stage, in his opinion, he is still in diapers.

I understand your desire to have your son tell you when he wants to go, but he may just not be ready for that step. If you find that he is successful when you remind him to go every hour and a half, then continue to do so. You can still say, "Do you have to go?" before you take him, but even if he says no say, say to him "Let's just try." I would suggest having some sort of small prize for him each time that he is successful. (Stickers, M&M, etc…) This will encourage him to go and may also encourage him to tell you when he has to go in order to get the prize more often. If you want, you can also think of a special prize that he will get if he tells you that he has to go.

If you get through a few almost dry days in this way, you can make the switch to underwear. You will probably find then, that he is more likely to tell you, since he will probably not like the feeling of getting wet. I would still encourage you, however, not to purposely wait for him to tell you. Try and remember to remind him as much as possible and even if he says "no" you can say, "just try."

You will probably find that as using the potty or toilet becomes part of your child's daily routine, he will on his own begin to tell you when he needs to go. Your son will get used to feeling dry and will want to tell you that he needs to go before he has an accident. I think that for now, he just still needs a parental reminder.

This is how I would proceed in regards to urine training. You also mentioned that your son will not have a bowel movement on the toilet or potty. I assume that when you say that he goes in "his pants" you are referring to the pull up. Please keep in mind, as I mentioned before, that to your son pull-ups are not pants, they are diapers. This probably explains why he has no problem having a bowel movement in them. Bowel movement training is more difficult than urine training and it often comes only after urine training is well established. This is especially true for boys. Right now I would not pressure your son to use the toilet for bowel movements. It is best to first let him work on one area at a time. Once urine training is well established, then you can work on bowel movement training. You may find that once you put on underwear, your son will be willing to use the potty for bowel movements. If not, I would suggest allowing him to continue to use a diaper for bowel movements until urine training is well established (a month or so) and then begin working on bowel movement training.

It sounds to me like you have done a great job and are almost ready to move on to putting your son into underwear. Congratulations and good luck.

Feel free to contact me again to let me know how it is going or if you have any additional questions.

Best Wishes,

Esther Boylan Wolfson
Director, Early Childhood Development Center

Last modified on Thursday, 05 May 2011 12:35
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Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Wolfson , director of our Early Childhood Development Center is an Early Childhood Specialist, who received her BA in English Communications from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University and an MA in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, both in New York City. Esther worked as a pre-school special education teacher for seven years. Three of those years were spent working in a school for language delayed pre-schoolers, which is her area of specialty. Another special love of hers is cooking with young children. One of her most enjoyable projects was developing a program for cooking with pre-school children for three special education programs. Esther and her husband Myles have three boys aged eight, five and two-years-old. While her three lively boys and her work at WholeFamily, keep her quite busy, in her spare time (if she ever has any!) she is an avid reader who also enjoys creative writing, exercising and swimming.

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