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1 October 2020

Common potty training issues

No matter how you're going about potty training or when you start, you're likely to encounter a few accidents along the way.
Child on toilet 438580
WhichEditorial team

Some issues with potty training are just hiccups, whereas others might mean you need to go back to nappies for a bit and try again later. Whenever there are little (or big) accidents, try to react calmly and gently so as not to put your little one off the idea of potty training altogether. 

Problems with potty training

Accidents – day or night

There are bound to be a few accidents here and there while your child adjusts to using the potty. It's important not to be overly negative about little setbacks, as this may just discourage and distress your child about the process. It's helpful to always have a change of clothes to hand, and you might even like to try more absorbent pants while your little one is making the transition. You can also implement a bathroom routine so that your child gets used to incorporating this into their daily life.

Throughout the potty training process, you're likely to have to continue using nappies or pull-up pants at night even after your child is able to use the potty during the day. 

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Your child resists the potty

Toddlers can be wary or downright fearful of leaving the comfort zone of nappies and moving to a potty or toilet. You can help your little one overcome this by making potty training a fun and positive experience – allowing them to pick out a potty and their own colourful pants can create positive connotations for this new step and give them a sense of ownership over the process. 

You can make up games, songs and rewards for when they go to the potty so that they can develop confidence and contentment in this environment. 

When they poo or wee in their nappy or underpants, teach them that this is unclean and help them clean it up, showing that it should go in the toilet or potty. 

It's also a good idea to get them to tell you when they need to go so you can prevent them from withholding, which can cause issues.

Potty training battles

If your child is going through the terrible twos or threes, getting them to use the potty might become a full-blown battle of the wills. Toddlers asserting their independence and testing their power is a normal part of their development, but can make seemingly simple tasks more tiresome. 

As tempting as it may be, resist the urge to scold or punish, and instead leave a potty out for your toddler to use of their own accord. The old trick of treats and bribery can be employed when your toddler goes to the potty successfully.

You should try to remove any adversarial air surrounding potty training, as this can prolong or complicate the whole process – giving your toddler's stubbornness too much attention, even if it's negative, can feed this behaviour.

Potty training regression

You've successfully potty trained and the nappy days are over – or so you thought. It's not completely uncommon for seemingly fully potty trained children to regress a bit and start having regular accidents, but it's a problem that needs your attention. 

Think about the root causes of the regression, which can include life stress either related or unrelated to the toilet. Any disruptions in routine or particularly emotional events can have an adverse impact on your child's new-found independence. 

As with the initial stage of potty training, you'll need to remain positive and supportive, reminding your child to use the bathroom and building their confidence up again - this regression is likely to be as distressing to them as it is to you. You might need to go over the potty training basics again and remind your child that they can't rely on nappies any more.

There may also be a medical reason for this happening, including bladder infections or diabetes. Ask your GP for advice if the problem persists, or if your little one is showing other signs of illness.

Resistance to public toilets

Using the toilet is already a new concept to your little one, so applying this outside of the home can be an even more daunting prospect. You can try taking your toddler to visit new toilets without using them, or let your child bring a travel potty with them for some familiarity.