8 Ways to Solve Potty Training's Biggest Challenges

You've made the commitment to start potty training your child, but didn't realize how frustrating it could be. Take a deep breath, you're not alone. Real-life moms and medical experts share their knowledge for overcoming common obstacles.

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Kaysh Shinn

Never Leave Home Without a Potty

Problem: You can't stay home all the time, even if it's easier to be somewhere familiar when potty training your tot.

Solution: Just because you're potty training your toddler doesn't mean you have to go stir crazy! Get out and try to maintain a normal schedule. "Keep a portable potty in the trunk of your car," says Regan Adrian, M.S., early childhood development, and mother of 2-year-old Morgan. "There are a few on the market that allow you to utilize gallon zipper bags to dispose of right away. You'll be happy you have it for those long road trips or for afternoons spent outdoors, especially at a park with no bathroom."

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Kate Powers

Let Your Toddler See What's Inside that Diaper

Problem: The mess is just too big!

Solution: Let's get real: Toddler poops are a lot to clean up and so much better suited for the potty. "Her poops were the size of bananas, and one day I showed her!" says Daphne Brogdon of coolmom.com. "I spelled it out: 'Your poop is too big for a diaper. It needs to go in the toilet.' It was a start."

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Denis Horan

Wait Until Your Child is Ready

Problem: All of your toddler's little pals are peeing in the potty! Why not yours?

Solution: Just because little Johnny from down the block is wearing Spider-Man undies and your niece just started sleeping in training pants doesn't mean your child is ready. Sarah Jio, glamour.com's Vitamin G health blogger, says she tried with her son when he was around 2 years old, but he didn't fully get into the swing of things until he was ready. "It wasn't until he was 3, and then he got it in two minutes. It was on his timeline and it worked for us!"

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Solve Potty-Training Problems

Solve Potty-Training Problems

Learn how to spot four potty-resistant personalities to avoid regression during toilet training with this helpful video.

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Teach by Example

Problem: Even though you showed your child exactly what to do, he's still not into it.

Solution: You know how your child will eat his broccoli if his so-cool older brother eats his or he sees someone do something that he wants to do? Same is said for successful potty training. "My 3-year-old refused to poop in the potty," says mom Christina Marie Puglisi, Buffalo, New York. "Then one day while on a playdate, her friend went to the bathroom in the potty in front of her. My daughter pooped in the potty from that day on and never looked back."

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Sit This Way!

Problem: Your child doesn't see the allure in a pint-size potty or cartoon-dotted adapted seat. Even though the master toilet is just too big, he still wants to do his business where you do yours.

Solution: Here's a smart, out-of-the-box solution (just be sure you're supervising): "When my son was potty training, he refused to use the baby potty or even one of those seats that fits onto the toilet," says Sarah Caron, mother of two, Sandy Hook, Connecticut. "Instead, at the suggestion of my daycare provider, we let him sit on the regular toilet, only backwards. It sounds strange, but with him facing the rear of the toilet, he felt secure (not like he'd fall in!) and he didn't have to aim, since it naturally aimed for him. That way, he could focus on just going to the bathroom. It worked!"

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Greg Scheidemann

Try Role Reversal

Problem: Your little one has anxiety over the big concept of potty training.

Solution: Peeing and pooping outside the comfort zone -- known as the diaper -- is a huge and sometimes frightening concept for a child. Dana Dorfman, Ph.D, child psychotherapy, recommends role play. "Acting out potty scenes with dolls or stuffed animals can help toddlers work through anxieties and fears and provide an opportunity to develop a sense of mastery over their feelings of uncertainty." Dr. Dorfman encourages Mom and Dad to join in, too. "Parents can assume the role of one of the dolls and articulate what the child may feel: 'I don't want to make poop on the potty, the potty is too noisy!' Then, the child can assume the role of supporter."

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Ocean Photography/Veer

Build Consistency at Home & School

Problem: Your toddler is doing great at home with you, but won't do the deed at school.

Solution: "The key is consistency," says Jen Singer, mother of two, author of the Stop Second-Guessing Yourself parenting series, and a member of the Huggies Pull-Ups Potty Training Partners. "Whatever you do at home with your potty training plan, you also need to do elsewhere. For instance, if your child prefers to read a book while on the potty, talk to your daycare provider about sending in a favorite book. Keep in mind that daycare centers may be too busy to customize potty training to each child. In that case, ask them how they think they can help foster the success you have had at home and compromise. Then bring home something that works at daycare. If your child loves the soap they use at school, get some for home."

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Greg Scheidemann

Call In the Positive Reinforcements

Problem: Your little one won't budge when it comes to doing business outside of a diaper.

Solution: Arms crossed, bottom lip curled, and uh, diaper full -- you have no idea what to do with your very resistant child. "When a toddler is leery of the toilet, keep potty training efforts full of rewards and praise," says Bertie Bregman, M.D., director of Westside Family Medicine in New York City. "It's important for a child to feel that he has control over the process and it's crucial that he perceives the experience as a positive one. Put the focus on asking to go to the bathroom and willingness to sit on the toilet -- not only on production. For example, a parent might try buying a special potty book, wrapping it up, and letting the child unwrap while he sits on the toilet."

Christine Coppa is the author of Rattled! (Broadway Books, 2009)

Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.

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