Best-Ever Solutions to Potty-Training Challenges

Transitions are tough for little kids -- and potty training is all about transitions. Go into it expecting numerous bumps along the road. Refusing to poop? Yup. Accidents? Of course. Read on for simple ways to turn “oopsie” into “I did it!”

Toddler potty-training setback number 1: Accidents
“Accidents happen” is a household phrase for good reason. Most children wet their pants even after they’ve been toilet trained. This could be because they’re too distracted (playing outside, painting, watching TV) to notice the urge to go, or they’re sick, they’re in a different environment (a friend’s house or a restaurant), or they’re stressed about something, like starting a new school or the arrival of a sibling.  

The solution: Resist the temptation to scold your child -- he didn’t have an accident to annoy or embarrass you. Be understanding (“It’s not the end of the world!”), but also be clear about the goal: to pay attention to his body’s signals and get to the toilet next time. Involve your toddler in cleaning up the accident (even if he just delivers his wet pants to the washing machine) so he’ll understand that potty training is his responsibility, too. And keep a clean change of clothes on hand, especially at school, until your child has been accident-free for six months or more.

Toddler potty-training setback number 2: Lapses
Potty? What potty? Toddlers occasionally forget about the whole toilet thing, instead wetting their pants as if potty training had never happened. When you bring it up, your child may look at you like you have three heads, simply shrug, or run off and play.

The solution: Such lapses are temporary and to be expected. Children develop in spurts, sometimes leaping ahead, other times seeming to stand still or even take a few steps back. A lapse in training is different from an accident -- an accident is an occasional slip-up between visits to the potty. A lapse is a period of time during which your toddler simply doesn’t use the potty even though he’s learned all about it and has even begun to show progress. Stay positive about your toddler’s potty training and continue to encourage him. But be aware that those wet pants could be a sign, perhaps signaling immaturity or a reaction to pressure. Look for potential sources of stress that could be affecting your child’s potty-training progression. If the lapses in training continue, consider putting the potty away for a few weeks and trying again when your toddler might be more receptive.

Toddler potty-training setback number 3: Bedwetting
Is your toddler dry throughout the day but waking up in a puddle? His body may still be too immature to signal the brain when his bladder’s full. It’s very common for children in their first year of daytime potty training to have nighttime accidents. In fact, many 3-year-olds continue to wet the bed about once a month.

The solution: Clean up and move on, especially if it happens only occasionally. You might want to put a water-resistant mattress pad on the bed to make cleanups easier. If it’s happening two to three times a week, consider using training pants, which can smooth the transition from diapers to undies.

Toddler potty-training setback number 4: Refusing to poop in the potty
For some toddlers, peeing in the potty is easy, but pooping, not so much. Experts say some children may be afraid of making a mess. If this is what's worrying your child, he may have had an embarrassing experience with a number-two accident or saw one happen to another child and wants to avoid the same fate.  

The solution: Take note of the times your toddler usually has a bowel movement, maybe right after a nap or a half-hour after lunch, and put him on the potty at those times. Pile on the praise if he’s able to poop! Whatever you do, keep your tone positive. Using negative words like "dirty" or "stinky" to describe bowel movements can make your child feel ashamed and embarrassed. Assure him that everyone poops -- it’s natural! If your child still gives pooping in the toilet a thumbs down, suggest that he ask you for training pants instead when he feels the urge to go.

Toddler potty-training setback number 5: Accidents on the go
Outings -- whether you’re on an airplane or just at the mall -- are challenging for potty-training toddlers because they break up their routine. Even kids who are usually dry all day may have accidents when out of their regular environment.

The solution: Before you leave home, urge your toddler to use the toilet. Once you’re out, take potty breaks at least every hour and again before you leave your location. Carry a clean change of clothes just in case!

With patience and time, your little one will soon be potty trained. So keep at it, Mom!