Tips When Your Toddler Refuses to Potty Train

Mar 22, 2023 | 3.5 Minutes Read

Ready, Set, No! Yes, sometimes potty training starts with a “No!” from your sweet child. What is a frazzled parent supposed to do? You thought you were picking up on all the right cues—they’re paying attention to when they need to go, they’re asking for big kid underwear but now your little one refuses to put them on.

Don’t sweat it parents, adventures in potty training certainly comes with its ups and downs. We are here to help you navigate this journey whether you’re just starting to talk about using the potty or your months in and your toddler suddenly refuses.

Great tips and tricks for helping a child who refuses to use the potty

Take a deep breath in, feel it as it fills your lungs and belly, and then let it out slowly. As a parent you may feel frustrated, overwhelmed and maybe even a little irritated—unless you’re expecting these ups and downs during this transition. And we’re here to prepare you for that. Just giving yourself permission to recognize the struggles and the successes will be an encouragement to you to stay the course. During this transition be encouraged as you set goals with your child to create success.


When Your Little One Refuses the Potty

Potty training regression is a challenge many children may experience, and there are ways to manage regression. Consider all of the life-events that may be affecting your little one—the birth of a sibling? Starting childcare? These are important life events that can make it tough for kids to potty train too soon after, and they’re good reasons to hold off on potty training.

Tips For When Your Child Refuses to Potty Train

  1. Be patient with accidents and negative behavior. Accidents are bound to happen, and your disapproval could make a bad experience even worse toward this new change while your child is trying to learn.
  2. Remain neutral: Never use punishments or threats. If you get frustrated, take deep breaths together with your child and agree to try again later. Then go do something fun together—your child will learn you’re paying attention to how they feel about trying to use the potty in that moment.
  3. Consider your words and tone: It’s not just what we say but how we say it that matters when speaking to our children. Keep a positive tone, be encouraging and you’ll also be teaching good adaptation skills to stay positive and keep trying when anything seems hard or difficult. Never make statements that could leave your child feeling shame or embarrassed about their body and what they can control when it comes to using the potty. Persistent support and encouragement are the key!
  4. Praise your child for their successes, and tailor your words to their potty training personality. Some kids thrive on praise while others will feel pressured if you pour it on too heavily. You’re their parent and that makes you the expert on your child—use all of that wisdom with a dose of patience to find exactly what works for your child in this process.

Let Your Child Set the Pace of Potty Training

Give your child some control. Potty training requires physical, cognitive, and emotional maturity as its a big step for any child. Potty training refusal, and refusals in general are all about the natural need for feeling some sense of control (“Can I say no? Do I have to do this?”). Giving choices inside and outside of the bathroom always boosts cooperation.

Also, using Pull-Ups® training pants helps them feel like they’re in control of the process too—Pull-Ups® offer a solution that little hands can move up and down easily. They’re an important step in the journey to becoming independent.

If you’re sensing a power struggle—this means “take a step back.” Throughout all of their development, it’s important that your child feels in control of their own body and allow your child to learn at their own pace. No progress with the potty? Take a break for a few weeks if you need to.

You don’t always know what’s going on with your child’s digestive system: Boost fruits, veggies and water intake to keep their system running regularly. Constipation is the hidden enemy of potty training, and painful poops can trigger resistance. Healthy, fiber-rich food can help if you think your child might be constipated.

Keep it Fun with Games

Get creative! Try this game: Tell your Potty Partner that you have to go potty, and that you get to go first. They just may try to be the winner of the potty race!

Add some fun to potty training: Throw a potty party by making a sticker chart-- there are all kinds of incentives you can try to get your child excited for their potty training journey. There are also some great potty training games. Kids with all personalities enjoy them, but they’re especially great for kids who like to be on the move and having fun.

Our favorite potty training games include:

  • The Potty Training Race. A fun way to teach your child how to use the potty, The Potty Training Race is easy. Place the potty chair somewhere in the bathroom and then race to see who can sit down first. You can even put the potty chair in other rooms to mix it up.
  • Pull-Ups® Scavenger Hunt. The Pull-Ups® Scavenger Hunt let’s your curious child seek and find all the things that have to do with going to the potty such as toilet paper and soap. It’s also a great way to introduce Pulls-Ups® training pants — an important tool in the journey to becoming a Big Kid.
  • Can You Do What I Do? gameKids love to mimic their parents, and this easy potty training game invites them to do just that. You’ll guide your toddler through the steps of the potting process and ask them to copy you as you say, “Can you do what I do?” and your child responds, “I can do what you do!”
While having a toddler who refuses to use the potty can be frustrating, don’t give up hope. There are a lot of great ways to get them excited about becoming a “Big Kid” that uses the potty. And remember: They won’t refuse forever. Continue to be creative and know that every child’s journey to a successful potty is unique. To all my parents, you got this! Cheers to your family’s successful journey to potty training.

By Lakisa Ballard, MSN, RN, C-EFM, RNC-OB

Lakisa Ballard, MSN, RN, C-EFM, RNC-OB, is a Clinical Practice Specialist in Maryland. The information of this article has been prepared by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at


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