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What to do if potty training is not working

What to do if potty training is not working

#takingabreak Apr 27, 2022

You finally decide to take the plunge and get stuck into potty training your child. You buy a potty chair, get your house potty-proofed and plan for some focused days of potty training at home.

You do what you thought was right... only to receive complete and absolute resistance. And now you're thinking to yourself, 'where did I go wrong and what the heck do I do next?!"

Here are some of my top suggestions on what to do if your child has not yet been responsive to your potty training attempt.


Try figure out the reasons why.

Ask yourself whether your child is truly ready for potty training. This is less about your child's age, and more about whether or not they are showing the signs of readiness

It is possible that your child is not emotionally ready as there are two many other transitions and distractions going on at this point in time. For example, the introduction to a new sibling, teething, new school or home or if your child is currently going through another big transition like moving into a big bed, can all affect how your child handles potty training. 

It's also possible your expectations are not aligned with the reality of how long potty training can take. If you have gone into potty training with the expectation that your child will definitely be ready "within 1 weekend" it is very possible that your child will not meet this expectation, leading to disappointment and unnecessary stress.

There is no defined time range on how long it will take for a child to begin to understand why and how to use a potty.

Potty training is a highly individualized process as each child processes and learns differently, so it may take a little longer for your child to get the hang of it! the more practice and time at home with you, the better. 

Spend more time on preparation.

If you have been following me for some time, you will know that I am a huge believer in spending time introducing your child to toileting prior to potty training. Ideally you want to be doing this months before potty training to help introduce these new, unfamiliar concepts and try normalize and familiarize these for your child. Some ideas include: 

  • Spend some time reading books around toileting. 
  • Model behavior using your child's toys
  • Start changing your child's diaper in the bathroom to build on bathroom associations



If potty training hasn't worked out the way you had planned, relax and take a step back. Your child won't be wearing diapers forever and will get there in their own time! When it comes to getting your child to use a potty, pressurizing your child to do this will only lead to more resistance. Tell yourself, "I am a good parent and my child will get there in their own time."

Go back to spending some time introducing introducing toileting and making it a fun and playful exercise, and try again in a few weeks or months time. 

Get them involved

The resistance you may experience during potty training is often when your child is trying to maintain some level of control. And peeing and pooping is really one of the only things they have complete control over! This moment in your child’s life is where they are trying to assert their independence. They are discovering they have the ability to make decisions and have more autonomy over their bodies.

Giving your child the feeling of control will help to reduce resistance and will make them feel as though potty training is something you are doing with them as a team, instead of instructing them. This is key. 

Get your child involved in the process as much as possible!

  • Let them choose their own potty supplies.
  • Give them choice of toys they can play with on the potty.
  • Let them choose whether they want to use the potty or big toilet.
  • Let them choose what activities to do in the days you are spending time potty training them!

Giving your child the feeling of control will help to refuse resistance and power struggles.

Keep things consistent.

When it comes to potty training, consistency is key to helping your child effectively move through this huge transition in their lives! So having your caretaker network on the same page is important to building your child’s confidence and contributing to their success. 

Whether it be a grandparent, nanny or school teacher, let them know ahead of time when you are planning to potty train your child and the approach that you are using. This helps to ensure everyone is on the same page and the approach is consistent. 

Re-think your approach

Potty training is all about helping your child to look internally at their signals and urges of needing to go potty. Think about this for a second. 

When we use a toilet, it's mostly because our body has told us that it's time to release (or there may be certain situations where you know you won't have access to a toilet for some time, like a long car ride, in which case you may go before you leave!).

This is EXACTLY what we are trying to teach our children. We are trying to teach them to notice these signals and link this to action (pee and poop go inside a potty). 

It may be possible that your child has not yet been able to make that connection between urge and action and may need a new strategy to help them get them there. 

If you would like more help on structured days of potty training at home (including scripts!) be sure to check out my Online Course & Reward Game.


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