Potty trained 4 1/2 year old still refusing to initiate


Our 4 1/2 year old daughter has been potty trained since she was 2 1/2 but has never consistently initiated using the bathroom to pee. She will let us know if she has to poop and go in herself, but she can go literally all day without peeing (from the morning to bedtime) and often protests when we try to make her go. 

Some context: since being potty trained she has basically never had an accident (maybe once or twice in two years) so waiting for her to have accidents and then learn to initiate has never worked. Almost every time we tell her it's time to go she protests, and often wants us to stay in the bathroom with her (even if she's only sitting). We have asked many times if it hurts to pee and she tells us "no", and shows no indication of pain while she's peeing. She pees every time she poops with no problem. She has gone from morning until bedtime without peeing (even when reminded/encouraged) and once went from bedtime the night before until mid-afternoon because everyone thought someone else had taken her in the morning. I have her go when I pick her up from school but it's a struggle and she isn't always able to pee at the time. If I'm not the one doing pickup, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. She has mentioned before that she is uncomfortable at school sometimes because she needs to pee, but this has never translated to going (either on her own or with encouragement).

Often I literally need to pick her up and bring her to the bathroom and even start the process of pulling down her pants for her to get her to sit. Peeing once she sits down is only a recent problem (before she would just pee once we got her on the potty) and we have had moderate success with running water for that. We have tried visual cues, a star chart, waiting her out, more liquid during the day, doing it during transitions, and several other strategies that I can't currently remember. We also talked to an expert a while ago and her pediatrician (who thinks she does not have a physical problem). I KNOW that this has turned into a power struggle, but because she can go so long without peeing, I don't really know how to get out of it. 

If anyone has either any suggestions or a recommendation of an expert we can talk to I would really appreciate it! 


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I don't have any advice for you and I don't know if it helps at all -- or even if it is relevant -- but my son was very similar. Potty trained for pee around age 2 and NEVER had accidents and he could go AGES without peeing. I would be amazed that he would wake up and not need to pee until the afternoon. I was then 40 years old and let's just say that would have been absolute torture for me. I eventually assumed he had an iron bladder. He never had any bladder infections either.  Now that he is in his 20s, he does pee when he wakes up he can still go a really long time.  

Our first kid was the same and we never encountered any problems. Preschool helped by making all the kids take a turn in the bathroom twice a day, then it dropped off in kindergarten because there was no organized bathroom time (because it was a single bathroom in the classroom), then picked up again in first grade because the whole class would stop off on the way to lunch. She now pees in the morning when it's tooth-brushing time, and again before bed, but both of those seem to be because of schedule, not need. I have no idea if she pees otherwise during the day because I'm just not worried about it. (She's 8 now.)

I say just count your blessings. It's so amazing to never need to worry about an airplane bathroom flying cross-country. I am so jealous of her.

Oh, one more note: the bathroom is super boring. Even if she's just peeing, my kid takes a book with her now. Maybe something like that would be encouraging?

My son was the same way for a very long time, and we were very consistent about requiring that he go to the bathroom before transitions. I know you mentioned trying this but wanted to provide more detail. Without being forceful we basically told him once he went to the potty he could do the next activity he was interested in (watching a movie, going to a play date, driving to Target, etc.) Eventually that worked wonders and now he is great about going on his own, although it probably took about six months of consistency. 

I suggest that you try using the "sticker chart" method. She gets a sticker for every time she pees. Once she fills up her chart she gets a prize. Start easy - her page needs 5-10 stickers for the prize, then start to have the page need 10-15, etc. With our daughters, this worked seamlessly for almost every behavior we were trying to encourage (or discourage!). My wife and I were hesitant to use "external motivational" strategies at first, but... Maybe we lucked out, but our kids always ended up internalizing the desired behavior and they became internally motivated to continue without needing the reward. This helped for using the toilet, washing hands after using the toilet (one kid HATED that "unnecessary, time-wasting activity!" haha), washing hands first thing after coming home, doing chores, etc. Good luck!


My daughter was the same way, but it never bothered me, so it wasn’t an issue. The only time I would question her was when I knew we were leaving for a long drive. We made a deal that she would go then—but she was so good I started to forget to remind her. Is there a health problem here that I don’t know about? If there isn’t, then consider not making it a battle if she isn’t having accidents. 

Is it possible she's not taking enough fluids in? If it were me, I would be to give her a LOT of liquids some weekend when you are home with her - maybe make lemonade together or something to get a lot of liquid in her to see if that helps?? Good luck!