Troubles with Toilet Training

33284891_sYou’ve tried it all! You have the fancy shmancy potty that sings to your child when they go, you’ve tried sticker charts, you’ve read books,  sang songs, you have the doll the poops and pees, you’ve provided positive reinforcement up the wazuu, you have the Spiderman/Princess Sophia undies that your child just loves and yet…they are still having accidents daily. What is a parent to do?!?


It’s important to know your child well. One child I know had some tactile sensory issues and didn’t like the feel of being wet, therefore, she trained rather quickly.   Some children are hyposensitive tactilely and being went or dirty seems to have no effect on them at all no matter if they are wearing a diaper, pull up, or underwear.

Boys typically train a little later than girls, as do children on the Autism spectrum or with Developmental Delays. Having patience in potty training any child is key, but more so with children with different needs and abilities!


Be sure that your child has no medical issues that may be preventing them from successfully toilet training. Urinary tract infections can be a cause of increased accidents. Some children become constipated and fear pain associated with pushing out a hard poop so they hold it in. This can cause a back up leading to overflow incontinence and needs medical attention.



If you feel like you’ve tried it all, look at your reaction to accidents. Do you get frustrated? Do you yell at your child? Do you shame them? Do you throw your hands up in the air? Do you sigh? Or maybe you don’t say anything at all but your facial expression does all the talking for you telling your child “ugh, here we go again!” Your child picks up on this and your reactions can hinder progress in training by months!  When your child has an accident react as minimally as you can. With a poker face and voice void of emotion, simply state “Ok, let’s get you cleaned up.” If you have a child who is older- say three and a half or four, you can give them some gloves and wipes and have them help clean up the mess. Another strategy is to make toilet training a NON-ISSUE. By this I mean don’t give the over the top praise and don’t punish either. (Side note- please don’t EVER punish your child for having an accident!)  Instead, vamp up praise on other self help skills; comment on how proud you are of your child that they got dressed all by themselves like a big kid! Praise ability to zip up their coat on their own! By focusing your attention on other self help skills this will eventually translate over to potty training. Once the pressure of needing to “perform” is off toilet training and focused on other skills you should begin to see more success.

Potty training is a big milestone in development  for parents. Often it means a raise for  families in the sense that money is no longer being spent on expensive diapers! It can also be a big source of stress for both parents and children. When you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a step back and think how challenging and new the whole business of training must be for your child as well and then decide to permit patience with yourself and your child through the process. Added stress  on the child will only delay the outcome you desire longer!

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Katerie Breuer, MSW, LCSW, LISW-CPIMG_0259.PNG

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