If your 3-year-old child has begun to show signs that they’re ready to start potty training, that’s great! Tackling this milestone in life is all part of the parenting journey.
Just remember to keep that positive attitude and thought the process as you go because there might be a time (or ten) when you run into potty training problems. Don’t fret. There are actually simple tips that you can apply to tackle 3 year old potty training resistance.
Related: Dealing with Toddler Tantrums
Even if you’re potty trained a multitude of other ages before, each and every child is different. Some kids are a breeze, while others…are a bit more of a challenge.
And even during those days when you feel like you just want to throw in the towel, just know that you’re making strides forward with every single day that passes. So on those days when your 3 year old refuses to sit on the toilet, just know that tomorrow is a new day and this too shall pass.QUICK NAVIGATION
When Potty Training is Stalled
Potty Training Problems
Potty Training Fights
Setting Up for Potty Training Success
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HOW TO POTTY TRAIN A STUBBORN THREE YEAR OLD
While it may seem impossible at times to potty train your three year old, I promise it’s not. Every child has something that will just “click” with them (eventually) to become potty trained.
REAL POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Your child loves and looks up to you. Words matter so much to them and when you’re verbally praising them for a job well done, they listen.
One of the best ways for real positive reinforcement to help aid in fast potty training, is telling your child “great job”, and show REAL excitement over their accomplishments.
AVOID DRAWING ATTENTION TO NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR
With that said – it’s also important to note that you shouldn’t make a big deal out of them refusing to use the potty. It’s unlikely that this is a power struggle you’re going to win.
Once your toddler catches on that THEY have the power in this situation (which they will), you’re going to find that they’ll want to establish their independence. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s developmentally appropriate as they explore their personhood.
On the days my three year old feels especially sassy, she has downright refused to use the potty. We don’t fight her on it – but there may be a natural consequence attached to her choice.
An example of a natural consequence we’ve used is “well if you don’t use the potty before we leave, we are not going to have time to go to the park after shopping because we’ll have to come home so you can go potty”.
We stay completely calm and empathize with how disappointing that would be.
Generally, THIS WORKS and our toddler gets onto the potty within a few minutes. Also – don’t mention consequences that you cannot follow through on (coming from a mom who’s done that before!)
GET A SPECIAL POTTY CHAIR
If your 3 year old refuses to sit on the toilet, maybe you just have the wrong toilet! Getting them their own special potty can be a great incentive for them to sit on it when Mother Nature is calling.
Related: Chores for Three Year Olds
You know what they love and what makes them happy, so put that knowledge to use and see if you can’t find a potty chair that fits that need.
For us, that meant a “princess potty”. As much as I encourage playing with ALL toys in our household, my daughter is still very drawn to princessey things so she LOVES her princess potty.
OFFER A POTTY TRAINING REWARD
Let’s face it, everyone is motivated by something. If you’re at your wits end on how to train a stubborn 3 year old, why not see if a reward based system will work?
Kids love sweet treats like M&M’s or something special along those lines. And if you limit sweets in your house, offer a different reward that you know they’ll love instead.
We bought a bag of small toys here (and yes – most eventually ended up in the garbage), but they were cheap, sugar-free, and lead to successful potty training for my kiddo.
Maybe an extra 5 minutes of screen time or a fun date afternoon with Mommy or Daddy. Anything that you can do to help motivate them to start potty training quicker is always worth a try!
MAKE THE POTTY TRAINING PROCESS FUN
Did you know that your kids also feed off of your emotions? That happens because of your mirror neurons, which you can learn more about here if you’re interested.
If you’re stressed out about the process and are actually causing potty training fights, there’s a good chance that your toddler is ALSO going to stress out about it – which can often illicit negative behavior. Keep it light and fun to make it happen quicker.
In our house, we made potty time a game. I asked my toddler to come sit on the potty with me (she has a special potty chair), and we would sing songs together.
USE A STICKER CHART
Everyone loves getting gold stars, am I right? And your toddler is no different! Making a reward chart that they can place their own stickers on is a great way to motivate them and let them see their progress as well.
Visuals are great for helping a child feel proud of their accomplishments. If you’re making your own chart, don’t forget to celebrate all of the “small wins”. Give them a sticker for using the potty, flushing, washing hands, and letting you know that they needed to use the potty in the first place.
You can download a printable potty chart right here if you’re interested. 🙂
READ POTTY BOOKS
Taking five minutes out of your day to read a book to your kiddo is SO important. Potty training books (or ANY book really – here’s our list of the best books for three year olds) are a great way to help your child get a better grasp of their world.
Not only do they hear the words, but they are also getting the visuals from the pictures as well. Books can help a toddler work out and organize some of their fears and hesitations regarding the potty.
Our daughter loved the third book in this list. When we were in the midst of potty training we would read it every day. Sometimes she would say she didn’t want to read it, but she still wound up getting wrapped in the story after the second or third page.
Related: Best Books For Three Year Olds
So if your child proclaims loudly that they DON’T wanna read that potty book again – start reading it anyway. Sometimes your toddler says things like this just to be contrary. 😉
CONSIDER GETTING A POTTY DOLL
If your toddler needs a buddy for the potty training process, there’s nothing wrong with that. Some children do better when they have someone or something with them, along for the ride. Getting a potty doll for your toddler can be a great way in letting them see exactly how the process of potty training works from start to finish.
My daughter LOVES her potty doll (we got this one here). When we began potty training, she was only allowed to play with it when it was almost time to use the potty. That kept the doll new and exciting for her, and it really seemed to solidify the process of using the bathroom.
PICK UP UNDERWEAR
Buying big boy or big girl panties is a big deal in the potty training world! In fact, this is one of the easiest ways for potty training ideas for stubborn girls and boys. They love to get their very own underwear with colors and characters on them.
I’ll admit – my daughter was pretty attached to wearing her diapers. It took a lot of coaxing and time to get her to try her new underwear. We found buying plain (aka NOT exciting) diapers helped, as it increased the incentive of being able to use her cute underwear.
CONSISTENCY IN SCHEDULE
Moms and dads, this one is on you. You’re going to have to make certain that you’re doing your part in keeping consistent in your daily toddler schedule and their potty training schedule too.
My best advice is to have them go sit on the potty every couple of hours – perhaps even once an hour. If they’re resistant to sitting on the toilet, consider giving them a small reward (like a sticker) for doing so.
During the hardcore potty training stage, spend as much as time as possible at home so that you BOTH can remember when it’s time to visit the toilet.
WHEN POTTY TRAINING IS STALLED
If you’ve been attempting to potty train with no results, you may be wondering what’s happening. While it may not be a common scenario or situation, there are times when potty training maybe later in life for some. So, this brings up the important question of “When is potty training considered delayed?”
Technically, potty training is considered delayed when your child is older than three years old or is not making progress after 4 months of consistent potty training.
Did you know the average age for potty training boys is 31 months? It’s important to know that because boys tend to be a little bit harder to potty train than girls.
Keep in mind that all kids are different. However, in saying that, there are circumstances and times in life with potty training may be stalled due to factors that are outside of your control.
Children who are autistic or have learning disabilities may not be ready to begin potty training when they are 3 years old. If this is the case (or if you suspect it) talk with your doctor and see what recommendations they have.
Another reason that potty training might be delayed could be due to stress or changes in their life like moving, divorce or other traumatic events. Closely examine what’s been going on in your child’s life, and don’t forget to cut them some slack if your family has recently been through one of these situations.
If there is something stressful going on in your life, your child may be feeling that stress as well. As hard as it is, do your best to push that aside, or consider putting off potty training for a while.
One way to speed up the potty training process is to banish diapers altogether. One day the diapers are in your house, and the next day they are gone. When your toddler has no other choice but wearing underwear and understanding to keep them dry, you may find that this is just the boost that they need to get potty trained with success.
For us, we spent a couple of weeks at home and my daughter had a bare naked butt for most of it. It got her on the right track with potty training because she had NOWHERE Else to go.
BANISH CLOTHING IN THE HOME
Another reason that so many toddlers have so many accidents when they are potty training is that their clothes are always getting in the way. Dealing with buttons and zippers can be frustrating for all little hands to deal with but when they’re trying to rush to the bathroom, those things seem downright impossible!
Related: Toddler Biting
Make it a naked few weeks around your house and let them run around nude or in just their underwear. That way they can get in the habit of making it in time to sit on the potty. You can try the legging pants that don’t have a zipper or button, but we found naked worked better for our toddler.
POTTY TRAINING PROBLEMS
Every parent is going to experience some sort of potty training problems. It’s honestly just par for the course. If your toddler refuses to sit on the potty, get in line with the rest of the parents dealing with it as well.
The easiest way to address potty training problems is to be positive about your approach. I know – much easier said than done. Regardless, your child is going to feed off what you’re putting out, so do your best.
When your toddler has an accident, instead of yelling or scolding try explaining in a calm and gentle manner how they can change it to improve for the next time.
Please don’t say that they did anything WRONG – we definitely don’t want to cause a shame-based reaction in your kiddo. Trust me, they’re as disappointed as you are.
We found that explaining what went wrong helps. For example, we’ve told our daughter “yeah – sometimes when we’re playing it’s hard to remember to go potty, but if we don’t remember we may accidentally pee in our pants, which means we can’t play until it’s cleaned up”.
TODDLER REFUSES TO SIT ON POTTY
Sometimes, that toilet can be a big and scary thing! If your toddler is refusing to sit on the toilet, there are things that you can do!
Make certain that they’re comfortable with sitting on the toilet
Who knows what their little bums feel but your toilet seat may just be way too big for them! Which falling in the toilet is an understandable fear!
My three year old fell in the toilet once when she went to the bathroom without her special toilet seat topper, and I’m pretty sure it was traumatizing for both of us!
Make sure you have a potty chair that fits or one of these toilet seat toppers that are made for tiny bums.
Give them some toys to play with while they wait
Honestly, the thought of sitting on the toilet is just downright boring. If I’m being honest, I get bored too. That usually means I have my phone out and I’m scrolling Facebook or something while using the toilet.
It may be the case with your little one too, so keep a little bucket of toys next to it so that they can sit and play the day away if they want (just make sure they wash their hands and wash those toys frequently!)
POTTY TRAINING CHILD SUDDENLY HAVING ACCIDENTS
Again, parents – pay attention to what is going on in your everyday family life.
If there are stressful situations or family matters happening, this may cause your child to regress in potty training. It’s actually normal and usually isn’t anything permanent.
Take a step back and make sure you’re offering a consistent daily schedule, spend a couple more weeks having “naked time”, and continue giving positive reinforcement.
Remember – potty training regression is pretty normal. Consider giving it a break for a couple of weeks and trying again later.
Another reason that some children have potty training issues is that they were pushed too quickly during potty training and just weren’t “quite” ready. Be patient and avoid acting upset around them.
POTTY TRAINING FIGHTS
Sadly, potty training fights happen. These fights may occur between you and your child or even you and your spouse if you’re not in agreeance on how potty training is going thus far.
Do what you can to keep the peace and don’t let a little potty training fight derail your whole training. If your child is feeling frustrated, let them feel frustrated! This is a big deal in their lives and when they make a mistake, they might be really hard on themselves.
Potty training fights with your child
Potty training shouldn’t be a fight. Remember – eventually your child WILL get there, even if it’s taking longer than you think it should.
Next – boundaries are important – but not so much with potty training. Boundaries are only a thing if you make a boundary – and you will lose if you try to enforce something like this on your child.
Only THEY can make the choice on whether they will use the potty. Your job is just showing them that they WANT to use the potty.
While I don’t recommend harsh consequences, setting a consequence like “we may not have time to read a story if you don’t use the bathroom now” are fair.
You are acknowledging that the choice is still theirs, and choice is a powerful motivator for toddlers.
Potty training fights with your partner
For my partner and I – communication was key. We made sure we had a game plan going in so that we would be on the same page and our child would receive consistent reactions from us.
While it’s pretty normal and understandable to let your frustrations out on your partner, it’s not exactly healthy. Express your frustrations without being condescending or blamey – and keep reminding yourself that you two are in it together.
TODDLER HOLDS POOP UNTIL BEDTIME
We faced this battle with our three year old, and actually talked to a therapist about it. She felt it was honestly not a big deal – and reminded us that at least she WAS pooping.
Many children deal with constipation issues when they’re learning to be potty trained because the thought of pooping to a toddler is downright scary. It’s a weird sensation and can cause a splash on their bum as well, which is a feeling that most kids don’t like to fee
If you find that your toddler is holding poop until bedtime, figure out the reasoning why. If that’s just a part of their “bedtime routine”, start bedtime a little earlier to accommodate it (here I talk about how to deal with a toddler who keeps getting out of bed if you’re experiencing that too).
Read this if you think your toddler is specifically using the potty to delay bedtime, which is a separate problem on its own.
Others are legitimately scared, and hold it in until bedtime because at that point – they really gotta go.
If you think they’re scared of pooping in the toilet, it’s a good idea to get them a smaller potty so when they do go poop, it doesn’t have as long of a way to drop and it won’t cause that “scary” splash as a regular toilet does.
HOW TO POTTY TRAIN A THREE YEAR OLD
There isn’t just one way to potty train a three year old. In fact, what works for one will not work for all. Just as you’re trying to teach your child how to be potty trained, they’re also training YOU in what they like and don’t like about the process.
Try to train your three year old with rewards, positive communication, and positive reinforcement. Remember to be patient in the process and encourage them along the way.
AVERAGE AGE FOR POTTY TRAINING
While the ages can vary for potty training, the average age for girls tends to be around 27 months while boys do take a little bit longer with their average age being around 31 months.
That being said, there’s no “magic” number for when you should start potty training your child and when they should be done with potty training.
HOW TO TELL WHEN YOUR TODDLER IS READY TO POTTY TRAIN
It’s difficult to KNOW when your toddler is ready to potty train, but there’s a few signs that will tell you they’re getting close.
Here’s a quick reference list of the signs that your toddler is ready to potty train
- Showing interest when others use the toilet
- Keeping their diaper dry overnight or at nap times
- Hiding away to pee or poop
- Able to pull down pants and underwear
- Communicating when they’re using the bathroom in their diaper
- Showing interest in pretend-play potty toys
- Interest in books about using the potty
- Bowel movements become more predictable
- Able to understand bathroom language
- Dislike for wet diapers
- Takes off their diaper when soiled
Keep in mind, there is no textbook definition or how-to that’ll tell you when your toddler is ready to potty train. My best advice is to go with your gut. If it fails miserably, take a few weeks off and try again.
ADDITIONAL POTTY TRAINING TIPS
I’m going to be a bit honest with you. Potty training might drive you crazy. There are definite ups and downs when it comes to potty training your toddler, but the outcome is so worth it!
Think of all that money that you’ll save when you don’t have to buy diapers anymore…and no more poopy butts to clean from a dirty diaper as well! Can we all just give each other a “virtual” high-five for those future moments?
SETTING YOUR THREE YEAR OLD UP FOR SUCCESS
The nice thing about (most) three year olds is that they have a fairly good understanding of language -and communication is often half the battle.
These additional tips should help you make sure you’re on the right track.
- Dress your child in simple clothing that will be easy to remove
- If you must use a diaper, buy a package of pull-ups. Honestly – these are just EXPENSIVE diapers in my opinion and we only use them on the go since they’re easier to remove.
- Don’t force your child to use the potty – but feel free to give them plenty of encouragement
- Remind them constantly (every one to two hours) to go use the potty. If they refuse, let them know they will have to stop playing with toys until they can go try.
- Make sure you spend ample time showing your toddler how to use the potty properly
- Teach them language associated with using the potty. Personally we prefer to use “grown up” words when referring to pee and poop, but just make sure you’re consistent regardless of what you decide.
My final potty training tip for each and every one of you?
Don’t give up.
Just when you feel that you’ve taken two steps back, your toddler will surprise you and take three giant leaps forward. Remember, success isn’t a straight line trending upwards – it’s a bunch of ups and downs. Every single day that you work on potty training gets you one step closer to that goal.
WRAPPING UP THREE YEAR OLD POTTY TRAINING RESISTANCE
We’re all familiar with the saying “it takes a village”, right? This goes for potty training as well. Between your family, friends and online community, there is a ton of support and assistance out there to help you! USE THAT HELP! They are there to help you and your toddler anyway that they can!
When it comes to dealing with 3 year old potty training resistance, I hope these tips helped.
You don’t have to feel as though you’re the only parent going through these potty training issues…we’ve all been where you are before! Just take a deep breath and keep moving forward (and backwards sometimes).
What about you? Do you have any potty training tips to share?
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