Updated: Mar 2
When your toddler refuses to sit on the potty at daycare, here are solutions for potty training refusal. This content contains affiliate links.
Some phone calls instantly trigger an uh-oh feeling in your chest.
For me, everytime I'd see my daughter’s school nurse pop up as my incoming call, my worries about her food allergies would instantly surface.
When I’m working with parents in a potty training consultation, I sometimes hear stories of the calls they’re receiving from daycare.
Calling to say their toddler won't sit on the potty or toilet.
Calling to say their toddler refuses to use the potty every time the teacher brings them.
Calls sparking worries on what to do.
So what happens when things are going right at home with potty training, but your child REFUSES to sit on the potty to pee or poop at daycare?
Because that can happen.
How can you set yourself up for success with potty training at daycare? What happens if you’re seeing loads of resistance to the potty at daycare?
Start with new toilets in places that already feel safe and familiar.
A great place could be a friend's house, Grandma's place, someone's home you already visit.
Note: It's still best to bring your travel potty along and offer your child the choice.
Because you can't force your child to go pee.
And if your kiddo hasn't made it safe in their head to pee in this new toilet, then you're out of luck. They will (and can!) hold with all their might to the point of an accident. So the biggest thing to remember is practice practice practice — normalizing using new toilets is one of the simplest ways to help a child through this kind of potty training refusal.
On the weekends or whenever you're together, take your toddler on short outings through the day.
Make it feel more routine for your toddler to use a toilet or potty outside of your home.
Also, try to build up your child's confidence in using other toilets. I recently discovered this children's potty book and love its simple message with turning the girl into a potty ninja! Who doesn't feel brave as a ninja?!
Not only do you want to help your child channel their brave in conquering new bathrooms, but I love how the book shares an illustration of a public bathroom stall...that's hard to find in most children's potty books.
Consistency is what helps bring down anxiety for a toddler. Calm repetition...
Here we are at Jane's house. Let's go check out her potty. Look! What color is her bathroom? It's different from our yellow bathroom.
(Keep things light in tone — make it like a little adventure, checking out these new toilets and new bathrooms.)
While you're with your kiddo, see if any tweaks help your child feel safe to use a new toilet. Especially when using a big toilet (over their little potty).
Does supporting your child on the toilet — so she doesn't feel like she's going to fall in — help at all?
Does having your toddler stand on the toilet to pee (facing backwards, with your support) help him feel safe to pee in the big toilet?
Is the sound of the flusher what's throwing in the fear? (Then covering your child's ears can help.)
Find anything that works? Share that with your child's teacher at daycare.
Think about the bathroom setup at your child's daycare or preschool.
What kind of toilet or potty is there? Is it open or is there some level of privacy?
I hear about a lot of different kinds of issues with potty training toddlers entering back to daycare or preschool.
Here's a common pattern I've been noticing..
A lot of daycares have the mini toddler toilets. The small porcelain toilets that are just like a regular toilet, except smaller in size. Now, the size is perfectly suited for a toddler, but I've been hearing many cases of the toddler refusing to pee on this kind of toilet.
My hunch is that in the eyes of these toddlers, these small toilets are the same as a big porcelain toilet. Since these are the same kiddos, who for the most part, choose to use a small plastic potty at home. Refuse to go near the flushing toilet at home.
So what can you do?
What if your child will ONLY use a small plastic potty?
And then you discover your child won't use the small porcelain toilet at daycare?
First, see if your child will use the daycare's toilet with YOU.
Because if your child is using the potty at home with no issues, and if you can't get a pee at daycare with you there to support your child, then it's likely about the daycare's toilet (or daycare's bathroom setup, if there's no privacy.)
What if your child won't go with you?
Then think on your tone.
Are you ASKING your child to go with a nervous, anxious voice because you're expecting it to look like a disaster? Because the weirder you are about it, the more your child will feel anxious and resist.
Or are you prompting your child with that calm mom voice that sets your expectations? Are you using the 3 rules to stop toddler resistance to go potty?
It's our rule that you go potty and wash hands before starting in the classroom for the day.
That's the rule.
I can help you go potty or I can stand over here while you go by yourself. You choose.
Sometimes the child is okay with with the potty at daycare, but it's the prompting that's bugging your child. Meaning the teacher is bringing your toddler to pee in the potty ALL THE TIME so it's started bugging your child.
And the next thing you can see is pee accidents at daycare. Plus if your child is being brought to the potty every 30 minutes or so, you may hit this issue:
your toddler won't tell the teacher when he needs to pee in the potty.
That's when a simple gadget can help for a child who's refusing to sit on the potty.
Keep in mind poop is often handled differently. Privacy can be a bigger issue for pooping successfully at daycare (if the daycare has toilets next to one another with no privacy — that can throw some kids.)
And, if you're seeing no poop at all, that's another issue, too. Poop is connected to sphincter muscles.
So it makes sense that if your child is not comfortable using the potty at daycare for pee, then the sphincter muscles slam shut when the urge to poop comes on. Then we tend to see either no poop or poops in the pants (when the child feels relaxed, it just comes out.)
Keep in mind: Poop issues at daycare typically don't have a simple fix. I do offer potty consultations if you're seeing poop issues at daycare. You don't want your child to get in a bad habit of pooping in their pants (as that's a tough pooping pattern to break.) Jamie also has a Pooping Solutions course, which is another way to get support with a poop issue.
Another help for daycare dropoff?
It's best to set up what's going to happen BEFORE it happens, so your child knows what to expect.
Related: And that's why I love this book about what to expect with going to preschool or daycare, including what happens when you feel pee and you're at recess...all the little routines and situations that can come up. It's my favorite preschool book for talking through the details, which always helps in new situations.
Taking the time to do small chats with your toddler — that helps to bring down anxiety and helps with resistance. Set up what the drop-off at daycare will look like, in detail, to give your child a greater sense of control in knowing what's happening.
Hey buddy, when we get to daycare, you'll take off your coat and go potty and wash hands before going in the classroom. That's our rule now that you use the potty.
I'm happy to come in while you pee in the potty, or I can stand by the sink. Where would you like mama to stand?
Still stuck? Here are some tips on entering back to daycare after potty training to check out.
Time is another thing on your side.
With toddlers, it takes time to normalize something new — so keep in mind this kind of potty training issue is not one that can typically be fixed overnight.
That's another point to problem-solve with daycare if you're getting one of those unnerving calls.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs