When your baby turns three, they tend to exert a whole new level of new independence. They love to use the word “No” and sometimes that means not wanting to do all the things they learned when they were two. They will put their foot down and give you a struggle due to their increasing awareness that they are their own little person now. Children that are not potty trained at 3 may just be exerting this new independence or just not ready to be potty trained yet. Below are some helpful ways to help you overcome this battle.

Why Does Your Child Refuse to Potty Train at 3?

Along with all the milestones you are experiencing with your toddler, potty training is quite the big one! Most parents want to know what it is that brings success. You will need to have lots of patience and consistency when teaching a three year old to use the toilet.

When you decide to begin potty training your toddler, there are a few things that you need to consider. First, your child must be ready both emotionally and physically and this does not happen until around the age of 2. Some children even need longer. Every child is different and there really is no set age to start.

If it is not time yet, you will notice your child continuing to wet his or her pants, having bowel movements in their diaper or training pants or even holding it and refusing to go at all. You will also notice they are very reluctant to sit on the potty for you and you cannot force them no matter how hard you try. If you toddler is not potty trained at 3 you may have a battle on your hands on the child’s part and it is not a matter of training issues.

Another reason is when you make your child go to the bathroom on your terms instead of theirs. Punishing a child or spanking will also cause them to resist even more because it has become a “negative” experience for them. Understand your toddler’s new found independence and strong will that emerges around age 3 can really make for some uphill battles.

How to Start Potty Training at 3 Years Old

You will need to take a positive approach to this in order to be successful. Keep your attitude light and positive and make sure everyone who cares for your child does the same. Here are the steps to start potty training:

1.    Use an Insert Toilet Seat

Start by taking your child out and letting them pick out a toilet seat made for children that sits on top of the regular adult toilet seat. You can also have them pick out their own “pull up” type diaper/training pants to use at first. When you get home, unwrap the toilet seat and allow them to place it on top of the toilet. Tell them in a fun tone that this is their very own toilet seat so they can sit on the potty and be a “big boy/girl.” Don’t rush too quickly to sit them on it if they refuse at first. It may take about a week to get them used to the idea. On the first day, put them in “pull ups” and take them to the potty and sit them on the seat after meals. Use a small step stool and let them climb up themselves. Even if your toddler doesn’t pee in the toilet, use lots of praise and give a reward if they do go pee. It is also helpful to put them on the potty first thing in the morning and before they go to bed at naptime and nighttime.

2.    Try To Be Understanding

Think about how your toddler might feel about potty training. If your toddler talks well you can ask him or her how they feel about it. Ask questions like, “Are you afraid?” “Why don’t you want to use the potty?” Reassure them that it will be okay.

3.    Give Them Motivation

Toddlers and young children need a benefit or reward. Offer some kind of incentive to using the potty all of the time without any accidents. Maybe when they are fully trained they can play a toddler sport or dance class.

4.    Treat Him or Her Like a Big Girl or Boy

During potty training you can reinforce things by taking them out shopping for “big girl” panties or “big boy” underwear. Allow your child to pick them out all by themselves and tell them that it is time for the diapers to go away. Let your toddler know that they will only be getting diapers at night and have to wear big kid pants during the day. Usually, if they wet their pants they won’t like the feeling of being wet and may want to use the potty more often.

5.    Use Daily Rewards/ Incentives

One good technique is to place a sticker chart on the wall next to the toilet. When they go potty on the toilet, they get to place a sticker on the chart. At the end of the day if they have enough stickers they get a prize. You can use anything your child likes within reason and keep it small. You can read them an extra story in the evening or allow them their favorite dessert. Even if they don’t go potty one day, still give them praise and keep things positive.

6.    Find a Good Time to Say Goodbye to Diapers

If your toddler is using the potty pretty consistently with few accidents, set a date to say goodbye to diapers. Make a big deal of this and some people even have a little party. It may even help for your little one to “donate” or “gift” his or her last package of diapers to a toddler that is younger and not yet potty trained. This way they see that diapers are for younger kids.

7.    Maintain Patience with Accidents

If your child has an accident, keep calm. Do not yell at or punish your child. When they do stay dry for long periods, praise them. When accidents happen, calmly explain that they just need to try harder to make it to the potty, clean them up and move on. If you cause anxiety in your child, they may regress from potty training even more. Accidents are a normal part of potty training.

8.    Reverse Psychology Works

If begging your child to use the toilet doesn’t work, try begging them “not” to go potty on the toilet. If your child is very resistant to doing what you tell them, they may in fact want to do the opposite in this case and go on the toilet.

9.    Give Your Child The Responsibility and Independence

Sit your child down and have a frank discussion with him or her. Let them know that bodies make “poo poo” and “pee pee” and it belongs to them. Their bodies need them to put it in the toilet. Give them the job. Then don’t say anything. They eventually figure out they need to do this all on their own when you stop battling them.

Other Moms' Experience

Case 1:

“As a mom of a 3 ½ year old toddler, my best advice is Don’t Panic! My son just finished potty training. Every child has their own time to be ready. I went to the book store and bought children’s books on potty training. We hung a chart for stickers in the bathroom and he got to pick out his own underwear. I tried my best to stay patient and wait for his clues for readiness. It seemed like he wanted to use the potty, but it took a long time for him to be ready. Use prizes, stay calm and they will come along in their own time. Remember, we haven’t seen a Kindergartener in diapers yet!”

Case 2:

“I had 4 year old twins and a 3 year old all potty training around the same time. The only thing that worked for us was staying positive, offering rewards and getting them into “big kid” underwear as quickly as possible. Offering for them to go shopping and pick out their underwear and toilet supplies really helps and eventually they start going all on their own.”

Final Notes:

You can always speak with your child’s pediatrician if they have reached the age of 3 and are not potty trained. Your doctor can assess for problems and give you helpful advice.