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When Your Child Won't Potty Train

Katlyn Joy | 7, April 2014


Some kids seem to be ready to use the potty and go from diapers to dryness overnight. But there are lots of other kids whose path to potty master is fraught with obstacles.

Is Your Toddler Ready?

One reason your little may not be successful in potty training is that he is just not ready yet. Look for these signs of readiness. If they are not yet present, wait. No sense pressing an issue that is doomed to failure. You may even set yourself back some time if you try too hard and too soon.

  • Does your child follow directions well?
  • Is your child verbal enough to communicate a need for the toilet?
  • Is your child interested in big girl/boy pants? Toilets?
  • Does your child seem bothered by wet or soiled diapers?
  • Does your child stay dry for at least a couple hours at a time?
  • Can your child manage to pull up or down his own pants?
  • Can your child manage to get off or on a potty seat or potty chair?

Reasons a Child May Not Succeed at Potty training

The first reason is starting before the child shows those signs of readiness listed above. Other possible setbacks? Did you begin potty training before big changes in the child's life, such as a move, after an illness, when transitioning to a new room or a new school or other big changes in life?

Does your child get anxious or upset over accidents? This may stress a child out to the point that potty training becomes overwhelming. If this is the case, take it slow and give loads of praise. Never seem stressed by any messy mistakes.

Has your child experienced bouts of constipation? Having a difficult time passing bowels in the toilet can make a child leery of the toilet. The fix? Make sure your child is well hydrated and drinks juice, eats high grain foods and again, drinks plenty of water.

Did your child have a messy episode, such as a loose bowel that was difficult to clean properly? If so your child may be avoiding a repeat experience by staying away from the potty.

Does your child shy away from unfamiliar situations? If so, you may need to take potty training slower, easing her into the whole process one baby step at a time.

Has potty training become a contest of wills? Does your child resent you demanding compliance? Go with praise and rewards and remind her to go using questions rather than demands.

Do you show obvious frustration when your child makes a mistake? If so, learn to relax and help your child do the same. Prepare for accidents by always carrying a plastic bag, wipes and a change of clothing. Keep a plastic liner under the car seat for long trips.

What to Expect When Potty Training?

Expect daytime dryness to precede nighttime control by months. It's normal, and it takes time for a child to develop enough awareness to awake to potty. Protect the mattress with a plastic liner and your child with training pants or pull ups disposable training pants.

Most children aren't ready until 2 1/2 years old, or even later. Children who are trained in the second year usually have well trained parents.

Recognize the signs of "I've gotta go!" such as a fidgety dance, grabbing at the crotch, a pained expression and the timing. Many children are ready to potty within twenty minutes of eating.

Don't put all your faith in one potty training method. Most likely you will use a combination of techniques.

Your Potty Training Tool Kit

These are items you'll want in your toolkit:

  • A potty chair or a potty seat that fits on a regular toilet seat.
  • A reward chart and stickers.
  • A book about potty training, showing a character going through the process successfully.
  • A brand spanking new package of big kid pants.
  • A letter or phone call to relatives about the exciting news; little __________ is going to start using the toilet.
  • A treasure trove of positive comments to dole out generously for accomplishments such as making it to the potty, recognizing the need to potty, doing a nice job wiping the bottom, and even just being brave enough to sit on the foreign thing.
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