Refusal – child knows what to do but just won’t do it/ or ‘Why does potty training sometimes turn into a battle of wills?’

Unhappy Child

Potty Training Refusal, Regression

It’s really common for children to show all the signs of being ready to start potty training.  For some reason they stubbornly refuse to go anywhere near a potty.  Let alone sit on it to do a wee or poo! Then there’s those little ones who were perfectly happy to sit for the first week.  Then, all of a sudden decide that potty training isn’t for them anymore and the shutters go down. Here’s how to break the potty deadlock.

Steep learning curve

It’s really important to remember that potty training is a steep learning curve for children.  It is a huge milestone for them to reach. One day they are allowed to wee and poo exactly when and where they choose in their cosy portable toilet.  But then off comes their nappy and they’re now expected to begin the journey towards independent toileting…

Try to be consistent

Once you’ve worked out that they’re ready to be potty trained (signpost to above ‘What age it best..’ blog), try take a consistent approach especially as far as nappies or pull ups are concerned. Going in and out of nappies risks making the process even harder as it gives a mixed message. Children can end up feeling really confused.  Where and when they can wee and poo and unsure of what’s being expected of them.

If your child is looked after by a relative or is in childcare make sure you let them know that you’re starting potty training.  Also let them know the way you’re planning to do it. It really helps if everyone who cares for your child is doing the same thing; using the same language, following the agreed routine and rewarding for the same things.

Stick to a routine

A consistent toileting routine is highly recommended, until they can act on their own body’s signals for a wee or poo.  If your child can stay dry for intervals of around 2 hours, that’s when you should be taking them for a wee. This is rather than every 30 minutes ‘just in case’.  This won’t allow their bladders to stretch and learn to hold more. Going too often also means a child can quickly become bored.  This new activity seems to keep interrupting their play time!

The best time to get a poo in the potty is 20-30 minutes after your child has eaten.  This stimulates our bowel to make way for the extra food that is going through our system. It’s also a good idea to encourage children to sit on the potty when they first wake up.  Also just before they go to bed.

Following the routine

Following the routine also reduces the need to keep asking your child if they need to do a wee or poo.  Another flashpoint for frustration when they merrily say ‘no’ and then there’s a puddle or poo on the floor 5 minutes later! A clear instruction: it’s toilet time now without giving a choice or room for argument should yield results…

Encourage boys to sit down to wee when they first start potty training.  Do this for at least one or two of their wees going forward. Boys empty their bladders better sitting down.  Doing one or two squats a day can also help to avoid problems with constipation.

Make it fun and give incentives

Little children have a short attention and can get bored easily. In the first week of potty training everything is a game and treats keep appearing, but what can you do when their initial excitement wears off and the promise of a sticker on their chart is no longer working?

  • Don’t make them sit for too long on the potty or toilet, two or three minutes is fine.
  • Give them a small, instant reward and lots of praise for achievable goals and each step along the ways e.g. agreeing to sit and washing hand afterwards. This means that even if they don’t produce a wee or poo every time, you have a way of keeping them motivated and incentivised to work with you.
  • Keep some toys and books handy to occupy them while they sit. For children who are nervous about letting go of a wee or poo, an activity like blowing bubbles is a brilliant way to keep them distracted, relaxed and using the same muscles they need to push a poo out.

What if your child will only wee or poo in a nappy and withholds without one?

It’s very common for children to feel nervous about potty training. It can be a daunting new skill they are being asked to learn and some feel scared by the idea of losing part of themselves down the toilet. Others may be happy to wee but refuse to poo in the potty (pushing a poo out is a more active process than letting go of a wee). Here are some things that can help:

  • It’s best that they keep pooing and weeing regularly in a place they feel comfortable rather than withhold as this can lead to constipation. Signpost: Take a look at ERIC’s step by step guidance for parents when this situation arises: Children who will only poo in a nappy
  • Check that they not constipated already as this can have a big affect a child’s behaviour and be behind their fear of doing a wee or poo on the potty (download ERIC’s Guide to Children’s Bowel Problemsfor more information on the signs and treatment for constipation).
  • Make sure they are drinking plenty (6-8 drinks of water-based fluid a day) to give them a good strong bladder signal help keep their bowel and bladder healthy.

Be patient and try to stay calm

Potty training is a skill which takes time to learn, so don’t be surprised if there are lots of accidents and refusals to sit to start with. You might decide your child isn’t ready after all, in which case stop potty training and have another go in a few weeks.

Share On:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *