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.
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
Tips For When Your Child Refuses to Potty Train
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Tailor your approach to your child’s personality: If you’ve taken our Potty Personality Quiz, use the potty scripts for ideas on what to say to your resistant little trainer based on their personality.
Five Key Personality Traits
Hey mom or dad, you’re the expert on your little one; use the clues below to choose your child’s key personality traits, and then use that information to shape how you encourage and motivate your little one to try potty training:
- Eager-to-please kids are excited to learn about potty training, and they’ll want to understand the rules
- Shy kids will need some time to get used the idea of potty training before they actually try it
- High-energy kids are always on the move—slowing down to use the potty will seems like an interruption into their play time. Be ready with extra incentives and lots of fun and games to hold their interest while potty training
- Cautious kids like to follow directions and do things the right way. You can support these smart personalities by explaining all the steps in the process, with plenty of reassurances, throughout the process of potty training
- Free-spirited kids will need extra motivation. They’re generally much happier focusing on whatever currently has their attention than worrying about if they have a wet or dirty diaper
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? game. Kids 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!”
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 health4mom.org.