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Help! My Child Still Isn't Potty Trained!

We live in an age where information is at our fingertips. We order groceries online. Research the best car for our family in a few clicks. Share pictures and videos with our family and friends.

And we can go online to learn tips for potty training our children, but sometimes…well, things don’t go as planned.

That’s because all the online ordering, research and sharing we do is under our control. Throw a toddler in the mix and things can become unpredictable and off-schedule in a heartbeat, filled with tears and tantrums. Children, who think – and behave – independently, also have bodies that develop differently.

Try Not to Compare

But when your child’s best friend in the neighborhood play group is potty trained at three and your child isn’t? Pressure can mount to have your child reach this milestone, too. What happens when the rewards and books and encouragement just aren’t working?

We’re going to be very gentle here when we say that parents can’t enforce a timeline. Potty training happens at different ages, for different children, in their own time.

Assuming there are no underlying medical conditions keeping your child from being potty trained, it’s time to step back.

Here are a few ideas to help:

  1. Know the signs that your child is ready. They include telling you before it’s time to go, staying dry for two or more hours while wearing a diaper, and asking to wear “big kid” underwear.
  2. If potty training isn’t working with one parent, let the other parent (or a grandparent or babysitter) take the lead. This is not a failure on the part of the first parent; rather, a new dynamic can “jump start” the process.
  3. Regression is normal and doesn’t last long. When accidents occur, gently reassure your child that she’ll do better next time.
  4. Hold off – for now. If potty training isn’t working, stop. Stop talking about it with your child. Stop putting him on the potty seat. Refocus on life outside the bathroom to provide a much-needed break and relieve stress.
  5. Offer control in other areas. If your child is resisting efforts to be potty trained, let her choose what to wear. Provide two choices for lunch. As you provide choices, your child may be less inclined to resist potty training.

Your child will master potty training when she’s ready – we promise! It’s a developmental skill that has nothing to do with her intelligence, your plan, or what progress her friends have, or haven’t made, toward potty training. If it’s not working right now, relax, take some time off and enjoy your child’s company doing other activities together.

Check out The Reading Room for more helpful articles, including:

Help Your Child Learn Potty Training Words

Stuck In a Potty Training Tug of War?

Start Potty Training With a Routine

Is My Child Ready for Potty Training?

Why Is My Toddler Still Wetting the Bed?

Five Effective Rewards for Potty Training