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.