Potty-Training Problems and Solutions

Potty training can be tough. We've gathered the most common problems and their solutions to help take the stress out of this major milestone.

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Fearful Start

Jim Franco

Fearful Start

Problem: Your child is ready to potty train but seems scared.

Solution: Your toddler can feel intimidated by the big task of learning how to use the bathroom. Make her excited to use the big-girl toilet by purchasing "special" underwear, establishing incentives or rewards for successful bathroom trips, and asking teachers or day-care providers for their support. By encouraging her independence, you reassure her that she is ready to leave diapers behind.

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Can't Get Through the Night

Can't Get Through the Night

Problem: Your child wets the bed at night.

Solution: If bed-wetting is a repeat occurrence, try waking up your toddler to use the bathroom one to two hours after going to sleep. Keep the potty-training toilet out and add night-lights in the bedroom and bathroom to make middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom easier for him.

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Accident-Prone

Greg Scheidemann

Accident-Prone

Problem: Your child has accidents during the day.

Solution: As he adjusts to making bathroom trips, your child might have an accident or two. Stay calm when it happens and don't punish him. Instead, be prepared for accidents by keeping absorbent underwear and a change of clothing on hand. Try setting a routine schedule of bathroom trips, which will help in the potty-training process.

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Solve Potty-Training Problems

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Refuses to Continue

Aimee Herring

Refuses to Continue

Problem: Your child relapses or refuses to use the bathroom.

Solution: If your child starts strongly resisting potty training, it may be because she isn't emotionally ready. No matter what, never physically punish her. Stop potty training for a few weeks or up to a month and then try again. It may take this brief break to get her ready to regularly use the bathroom like a big girl.

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Uncomfortable Outside Home

iStock

Uncomfortable Outside Home

Problem: Your child won't use the toilet at day care or school.

Solution: The bathroom routine is different at every day care or school, so find out what it's like for your child. If teachers take students to the bathroom in groups, it might be better for your child to go alone. Or he might feel more comfortable with his own potty-training toilet. Ask day-care providers and teachers for help with motivating your child.

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Not Willing to Try

Greg Scheidemann

Not Willing to Try

Problem: Your child says no or gets upset when asked to use the bathroom.

Solution: Potty training isn't always easy for parents, but don't forget it can be just as frustrating for your child. If he starts to get upset, tell him how much you want him to become a big boy. Rather than yelling, make it clear he's the most important part of the process by letting him know you need his help. If your toddler continues to get upset, stop training for a short time and then resume when he is ready again.

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Back to the Beginning

Denis Horan

Back to the Beginning

Problem: Your child was fully potty trained and then started having accidents.

Solution: Making your toddler feel bad about an accident could turn into a power struggle. It's likely she's reacting to a big change at home or school, so stay patient and give it some time. Wait until your child tells you she's ready to use the toilet again and encourage her to keep up her potty training.

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Battle Over the Bathroom

Battle Over the Bathroom

Problem: Your child has turned potty training into an all-out battle.

Solution: If the bathroom has become a war zone, your toddler is probably testing your limits and her power. Resist punishment and tell her you're done struggling -- potty training is her responsibility now. Place a potty chair in the main bathroom and get everything ready for your toddler to use the toilet on her own accord. t might be tempting to insist she try using the bathroom throughout the day, but stay calm and let her get back into the routine. Then reward your toddler each time she makes a successful trip.

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When Pooping is a Problem

Kaysh Shinn

When Pooping is a Problem

Problem: Your child won't have a bowel movement on the toilet.

Solution: Celebrate when your toddler has a bowel movement -- otherwise, he might be scared of making a mess. Try incentives and rewards to let him know you're proud he's acting like a big kid. If he's still unable to go, try to take note of when he usually has to poop throughout the day and make sure he's by a bathroom at those times.

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Traveling While Training

Juergen Bosse/ istock

Traveling While Training

Problem: Your child is potty training during a family trip.

Solution: Take all of your potty-training tools, from training toilets to books, with you when you travel. If you're driving, double-check that there are several public rest stops or bathrooms to use on the way. For other means of travel, make it a point to visit the restroom regularly so your child knows bathroom visits are a routine she should be part of now.

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