6 Solutions to Your Child's Biggest Potty Training Problems

Is your child having hard time peeing in the potty? Read on to learn why and to better understand how to solve their potty training problems.

One of the most momentous times of toddlerhood for both your little and you has finally come. They've shown signs of being interested in potty training, and you are more than ready to get this ball rolling. But just like you can't force a picky eater to willingly discover new foods, you can't potty train a child who isn't ready or excited to begin the process.

Even after you both have determined now is the right time, there are inevitably potty training problems that will occur, and don't fear, they're totally normal. If you feel like this is where you're at right now, read on for common potty training problems—and their solutions.

An image of a child sitting on a potty training toilet.
Getty Images.

Are They Ready?

Some kids are ready to start potty training as early as 18 months, but others might be closer to 3 years old. What matters more than your toddler's age is their interest in the process. "The two big surprises are that toilet-teaching isn't fast, and it isn't smooth," says Dr. Maureen O'Brien, Ph.D., director of parenting and child development at The First Years in Avon, Massachusetts.

Potty training isn't something you can force your child to do. What's more, the older they get, the more they're likely to hold bowel movements or delay urinating when they feel uncomfortable. And honestly, we all know the problems that can snowball as a result; read as–constipation and UTI.

So how do you help nudge them towards potty training without causing anxiety about going to the bathroom? First and foremost, give them time. Also, get them involved in everything about the process. From choosing their underwear to the potty chair or portable toilet seat, it gives your child a feeling of control over the process.

Why Doesn't My Child Tell Me When They Need to Go Potty?

While it can be frustrating, many children do not tell their parents when they need to use the potty. Going to the bathroom, after all, is a monumental task for young kids. Not only do they have to learn the basics of potty training (like urges and sensations), some children lack the verbiage. They cannot articulate their wants and needs. Others, for example, get distracted with new skills, tasks, and—in some cases—activities and toys.

The best thing to do to combat this is to schedule bathroom breaks. Ask your child if they feel the urge to pee. Give them verbal reminders and cues, and then tell them it's time to try. Then celebrate their attempt, even if your toddler sits on the potty but doesn't go.

Is There Such a Thing as Being Too Busy?

Being a toddler is a busy time. Play dates, spending quality time with their pal Bluey, and playing with their toys reign supreme. And sometimes, that means they aren't paying attention to the signals their body gives them. So what can you do to avoid an accident because of busyness?

Make potty time a consistent event, especially after meal times or snacks. Setting reminders and expectations about when to go helps your child connect the dots between why they start to wiggle and squirm and needing to go to the bathroom.

Is Potty Training Anxiety Real?

There are many different reasons why your little one may be experiencing potty training anxiety. Maybe it's an irrational fear about being flushed down the toilet, or the flushing noise it makes is just too loud. Or perhaps they feel anxious about using a bathroom in an unfamiliar place, like anywhere but home.

As with other forms of anxiety, there is no magic wand to wave to set everything right and make apprehension disappear. Taking time to address their concerns and practicing sitting on the potty for short periods can help ease their worries and reduce apprehension. Something as simple as seeing you use the bathroom without any negative consequences will also help conquer their concern.

Why Do Accidents Happen—and How Should You Respond?

Accidents happen—at school, on the playground, and yes, in the bathroom. And while it can be frustrating, it's important to check yourself and your reaction, i.e. you should never punish your child for bathroom-related mistakes.

Of course, the reason is two-fold: Punishing your child for an accident will impact their confidence. They are already embarrassed, after all. This will negatively color their experience and make them less likely to try. It also can (and usually does) result in more accidents. So what can you do? How should your react?

When your child has an accident, respond with patience and encourage them to keep trying. For example, if they had an accident because they didn't go to the bathroom before leaving the house, talk about what they can do (like always going before leaving the house) to avoid another accident in the future. Positive reinforcement is key.

What About Potty Training Regression?

Things have been going great! There hasn't been an accident in a week, and you are super thrilled that this whole potty training thing is in the past. Then, it happens; suddenly, it feels like you are back to square one.

One of the most frustrating experiences during potty training is when your child regresses. Maybe you went from dry underwear all the time to putting a pull-up back on at night. Or maybe, before they had mastered number one and two, but now they ask for a diaper to do their business.

Whatever area has regressed, take comfort in the fact that this happens often. Sometimes it involves a new change like starting school, having a new sibling, or other big changes to their routine. Talk to your child and listen to what's going on. Listen to them explain in their own words how they're feeling or what is new to get a better idea of how to reassure and support them to continue making progress in their potty training.

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