Long-Term Effects of Bad Potty Training

Potty training mishaps can be unpleasant, especially when they occur at inopportune times (is there ever really an opportune time for a mess?). It’s best to bite your tongue and take a deep breath -- or two, or 10 -- when you get frustrated with your child during potty training, though. The risk of long-term effects from negative potty training methods should help you chill a bit.

AAP Warning

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that more abuse happens at the hands of parents during potty training than during any other situation in childhood. This sobering statement can help parents remember to keep their cool during the potty training process to avoid inflicting long-term psychological trauma on an innocent child.

Parental Expectations

The AAP cautions that misaligned or faulty parental expectations are often at the crux of bad potty training experiences. You know the scene -- the parent feels that the child should have reached potty perfection when the child is really nowhere near ready to plant her backside on the potty seat. When accidents happen, what the parent perceives as disobedience is more likely just the little one’s inability to achieve the potty training milestone yet.

Psychological Trauma

If parents push too hard and too fast, beyond a child’s understanding or developmental abilities, the child will most certainly be set up for failure. This failure will cause the parents to feel frustrated and angry and the child to feel frustrated and inadequate. If the parents allow their feelings of frustration and anger to lead to explosive or abusive behavior, punishing and shaming the youngster, she may suffer psychological trauma at the hands of this treatment.


The AAP recommends that parents get the go-ahead to potty train from a pediatrician to make sure all systems are go. A little one should be communicating needs and wants verbally and should also have the coordination to get onto and off of the potty seat independently. If the doctor checks the child and thinks she’s ready, then it should be fine to move forward with a loving and gentle potty-training approach. On the other hand, if the pediatrician thinks the child isn’t quite ready for this leap into independence, it’s best to put it off for a few months. The consequences of potty training a child who’s not ready include prolonged training, undue stress on everyone, and long-term issues from possible misplaced anger and abuse.

Long-Term Effects from Mistakes

If mistakes in bad potty training lead to yelling at, shaming or even physically hurting a child, these are examples of possible abuse that your child may suffer from immediately and down the line. The U.S. Administration for Children and Families cautions that kids can experience emotional effects from mistreatment, including fear and an inability to trust people. This can translate into issues with self-esteem, depression, anxiety and relationship problems. According to the Adults Surviving Child Abuse website, a child's world revolves around her parents, so if a parent violates her trust by mistreating her, she may internalize this mistrust and direct it at everyone, affecting how she forms lasting relationships in the future.