How Parents Can Solve the Worst Potty Training Problems

potty training help

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Congratulations! You've noticed that your child has exhibited certain potty train signs—like waking up from their naps or nighttime slumber dry or telling you they need to go—and you've decided they're ready to start potty training.

And so far it's been going pretty well—maybe they urinate consistently in the toilet or will even use a potty that isn't their own—but they're still hitting some stumbling blocks. No matter how many stickers you reward them with, they just can't seem to get over some of these hurdles. But don't despair, all you need is a little potty training help!

For many little ones using the toilet for the first time, it isn't always smooth sailing. There are several common potty training problems that can slow down the process. They include:

  • Refusing to make a bowel movement in the potty—instead, asking to use a diaper or a training pant (like Pull-Ups instead.)
  • Being unable to (or refusing to) use a potty other than the one they have at home. Or, if you use a small potty chair, not showing any interest in shifting over to the big kid toilet.
  • Having lots of accidents, when they were doing well before.
  • Saying "no" if you suggest that they use the potty.

So what's a frustrated parent to do? These are potty training problems that a good number of toilet learners face and there are some solutions that will soon have them on their way. Here's how:

Pretend Like You Don't Care

Have you ever heard of the term, "reverse psychology?" If you have a reluctant potty trainer, especially a reluctant potty trainer who revels in saying no (as many young preschoolers are want to do), then reverse psychology is a useful tool you have at your disposal.

Reverse psychology—when you tell a person to do the opposite of what you'd like them to do—often works with new potty trainers because your young child (unfortunately) likes disagreeing with what you say, but also because the pressure that comes with "having" to go in the potty is removed.

Simply say something like, "Well I'm so glad you aren't going on the potty, because if you did, we would be able to go and play at the park (or some other activity you are willing to do) and I really don't want to do that—I want to just stay home all day," is an example of reverse psychology.

Consider Scaling Back on the Rewards

One of the most common methods of potty training involves giving your child a small treat such as stickers or M&Ms every time they use the potty. The problem with a reward system is that sometimes it can cause temper tantrums. And if you use sweets every time your child goes, that's a lot of sweets on a daily basis.

Plus, it can be hard to transition off the reward system once your child is using the toilet regularly. Instead, heap on the praise—enlist others like grandma and grandpa or a favorite friend to offer encouraging words.

Make Potty Training Familiar

With all three of my children, I refused to buy a potty chair, because my personal philosophy was that once they were trained to the chair they wouldn't want to go anyplace else. Instead, ​I bought a ring that fit over our toilet seat. That worked fine enough, but I still had the same problem—when we would go to the bathroom someplace other than our house, they would balk (except for my youngest for some reason).

The key is making the act of going to the bathroom, rather than the seat they go on, something your child is comfortable with.

When you are attempting to use the bathroom in a new place, show your child how it has many of the same features as your bathroom at home—the running water in the sink, the toilet that flushes, the roll of toilet paper.

If your child is refusing to go to daycare or preschool, look into the routine that they use. Are children brought in as a group and your child isn't comfortable? Are they asked to go on their own and they'd prefer a chaperone? If they are still refusing to go in an "unfamiliar" potty, consider buying a travel seat that they can use in new places.

Everybody Poops—Most of the Time

One of the most common potty training problems is the child who won't have a bowel movement on the toilet, instead, either holding it in and making themselves constipated or, demanding a diaper so they can do in that. This is a tough scenario for parents because you don't want to cause your child discomfort. There are a few things you can do.

Pooping in the Potty

First off, take it slow—once your child masters peeing in the toilet, then you can move to pooping. If they ask for a diaper to go, put it on, but insist that they go while in the bathroom. Once they've mastered that, have them go ​in the bathroom in the toilet (still wearing the diaper). Keep progressing until they're ready to remove the diaper.

If you think your child may be constipated, consider introducing some high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and green vegetables. Try scaling back on the dairy products as well. If you are really concerned, give your pediatrician a call. For more potty training help, take a look at potty training and potty training aids.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Amanda Rock
Amanda Rock, mom of three, has spent more than a decade of her professional career writing and editing for parents and children.