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How to Potty Train an Unwilling Child

by Brooke Julia

Potty training a child is no walk in the park. Add unwillingness on the part of your little tyke to the mix and you've got a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, potty training doesn't have to be a source of stress and misery, not to mention soiled carpeting. All it takes is a combination of timing and consistent, compassionate training. Pretty soon you'll be able to toss those diapers out the door.

Make sure you're both ready. This is a crucial step in potty training, says McKenzie Pediatrics. In fact, your child may be resisting you simply because he isn't mentally, or even physically, prepared to begin toilet training. Refusal is quite often the result of a power struggle between parent and child, meaning the more you try to push the issue, the worse the results are going to be. Potty training should instead be a natural, unforced step into maturity that rewards both of you.

Buy potty training equipment. You may choose a potty chair, or a potty seat that fits over your existing toilet. BabyCenter actually discourages buying chairs or seats with built-in splash guards for boys, saying the cup can irritate their boy parts and make them reluctant to use the potty. If you choose to go with a seat, also buy a safe stepping stool so your son can easily reach the toilet when he needs to go. When you begin making progress, buy training pants or underwear instead of diapers. Let your little one choose his own underpants in the store, preferably with cartoon characters or designs he likes.

Let your child sit on the potty seat or chair a few times a day, fully clothed, says Dr. Spock. This gets him used to the idea of the seat and keeps it from being something foreign or frightening. Once he seems comfortable with this, suggest he begin using the potty the way grown-ups do. If you aren't shy, demonstrating by letting your little one come into the bathroom while you're using it can be a useful way to get him to understand what he should do. Then let him sit on the potty bare-bottomed at routine times during the day, such as after eating or after a nap. Never force or imprison your child on the potty. If he goes in his training pants or underwear, matter-of-factly put the poop in the potty and explain that's where it goes from now on.

Encourage him to eliminate into the potty several times a day, if he seems ready and interested. Praise your child for his successes, even offering him little treats as a reward. Just don't overdo it, warns Dr. Spock, for children at this age don't want to follow rules too closely. They want a certain amount of autonomy. Also, try not to criticize accidents, even when they may present a worn and frazzled parent with extra work to do. Keep placing accidents into the potty. In fact, encourage your child's caregivers, like the people at his daycare or his nanny, to use the same routines. Consistency increases success.

Embark on night training when your little one has been clean and dry all day for some time. Let him wear diapers or training pants at night but encourage him to get up in the middle of the night if he has to go to the bathroom. You may want to place his potty chair by his bed and leave a night light on to make things easier, suggests BabyCenter. Don't get discouraged if he continues to have the occasional accident. A child's bladder control won't fully mature until he's school-aged. Once he begins staying dry at night, you may choose to get rid of the diapers and training pants and instead use a plastic sheet under the fitted sheet on his bed.

Items you will need
  • Potty chair or seat
  • Stepping stool
  • Training pants

Tips

  • Don't push or force your child. This is more likely to further delay training.
  • Remember to add hand-washing to the potty routine.
  • Boys typically take a little longer to train than girls do. Be patient.
  • If things aren't going well, don't struggle with your child. Wait a few weeks and try again. Sometimes it's all about timing.

Warning

  • Refusal isn't always to blame for delayed potty training. McKenzie Pediatrics defines a true delay in potty training as being when the child is 3 years old or older, has been trying for three months or longer and is otherwise normally healthy. If your child is truly trying to potty train but has consistent accidents, pain when peeing, constantly damp underwear, or recurrent diarrhea or constipation, it's time to see your pediatrician.

About the Author

Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images