Help with Fear of Public Restroom and Holding Urine Too Long

Hello Narmin,

I bought your "Complete System for Boys" to train my 3 year old. We started about a month and a half ago and he seemed to be doing pretty well. However, recently, he's been having an accident every 3-4 days. The problem is not that he doesn't know that he needs to go. The problem is that he holds it until the last moment, then makes a run to the bathroom and often does not make it. We've done the runs 9 times repeatedly for this and he still has this problem. As well, he has a fear of public restrooms so when we're out, he also tends to hold it rather than telling us (until it's too late).

Do you have any suggestions?

There are 5 times during the day in which he is required to go to the potty. I know this is not what the instructions say, but this is what we've been doing. When he wakes up, we tell him to go to the potty before he eats breakfast. His bladder is very full in the morning. After each meal, we have him sit on the potty for 10 mins. for poo poo because his schedule dictates he always poo poo after a meal. Then right before bed, we ask him to pee or sit for a couple of minutes on the potty. The rest of the time he's free.

Sometimes, I don't know if he can tell the difference between "need to go" and "really really need to go".

Anyway, any help you can give is greatly appreciated.



It is good to hear from you and I am sorry to hear that you are having some struggles with your little boy.

A couple of thoughts after reading your email:

First, addressing the last item first, I really like your idea of placing your child on the potty at given times, however, I am no sure that I think that this is a good strategy for the long term simply because, as you have said yourself, it may not clarify for the child the real need to go.

My recommendation is that once the child is initiating going to the potty and has done so a couple of times, parents should really back off on the prompts and reminders and let the child go when he wants to. I think that it is okay to prompt before going out (we still do that with our 13 and 10 year old children!!), however, the rest of the time, let them initiate going on their own.

Regarding waiting until the last minute, it seems to be a thing some children do because they do not want to stop to go to the bathroom because it takes away from what they are doing. To correct this behavior I would recommend other consequences besides the practice runs; i.e. losing something that he values (Dr Phil's terms - "know his currency"). He needs to know that you are serious about him not having accidents at home, when all he has to do is take one minute out to go use the bathroom or he will loose something he values, so he will choose to stop and go over loosing this thing he values. I hope this makes sense to you. You can call or email if it doesn't.

Regarding fear of public restrooms, I cannot tell from your description what may be causing this. Is it that he is afraid of the big toilet seat? So, first I would recommend trying to nail down what it is he does not like about public restrooms and then figure out how to work with his fear; i.e. if he is afraid of the big toilet, consider carrying a reducer. There are many portable folding potty seats available on the market. Or consider carrying a portable potty chair so that he can use the chair until he is comfortable with the big toilet seat.

I have had a couple of other parent whose children were afraid of the public restrooms after being potty trained at home. One Mom said that her son was initially fascinated with public restrooms and would love to go in with her, but then after being trained, he did not wan to go anymore. Both sets of children got over their fear once they were totally comfortable with potty training and one of the Moms started out by carrying a portable potty chair so he did not have to use the big toilet.

I hope this is helpful to you. You can always call me at 713-817-1998 or email me.

Have a great day.

Narmin Parpia

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