What To Do If Potty Training is Not Working?

So you finally work up the courage to start potty training. You buy a potty chair and rewards for your child’s successes. You even make a potty training chart to hang on the wall. Then the worst happens—your child wants nothing to do with it. What now? If your child’s potty training progress is high-centered, here are some ideas from people who have been there.
Katy Huie Harrison

Katy Huie Harrison

Katy Huie Harrison, PhD is an author, mom, and owner of Undefining Motherhood. She writes about women's health and lifestyle issues ranging from infertility and miscarriage to postpartum mental health to everyday parenting. She has been featured on CNN's Headline News, the 2019 book Motherhood and Social Exclusion, and various podcasts, websites, and magazines.

Close attention

As a mom who recently gave up on potty training when it wasn't working, the best advice I can offer is to pay extremely close attention to your child and their physical and emotional cues.

Ask yourself questions like:
  • Where is potty training going wrong?
  • What physical cues is my child exhibiting about how they're feeling during this process? (Are their shoulders higher as if they're tense? Is their stomach tight as if they're holding their bladder?)
  • How is my child behaving in comparison to normal?
Every book I read said that once you start potty training, you absolutely cannot stop. But I seriously disagree. The goal of your observations as a parent is to determine why your child won't potty train. Is it out of simple defiance (in which case, persistence is likely the best path forward)? Is there an emotional problem? Are they not cognitively ready?

It became clear to us that our son simply wasn't ready, despite having exhibited readiness signs. I'm a competent adult, and I trust myself to evaluate my child's emotional state and know if what we're doing is healthy for him. At that time, potty training was not. You have the same ability, and despite what the books tell you, give yourself grace and trust that you know your child.
Leigh Anne O’Connor

Leigh Anne O’Connor

Leigh Anne O’Connor is a private practice lactation consultant, parenting coach and mother of three. She contributes content on various sites and writes at mamamilkandme.com

Consistency

When potty training, consistency is important. It is important to communicate with your child about expectations, make sure there is an appropriate place for your child to use the potty that they can easily reach. If potty training is not working it could be that your child is not ready yet. Little people change rapidly. Try again in a week or two. Do not shame your child. If it really is not working you may want to rule out food allergies.
Janice Robinson-Celeste

Janice Robinson-Celeste

Janice Robinson-Celeste is an early childhood specialist and former parent educator, daycare owner, published parenting author, owner of Ethnic Animations, and is the publisher of Successful Black Parenting magazine.

Keep encouraging your child

  1. If potty training is not working, just chill. Your child won't be in college wearing a diaper. I promise! They will do it according to their own schedule. Forcing a child to go to the potty can cause a negative long-term association with using the bathroom.
  2. Keep encouraging your child to go, but don't force it. Purchase underwear in their favorite characters and keep it in a drawer where they can see it often. Show it to them and let them wear the underwear when you're home all day and can monitor them. Never force the issue.
  3. If your child won't sit on the potty, try having them read a book or watch a short video while they are sitting there. On YouTube, there is a perfectly timed video called "Potty Monkey," which is adorable and is about 10-minutes long, the maximum time a child should sit on a potty at once. Let your child watch the video, which encourages them to go to the potty. If the parent is with the child, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having that brief screen time together.
Jamie Mitchell

Jamie Mitchell

Jamie Mitchell is the founder of the Help My Baby Learn mobile app which helps parents learn to stimulate development through play and their everyday routine. He has over 15 years of experience helping babies and toddlers achieve their developmental milestones as an early intervention physical therapist.

Figure out "why"

If your attempts to potty train your little one have been unsuccessful, the first step to resolving this challenge is to figure out "why". The first questions to ask are:
  1. Is my little one "ready" to be potty trained?
  2. Am I and all of her caregivers being consistent with the training?
  3. Am I using the "best" training method for my little one's personality?
Signs of readiness for potty training include:
  • Has the balance to walk/run steadily
  • Has predictable times for bowel movements
  • Wakes from naps with a dry diaper (or remains dry for at least 2 hours)
  • Sits in one position for a few minutes
  • Shows an interest in others going to the bathroom
  • Sits on the potty/toilet without resistance
  • Follows one-step verbal commands
  • Uses a word for bowel and bladder movements (i.e. "doo doo" or "pee pee")
  • Knows to put objects/toys where they belong
Do NOT try to potty train if your little one:
  • Purposefully holds poop or pee while on the potty and goes once back in his/her diaper
  • Hides from parents and siblings while pooping
  • Is scared or resistant to sitting on the toilet or po
  • tty chair
  • Is constipated
  • Is experiencing a lot of changes (i.e., a move)
Potty training is similar to behavioral management where consistency is key. Potty training is very challenging for kids, and it'll take time for your little one to learn the concept. It's imperative that parents, grandparents, preschool staff...everyone who helps to look after your little one is all on the same page and follows through with the same techniques and language while addressing your little one's training.

Next, you want to make sure that you're choosing the potty training method that best suits your entire family. There are MANY different potty training philosophies and some will work better for some kids than others. You want to be sure to choose a method that works not only for your little one but also a method that all of his/her caregivers can follow through with. For example, it might be challenging for a grandparent to put an active toddler on the potty every 15 minutes. In this case, you may want to explore a different method.

To give your little one the best chance of success, you want to make potty training a positive experience . Be sure to praise successes and avoid punishment or shaming accidents. Allow potty training to be a pleasant experience, and your little one will be more likely to be motivated to participate.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.

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