The Top 5 Potty Training Issues and How to Tackle Them

The Top 5 Potty Training Issues and How to Tackle Them

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Updated on Mar 5, 2012

If you want to scare the parents of a toddler, just say the two magic words: potty training! Although potty training can strike fear into the hearts of the most stalwart parent, you can feel more secure when you are aware of which issues are most likely to pop up during the process, as well as how to deal with them.

According to Dr. Pete Stavinoha, Professor in Psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Director of Neuropsychology at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, the most common two issues encountered during the potty training process are two sides of the same coin.

Issue #1: Resistance

The first of these two issues that parents usually encounter is resistance from the child. Parents often react to this resistance in the worst way possible: they push the child even harder. Of course, the child then resists even more strongly, which leads to additional frustration and more attempts at coercion on the part of the parents. How does the cycle begin?

According to Dr. Stavinoha, resistance commonly occurs due to too much parental pressure. Some parents often seem to have a specific age in mind by which their child “should” be fully potty trained, while other parents may believe that potty training “should” follow a predetermined course or timeline. Neither of these attitudes is helpful. “Parents need to understand that the pace of potty training really is dictated by a child, to a certain extent,” Dr. Stavinoha emphasizes. “The process of potty training is individual to the child, and it is only with this mindset that parents can avoid frustration.”

So what should you do if your child refuses to produce on the potty? First, of all, fight your instinct to push harder. Instead, back off and take a couple of weeks to reassess while your child stays in diapers. During those weeks, continue to sit your child on the potty periodically to keep him in the habit, but don’t expect anything more than that.

Make sure that there is nothing that might be causing the resistance, such as a too-forceful attitude on your part, pain due to constipation, or a new change in the child’s environment (e.g., a new sibling). In a few weeks, start hardcore potty training again, but this time, try to ease up on the pressure as much as possible.

Issue #2: No Guidance

Although some parents try to push their kids too hard, leading to resistance, others take the opposite route. They assume that their children will potty train by themselves when they are ready for it. While many kids will, in fact, figure out how to use the potty on their own, others need some basic education and motivation before they can successfully train.

To solve this problem, Dr. Stavinoha stresses the importance of advance preparation, including having a child practice sitting on the potty, role modeling how to use the potty, emptying the contents of the child’s diaper into the potty, and generally talking about the expectation that one day the child will be able to use the potty instead of diapers. This will help not only those children who lack the motivation to train on their own, but also all young children who are learning to use the potty.

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