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Solving Potty Training Problems

Stop the struggle and help your child learn how to use the toilet for good

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Get your child out of diapers for good with these potty training secrets.

Get your child out of diapers for good with these potty training secrets.

Ryan McVay

Potty training secrets -- tips for solving common potty training problems.

Congratulations! After noticing that your child has been exhibiting certain readiness signs, (for example, she's waking up from her naps or nighttime slumber dry and maybe she's even showing more independence in other non-potty training facets of her life) you decided your little one is ready to start potty training. And so far it's been going pretty well -- maybe she urinates consistently on the toilet or she'll even use a potty that isn't her own -- but she's still hitting some stumbling blocks and no matter how many stickers you reward her with, she can't move past them.

For many little ones using to use the toilet for the first time, it isn't always smooth sailing. There are a host of common potty training problems that tend to slow down the process a little bit. They include:

  • Refusing to make a bowel movement in the potty -- instead asking to use a diaper or a training pant (like Pull-Ups instead.
  • Being unable to (or refusing to) using a potty other than the one they have at home. Or, if you use a small potty chair, not showing any interest in shifting over to the big kid toilet.
  • Suddenly having lots of accidents, when she was doing well before.
  • Saying "no" if you suggest that she use the potty.

So what's a desperate parent to do? First off, don't despair. These are potty training problems that a good number of toilet learners face and there are some solutions that will soon have her on her way. Here's how:

Pretend like you don't care. Have you ever heard of the term, "reverse psychology?" It's your friend if you have a reluctant potty trainer, especially a reluctant potty trainer who revels in saying no (as many young preschoolers are want to do). Reverse psychology -- when you tell a person to do the opposite of what you'd like them to do -- often works with new potty trainers because your young child (unfortunately) likes disagreeing with what say, but also because the pressure that comes with "having" to go on the potty is removed. Simply say something like, "Well I'm so glad you aren't going on the potty, because if you did, we would be able to go and play at the park (or some other activity you are willing to do) and I really don't want to do that -- I want to just stay home all day."

Consider scaling back on the rewards. One of the most common methods of potty training involves giving your child a small treat such as stickers or M&Ms every time she goes. The problem with a reward system is that sometimes it can cause temper tantrums. And if you use sweets every time your child goes, that's a lot of sweets on a daily basis. Plus, it can be hard to transition off the reward system once your child is using the toilet regularly. Instead, heap on the praise -- enlist others like grandma and grandpa or a favorite friend to offer encouraging words.

Make potty training familiar. With all three of my children, I refused to buy them a potty chair, because I figured that once they were trained to the chair, they wouldn't want to go any place else. Instead I bought a ring that fit over our toilet seat. That worked fine enough, but I still had the same problem -- when we would go to the bathroom someplace other than our house, they would balk (except for my youngest for some reason). In any case, they key is making the act of going to the bathroom, rather than the seat they go on, something your child is comfortable with. When you are attempting to use the bathroom in a new place, show your child how it has many of the same features as your bathroom at home -- the running water in the sink, the toilet that flushes, the roll of toilet paper. If your child is refusing to go at day care or preschool, look into the routine that they use. Are children brought in as a group and your child isn't comfortable? Is he asked to go on his own and he'd prefer a chaperone? If he is still refusing to go on an "unfamiliar" potty, consider buying a travel seat that he can use in new places.

Everybody poops -- most of the time. One of the most common potty training problems is the child who won't have a bowel movement on the toilet, instead either holding it in and making themselves constipated or, demanding a diaper so they can do in that. This is a tough scenario for parents because you don't want to cause your child discomfort. There are a few things you can do. First off, take it slow -- once she masters peeing on the toilet, then you can move to pooping. If she asks for a diaper to go, put it on her, but insist that she make in the bathroom. Once she's mastered that, have her go in the bathroom on the toilet (still wearing the diaper). Keep progressing until she's ready to remove the diaper. If you think your child is truly constipated, consider introducing some high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and green vegetables. Scale back on dairy too. If you are really concerned, give your pediatrician a call.

For more potty training help, take a look at Best Books for Potty Training and Potty Training Aids.

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