5 Ways to Help a Child Who isn't Potty Trained


One of my favorite conversations to have with parents is when their child is not potty trained. I see their panic wash away and the relief that comes after I reassure them that potty training will come. Potty training can be so daunting, and I wish I had known so much more about it when I began working with children 14 years ago. This milestone can be an enjoyable and smooth process though, and I love hearing about and taking part in the beautiful success stories.

If you have children of your own or in your class who are not potty trained, there are ways you can help. I'll skip the super common ones that we all know such as reading books about it and making it a positive experience. Instead, I'm giving you my secrets from potty training hundreds of children.

You might be skeptical of what I have to say, but I encourage you to give them a chance. I've helped children with this process for almost 15 years now, and I've tried nearly every method out there. I'd rather you skip my mistakes and take the smoothest route possible, although it's not the quickest one.

5 Ways to Help a Child Who Isn't Potty Trained

Here are five ways to help children who are not potty trained:

Don't Stress

The beautiful aspect about potty training is that children are fully capable of this natural skill, and we don't have to force them into learning it. Sometimes there are days that we might doubt this, but take heart! It seems that the most patient parents have some of the best experiences. I have seen children in diapers one day and underwear the next with no accidents, reminders, timers, or power struggles. There was no magic formula or training session. It was just the willingness to wait until the child showed readiness in all areas, not just a couple.

There is no magic age, even if a preschool requires potty training for enrollment. Remember, I'm a preschool teacher, so I can say this. Rushing into potty training only adds stress and unnecessary strain between you and the child. Do yourself a favor and help your child out by letting go of the expectations and just enjoying your child where he or she is at.

Turn off the Voices

I always love it when I see someone write this on facebook: "My kid goes on the potty now!" This is code for, my child went potty once, and now I believe that my child is potty trained. I can relate to their enthusiasm. That first time is awesome! And then they probably feel cursed afterward because then the power struggles begin. Perhaps months go by before the toilet actually gets used again.

When you hear people around you gushing about how quickly or early it happened, cover your ears, close your eyes, and say "lalalala." Each child develops at his own pace, and hearing about other children who may (or may not) be mastering the process will only add pressure to you. Do your child a favor, and don't compare her to the facebook feed.

Rule Out the Enemy of Potty Training

There is a nemesis to potty training. It lurks around and haunts children and parents alike. It's extra sneaky and many time goes without being diagnosed. Meet constipation. It's horrible, and I've dealt with it in potty training as a mother and teacher. I have lost track of the number of constipated children I've taught. The one thing they all have in common is this: potty training is a huge struggle.

Typically these children have the pee part down and hold their bowels or go in their pants. If it's really bad, then pee accidents start happening too. This vicious cycle usually takes at least six months to get on track unless treated immediately. Here's a very informative video on it called "The Poo in You." Kids love watching it too!

If you suspect your child could be constipated, I highly recommend a visit to the pediatrician. Tons of fiber, water, and patience are also all very much needed.

Let them drink!

You probably don't hear this much. In fact, you hear the opposite! People are constantly giving advice to take away drinks two hours before bedtime. I disagree.

Children can easily potty train with water at night. And I do recommend water only, not milk or juice. If a child is constipated, water is needed! Taking the water away at bedtime actually worsens the situation.

Children who are not constipated will not be negatively affected by a small cup of water to keep at their bedside. It actually reduces the amount of times they get out of bed to tell you they are thirsty.

Peer Pressure Can be Good

When I was teaching a class of two year olds, it felt as though they would never potty train. Most of them were in diapers, and it seemed that almost as soon as they figured the potty training out, they moved up to the next classroom with the three year olds. We did send tons of them up to the next class in diapers though. It certainly wasn't for a lack of trying though.

There was something that the three year old classroom had to offer that we did not though. Almost all the children in the class were potty trained. It's amazing to me how children can get excited about using the toilet when they see other children interested in using the bathroom. Older siblings, friends, and other children in child care are all perfect candidates for this position.

If you are anxious for your child to potty train, I totally get it! I've changed tens of thousands of diapers, and I've paid for thousands for my own kiddos. Enjoy the perks of diapers while you are there though. There are definitely benefits to not stopping every 20 minutes on a road trip for a newly potty trained little one. Plus the one on one moments can be great bonding experiences.

I believe that children are capable and can be respected and trusted to learn toilet training when the time is right. Since I've done this, I've never been proven wrong. They've all potty trained, and I have enjoyed them even more without the power struggles and nagging. We enjoy our time with one another without the toilet in the back of our minds, and I wish I had known this from the very beginning!