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How to Help Your Child

Some toddlers won't use the potty. Sometimes a child may know how to pee in the potty, but will not poop in the potty.

Why does my child not poop in the potty?

  • A young child may think that her poop is interesting, not 'icky'.
  • She may think of poop as a part of her body that came out. Flushing poop down the toilet makes her sad or angry. She may feel like she is losing part of herself.

This situation leads to a "power struggle" between a parent and child. A power struggle is when the child is trying to have control of something.

How can I help her poop in the potty?

girl in grass

  • Talk to her about why we poop, and why it is important to get it out of our bodies. Or do not flush when she is in the bathroom with you or wait until she is not interested anymore, and then throw it away.
  • Other children are afraid of falling into the toilet. Let her have control by flushing away some pieces of toilet paper. This will help her get used to hearing the sound and seeing things disappear.
  • Show her a picture of what she should do. Explain the picture through a story.
  • Make changes in her diet. Give her more sweet corn, peas, beans, fruit and whole-wheat bread. This helps. Do not give her too much milk. Make her drink lots of water and clear liquids.
  • Write down when your child poops and pees. Then you will know her pooping pattern.
  • Talk to a pediatrician if you have any worries. It can help to talk about this with a health professional.
  • Ask other parents for advice.

How can I help her pee in the potty?

  • Show her a picture of what she should do. Explain the picture through a story.
  • Turn on the faucet when your child is on the toilet. Listening to running water can help her pee.
  • Put toys in a bowl of warm water. Let your child play with the toys while sitting on the toilet.
  • For boys, place targets on the toilet. You can use cheerios or small pieces of toilet paper.
  • Keep everything calm and relaxed when your child tries to pee in the potty. Dim the lights and let her have her favorite calming toy.
  • Sometimes it is easier for boys to pee if they sit on the toilet. Let him learn this way. Later, you can explain to him that big boys pee standing up.

If the problem is a power struggle, let your child have control over other things:

  • Let her choose what games to play with you, or what clothes to wear.
  • Have her do exercises like running, skipping or jumping. These will develop her physical control.

What should I do if my child has an accident?
Do not punish your child if she has accidents. This happens when the child is learning. Accidents can make her upset. Do these things to help your child:

  • Play funny games about toilets and accidents. She will laugh and will not feel pushed.
  • Tell her that there is no rush. Comfort her. Tell her that she will learn.
  • Talk to her about her body signals. Explain how she will know when she needs to go.
  • When an accident happens, take her to the toilet. Then she can see what should happen.
  • Even if your child signs, have her carry a pocket size wallet with pictures that help her tell you when she needs a toilet.
  • Tell your child that she can ask for a potty break anytime.

Why did my child regress and stop using the toilet?
It is normal for a child who knows how to use the toilet to stop. If she does this, we say that the child is regressing. Children sometimes regress because:

  • They want to take a break from growing up.
  • Regressing is part of growing up and learning how to do new things.
  • They learn something new like riding a tricycle or building a tall tower of blocks.
  • They are upset or stressed. Your child may regress when:
    • There is a new baby in the family
    • She changes from crib to bed or to a different bedroom
    • The family moves to a new home
    • A family member moved away
    • Parents have a fight.

How can I help my child use the toilet again?
Don't punish or scold your child. The best thing to do is to help her relax. Do not tell her you are disappointed. You will upset her more if you do. Do these things to help your child:

  • Find out what is worrying or bothering your child.
  • Comfort your child
  • Use pictures, favorite toys, stories and playing to explain things.
  • Lie down with her at bedtime.
  • Don't push her to grow up too soon or too fast. Let her give up the bottle, the crib, the pacifier, and the diapers slowly. If you push her too hard, she may regress even more.
  • Tell her to use the toilet. She may say no. Explain why it is good to stay dry.
  • Repeat whatever helped you potty train her in the beginning.

Usually a child does not regress for very long
Remember these things:

  • Give it time.
  • If she regresses for more than two months, talk to your doctor.
  • If she regresses every five or six months, talk to your doctor.
  • It is important to know that the problem isn't caused by a bladder infection or other medical problem. If you think your child has a medical problem, talk to your doctor right away.

Find out more

Learn more at these websites:

  • Read the Dr Spock website. It gives you a list of all the articles, message boards and advice they have on potty training.
  • The American Baby website has lots of information on potty training and also has parents' stories about starting early or waiting.
  • Go to the Potty Training Tips website for more information about this topic.
  • About.com has a good article on potty training when you travel.

Videos can help your child learn about potty training:

Books are a good way to potty train:

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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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