Potty training problems can be an incredibly frustrating, not to mention messy, part of parenting.
Unfortunately, they are also very common. Most kids will have a potty training setback at some point.
Every kid is different and problems can range from frequent accidents or refusing to go at all. They may start out using the toilet just fine and then have a major regression. Maybe you are ready to ditch the diapers, but your toddler is not.
Though here at the Moms at Odds, we usually disagree, but when it comes to potty training we are on the same page. It sucks.
There isn’t a one size fits all approach to potty training and figuring out what works best for your little one can take some trial and error.
So what is a mom to do when the sticker charts and m&m’s aren’t working?
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General Tips to Survive Potty Training Problems
Keep your Cool
Yes, it is frustrating and occasionally downright infuriating, but try your best to keep calm. Take a deep breath and relax. Stress or anger will likely only make your toddler resist more. Avoid making the potty a power struggle with your toddler.
Protect your House
Accidents will happen. Expect it and prepare for it. Roll up the carpet in the living room.
Placing puppy pads or a shower curtain on your couch can save your upholstery and possibly your sanity.
Take a Break
When potty training is not working consider taking a break. If both you and your toddler are struggling, a break may be just what everyone needs. Wait until your little one is showing signs of potty training readiness to start again.
Some signs to look for include:
- Peeing less frequently shows they are starting to have some control
- Predictable poop schedule makes it easier to anticipate
- Showing interest in the potty
- Able to communicate, whether verbally or not, the need to go potty
- Disliking dirty diapers may motivate them
1. Toddler Refuses to Potty Train
It can be extremely frustrating when your child refuses to go to the bathroom. You might be ready for them to potty train but they’re not on the same page. This makes a lot of parents question when to give up on potty training all together.
If you feel like your toddler is developing resistance to sitting on potty, it may be time to start over and introduce potty training in a different manner. This time put them in control by allowing them to pick out their new underwear (for us is was Thomas the Train) and the type of potty they’ll be using (a separate potty or one that fits over your seat).
Most importantly give them time. Time to warm up to the idea of potty training. Believe me, when they’re ready it’s a million times easier.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard when it comes to potty training is this: Give a good incentive, then back off and leave it up to them.
First, think of a big incentive your child has been interested in – a bike, trip to the fair, getting their ears pierced, etc.
Second, explain to the child the deal. When they have X amount of days dry in a row, they’ll get the reward. A chart works great to explain this part.
The last part is the most difficult. You have to back off and act like you don’t care. You’ve given them the incentive and now they have to motivate themselves. When they have an accident act like it’s no big deal and say something like, “it’s ok! When you’re ready for –your incentive-, I know you’ll get it.”.
2. 3 Day Method Didn’t Work
When googling potty training techniques, one method that constantly comes up is the 3 Day Potty Training idea.
Problem is… this doesn’t work for a lot people.
While the internet is full of successful 3 Day Potty Training method stories, I’ve yet to talk to a mama in person who has one. Once again, after a failure you’ll like starting thinking about when to give up on potty training.
Rest assured – if the 3 Day Potty Training method doesn’t work for you, you’re in the majority. The average time it takes for a child to become fully potty trained is three to six months. Not days.
So if you reach day 4, it’s time to change tactics. Don’t keep yourself locked up indoors doing nothing but potty breaks every 15 minutes. That’s a surefire way to get burned out of potty training (for both of you!).
Give it some time. Go back up and read problem #1 for some planning and incentive ideas.
3. Potty Training Problems with Poo
Refusing to poop in the toilet (despite using the potty for pee) is a very common potty training problem and the biggest concern is constipation.
First, constipation may be the reason your child is unable or uncomfortable going #2.
Second, by withholding poop, your child can make themself constipated if they weren’t already.
So make sure they’re getting enough liquids and fiber, and if you can’t get things moving consult your pediatrician.
But what if they can poop but just won’t go in the potty?
They may be scared, possibly of the sensation or water splashing up on them. If they want to go in a diaper, let them. It is actually a step in the right direction that they have control and know when they need to go.
Slowly work on getting them to poop in the diaper first in the bathroom, then sitting on the toilet wearing the diaper, and finally sitting on the toilet without the diaper.
I even heard a mom say that she cut open the diaper to ease them into pooping in the potty.
What if they won’t sit on the potty?
If they resist sitting at all, pushing too much can backfire. Give it time and go slowly.
I fought my toddler on this at first, until I finally just gave up and let him do his business in a diaper as he requested. He would go in the bathroom, but I could not even get him to sit on the potty.
After a couple months he decided he was ready to use the toilet. Waiting took longer than I would have liked, but was much less stressful than our earlier bathroom standoffs.
4. They Won’t Use Public Potties
It seems inevitable that the moment you leave the house with a potty training toddler, they will absolutely say they need to go potty. But refusing to use public restrooms is a common problem that sometimes lasts even long after potty training.
Honestly, can you really blame them? I mean, I’ve seen some public bathrooms that are straight up terrifying.
But unless you plan to never go anywhere or your child has amazing bladder control, you’ll want to address this issue.
It may help if you can identify their fear. Is it the automatic flush, the loud hand dryers, or the big toilet?
There are plenty of things that are disgusting and scary in public restrooms, but here’s a few ideas that hopefully help your little one feel a little more comfortable:
- Cover the automatic flusher sensor. I like the idea of carrying Post-it notes for this, but your hand will also work if you’re not grossed out by touching it
- Use a super convenient portable potty seat cover, that not only keeps your little one from sitting on a yucky toilet, but also helps them sit comfortably without falling in.
- Start with smaller, nicer bathrooms. While, avoiding all public bathrooms does have some appeal, it may not help your toddler get over their fear. Try to find clean and semi-private restrooms to ease into it. For instance, single stall and family bathrooms may seem less intimidating to your toddler. Empty bathrooms may also seem less scary. Also, make a point to take them when you use public bathrooms so they can get used to the surroundings without the pressure to go.
First rule of accidents… don’t get mad. Keep your cool even though you might be screaming inside your head thinking about how many times you’ve had to wash underwear this week. Don’t give potty training negative associations and let yourself start thinking about when to give up on potty training.
Accidents are one of the most common potty training problems and there are a couple of reasons kids have them. Maybe your toddler is too lazy to go to toilet or maybe your toddler won’t stop playing to use the potty.
First step to avoid accidents is to stop asking your child if they have to go potty. While this may sound counterintuitive, it’s because you’re going to be telling them when they have to go potty. And in the beginning that’s going to be every 30-45 minutes (keep setting those timers!). Gradually increase the time until they feel comfortable holding it and verbalizing when they have to go.
This being said, even if you do everything perfectly accidents will still happen. How many potty training accidents are normal? LOTS.
If you’re on the road, one way to minimize the number of accidents in the car seat is to keep a portable travel potty in the car for roadside emergencies. Believe me, this is essential for those times your on the highway 30 miles between exits and your child exclaims they have to go “NOW!”.
6. Regression Potty Training Problems
‘Regressions’ are different than ‘accidents’ because in cases of regression children who once demonstrated understanding of potty training start to have potty training problems again.
Similar to accidents, it’s important not to get mad at your child and scream things like, “you know better!”.
There are two big ways I deal with regressions in my house.
- We go back to square one. My child picks out their underwear for the day, what potty they’ll use, and we start trying potty every 30-45 minutes just like they did when they were first learning. I put a cheerful spin on it, calmly explaining that they must have forgotten and we have to remind them. Chances are, they’ll “remember” how to potty train pretty quick because they’ll get very tired of being constantly reminded to sit on the toilet.
- We clean up any accidents together. I make my child take off their underwear, change it, put in in the laundry, and clean up any messes on the floor/couch. Once again, I don’t yell or scream when they regress but we do talk about consequences. Something like, “It’s okay that you had an accident, it happens! But when we make a mistake we have to take responsibility, clean up after ourselves, and try to make sure it never happens again”.
7. Night Training
Honestly, this is not really a potty training problem.
Kids need to have mature bladder control and the ability to awaken from their bladder sensation. That’s a lot to ask of a toddler.
For young children, staying dry overnight is largely developmental and many kids won’t be able to do this until 4 or 5.
That said, some parents suggest limiting liquids before bedtime to reduce overnight accidents.
I’ve also heard parents say that they wake up their children and take them to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Personally, I prefer the wait it out approach. Per my pediatrician’s advice, we waited until my son was dry for an entire week before switching to underpants at night.
Mom Tip: puppy pads under the sheet make clean up easier if there’s an accident.