Help! My child won’t sit on the toilet or potty!

Fear of the Potty

You think you have spotted the signs of readiness, done your homework, bought your potty training kit, and cleared your diary, but what happens when your stubborn toddler just won’t sit on the potty or toilet?

This is a very common problem in potty training – especially when you have a headstrong child is at that age when they like to engage in a bit of a power struggle on matters that they can now understand.

So what can you do about it?

Don’t start too early

Typically, children start to become ready to potty train around the age of 2 years old, but sometimes this is earlier or a lot later. It really depends on the child.

The worst thing you can do is start too early. If they do not want to cooperate, they simply won’t! It’ll turn into point blank refusal, and if you decide to cut your losses and postpone it for a little while, the chances are they will remember that they ‘won’ last time and make it difficult for you the next time you start.

Look for the signs of readiness and download our potty training assessment chart to determine if they are really ready to get going.

Reasons for refusal to potty train

If your child seems ready there may be one or more reasons that they are refusing to sit on the loo:

  • Sitting on the potty or toilet interrupts whatever they are playing with at the time – a nappy is much more convenient
  • They may not be ready to stop being a baby just yet
  • There may have been a change at home that has unsettled them, such as a new baby, starting nursery, a separation or even change in childminder
  • They may have been a bit poorly lately
  • Potty training might not have been introduced consistently so they don’t quite understand the process

Whatever the reason is, if you think your child is ready and is just pushing the boundaries, it might be time for you to take the bull by the horns and start potty training in earnest.

Establish a good potty training routine and start by explaining the expectations to them.

Make a big fuss of even small achievements

Start by celebrating even minor achievements such as sitting on the potty for a little while – even if nothing happens. Get them used to the idea of what they need to do and reward them for cooperating.

If the usual offer of stickers don’t appeal enough to lure them onto the loo, try offering trips to the park or the chance to watch their favourite TV programme together.

Let them choose their own pants

Allow them to select their own ‘big pants’ in their favourite colour or TV character design, and explain that they can only wear them if they don’t have a nappy anymore and use a toilet / potty now.

Introduce toilet activities

nappySometimes the idea of ‘all that time’ they have to sit on the potty or toilet is the thing that they don’t like. Introduce an activity such as toilet books or sticker books that they can look at whilst waiting for something to happen. This can often distract them from what is actually happening enough for it to just happen naturally.

Make sure you keep these in the toilet or bathroom though, and don’t allow them to use them outside of this environment. This will help them to make the connection with sitting on the loo, so that they have an incentive to try.

Involve them in the process of flushing the poo and wee away, whilst saying ‘bye bye’ to the waste.

Cover the hole

It is common that kids get scared of the ‘hole’ in the loo. Place a few sheets of kitchen roll under the seat so that they can’t see the hole to take the fear away.

Expect accidents

Accidents are all part of the learning process, so try to remain calm (even if it’s the umpteenth one of the day!).

Explain to them that they are not in trouble if they have an accident, but that they need to tell you when they feel the need to go. They will not necessarily have felt wet before as nappies are very absorbent, so help them to understand that it isn’t very nice to have wet underwear so they should try to get to the toilet or potty before that happens.

You can buy our pads that aid the potty training process on our online potty training shop.

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2 comments on “Help! My child won’t sit on the toilet or potty!

  1. Rukhsar on

    My child does sit on toilet and does do a wee but kicks up a fuss to go and doesn’t tell me when he needs a wee if I time it right and ask him to go for a wee he has tantrums and says not yet so if I leave him or delay it he will have an accident

    • Di on

      Hi, this is a difficult situation and can become a battle of wills. It sounds like you have a good idea when he is likely to need to go so you could start implementing ‘toilet time’ at that time. Try to make it a regular routine and reward him for trying – make the routine about sitting and trying, not about doing a wee. That way if he says he doesn’t need you can say, that’s ok, he just needs to practise sitting. It may take him a while but getting him in this habit may help him forget his existing response of, ‘I don’t need.’ Good luck, try not to get too stressed about it as he will start to learn his own cues in his own time.


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