potty training problems

When potty training problems make you want to quit

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You put your heart and soul into getting that little bum on the toilet 999 times a day, you’d think potty training would be working after a few days. But it’s not. You’ve got potty training problems.

potty training problems

Instead of staying dry all day, things just keep getting worse for your potty training child. It might even feel like you are failing and you worry that they are never going to use the toilet like a normal person.

One of our kids really struggled with potty training. We tried everything.

  • Candy after every trip to the bathroom.
  • Lots of positive praise.
  • A fun potty dance.
  • Setting a timer every 15 minutes.
  • A day without pants and drinking all the juice possible.
  • Bribes for staying dry.
  • Brand new underwear.
  • A potty cake (like a birthday cake—only to celebrate potty training) after so many days of dry underwear.

We tried everything. It was brutal. We attempted potty training three different times. We felt like failures. But eventually, that kid decided it was time to potty train and it was smooth sailing from there.

Understanding potty training problems

There are a lot of different ways your child could struggle with potty training. Some kids train themselves to pee quite easily but hold in their poop for days. Other kids do the opposite.

It doesn’t really matter what the problem is, if your child has a parent who is patient and understanding, they’ll be fine.

Let’s talk about what you can do to be that patient and understanding parent when potty training problems crop up. Having some ideas about what you can expect and what you can do will help keep things from spiraling into a giant pile of poop. 😊

Potty training readiness

Right before our oldest son turned two, I had a frank conversation with our pediatrician. Our son was showing signs of potty training readiness, but I wasn’t sure if it was time to start potty training.

Thankfully, our pediatrician gave me a helpful tip. He mentioned that a lot of kids will show potty training readiness signs around age two. They’ll even dive into the potty training process with their parents, only to pull back and want their diapers again within just a few days.

This happened with our oldest, just like the pediatrician said. And because I knew what to expect, I was okay putting back on those diapers until he was ready. Don’t get your hopes up with the first try. Just think of it as good exposure to the potty.

Each child is different

One of our sons took to potty training like a fish to water. He decided one day that he was done with diapers, and it stuck. That day. It honestly took one day. We were amazed. And lucky. Really lucky. Because like I mentioned before, we had another child who really struggled.

There is a lot of interesting information rolling around the parenting world about potty training. Some parents start the process of potty training as early as 6 months, while others don’t even bother to try until after their child is three.

Some kids successfully “train” in just a few days while others take months to finally get it. Even in the same family, no two kids will potty train in the same way or at the same time.

Try to go into potty training without expectations. Your child will potty train when they are ready to potty train. If they are willing to try using the potty (and keep trying), it’s a pretty good indicator that they are ready and you can stick with the process.

It’s okay to go back to diapers

Potty training problems are not like other problems. When your child is having issues with potty training, it quickly becomes a problem for you. It’s not fun or convenient to clean up pee off from your carpet or wash your kid’s car seat yet again.

No parent wants to abandon potty training if there’s a chance that it could succeed. But if you aren’t in the frame of mind to handle constant accidents, it’s okay to go back to diapers until you are both ready.

Let them decide

Everyone has an opinion about when and how your child should potty train. It’s easy to feel the pressure as a parent. There are so many things that can put a “timeline” on your child’s toilet training. Things like:

  • Daycare or preschool requirements
  • Financial stress (a new baby joining the family and inability to pay for having two children in diapers)
  • Peer pressure (having family or friends with similar age children that have potty trained already)
  • Family pressure (mother or mother-in-law pressuring you to potty train your child)
  • Unrealistic expectations (“my child should be potty trained at 18 months”)

Don’t let outside factors put stress on you or your child. In fact, the best thing you can do for your toddler is to let them lead the way in this process.

Remember our kid who struggled with potty training? We tried and tried to push him to potty train so that he could start preschool. It was miserable. I was so worried that delaying potty training would delay preschool and our son would miss out on that important milestone.

After some serious effort and time spent trying to potty train, I realized that he just wasn’t ready. Thankfully, we lived close enough to his preschool that they made an exception. About halfway through the year he potty trained on his own timeline and that was much happier and easier than that first attempt.

Be flexible

It’s easy to get this idea in your mind of what potty training should look like. When we decided to potty train our twins, I had planned to only use the big adult-sized toilet. None of those silly potty chairs you must wash out constantly. I didn’t want to do it.

I pushed our twins to use the normal toilet. We hid the small potty-training toilet. Unfortunately, they didn’t really buy into my thinking. They didn’t love the big toilet. My daughter was scared of it.  

I realized that I’d have to get out that potty chair if I wanted them to potty train. So, I did. That was the turning point for her and things went really well after that. Being flexible in my expectations made her more willing to keep trying to potty train. And it didn’t take long before she figured out that normal toilet on her own.

Get your child invested

Sometimes we want our kids to be successful so badly, that we take over their responsibilities. We remind them to go potty every 2 minutes and clean up their little pee dribbles for them.

Unfortunately, your child can’t potty train unless they buy into this process. Sure, it’s great to remind them to go occasionally. But if you are reminding them every five minutes after they’ve been doing this awhile, I’m afraid you’ve just potty trained yourself.

When your child has an accident, let them clean it up. You don’t have to be mean or harsh but let them know that it’s their responsibility to clean up their messes. As they become more invested in the process, they’ll learn how to avoid mistakes and training will get easier.

Trust the process.

Every time I have gotten frustrated with the potty training process, I remind myself that everyone eventually learns to use the toilet.

Most kindergartners make it to school without diapers. Your child isn’t going to be wetting their pants forever. They will figure this out. Trust the process. Let them lead the way. Give them grace and always stay positive.

You’ve got this!

Need more tips for nighttime potty training? Read Six easy tips for potty training at night.

potty training problems

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