Solutions to Typical Issues Parents Have While Potty Training

Photo by ToddMorris

Photo by ToddMorris

Potty training is easily one of the most talked about events in the life of a toddler, yet it is often cause for great concern and stress among parents. Despite the hundreds of books and videos telling you the “simple” way to potty train your child, the majority of children learn to use the toilet without much difficulty when they are truly ready to train. However, some parents and toddlers find overcoming this milestone to be quite challenging. If you find yourself or your child in that group, here are a few typical issues that you might be facing and some workable solutions to them.

My child does not seem to care if his diaper or pants are wet.
It is very rare for a child to simply decide on his own that he does not like the feeling of a wet diaper. After all, this is what he has known from infancy, and changing that attitude takes time. You can frequently suggest with words and actions that he might feel better if his diaper was dry. Slowly he will come around when he is ready. If your child is in underpants and has frequent accidents but does not seem bothered by this, it might be a defense mechanism that he has created so that he will not feel bad about wetting himself. By pretending it did not happen, he might be hoping it will go away. However, it could also be a sign he is not emotionally ready for underpants.

My child is afraid to use the toilet, especially outside of the home.
Toilets seem huge to a small child. In the home it is easy enough to use toilet seat inserts with fun and colorful characters. However, venturing out into the public can be worrisome for parents, caregivers and the child. They do make foldable inserts that can be placed into a diaper bag or a large purse. However, while your child is training, the best thing you can do is be right by her side while she faces the scary task of going potty on a big toilet. If auto-flush toilets are the culprit of your child’s fear, you can assist her by placing your hand or a sticky note over the sensor. This will stop the auto-flush until your child can safely get off of the potty. With practice, this frightening task will get easier.

My child just can’t make it all the way to the potty.
Children tend to play hard and will often wait until the very last minute to run to the toilet. Because of this, they will often not make it to the bathroom in time. When a child has just recently been potty trained, or you notice this is happening more often, you should frequently remind your child to stop and think about if she has to use the toilet. If it is a real problem, set a timer for every 20 minutes and ask your child to stand up and listen to her body when the timer goes off. There is no need to make her try to use the potty every 20 minutes, as that will not help train her body to hold urine. However, asking her to stand still will help him to feel if she needs to go.

My child just won’t poop on the toilet.
It is very common for children, especially boys, to learn to pee on the toilet before they learn to poop there. Pooping into the toilet tends to be a very private event and usually takes longer to master than peeing into it. You can help the experience by making the bathroom a fun place for him to be. Put some of his favorite books in a basket or purchase a special toy or two for him to use only while he is pooping. It might help him if you sit with him for a little while, however often what children need is time alone in the bathroom.

My child is completely potty trained while he is awake, but still pees while he is asleep.
Most children will not sleep potty train at the same time as they will day potty train. During the day, it is easy to feel the sensations the body gives telling you it is time to go. However, at night those same sensations are slower to be felt because a lot of children sleep very soundly. If this is an ongoing problem, you should talk to your doctor. She will look for other symptoms that might suggest a bigger problem. Most likely time is all that is needed. Many children are not able to feel this sensation at night until they are around 8 years of age. Use nighttime underpants and covers to protect the mattress, and under no circumstances should you make your child to feel guilty about his accidents. There is nothing he can do differently to stop them, and the more guilty he feels the more frequent these accidents will happen. This does not mean that you cannot talk to your child about the night wetting. It simply means that you should stay positive and focused on the fact that someday he will be able to stay dry. Until then, he can use the tools to protect his bed, blankets and stuffed animals.

My child seems to have to go every 20 minutes when we are out or in the car.
There are a few things you can do to help both your child and yourself in this situation. The first is to be sure to go potty just before you get in the car and when you make stops.  The second is to limit drinks while traveling and to stick with water. This will cut down on the child’s physical need to go. You can also consider using disposable underpants for traveling, especially during long distances. Be sure to bring extra sets of clothing if you have found this to be a problem. To help your child build up a tolerance, start with shorter trips or more frequent stops. Ask your child to wait five minutes. If she can do that, next time ask her to wait 10. If your child has to go every 20 minutes or less all the time, it is likely that her body is not yet ready for potty training.

While potty training is a big milestone in your child’s life, it does not have to be a stressful one. Don’t push or shame your child into using the toilet, but instead encourage and celebrate the victories, no matter how small.


Reprinted with permission from GoNannies.

Marcia Hall has been working with children and families as a Certified Professional Nanny and an ACPI Certified Coach for Families since 1996. In 2011, she was named the International Nanny Association’s Nanny of the Year. 

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