Our Best Tips for a Reluctant Potty-Training Toddler

If you’re feeling the pressure of a reluctant potty-training toddler, we feel you. It seems we are inundated with toddlers who were super easy to potty train or are using the toilet by the time they are two. But that is not every kid, and it is ok if that is not your kid. I am sharing tips on how to help a reluctant potty-training toddler get over that hump and put on underwear every day!

1. Wait

I know you’re not going to want to hear my first tip, mama, but here it is. Wait to potty train. Then re-evaluate your options, and then wait some more. There is no trophy for you OR your child if they are fully potty trained before the age of 2. Attempting to potty train too early sets you up for the battle of wills (assuming your child is not yet interested), and I promise you: this is one battle your toddler will win.

Your toddler will be frustrated, and you will be frustrated. More importantly, though, children who begin potty training too early typically struggle with accidents for far longer than kiddos who were ready. Sure, your friend on Instagram may be doing elimination communication with her two-month-old, but if that isn’t something you are interested in, YOU DON’T NEED THAT NEGATIVITY IN YOUR LIFE. If your toddler is really digging in her heels about potty training, remember that strong will may lead her to be CEO one day. And tell yourself this battle is not worth fighting.

little girl on toddler potty

Photo credit: @stephamberlynn

2. Make it as fun and stress-free as possible

When you really feel they are ready, make it a fun process. If being calm and flexible and singing ridiculous songs is not your natural go-to as a parent, this might be a little bit harder for you. But the payoff will be worth it!! Enlist the help of some of your child’s favorite characters – Elmo, Daniel Tiger, and Cocomelon all have potty training songs and videos for toddlers. Find them. Learn them. Sing them. Watch them.

For boys, you can add a few drops of food coloring to the toilet water and let him watch the colors change as he urinates. Or, you can add something to the toilet for your little boy to “aim” at. Cheerios work great for this purpose! Make potty training feel like a fun new thing to do.

Similarly, when you’re fairly certain your child is ready to potty train, make sure there’s nothing on your calendar and you’re not in the middle of major life transitions (moving, new school, new baby, etc.). Plan to stay at home for a few days – this is not the time to rush your child.

Be okay with sitting in the bathroom for hours on end. If your child doesn’t make it to the bathroom in time, just calmly clean him up rather than scolding him. Act like you don’t even care. Potty training shouldn’t be stressful – for you or your child.

3. Give them control

During potty training, give your child as much control as possible over the process (and the rest of their day!). Involve your child in the potty-training decisions that you’re making.

They can help with decisions like:

  • Which potty seat does she want?
  • What color/character underwear does she want?
  • What kind of reward would be a good incentive for successful potty trips?

You can also offer choices during the rest of your day, when potty training isn’t the focus. What game would she like to play? Would she like a sandwich or pasta for lunch? Allowing your child, a sense of control can greatly decrease her anxiety about potty training and increase compliance.

Trying new things is hard, for adults and children alike. Make it easier on your kiddo by giving her a say!

Little boy flushing toddler potty
Photo Credit: @sincerelymamamalak

4. Pull-ups at night only

Finally, and there is much debate about this, so you do you. But, in my experience, pull-ups are NOT a friend to potty-training.

Overnight? Sure. Keep those pull-ups around. But during the day? They feel just like a diaper. If your child isn’t uncomfortable in a diaper, they absolutely won’t be uncomfortable in a pull-up. Therefore, they really have no incentive to make it to the toilet, which really just extends the time it takes to potty train your child. Most children, however, are uncomfortable sitting in a puddle, so they’re willing to try a bit harder to get to the potty.

Potty training is almost never a mama’s favorite season, but you CAN do it. Potty training is just that – a season that is fleeting. Just don't compare yourself (or your child) to your friends and your friends’ children. Potty training is in no way a measure of your success or failure as a parent. And for the love of your sanity, DO NOT watch those Instagram stories about potty-training newborns.

A note: if you are genuinely concerned about your child’s lack of interest in potty training, please consult your pediatrician. Constipation, developmental delays, and anxiety are all possible reasons your child may not be potty-trained yet.

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