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3 Simple Rules to Stop Toddler Resistance to the Potty

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Inside: Use these 3 rules for bringing down toddler resistance to go pee in the potty (during times where you're more likely to see potty training accidents)

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When my daughter was an infant, I saw for the first time how FAST things evolve with your child, and how you have to keep shifting what works (when it no longer works.)

How to hold her comfortably in a carrier shifted as she got heavier and heavier.

How to safely change her diaper shifted as her bum got wigglier and wigglier.

And even how to soothe her through the tough moments shifted over time, too.

With potty training, it’s common that the prompts you used on day 2 may not work at all when you’re in week 2.

Prompting your child to pee evolves as using the potty becomes more routine.

And as your toddler clicks into the process, you’re more likely to see her toddler stripes show (you know, their fondness for saying NO).

So HOW should you shift your language?

It’s important to drop what’s not working.

And these 3 simple rules to stop toddler resistance to the potty will get you off to a good start!

3 Simple Rules to Stop Toddler Resistance to the Potty

So let's chat about some potty rules to help as you move forward. Because guess what?

Words matter with toddlers.

Language is important so you see less potty training power struggles.

When you start out potty training your child, most parents use some version of the same prompts to go potty...

Time to go pee!
Let's go pee in the potty..

or the reminder..

Pee goes in the potty, not on the floor.

But what should you be saying to your child after the first week of potty training?

After your child isn't clueless about where the pee should be going..BUT you're still seeing resistance to go to pee in the potty?

Here's where you want to add in some rules...and why it's important.

1. Create a rule around *screen time*

So I'm not here to chat about how much screen time is good or bad for your toddler. You're the expert on your child in creating that rule. But I do want to share an important rule around the potty if you do screen time (speaking as a potty training consultant and the patterns I've seen in my work.)

potty training tips

Because here's the thing. If you put a toddler (who may be holding their pee) in front of a screen — any screen, the TV, a tablet, your smartphone — you are very likely to see an accident.

A child gets so absorbed in the screen that it's almost a subconscious release.

So much so that we consider it in Oh Crap Potty Training as an *explainable accident* — meaning you can avoid it. So here's what you do..

Set up a screen time potty rule to prevent accidents.

Set up a *rule* that Daniel Tiger goes on *after* you go potty. You want to use that language, because otherwise it sounds like a bribe. And when you try to bribe a toddler, you'll likely find that you will LOSE.

Here's a bribe..

If you go potty, I'll turn on Daniel Tiger.

(Not likely to end well.)

Here's a potty rule:

After you go potty, I'll turn on Daniel Tiger. You choose your episode, buddy.

And the key to remember is a rule is a rule. Don't cave. Don't overtalk.

So that means DON'T keep engaging with your toddler. Then it becomes a power battle. Stick to your rule with screen time, because otherwise your toddler will LEARN that you will bend if they make a fuss.

You set the boundary and then let your child be.

Less is more when it comes to setting boundaries — repeating yourself only smells like fear and leads to more kickback from your child because they sense you'll keep moving the goalposts around.

2. Create a potty rule around meals

One other time to start setting a potty rule is mealtimes. You want to start to normalize the process of going pee in the potty and washing hands BEFORE sitting down for a meal.

Why are meals so important as a transitional time to get a pee in the potty?

Sitting for any length of time is bound to bring on an accident. So when your toddler is sitting in a high chair or booster seat for dinner, that sitting position puts a crimp on the bladder.

Any pee he's holding can get pushed out and almost take the child (and you) by surprise.

That's why meals are an easy catch time. You want to try and catch pee BEFORE sitting down for a meal.

3 Simple Rules to Stop Toddler Resistance to the Potty

And another reason to start to make this a potty rule and routine for your toddler...

It makes it SO MUCH EASIER on you when you're out and about.

Picture this..

potty training rules for mealtimes
Whether you're eating out at a cafe or having lunch at home, it helps to bring in potty rules around mealtimes

You're out eating lunch with your toddler at a cafe, and suddenly, just as you're enjoying your first sit-down meal of the day, your toddler yells out..


So what do you have to do then?

Honor the potty call.

And race over to the restaurant bathroom (praying it's not occupied if it's a onesie bathroom, or head out to the car and use your travel potty.)

Basically you're dealing with a public bathroom (and all that goes with that setup) in the middle of your meal.

Back to lunch, and I can guarantee it's no longer warm.

Not fun, right?

We want to try to train our toddlers to be a bit *considerate* of those around them (another thing that comes with time and practice, lots of consistency and repetition).

Yes, you need to honor their potty call.

Yes, a toddler can't hold their pee for long.

Yes, life happens.

Make it routine to pee in the potty before meals.

But imagine how it starts to look when going potty before sitting for a meal becomes normalized. It's all in the setup of the rule..

Our family rule is pee in the potty and wash hands before sitting down for a meal.

Think about saying that potty rule, everyday, every meal, with NO energy on it. That starts to get absorbed as the new expectation.

Normalized. Routine. Expected rule.

And then you start to see far LESS resistance to going pee in the potty at this important time.


3. Create a rule around any long sitting times

Just like the accident problem (above) with meals, you can see the same kind of accidents (that sitting action putting a crimp on the bladder) with other long sitting times. So that includes carseats, strollers, or even carriers for long periods of a sit position. So how do you handle those instances?

Shift your language.

Rather than, time to go pee...

It's *our rule* to pee in the potty before going in the car. Last time there was pee in the carseat.
Big potty or little potty, you choose.

Start to make it a normalized part of your routine, so that your toddler will put up less potty resistance. They'll start to realize over time that you're not playing, that this rule is sticking..and just like with other rules, it will start to stick as this is the way things are done.

Related: I love this Montessori-based parenting book all about setting up routines at home to bring down toddler resistance (and increase toddler independence.)

Set up the routine that you go pee in the potty before getting in the car.

Keep in mind these 3 special times when you want to set a potty rule to avoid toddler resistance overall. Shift your routine so you see less resistance to go potty.

There will be a reason WHY — it's a potty rule.

Consider it a habit shift in the way you prompt your child to pee in the potty.

Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs


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