Potty training problems and solutions

Potty training problems and solutions

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If potty training isn't going smoothly, take heart: Many families encounter bumps in the road. Here are some of parents' most common challenges, along with suggestions on how to handle them.

My child won't use the toilet

Strange as it sounds, children sometimes refuse to use the toilet because they're afraid of it. Imagine the toilet from your child's point of view: It's big, hard, and cold. It makes loud noises, and things disappear into it, never to be seen again. From this vantage point, the toilet is something to steer clear of!

Try using a little potty chair to help your child get comfortable. Start by letting him know that it's his very own. Personalize it by writing his name on it or letting him decorate it with stickers. Let him sit on it fully clothed, put his teddy bear on it, and lug it around the house if he wants to.

To help him get more comfortable with the big toilet, empty his soiled diaper into the toilet, then let him flush his poop and watch it disappear. Reassure him that this is what's supposed to happen – roaring noises and all.

Maybe your child's unwillingness to use the toilet is simply his way of telling you that he wants to stay in diapers a while longer. Forcing the issue will only be counterproductive. If he genuinely seems uninterested in potty training now, give him a break and then watch for signs of readiness.

If your child exhibits all the signs of readiness but is still unwilling, something may be preventing him from focusing on potty training just now. Any big change – such as starting a new school, the arrival of a sibling, or moving to a new home – can make it hard for a child to focus on another challenge like potty training. Wait until your child has settled back into a comfortable routine before resuming training.

When I suggest using the toilet, my child says no or gets upset

Your child might resist potty training for the same reason she sometimes refuses to take a bath or go to bed: She's discovered that saying no is a way to exert power. The first thing to do is defuse the issue by backing off and letting her feel as though she's in charge of this project. These tips will help:

Resist reminding. Though it's hard not to intervene when you think an accident is imminent, too much reminding can make your child feel corralled and controlled. Instead of frequently repeating, "Don't you need to go potty?" simply put a potty chair in a central location and, whenever possible, let your child run around without a diaper so she can use it at the spur of the moment without your involvement.

Don't hover. Enforced potty sitting can sow the seeds of rebellion. ("Let's wait a little longer and see if anything comes out.") If your child sits for a moment, then jumps up to play, let her go. The result may be an accident, but it's just as likely that she'll hop back on the potty when she feels the need.

Be calm about accidents. It's not easy to stay calm in the face of a yucky mess, but overreacting to accidents can make your child fearful about having them, which in turn may stir up anxiety about the whole process. Be reassuring when your child wets her pants, and do whatever you need to do for your own peace of mind, whether it's putting away a favorite rug or spreading out layers of towels.

No matter how frustrated you get, don't punish your child for having an accident. It's not fair to her, and it can lead to long-term resistance.

Reward good behavior. Break the resistance cycle by praising your child's efforts. Celebrate when she first gets something into the potty and make a big deal out of the first time she stays dry all day. (But don't make a big deal of every potty trip, as the glare of the spotlight could make your child nervous and skittish.)

Don't wait until she goes potty to compliment her, either. Tell her now and then how nice it is that she has dry underpants (or a dry diaper). This will give you many more opportunities to encourage her over the course of the day.

My child isn't having bowel movements on the potty

It's common for children to pee in the potty easily but resist using it for bowel movements. Most likely your child is fearful of making a mess – maybe he had a bowel movement accident at preschool and people overreacted, or maybe he witnessed another child having such an accident. Helping him go and then heaping him with praise can go a long way toward overcoming his fear.

If your child has bowel movements fairly regularly, make a note of the times – right after he wakes up from his nap, for example, or 20 minutes after lunch – and try to make sure he's near a potty then. Get his daycare provider or preschool teacher in on the plan too.

However, if your child remains just too anxious about it right now, try an interim solution: Suggest that he ask you to put a diaper on him when he thinks he's about to poop.

Ease anxiety by talking with your child about his body's functions, making sure he understands that they're natural and universal. A great tool for this is the delightful book Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi.

My child is constipated

If your child is constipated, she may refuse to use the toilet. If so, the pain she feels when she tries to poop may heighten any discomfort she has about using the potty in the first place.

This creates a vicious cycle: She withholds poop, which makes the constipation worse, and then it's painful when she finally goes, so she fears using the potty.

Fiber-rich foods such as whole grain breads, broccoli, and cereal can help keep your child regular. How much fiber your child needs is based on how many calories she needs each day – the Institute of Medicine says both kids and adults should aim for about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. This works out to about 19 grams of fiber for children ages 1 to 3, and about 25 grams for ages 4 to 8.

Just a few servings of whole grains daily ensures your child gets all the fiber she needs. A slice of whole grain bread, 1/2 cup of rice or pasta, and a cup of cooked cereal would make up a day's worth of grains for a 2- to 3-year-old.

It's also best if your child eats fiber throughout the day, rather than all at once. High-fiber fruits such as prunes, apricots, plums, and raisins are helpful, as is cutting back on foods with less fiber, such as white rice, bananas, and cereals without added fiber.

Make sure your child is getting enough fluids too. Water and prune juice are good choices. Physical activity also helps to get the bowels moving.

And be careful not to give her too many dairy products, which can make constipation worse. If nothing else helps, ask your child's healthcare provider about using laxatives or stool softeners.

My child won't use the toilet at daycare or school

Start by finding out everything you can about the program's bathroom routine. Some part of the procedure may be confusing your child. For example, the teacher might take the kids in groups while your child wants privacy.

If this is the case, ask if it's possible to modify the routine. Perhaps a teacher can take your child separately, or allow him to go with his best buddy.

Or maybe it's the toilet itself. If your child is having trouble switching from a potty chair at home to a built-in toilet at the center or school, you might want to buy a second potty chair for the center's bathroom.

My child was toilet trained, but started having accidents again

Seemingly small changes – going from a crib to a bed or starting a swim class – can throw off a child's equilibrium, making her long for the familiar. And if she learned to use the toilet quite recently, the familiar might mean diapers.

Be careful not to make her feel bad or ashamed. You don't want to push her toward potty training if she's reluctant. At the same time, try to find ways to make her feel like a big girl and reinforce any steps she takes toward independence.

Choose a relaxed moment to talk, letting your child know that you think she's old enough to be in charge of learning to use the toilet. Then lay off the subject for a while.

When she starts trying to learn again, use incentives to encourage her. Place a shiny star on a calendar each day your child uses the toilet, or reward dry days with an extra bedtime story or an after-dinner walk to the park.

(Avoid using candy as a reward. She's likely to focus solely on the sweets, which may trigger temper tantrums. Besides, you don't want to teach your child that eating sweets is the way to reward or console herself.)

However, if your child asks directly for a return to diapers, don't make it an issue. Put her back in diapers for a few weeks, or until she shows interest in using the toilet again.

Watch the video: How to Handle Bed Wetting When Potty Training (July 2022).


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