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Potty Problems

What to do:

Self-Talk. Say to yourself, "It is annoying that my child keeps have potty problems, but I know that he will soon be potty-trained. It's not that big a deal."

Empathy. Ask yourself, "If I was my child's age, wouldn't I think it's hard to take time out from play to use the bathroom, especially if I didn't care if I was wet? I sometimes don't want to take the time to find a bathroom, even now!"

Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn how to use the toilet, so she has fewer accidents."

Use Grandma's Rule at Home. Set your phone timer for 15 minutes, then say, "When you have been clean and dry until my phone timer rings, then we can read a story." Keep resetting the timer until you think it would be time for a trip to the potty.

Praise Being Dry as Well as Correct Use of the Toilet. While your child is in training pants, say to him about every 15 minutes, "Check your pants. Are they dry?" This gives him the responsibility of checking his dryness, which makes him feel more in control of the process. If he's dry, tell him you're glad. Say, "How nice that you're staying dry."

React Calmly to Accidents. If your child is wet, say, "I'm sorry that you're wet. Now we need to practice staying dry (don't have to actually 'go')." Then practice 5 times going to the toilet from various parts of the house. (Pants down, sit on the toilet, pants up. Then repeat these steps from the next part of the house.)

Use Grandma's Rule in Public. Say, "We need to keep dry. We can't use your potty because it's not here. When you've used this potty at the zoo, we can stay here at the zoo." If you prefer, take your child's potty with you and Grandma's Rule still applies: "When you've used our potty, we can stay at the zoo."

Check Your Pants. Instead of waiting for your child to tell you she needs to go potty or asking her if she needs to go, ask her to check her pants to see if she's still dry. The goal is going potty to stay dry, with dryness being most important.

About Bowel Movements. If your child won't have a bowel movement in the potty or hides having one, add to the question, are you dry, "Are you clean and dry?" Often the need to have a bowel movement is accompanied by jumping around to find a hiding place. That's the time to take him to the potty and ask him to sit for a few minutes, even if he objects.

What not to do:

Don't Ask the Wrong Question. Saying "Check your pants," increases your child's awareness of what you want and puts him in charge. It's a good substitute for, "Do you need to go potty?" which is generally answered with a "No". Help your child feel responsible for checking his dry-wet condition and doing something about it.

Don't Punish Toilet-Training Accidents. Punishment only gives your child attention for going potty in his pants (or another wrong place). It doesn't teach him how to go potty appropriately and stay dry.

Don't Shame. Don't try to get your young child to stay dry by saying, "Shame on you! You are too old to have accidents." This will only make him hide accidents from you, and it won't teach him how to stay dry.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.