Potty Training 201: Overcoming Toilet Training Problems

by Lempi Koivisto

Potty TrainingIt doesn't make much difference to a child whether they learn to use the toilet at 22 months or at 36 months.

This 14-month span can mount up to a lot of frustration for a parent. You might have cheerfully changed that messy diaper during toddlerhood, but now that your child's approaching three or four, you're more than ready to "wash your hands" of diaper changing!

You've looked at readiness signs, you've read through facts and tips. You've even looked for signs that your child isn't ready for toilet training. All systems were a "go" but somehow they've gone to "stalled out."

Potty Training Problems Solved

Your child picked out the potty chair of his or her dreams. You've cleared your schedule so you can give potty training the attention it deserves.

Why aren't things going like you'd envisioned? We've asked our members what was slowing down toilet training at their house and then looked for solutions. These are the scenarios that kept popping up.

"Don't Make Me Poop!"

The problem: "My child's happy to pee in the potty, but refuses to poop in the toilet and gets upset if I suggest a trip to the bathroom."

The solution: Some kids think of poop as a part of their body and, understandably, get upset that you're just tossing it away. Explain that your body throws away food it doesn't need, just like mommy and daddy throw away the garbage. That unneeded food comes out as poop. It's okay to let it go.

Slowly transition to the bathroom. First suggest that your child poop in a diaper in the bathroom. Once that's not scary, sit on th e potty chair with the diaper on. Eventually encourage pooping onto the diaper that's sitting in potty chair.

Potty Time Regression

The problem: "My three-year-old has started having constant accidents. She's regressed back to her diaper days."

The solution: Anything that causes a child stress can cause a return to an earlier level of development, especially if the change is recent. Stressors might include a new baby in the house, a change from crib to bed, sickness, changing daycare, mom or dad starting a new job or even a move to a new bedroom. Give it time and it will pass.

The problem: "My almost four-year-old resists toilet training. He wets or soils himself often. He stubbornly refuses to sit on the potty. He won't even walk to the bathroom when I suggest he might need to go. Instead he waits until he's alone and then poops in his pants."

The solution: Resistance might mean that it's not the right time to start training but most times it indicates you and your child have engaged in a power struggle.

These steps can help you step out of the fight:

• Transfer all responsibility to your child. Tell your child that he or she is responsible for all pee and poop every day.
• Stop all reminders about using the toilet.
• Find the right incentive for using the toilet.
• When possible, replace diapers and pull-ups with underwear.
• Remind your child to change wet or messy clothes. Enforce the rule that "people can't walk around with messy pants." Most kids can change wet clothes by themselves. You'll probably have to help with soiled clothing.
• Don't punish or criticized for accidents.

Potty Play

The problem: "My child tries to play with the poop. Icky!"

The solution: This is gross to us, too. You'll be happy to know it's also completely normal for two-year-olds. They don't have the disgust reaction to feces as that develops later. It's why they don't see anything wrong with touching it. Simply say, "Poop goes in the potty. We don't play with it."

You can give fingerpaint, play dough and clay to play with. If your child wants to smear these around, offer a piece of paper on a cookie sheet with sides, and let it be smeared. Give positive feedback, "You love to play with clay. Clay is good to play with."

Won't Stand Up to Pee

The problem: "My heavy, potty-trained son won't pee standing up? He insist I heave him up onto the toilet."

The solution: Most boys learn to pee standing up by watching a classmate or their dad do it. If you a relative or friend who can demonstrate the technique, make peeing while upright a fun activity.

Toss several round oat cereals or small pieces of tissue paper in the toilet and ask him to sink them. Spray shaving foam into the bowl and see if he can hit it when he pees.

If he still wants to sit, provide a stool so he can climb up on the toilet all by himself.

Have you hit any serious potty training snags? How did you and your child overcome them? Share your success stories!