9 Common Potty Training Hurdles & How to Overcome Them

potty trainingThink your not-so-little one is ready to make the leap from diapers to a potty? Good for him! But moms and dads should know that potty training typically doesn't come without its share of challenges.

To help parents make the transition from diapers to potty as smooth as possible, we talked to top experts on how they can overcome the 9 most common potty training hurdles.


Hurdle #1: I'm not sure if my child is ready for potty training.

Here's Help: The first thing is to gauge your child. Do they seem interested? Can they follow directions? Are they capable of sitting still for a period of time? If yes, it's a good idea to make sure your child is able to put on and take off a pair of loose underwear all by themselves, which typically happens after age 2. "You want them to be able to handle practically everything by themselves," says Jane Morton, MD, an adjunct clinical professor of pediatrics for Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and Stanford University School of Medicine. "Parents want to get into it when it's going to be an easy process, not a confusing or traumatic one." It's also worth keeping in mind that typically girls are ready for potty training before boys.  

Hurdle #2: I don't know how to broach the subject of potty training with my toddler.

Here's Help: The key is to not force anything on our little ones. "Start telling your child when you go to the bathroom," says Helen F. Neville, BS RN, and author of Mommy! I Have to Go Potty. "Point and say, 'I feel that the pee wants to come out.' Don't expect kids to magically know. Give them info without pressure." Make it fun -- let your child pick out a pair of cool underwear before training and get them excited about it. "Wait until they're begging to wear the 'big boy' underwear," Dr. Morton explains. "You want to make it like Christmas for them."

Hurdle #3: My child has regressed and won't use the potty anymore.

Here's Help: First, take solace in knowing that you're not alone! It's incredibly common for children to use the potty and then stop. This is particularly true if you've trained them near the birth of a sibling -- they'll be destined to fail. "If your child pees in their underwear, simply say, 'That’s okay, we’ll put your diapers back on and do it when you're ready,'" Dr. Morton says. Don't make it a big deal; treat it as if it's perfectly normal.

Hurdle #4: My child will use the potty at daycare but not at home.

Here's Help: Again, common. Kids do what they see other kids doing. They want to be like their peers. If your toddler uses the potty at daycare but seems to have difficulty doing so at home, try setting up a routine for them, so they know when it's "potty time."

Hurdle #5: My child uses the potty but keeps having accidents.

Here's Help: Look at the frequency of when and where your child's accidents are happening. If they always seems to occur when he's waiting to be picked up from daycare or in the car ride home, a routine bathroom trip around that time is in order.  

Hurdle #6: My child is potty trained, but he keeps urinating in his sleep.

Here's Help: Nighttime dryness usually comes years after potty training, as it's a whole 'nother beast. Wetting at night is common until kids are around 6 or 7. Some strategies: Wake your kids and take them to the bathroom before you go to sleep; put a potty chair beside your child's bed; or try an alarm system (a noise sounds when the child wets the bed). How you choose to handle bed-wetting is up to you, but Dr. Morton urges parents "not to make nighttime dryness part of the initial [potty training] deal."

Hurdle #7: My child seems to always go to the bathroom right after I take him off the potty.

Here's Help: Who can poop when they're all tensed up?! When you think your child has to go, don't pick him up and rush him to the toilet like a lunatic; chances are he won't go. You want your little one to be comfortable and relaxed. "Get a nice long story book ready," Neville suggests.

Hurdle #8: My child gets upset when I suggest using the potty.

Here's Help: Stop pressuring them because they're likely not ready. "You don’t want to demean the child or make it a control thing between parents and kids," says Dr. Morton. "Parents who get into 'you have to' are choosing the wrong battle and one they'll lose for sure."

Hurdle #9: I'm confused about whether or not I should "reward" my child for using the potty.

Here's Help: It's best not to, as that can result in the child trying to control the parent (and the stickers or M&M's) as opposed to wanting to control themselves. Dr. Morton says, "The reward is getting to wear the big boy underwear." You want your little one to be excited about their new-found sense of independence, not the shiny new toy they just got.

What did you struggle with when potty training your child? What strategies worked for you?


Image via Corbis

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