Potty struggles


A mother recently told me, “I don’t get it. We have done sticker charts, bribed her with her favorite toys, promised to do some of her favorite things, give her treats, but she still won’t go on the potty. I know she can do it because she has done it before. Is there anything else  you can think of?”

Hmm, what more could these parents do? Then I said, “How about trying an approach that is 180 degrees different?”

Meaning, after your child uses the potty, try to hold off on  the applause, high-fives, cheering, sticker charting and treats. Just wipe, flush and move on with your day. If your child senses  when she uses the potty it means so much to you, then perhaps it will become an eventual power struggle.

Toddlers and children in general do not have a lot of say into what goes on in their day. “Time to put your clothes on. We have to get in the car now.” Indeed the parents should run the show. However, one of the things that’s within their control, so to speak, is when and where they relieve their bladders and/or have bowel movements. So, if they sense your emotional state does not rest on their cooperation with the potty, they likely will not use it to hold power over you.

An additional tip is to make sure your child’s feet are not dangling in the air while sitting on the potty and are braced up on top of a step stool to give them more leverage while relieving themselves. You will know your child is ready when they express interest, can communicate in some fashion that they need to use the toilet, and can pull down their pants. If your child was using the potty but stopped for a little bit, then no worries, it will happen again. You know they are capable.

Of course if all the cheering/applause/sticker charting/treats work, then feel free to stick with it. But sometimes it can be a relief to not have to go to such lengths.


About Dr. Maryann Tholany, Pediatrician, Texas Children's Pediatrics - Missouri City

I am a Board Certified Pediatrician who works at Texas Children's Pediatrics Missouri City and am currently accepting new patients. I enjoy providing excellent care with the least amount of intervention (antibiotics and medications in general only when necessary) to patients, and working with families to help alleviate concerns and answer questions about your child's health, behavior and development in a reassuring, calm fashion. I moved to Houston from New York City in 2014 and love to explore Houston. Up until my move from NYC, I worked in a private practice in New York City for six years. All in all, I love living in Houston (a wonderful place to raise a family) and enjoy all that it has to offer.
Posted in 101, Parenting, Texas Children's Pediatrics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. The * fields are required. Links are not allowed.