Help With Potty Training a 4 Year Old

Although you may have a grand idea of how potty training should go, your child ultimately dictates how it will turn out. If your 4-year-old is still not trained, you should follow your 4-year-old’s lead and not push it too much, because otherwise it becomes a power struggle you will not win. A particularly stubborn child could even cause constipation problems for himself. However, you can encourage him to develop these potty-using skills with some tactful moves on your part.


When your child is a late potty-trainer, he may need extra motivation to take this step toward independence 2. One of the best things you can do to motivate your child is to offer plenty of encouraging words, praise, hugs and kisses. This is not just limited to the potty training endeavor -- it works for all sorts of behavior reinforcement. Praise your child when he is successful at using the potty and even when he just tries. He is more likely to keep trying when he receives those positive words and gestures. Stickers and small, inexpensive toys from a little treasure chest can be offered after successful potty runs, too, to change potty time into a positive experience instead of a frustrating one for the both of you.

Big Kid Underwear

You can get your 4-year-old excited about being potty trained by taking him to the store and allowing him to pick out his own “big kid” underwear. Get a couple of different packs so he can have a selection of choices on the pictures or patterns. Let him try them on and wear them around. Make sure to comment on how grown up he looks in them -- nothing wrong with boosting his ego along the way, and reinforcing the idea that big kids wear underwear instead of diapers.

Potty Chair

Cut out some of the power struggle by encouraging your child to become involved in the process. Let your child help select the potty chair --whether it be his favorite color or character theme, he’s more likely to use something he picked out. Writing his name on it or decorating it with stickers will also boost his enthusiasm. Place the potty chair in the bathroom and encourage him to sit on it frequently. He can go in with a parent and sibling when they go, so he can learn the proper potty procedure. Don’t forget to put out some fun kid’s soap for washing his hands afterward.


There are books out there that discuss this topic in a kid-friendly way. “How to Potty Train Your Monster” by Kelly Dipucchio, “Where’s the Poop?” by Julie Markes, “Everybody Poops” by Gomi Taro and “Potty Animals: What to Know When You've Gotta Go!” by Hope Vestergaard are just a few of the ones you can choose from. Incorporating some giggle-inspiring books helps lighten the mood, especially if your 4-year-old is bashful or defiant and resistant to potty training.


It’s helpful to watch your child’s liquid intake during potty training. Avoid letting him drink liquids an hour or so before he goes to bed. This will help keep the sheets dry, although accidents still can happen. Water and other beverages should be spaced out throughout the day, instead of consumed all at once. Make sure to plan pit stops during road trips and while running errands.