Potty Training Tips for Resistant Children

Many toddlers don't see the inherent value in using the toilet. Contemporary Pediatrics defines resistance to toilet training as any healthy toddler older than 3 years of age who continues to resist using the toilet after several months of instruction 12. The reasons for resisting range from a lack of incentive to power struggles between you and your toddler stemming from previous toilet training efforts. While this can be a very frustrating time for you and your toddler, keeping a few principles in mind can reduce the stress for everyone.

Make the Responsibility His

Let your toddler know that it's his responsibility to use the toilet and his responsibility, with some adult assistance, to clean himself up after accidents. And then, stop talking about it. Don't remind, ask or encourage -- even if you see he's about to have an accident. By this point, your toddler knows what he needs to do and when he needs to do it, but parental prompting and nagging can fuel a power struggle and make him resist cooperating, even if it means soiling himself.

Enforce Personal Responsibility

If your toddler has an accident, make sure he's involved in the clean-up. Hand him a spray bottle of vinegar and a few paper towels to help him clean up any mess on the floor. Also, issue a firm rule that he may not walk, play or otherwise be in soiled or wet pants. Set up a special hamper for wet clothing and show him how to clean himself, though he'll still need your help for bowel movement accidents.

Make Incentives Meaningful

Small candies and stickers can work miracles for getting some toddlers excited during toilet training, but other tots lose interest quickly. Whatever incentive or reward you offer, make sure it's something he only has access to if he uses the toilet. In other words, if the candy you're using for rewards is something he gets after dinner anyway, it won't hold much power in motivating behavioral changes. Another option is to let your tot earn an extra special treat after several days of success, such as a trip to his favorite restaurant or amusement park.

Trade Underwear for Diapers or Pull-Ups

One of the reasons your toddler may resist toilet training is that he sees his diaper as a comfortable, highly absorbent, portable toilet. Unfortunately, wearing diapers also makes it almost impossible to feel when he's wet. Trade his diapers and pull-ups for a few pairs of underwear featuring his favorite characters and remind him that "[characters' names] like staying clean and dry." According to Contemporary Pediatrics, you should keep him in underwear, and hide diapers and pull-ups except for bowel movements. This will obviously result in accidents in the beginning, but the discomfort of being in wet or soiled underwear can help convince a resistant child to use the toilet.