Ugh! Potty training. 2 of my least favorite words when it comes to toddlers. If you’re feeling the same way, then definitely dive into this list of tips for stubborn potty trainers.
I’ve heard of these magical children that potty train in 3 days and seem to just do it all by themselves. It sounds amazing.
I have yet to meet one of these magical unicorn potty trainers and I sure didn’t give birth to one. 🙄
My son was tough to potty train! Very tough. Thank-goodness-I’m-done-having-kids tough.
But I’m happy to say that after looots of trial and error he is fully potty trained and we are done with diapers! If you have a stubborn potty trainer on your hands too, then this list of tips for stubborn potty trainers will help you get your little one past this major milestone.
I’ll cover everything from how to know when they’re ready, how to get them excited and on board with potty training, and even how to deal with when they won’t go poop in the potty.
Let’s get started!
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A Word of Encouragement
Before we start in on this list of tips for stubborn potty trainers, I want to take a minute to offer a word of encouragement. You both are going to get through this!
After easily potty training my first two children I was not prepared for how difficult it was to potty train my son. We dealt with all kinds of potty training issues.
There were multiple incidents of poop smeared all over the place, refusal to even try to go in the potty, and more than our fair share of accidents. There was even one poop episode that was so bad I had to rent a carpet cleaner and was contemplating having to replace the carpet.
So if you’re having a hard time getting your child to potty train, trust me, I know how you feel. But I promise it will get better.
Your child won’t have to go off to college in diapers. This process might be longer and harder than you anticipated, but one day it WILL click for your child and they’ll get there.
And I hope the tips in this article help the process go a little more smoothly.
Be Sure They Are Ready
Before you can use any of the tips for stubborn potty trainers, you need to make sure your child is actually ready to potty train.
If you start potty training before they are ready, it will cause more problems than it’s worth. Your child needs old enough to understand what is going on and be able to communicate with you when they need to use the bathroom.
They also need to be old enough to control their urinary and bowel movements. For some kids, that comes a little later than others.
I felt I had tried to potty train my older girls a little too early and it was a long process. I had hoped by waiting longer with my son, we could potty train quicker.
It turns out he was physically ready long before he was mentally on board with the idea.
How to know they’re ready.
Here are some signs to help you know when your child is ready to potty train:
- They start taking their diaper off.
- They hide when they need to go poop.
- They start touching their privates.
- They tell you when they need their diaper changed.
- They have a growing interest in using the potty.
- They are excited to wear underwear.
12 Quick Tips for Stubborn Potty Trainers
1.) Make it part of your routine.
The very first step in potty training a stubborn boy or girl is to make going to the potty part of your daily routine. Going to the potty shouldn’t be optional or just something you do some of the time.
This was a mistake I made early on. I had hoped he would just catch on and let me know when he needed to go.
But he didn’t, so it was only something I did when I remembered it. Which made it a lot harder for him to get used to the idea.
Some good times to take them potty are:
- As soon as they wake up.
- When you’re getting ready for a trip in the car or stroller.
- After meals.
- Before and after naps.
- Before bedtime.
The important part of adding it to your routine is staying consistent. Sometimes with stubborn potty trainers, it’s all about getting them used to the idea of using the potty.
The more you practice it, the more comfortable they will get with the experience.
Once my son accepted that we were going to be using the potty every day, several times a day, he stopped resisting so much. The newness wore off and he got used to it being a part of his day.
2.) Try to go on the clock.
Another good tip for potty training stubborn toddlers is to make them go potty at set intervals.
This worked really well for my son. I set a reminder on my phone for every 30 minutes we would go try and go potty.
This helped because it made sure I didn’t get caught up with other things and forget to make him go. It was the best way to make sure I stayed consistent.
I only needed to do this for a few days before he started peeing in the potty and we could stretch it to every hour. After a week or so, he started telling me when he needed to go.
This might be tough to do if you have a lot going on throughout your day, but it’s worth a try if you have a free weekend and you really want to make some progress with your potty training.
3.) Keep a good attitude.
One of the best things you can do when potty training is to keep a good attitude. Trust me, I know exactly how frustrating and tough this can be.
You’re probably worried they’re going to go on playdates still wearing diapers or that you’re somehow doing something wrong because they’re just not getting it.
But that anxiety and desperation can very quickly bleed over into our kids. When you’re stressed, anxious, and frustrated about the experience, your child probably isn’t going to respond well either.
When was the last time you felt comfortable enough to go to the bathroom knowing someone else was sitting right there stressed out about whether you do it or not?
Our kids aren’t much different and sometimes all that pressure makes them resist the potty training process even more. Especially the stubborn ones.
So, however you may actually be feeling, do your best to at least appear calm, patient, and relaxed. This can help make the whole experience more pleasant for both of you.
4.) All the potty talk.
Next on my list of tips for stubborn potty trainers is to make sure that you are engaging in lots of potty talk with your child. Talk about “all the things” when it comes to potty training.
Talk about why potty training is important, the benefits, everyone else who uses the potty, how the potty works, all the different types of potties, etc.
This was something else that really helped with my son. We did a LOT of talking.
We talked about how great it is to be a big kid and stop wearing diapers. The different kinds of things that he could do now that he used the potty.
How going to the potty is something that everyone does. We even listed off all of our family and friends who used the potty.
It really helped him understand how using the potty worked and that it was almost like a rite of passage.
For children who are maybe unsure or anxious about using the potty, better understanding it can go a long way to alleviating some of their fears or confusion about potty training.
5.) Make it easy.
As with every skill you’re trying to teach your children, one of the best things you can do is make it easy for them to do. Make sure that their environment is set up to allow them to easily use the potty.
Make sure they can get to the potty quickly
Always make sure your child can quickly get to the potty. It takes some practice to recognize that feeling of needing to go with enough time to get on the potty, so the easier they can get to the potty, the better.
This might mean keeping a potty seat in the bedroom at night or in the room that you spend the most time in during the day. Once they start to get on board with trying or can hold it a little longer, you can start moving the potty seat into the bathroom.
We have a bathroom right off our living room, so we didn’t need to go that route, but I did make sure that everywhere we went had a bathroom I could quickly get to.
I also put a stool in front of the toilet, so he could always step up and easily go when it was time. (He wasn’t a fan of using the little potty seats and insisted on using the toilet like everyone else.)
Easily accessible clothes and underwear
Another part of making it easy to use the potty is to have them wear accessible clothing. So no onesies, overalls, or outfits like that.
They should be able to get their clothes down or off quickly when they need to go. If you’re potty training with pullups or underwear, make sure they can get them down on their own.
I know some potty training methods recommend letting them go naked, but I was never a fan of that. At that age, it was a struggle to get my son to wear clothes at all, so I was not ok with giving him a good reason to be naked.
Plus, he was having a lot of poop accidents, and poop in clothes isn’t great, but it’s a LOT better than poop on the floor! 😩😩
Whatever route you take, just make sure they can easily get their clothes down without your help.
6.) Make it fun.
No surprise here, but a good tip for potty training stubborn children is to make it fun. Add some excitement to using the potty.
When the experience becomes interesting and fun instead of a chore, it can help those stubborn children become a little more cooperative.
Buy some super fun underwear
One way to make potty training more fun is to go buy them some fun underwear. Take them to the store and let them pick out some with their favorite characters.
This was hit or miss with my son. Sometimes he was really excited about his underwear and looked forward to putting them on.
Some days he couldn’t care less. Since you have to buy the underwear either way, it’s worth trying to find some that get them a little excited about potty training.
Be excited yourself
Make sure that you yourself act excited about potty training too. It’s going to be really hard for your child to get excited about it when you’re acting like it’s a chore.
This was a mistake I definitely made in the beginning. I kept treating potty training like work or something I didn’t want to deal with.
Big surprise, my son wasn’t looking forward to it either.
When I finally embraced that potty training was going to be an all-out effort on my part and started putting some more enthusiasm into it, my son slowly started to warm up to it more.
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7.) Celebrate every single win!
One of the best tips for potty training stubborn children is to celebrate every single win. Even if it’s just sitting on the potty for a few minutes, it needs to be celebrated!
And make sure you celebrate with all your energy and enthusiasm. Do jumping jacks, clap loudly, or do whatever makes them laugh.
By doing so, you’re reinforcing how proud you are of them for using the potty, which will only encourage them to keep going.
Here are some ideas for how to celebrate any potty successes:
Use a potty chart
A good way to celebrate potty training is to use a potty sticker chart.
Once I started using a potty chart, my son finally started getting excited about trying to use the potty. I created one with dinosaurs on it (his favorite!) and he got a star or sticker every time he went.
I posted the chart on the wall right across from the potty so he saw it and started talking about it every time he went potty. He loved getting to put the stickers on his chart too.
We started off just using them if he sat on the potty. Then we moved on to getting stickers when he peed or pooped in the potty.
It was a good distraction to encourage him to actually want to go into the potty and sit on it for a little while.
Sing a song
Another way to celebrate potty training is to sing a song. This worked really well for my son too.
I would sing a potty song for my son that I randomly made up every time he peed into the potty. He would end up dancing on the potty along with me.
Watching his eyes light up with excitement for his potty song definitely let me know this was a tactic that worked for him.
Call the grandparents
You could also celebrate by calling the grandparents or family members and telling them about when your child goes in the potty. This might sound a little strange, but kids LOVE getting to call people and talk on the phone.
Especially if you do video chat.
The grandparents (or whoever you call) can gush and be all excited for them having used the potty and will help reinforce that this is a positive and exciting thing to do.
Try using rewards
A very popular way to celebrate using the potty is to offer rewards. It’s pretty much a form of bribery, but when it works, it works.
I had used candy to potty train my older 2, so I had been determined not to go that route with my son. I didn’t want to start a bad habit and I had heard about all these other kids who had potty trained without it.
After several “hand in the poopie diaper” incidents and his complete refusal to even try to pee or poop in the potty, I gave that up quick.
I went so far as to add pictures of the candy reward he would get when he peed or pooped in the potty onto his potty chart and he peed in the potty for the first time that very same day.
I did have to go through the process of weaning him off getting candy every time he went potty, but I can tell you for a fact that was waaay easier than all the issues we were having before he started successfully going in the potty.
8.) Spend at least a few minutes on the potty every time.
Part of successfully potty training is making sure your child sits on the toilet long enough for something to actually come out. Sometimes children can be so squirmy that it’s hard to get them to sit still long enough to figure it out.
If that’s the case for you, then having something to distract them with for a few minutes can help.
I mentioned that my son was very distracted looking at his dinosaur potty chart. He loves dinosaurs so this was an easy option.
Here are some other distractions you could try:
- Sing a song
- Read a book
- Watch a video
- Set a timer
9.) Read potty training books.
Next on the list of tips for stubborn potty trainers is to try reading some books about potty training. If you’re just getting started potty training, books are a great way to introduce the idea of using the potty and get them excited about it.
Here are a few books that my son really liked to read when we first started potty training.
I won’t pretend he magically started using the potty after reading the books, but they gave us a good reference to talk about using the potty throughout the day and before bed.
Once he started actually going in the potty, he still liked reading the books and would talk about how “Elmo goes pee in the potty just like me!” That lets me know that although it didn’t work right away, the books definitely helped.
10.) Go cold turkey and put them in underwear.
A very common method a lot of people use when potty training is to go straight to underwear. The theory is that when children go pee in their underwear, they won’t like how it feels, so they’ll have more incentive to use the toilet.
I did this with my first daughter and had a LOT of accidents. We were changing clothes and cleaning up messes multiple times a day.
Luckily it was only pee accidents and she would wait until I put her diaper on at naptime to poop. With my 2nd daughter, we actually potty trained a lot more with pullups and it was a pretty quick process.
I decided to hold off on this one with my son because I wanted to save myself the mess. After that not working for a while, I decided to go the underwear route.
It can take a while…
I even switched back and forth between them a couple of times because the underwear route didn’t work at first. He wouldn’t even try to pee in the potty, so he would just constantly have accidents.
Sometimes he would have accidents right after we tried to go potty, so it almost felt like he was holding it and waiting until after he sat on the potty to go. My son didn’t actually mind his underwear and clothes being wet, so it didn’t really work.
There were also a lot of poop accidents. I won’t lie, it was rough.
Once he actually started peeing the potty though, it started to be effective. My advice for this method is to make sure they will actually go pee in the potty before you try it.
Or that they are the type of children who actually care when they have an accident.
11.) Take a break if you need to.
Last on the list of tips for stubborn potty trainers is to take a break if you need to. If life gets crazy, your child seems like they’re not ready, or you just plain need a break, that’s ok!
In the grand scheme of things taking a break for a few weeks isn’t really going to matter. No one will ask him at what age he potty trained when he’s filling out college applications.
It’s better to take time to regroup and come up with some new ideas or even let them mature a little bit more rather than lose your sanity because it’s just not working.
I ended up having to pause a few times during our potty training adventures, but we still made it there eventually. And in the end, that’s all that matters!
Things to Avoid
Now that we’ve covered tips for stubborn potty trainers and the things that you should be doing, I wanted to mention some of the things to try and avoid.
Getting angry or frustrated.
I know this can be a really tough process as the mom. Especially if you end up with a kid like mine who actually enjoyed sticking his hand in his poopie diapers and smearing it all over the place. (I mentioned the carpet cleaner right?😭)
This is probably one of the hardest tips on this list for parents of stubborn children, but it’s also one of the most important tips. You have to be patient.
Getting angry or upset with your child throughout the process can often cause more harm than good. I’ve seen and heard lots of stories of children who end up holding it in and causing themselves to be constipated or even sick because they’re worried about getting in trouble or being punished for accidents.
If you find yourself getting too frustrated or angry, try to take a minute to regroup or maybe even just put a diaper on and try again tomorrow. I had to do that on more than one occasion, but we still got there and your kid will one day too.
Putting too much pressure on success.
In the same way that you don’t want to get angry or frustrated with your child, you don’t want to put too much pressure on them to succeed. Potty training is one of those things that you can’t force your child to do.
Potty training should be about teaching them to use the toilet and encouraging the right behavior. But keep in mind, for some kids it really can be difficult to learn.
Too much pressure can cause stress and anxiety around potty training which can actually set back the progress you’re trying so hard for.
Trying too early.
It’s really important to make sure that you’re not trying to potty train too early. There are a lot of signs that your child is ready, but if they’re still not showing those signs then it’s probably too soon.
Trying to potty train before your kid is ready can really set you back and prolong the whole experience. Your child needs to be physically capable of regulating the muscles responsible for allowing them to hold it and making themselves go.
Along with communicating their needs and handling pulling their clothes up and down. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Many children show signs of being ready for potty training between ages 18 and 24 months. However, others might not be ready until they’re 3 years old.”
My son didn’t fully potty train until toward the end of being 3 and I’ve heard of some kids not doing it until they’re 4. The age they do it is far less important than you not feeling like a crazy person trying to force them to do it.
If you’ve tried and they don’t seem ready, wait a few weeks or a month and then try again.
Engaging in a battle of wills.
My last suggestion for things to avoid when potty training a stubborn child is to avoid getting into a battle of wills. The truth of the matter is that you can’t actually force your child to go potty.
You can teach, guide, (and bribe!) them to do it, but you can’t actually make them. And for some children, an attempt to make them can cause them to resist the process even more.
For some children knowing that this is something you want them to do creates a power exchange that you can never win.
Instead of trying to make them potty, stick with your routines and focus on positive reinforcement. With most kids, resisting or holding out against potty training will eventually lose its appeal and they’ll give it a try.
FAQ’s About Stubborn Potty Trainers
Here are some frequent questions people have about how to potty train a stubborn child:
Why is potty training so hard?
If you’re having a hard time potty training your child it could be for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:
- They aren’t ready yet.
- They feel anxious and uncomfortable about it.
- They dislike change.
- They just aren’t interested in it.
- You’re pushing too hard.
Sometimes it can be one of those reasons or even a mixture. And often we’ll never know for sure because most kids at that age can’t communicate why.
With my son, I’ll never know exactly why he resisted potty training for so long other than to recognize that he can definitely be stubborn and it wasn’t something I could do without his cooperation.
My best advice is to use the tips in this article, and if you find something that works, stick with it! And don’t be afraid to try things more than once.
With several things we tried, they didn’t work the first time around, but they worked better the second or third time we tried them.
What kind of potty should I use?
Whichever one gets your child excited to go potty. My oldest daughter loved her potty seat. We used this one:
My second daughter wanted to sit on the big potty, so I used a seat that fit the potty for her. We used this one:
My son picked out this Elmo potty seat from the store and completely lost interest in it about a week later.
He just ended up sitting on the actual potty with no extra seat because that was what he liked.
With stubborn potty trainers what matters most is their cooperation, so use whichever kind of potty holds their interest.
Sitting or standing?
I chose to potty train my son sitting down. I felt that was going to be easier because I wasn’t sure how well he could differentiate peeing and pooping.
Plus, I didn’t want the mess.
Even now, over a year after he’s fully potty trained, he still prefers to sit down. On occasion, I’ll make him stand to go potty if we’re out in public, but he doesn’t really prefer it.
However, as with the potty seat suggestion, I say go with whatever method they’re most interested in. If fighting over sitting or standing becomes one more barrier to this whole potty training thing, let them decide.
Once they’re actually potty trained, you can work on making them use whichever method you prefer. At least at that point, the hard work is over.
What about potty training at night?
Potty training at night really depends on your child. As much as my son resisted potty training, he actually did fine at night.
Even before he potty trained he would just naturally stay dry overnight. So did my 2nd daughter.
My first daughter, however, was a heavy sleeper and enjoyed drinking milk before bed. She used overnight pull-ups up until she was 6.
Most children will naturally grow into potty training overnight. If you’re struggling with potty training during the day, save overnight potty training for later when they get a little older.
What if they won’t poop in the potty?
Pooping in the potty was a big one for us. My son went several weeks where he would happily pee in the potty but wouldn’t poop.
We also had a lot of pooping in his underwear which was about as awful as it sounds. A few things finally worked for us:
- Upping his potty treats for going poop. He got 2 for peeing, but 5 for pooping.
- Frequent trips to the bathroom.
- Not leaving him unattended. He would only poop his underwear when he could sneak off.
- Letting him sit on the potty by himself. I would stand right outside the bathroom where he could still hear me, but the privacy seemed to help.
You can find some more really good tips about pooping in the potty in this article here.
Conclusion to 11 Quick Tips for Stubborn Potty Trainers
I’ve probably got a lifetime of stories about potty training, but these are the most important tips for stubborn potty trainers. I hope they help you finally get your child over this milestone and on your way to being diaper-free!
Is there anything I missed? What tips worked best for you when trying to get your kid trained? Let me know in the comments below or email me at email@example.com.
And don’t forget to grab a potty training sticker chart to help the process go a little more smoothly!
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Candice is a mom of 3 who has been homeschooling since 2013. She has an A.A.S. in Early Childhood Studies and cares deeply about helping other parents get the information and resources they need to help them homeschool their children with confidence.