Understanding when your child is ready to toilet train plus advice from experienced parents who share their tips to help you potty train your resistant, stubborn child.
When it comes to potty training, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Some toddlers take to it like a duck to water, while others can be more stubborn (read: resistant) about the whole process.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about potty training your toddler – or if your little one is taking their sweet time learning – don’t worry! You’re not alone. Thousands of parents have gone through (and survived) the potty training process.
When should you start potty training? What type of toilet should you use? How do you know if your child is ready to start potty training? These are all common questions that parents ask when they’re getting ready to potty train their toddlers.
In this blog post, we’ll be going over techniques to help stubborn kids potty train plus sharing tips from parents who have successfully potty trained their stubborn toddlers.
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When should you begin potty training?
So, when is the best time to start potty training? There’s no definitive answer – it depends on your child’s readiness. Some toddlers are ready as young as 18 months, while others may not be ready until they’re closer to three years old.
The important thing is to be patient and wait until your child is ready. Toilet training a toddler who isn’t ready will only lead to frustration for both you and your child.
Signs your toddler is ready to potty train
There are several signs of readiness that indicate it is the right time to start potty training.
- Shows signs of interest in the toilet: Have they started watching you using the bathroom? Asking questions about what you are doing or just paying close attention?
- Can stay dry for long periods of time: If they tell you when they need to use the bathroom, and if they can control their bladder and bowels, then they may be ready to start potty training. This is a sign that their bladder control is increasing, which is necessary for potty training.
- Complaints about being wet or dirty: Recognizing the discomfort of a dirty diaper and asking to be changed is a huge sign your little one is ready to start potty training.
- Tells you when they need to go: Whether they can use words or hand signals, the ability to communicate with you is necessary for potty training.
- Can pull their pants up and down independently: This is really important! If they can’t get their pants up and down by themselves, how can they possibly be expected to use the restroom on their own? If they’re not quite there yet, I highly recommend only wearing elastic waist bottoms. Anything that is easy up and down and doesn’t have a zipper. This will make for easier training and fewer messes to clean.
- Hiding or finding privacy to go to the bathroom: Has your little one suddenly started disappearing and then reappearing with a dirty diaper? This is a great sign! First off, it shows that your toddler now recognizes that they need to go to the bathroom. Next, it shows that they understand going to the bathroom is something that is done in private.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most imperative signs are:
- Being able to sense the urge/need to go to the bathroom
- Understand what that feeling means
- Being able to tell you that they are experiencing that feeling and understanding that they need to get to a toilet
If your child does not meet those three criteria, then it is probably best to wait on potty training.
If your child is demonstrating most – if not all – of these signs, it may be time to start potty training.
How to deal with the pressure to potty train early
We all have that friend. The friend with the perfectly well-behaved kids, who always look like they walked off of a Gymboree catalog and they were, of course, EASILY, potty trained by the time they were 18 months.
And that’s great for them. But it’s not realistic for everyone. There are different factors that influence toddlers’ abilities to potty train, and as we all know, no two kids are alike.
So, if you’re feeling the pressure to potty train your toddler early, don’t worry. You are not alone. Here are some helpful tips from other parents who have successfully potty trained their toddlers:
Start when they’re ready: This is probably the most important piece of advice that I can give. Some kids are ready as early as 18 months, while others aren’t ready until they’re closer to three years old. If your child isn’t showing any interest in potty training or is resistant to it, then you may want to wait a little bit longer.
Take it slow: There’s no need to rush the process. Potty training can be fun. You can make it a game and turn it into a positive experience for your child.
Encourage them: If you’re feeling the pressure to potty train, chances are that your toddler is too. Praise them when they do well and let them know how proud you are of all their efforts.
What type of potty training toilet should you use?
When it comes time to start potty training, there are a few different types of toilets that you can choose from. Here are the most popular options:
All of these options have their pros and cons, which we will discuss below. The best option for your toddler depends on several factors, including your preferences as a parent (Do you want them to sit on a traditional toilet? Do you have the space for a step stool?), as well as your child’s readiness and personality.
THE TRADITIONAL TOILET & POTTY SEAT:
If your toddler is ready to start potty training, this is probably the best option for them. It will give them the most independence, as they will be able to use the toilet just like you do. The only downside is that sitting on a regular toilet seat can be scary at first, but this fear can quickly go away with practice and positive reinforcement from parents.
When I potty trained my oldest, we switched his bathroom toilet seat out for a seat that had a built-in potty training seat. It was amazing and the cost is pretty comparable to getting a traditional chair, plus you don’t have any extra cleanup. I highly recommend this option!
However, there are some drawbacks to using traditional toilets and potty seats for potty training your toddler:
It can be scary. This option may not work very well for children who are scared of toilets and flushing. It’s important that your child feels comfortable using the toilet before you start potty training them on it so they don’t fear going to the bathroom in general. Try a traditional potty chair first or even just let them sit on the toilet with you.
It can be difficult to find a potty seat that fits well. It’s important to invest in a good quality potty seat for your toddler, but it can be hard finding one that actually fits their size and shape comfortably. It’s very easy to end up with pee everywhere, especially if you are potty training a boy.
A STEP STOOL TO REACH THE TOILET:
If your child is ready for potty training but isn’t quite big enough to sit on a regular toilet seat, you’ll need a stool. A good quality step stool will last throughout the potty training years and can also be used for reaching things in high places. Plus, it also gives them a sense of independence, as they can now reach the toilet on their own.
The downside to using a step stool is that it can be cumbersome and takes up extra space in your bathroom.
THE POTTY TRAINING CHAIR:
This is a great option for toddlers who are scared of toilets or don’t feel comfortable sitting on a regular toilet seat. You can move it around the house and let them use it wherever they are comfortable or leave it on the bathroom floor. Plus, it comes in a variety of fun colors and designs to appeal to your child’s personality.
A major advantage of the potty chair is that it is mobile. When potty training my daughter, I brought our chair with us whenever we left the house. I had her use it before or after we left each store. That way she could confidently be in her big girl undies and be accident-free. I did have an SUV, so this may not work for everyone, but if you can do it, I highly recommend it.
The downside to using a potty training chair is that it can be messy. If your child isn’t careful, they can easily splash their pee all over the place. It also takes up more space than a step stool does.
Should I use a reward system to potty train?
Should I or shouldn’t I? This is a common question among parents. Once again, when it comes to potty training, there is no right or wrong answer. Using a reward chart or sticker charts for stubborn kids is a great option and a great way to give little ones the incentive they need to do something they may not want to do. For me, I absolutely used rewards, and bribery when I had to. Desperate times call for desperate measures!
Here’s what I did: My daughter was very motivated by a sticker chart (it took her about two months to fill up the first one). Every time she successfully went on her potty, she got a sticker.
After filling up the first potty chart, we moved on to another and then another. When she filled up the first chart, she got a prize of her choosing.
Here are some ideas for rewards to help motivate stubborn boys and girls to use the potty:
- Small treats
- Going out for ice cream
- Trip to indoor play place
- Small toy
- Extra screen time
- Big kid underwear…this is always a favorite for little ones
Potty Training Strategies for your Stubborn Child
So, your little one has displayed all the signs. You got the toilet seat and you bought the books and the big kid undies. And after all that work, your stubborn toddler still refuses to potty train! What now?
If nothing has been working it’s time to stop and take a step back from what you’ve been doing and start fresh. Let’s take a look at some important techniques that will help you help your little one successfully use the potty.
- Stop the Power Struggle – Potty training is a balancing act and you need to find just the right balance. You want your child to do something and your child does not want to do it. Frustration sets in because neither of you is getting what you want and it makes you and your child angry. Instead of continuing with the frustration, LET IT GO! You and your child are both fighting to be in control of the situation, and neither of you is going to win. All this will lead to more frustration, so just step back, and pick your battles. The world is not going to end because he isn’t potty trained within a certain timeframe.
- Make Using the Toilet Convenient – When I was toilet training my youngest son (who was my most stubborn) I discovered that the reason he continued to go in his underwear was that he didn’t want to stop playing to use the toilet. To help avoid this, place your potty chair in the room he is playing in. During outdoor play, if you are potty training a boy, let him know he can go outside in the bushes. This was a major win for me with both my boys. They were resistant to the toilet but loved to go outside.
- Use Incentives your Child Picks – Let your child know that he will be rewarded for staying dry. Sit down and talk and find out what kinds of rewards he really wants. Use the potty training chart to keep track of how he stays accident-free and talk about the reward on a daily basis while continuing to praise him for doing his best.
Potty Training Tips from Moms Who’ve Been in your shoes
Let’s hear from some moms who have been there and understand that everyone’s potty training journey is different:
Gale from Me Plus Them says, “Start on your day off. Switch to big kids’ underwear and don’t look back. Pull-ups don’t work. Take them every 30 minutes, and set a timer on your phone. Sing songs, the itsy bitsy spider works great. Give M&Ms as a reward for going in the potty. The idea is to commit and not look back.”
Make potty training a little easier by using a sticker chart. Motivate the little one with a small treat like an m&m for each success as well as a sticker for their chart. When they complete the sticker chart, let them pick out a reward from your special treasure chest of prizes! Crystal, mom of 4, from Simply Full of Delight.
Gemma at Seaside Sundays says: “Don’t get over anxious and force the issue. If it seems that it really isn’t working, take a break for a few weeks and reset. Then try again. Sometimes they just aren’t quite ready and when you come back to it, they are more responsive.”
Potty Training Book Method(s) that Can Help Strong Willed Children
If you feel like you need more guidance here are some highly-rated potty training books that are very helpful for stubborn children who are resistant to toilet training.
- Stress-Free Potty Training: A Common Sense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child – I love this book because it uses a quiz that helps determine your child’s personality. That is then used to help you determine the best method to use help train your child. The author of this book understands that every child is different and no one method will work for everyone.
- The No Cry Potty Training Solution: Gentle Ways to Help your Child Say Goodbye to Diapers – This book takes a kind and gentle approach to potty training while understanding that each child is unique. Parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley will help you to create a simple, no-frills potty training plan along with methods to help increase your child’s self-esteem and independence.
Final thoughts to Potty train your stubborn toddler
No two kids are alike and potty training can be a different experience for everyone. If you’re feeling the pressure to train your toddler early, don’t worry. You are not alone.
- Start when they’re ready: This is probably the most important piece of advice that I can give. Some kids are ready as early as 18 months, while others aren’t ready until they’re closer to three years old. If your child isn’t showing any interest in potty training or is resistant to it, then you may want to wait a little bit longer.
- Take it slow: There’s no need to rush the process. Potty training can be fun. You can make it a game and turn it into a positive experience for your child.
- Encourage them: If you’re feeling the pressure to potty train, chances are that your toddler is too. Praise them when they do well and let them know how proud you are of all their efforts.
- Use a sticker chart: Motivate the little one with a small treat like an m&m for each success as well as a sticker for their chart. When they complete the sticker chart, give them a prize. Something potty related, like big kid undies, is always a good choice.
- Take a break: If potty training isn’t going as planned, don’t be afraid to take a break. Sometimes all it takes is a little time off for kids to become more receptive to the idea of potty training.
And finally: BE PATIENT! As with anything in life, success with potty training comes down to patience and perseverance. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your little one won’t be potty trained overnight either. Good Luck!