Potty Training Fear- Afraid of the Toilet

I was wondering if you all could give me some advice about my niece who will be 4 at the end of June.  She has had several events happen in her life and we are just wondering if these could be why she has no interest / fear of using the potty.

When she was about 18 or so months old she tried a couple of times and did go on the potty but since then she hasn't.  A year ago she was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus (water on the brain - and has a VP shunt) with generalized seizures and has grown in all other areas by leaps and bounds, with the exception of potty training.  At that point she still refuses to use the potty, she will cry and scream at times.  I can not think of any reason why she will not go, bribing, rewards does not work.  All of the little tricks that people suggest do not work.  The one thing that she can do is hold her urine until she has to go so bad that she will go and put a diaper on herself.

The other incident that has happened is that her mother left her and her sister and 2 brothers back in September 2005 and had not been back.  She has always been a Daddy's girl and they all seem like they are adjusted very well considering the events.

Could you please give me some other suggestions to possibly help train her.

A very concerned Aunt.  Thank you.




It is hard to tell why she will not go on the potty; and all the events you have described could certainly contribute towards making matters more difficult.

From your description, it sounds like she is afraid to use the potty - because she will cry and scream and then go in a diaper.  She obviously knows what to do - as she get the diaper.  So, this is not longer about potty training, but about addressing her irrational fear of the potty or toilet.

The key word here is irrational.  Think about something that you are afraid of, but intellectually know that it is just silly.  For example, I am afraid of mice and if I ever see a mouse, I will jump up on a surface where the little mouse cannot reach me.  Now, I am smart enough to know that the little mouse if way more afraid of me that I am of it, but none the less, you can guess how I react when I see a mouse.

The other thing that is important here is I KNOW my fear is irrational - so please don't keep telling me that I should not be afraid of mice.  All it does is annoy me and it is not helpful in anyway.

So, she probably knows in her head that there isn't a reason to be afraid, but she cannot help herself.  Don't try and tell her not to be afraid.  It does not work. You canNOT talk someone out of their deep seated irrational fear.  Instead, you need to acknowledge your child's fear and figure out a way to help her work through her fear.

By acknowledging your child's fear and assuring your child that you will protect them and support them while they are afraid and vulnerable will make your child feel loved, supported and cared for.  This will bring you child closer to you and enable the process of working through the fear.

It is her fear and she will have to work through it herself.  You, as the parent will figure out ways to help your child get through the fear.  If you can figure out what specific thing your child is afraid of, then you can figure out ways around it.  You can get to it through play, imagination, telling stories, drawing pictures - things that children love to do and will help them open up to things that are bothering them.

Then once you know what the issue is, you can help and guide your child to conquer the fear through play and imagination.

Treat your child as you want to be treated when your feel scared and vulnerable. Acknowledge their feeling and treat them with tenderness and patience.  Listen to what they have to say and help them work through it themselves. 

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you.  Please let me know what you think.

Have a great day.

Narmin Parpia.

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