Common Potty Training Problems and How To Avoid

Apr 2, 2020
Common Potty Training Problems and How To Avoid

Wouldn’t it be nice if parenting was made up of all giggles and sweet baby coos? It’s one part of parenting reality that makes it worth it for the other adventures that come into play, such as potty training. Sooner or later you’ll be asking yourself, “When do I start potty training?” It is the time in every child’s life when they must move on to training pants and beyond, which can be a struggle for some. There are no surefire toilet training tricks, but there are plenty of helpful tips from parents who’ve been there before to try with your little one and make the situation as stress-free as possible. 

If you’re taking this big step in your toddler’s life and feel like you’re the only one facing certain problems, you’re not alone. Every parent has been there. While it may seem frustrating (and sometimes, downright ridiculous) at the time, the potty training period will pass, and you and your child will feel happy you’ve reached the next stage in their growth. 

With every problem that comes along, there’s a solution that will take you one step closer to having a fully potty-trained child. Here are a few of the most common potty training problems and how to handle them. 

Your Child Seems Unsure or Scared to Use the Potty 

As a parent you’ll be overwhelmed by all the questions, like how to dispose of diapers. Change can be hard for anyone, old or young. It’s not too different for a toddler who is learning about using the toilet for the first time when all they’ve been familiar with is diapers. Even if they understand the general concept of why people use the toilet, it makes sense to walk through what it means to go on the potty and why. By explaining to them in simple terms the purpose of potty training, it can help them to understand its importance and value. 

Additionally, consider why your child may be scared to use the potty. Are they nervous about being by themselves? Are they comfortably able to situate themselves on the toilet? Even if you’re standing by them initially, reassure them that you’ll be with there throughout the entire process and give them praise when they do a good job. 

Opening up the conversation and allowing your toddler to ask questions is part of potty training 101. They’ll want to know when, where, why, and how every step of the way. The discovery part is what gets them familiar with their new normal. 

Your Child Hates to Use the Toilet

For parents and children that have a tougher time of tackling potty-training, it may cause a child to resort back to what they know and are comfortable with - diapers. If they simply hate to use the toilet, offer an incentive like a coin in the piggy bank or special treat they’ll receive every time they use the potty properly. Acknowledging the progress with a penny or sticker to mark their latest achievement is a small way to show that they are on the right track.

In addition to incentives, when your toddler is learning how to potty train, make bathroom time as short and sweet as possible. If they don’t like being there in the first place, don’t draw the process out too much. Get in, get out, and get on with the next fun thing. When they start to realize how easy going potty on their own is, it won’t seem like such a monumental part of their day. They’ll become more used to why they’re there, and the quicker they go, the quicker they can leave and get back to playing. 

Your Child Is Only Comfortable Potty Training with You

This makes sense if you’re the primary person that’s helping them potty train, but can be challenging if your child goes to daycare or is looked after by someone else. When first starting, you’ll want them to feel supported that you’re there. However, over time, allow them to become more independent by going potty on their own. Then, when they’re in other situations, they’ll feel more confident being by themselves or taking the help of others they are familiar with and trust.

This level of comfort may take longer to overcome than other potty training problems depending on how well your child interacts and can communicate with others. Be patient and explain to people who are around your child often that they’re in the middle of potty training and what some of the concerns are. 

Once your child is comfortable with going to the potty on their own, usually they’ll take anyone who wants to stand watch and be with them until they’re done.

Your Child “Holds It” Until After They’re Off the Toilet

A part of your child getting older requires them learning about bowel control. It’ll take time for them to get used to relaxing their muscles and feel assured they can go in the toilet and not wait for a diaper like they’re used to. Encourage your toddler to tell you when they have to go. That way you can get to the toilet as soon as possible. When they can signal that it’s time to head to the bathroom, that’s the first step in the right direction.

It’s common for children to think they have to go and have it be a “false alarm” only to have to use the bathroom moments later. This is a common occurrence and comes with the joys of parenthood and potty training. However, you want your child to have bowel movements. If you feel like your child is constantly holding it in make sure you teach them that it isn’t good for them to hold in their pee or poo. The last thing you want as parents is to have to make a trip to the pediatrician due to bladder or constipation issues. Something as simple as a visit to your trusted children’s hospital can make your child even more fearful of using the toilet. 

Continue affirming that the potty is meant for them to use in place of their diaper, and the bathroom is a place they're allowed to go. Reassuring and affirming your children with positive reinforcement is all part of the potty training process.  

Your Child Urinates When Sleeping

Getting your toddler to communicate with you during the day is a challenge, but getting them to stay dry throughout the night is another problem altogether because of the long span of time. One way to prevent your child from urinating in bed is by avoiding any liquids well before it’s time to say goodnight. Have your toddler use the potty immediately before climbing under the covers and encourage them to use the bathroom as soon as they get up in the morning. This routine will help them get accustomed to being toilet trained.  

Some parents like to transition the nighttime potty training routine by allowing their kids to wear disposable training pants. This gives your child more autonomy over their bathroom habits and helps when accidents happen, which is normal. 

When they’re able to sleep through the night without incident, graduate them to underwear. Make it fun and get them a pair they’ve picked out themselves to make the occasion feel more special. Staying dry throughout the night is definitely something to celebrate.

Your Child Has an Accident Even After Conquering Potty Training

While it’d be nice if kids came potty-trained, it takes time for them to get used to being without diapers. Once they’ve had ongoing success, you’ll feel a weight has been lifted as they’ve achieved this milestone in their young lives. However, it doesn’t mean you won’t face accidents down the road. 

Maybe you’ll be at the playground or a friend’s house for a playdate, and they’ll pee in their pants rather than using the toilet. It happens. Sometimes when kids get too distracted or simply don’t want to stop because they’re having too much fun, they’ll forgo using the potty. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed, but remind them that accidents happen. Then, go through the steps of what they should do next time to avoid it from occurring again. 

If you know that you’ll be away from your home for several hours, make sure to check-in with your child by asking if they have to go. When they’re in a new place, their regular at-home habits may be temporarily forgotten. A gentle reminder is sometimes all they need to stay on track. As a parent, you don’t want your child to to do anything drastic, like holding it in. Then you’ll be posed with the question of what to do when your child holds their poop?

Potty Training Problems Solved

There’s no set time that’s best for kids to start potty training. It’s typical to start between two and three years old. Some kids take a few weeks to get the hang of it, while others take months. Identify where your child’s struggles are and give them the guidance and reassurance they need to achieve potty training success. Don’t feel discouraged if your child doesn’t take to it right away or if you have another child who was able to catch on sooner. As we know, kids have their own personalities and times of when and how they do things. 

Ease yourself into the potty training phase and give you and your child space and time they need to take care of business. There’s no magic answer or “best” way to potty train a toddler. But once you’ve completed this milestone, you’ll be able to look forward to other fun things ahead and the many ways your child will demonstrate their independence. 

We hope these potty training tips make your's and child's life a bit easier when transitioning to the toilet seat. However, what may first seem like a more arduous task may quickly turn into a bittersweet moment as you realize just how fast your baby is growing up.



We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.