Toddlers can have many fears when it comes to potty training. In fact, being afraid of the potty is one of most common reasons potty training fails. But sometimes it isn’t the potty that your toddler is afraid of. He may have a fear of releasing on the potty, or a fear of going on the toilet. When your child develops these fears it can be alarming, and you may be apprehensive about potty training worrying that you may make things worse. However, postponing potty training is not a great idea as the older your child gets the more resistant he will become. So let’s talk about some of the most common reasons toddlers are afraid of potty training and what you can do about it.
Fear of “Letting it Go”
Poop– Fear of going poop on the potty is actually a very common fear. Many toddlers “hold in” their poop because they are afraid of letting it go. In theory, toddlers think of their poop as part of their body, so they are afraid a piece of them will fall into the toilet or potty. Scary, right!?!
A toddler who is afraid of pooping in the potty for fear that a piece of them will fall will typically be upset or even sad rather than excited after pooping. She will also be reluctant or even really upset when asked to wave bye or flush the poop.
Pee– Peeing on the potty is a little bit easier for a toddler than pooping, but for some there’s still that fear of “letting it go”. The same as with poop, they are afraid of losing a part of themselves. The feeling of letting it go into something other than a diaper, can be very scary. The diaper makes your toddler feel secure. Warm pee or mushy poop up against their butt is how they know to eliminate themselves. Asking your child to just “let it go” into an open space, can be very frightening. Many toddlers are afraid of peeing on the potty.
- Be very patient with a toddler who is afraid of peeing or pooping in the potty. They will need a lot of comforting and reassurance.
- Never force your toddler to go. You will learn quickly that this will only make things worse.
- Give your child some space while still encouraging him to keep trying.
- Don’t give up. Putting things off typically leads to a more difficult time potty training as it gets harder as your child gets older.
- Consider getting help! I’ve created the Potty Training Plan™, a 3 day method to helping even the most difficult child. I can even help you through the whole process. Take a look at the potty training options
- Offer lots of liquids. This has 3 benefits. First, it will obviously make your child want to go. Second, it will keep away UTI’s. Lastly, it will keep the stools soft.
- Watch for constipation. You may want to offer foods like prunes and pears to help your child go and to make the stools easier to pass. Enough of these fruits will make it almost impossible to keep the poop in. Pears are gentler on the bowels than prunes and they still have the “laxative-like” effect.
- Talk and coach your child through it. My daughter was so afraid of letting pee or poop go in the potty. She would cry, she would sweat. It was awful watching her so upset. I literally had to hug and hold her and gently whisper in her ear that it was going to be ok. I did this and my 3 day method for a few days and within the first week her fear of peeing started to go away, and by the 2nd week the fear of pooping resolving too. When she became good at going on the potty, she would still say “hold Mommy” when she had to go. It was actually pretty cute.
- Offer really awesome rewards. For a child with a big potty training fear, she is going to need something a lot better than just a sticker. Potty training is extremely stressful for a child with a strong fear, the incentive has to be a big one! We bought little toys from the dollar store. We had a stash in a drawer and my daughter was so excited to get a new toy every time. Sometimes I gave her a small piece of chocolate (which is really a big treat, since she never gets that). Other times I gave her a popsicle. Your child has to feel, that this reward is really special.
- Cut a hole in the diaper for the first few tries. It will make your child feel secure when “letting it go” in the potty.
- When my daughter would hold in her pee for an extended amount of time, I was afraid of her getting an UTI. So I had to pull out all the stops to get her to go. I put her on the potty and put her feet in a basin of luke-warm water. This gave her the sensation of going, and also distracted her enough so that she could relax. I know you probably don’t want to keep pulling out a basin every time your child has to go, but even a few times just to get her use to going in the potty.
- Running water. For some kids the sound of running water really works well, while for others it’s ineffective, but it’s worth a try! Put your child on the potty, run the water in the background and see if this helps him release it.
Fear of Potty Itself
Not all toddlers accept the potty right away. Some are really afraid of the potty. A fear of the potty itself can be caused by many reasons. First and foremost it’s an unfamiliar place for your child to do his/her duty. Your child is just not use to the idea of going pee or poop somewhere other than the diaper. Here are some other reasons:
- Potty is hard or uncomfortable
- Potty is unstable on the floor, or it moves around too much.
- The opening is too big, so your child feels he/she will fall in.
- Not the right potty for your child. Toddlers are picky and like to be in control, make sure you allow them to pick their own potty.
- Read lots of books about the potty before you even have your child sit on it.
- Buy some potty training dolls to practice with. They have them for boys and girls Here on Amazon.
- Pick out a fun potty together. Make sure it’s something your child really likes.
- Decorate the potty together with stickers or write your child’s name on it.
- Play dress up and have fun with it! Have your child be a super hero or princess. This may help ease your child’s fears. Yes this is my child to the right who wanted to dress up while she sat on the potty. Hey, whatever it takes!
Fear of Toilet
- If you are going to be potty training using a potty seat on top of the toilet, use books, toys, dvds to introduce the toilet.
- Make sure you have a sturdy stool that your child can confidently step on. Make sure he/she can reach it while sitting on the toilet, this makes your child feel more secure.
- Buy a fun potty seat but make sure it fits sturdy on your toilet. Any wiggle or movement can really scare a child that’s already afraid of falling in.
- Use blue food coloring. When your child pees, it will turn green. This amazes some children so much, they want to keep peeing in the toilet over and over.
- Use “targets” such as cheerios. This works great for boys!
Fear of Public Bathrooms
So now your toddler is potty trained, but he is afraid of using public bathroom. Can you blame him? It’s an intimidating place, with lots of unfamiliar faces, noise, and loud flushing. It is very common for children to be afraid of going in public restrooms. Not to mention the automatic flush situation, this can be traumatizing if your child is not prepared.
- Before you go out in public with your potty training toddler, have him/her go in many different bathrooms that are not as scary as public bathrooms i.e. grandparents, relatives, or friends.
- Have a few “practice runs”, go somewhere for very short periods of time to see if your child is going to be able to hold it.
- Bring a portable and foldable potty seat like this one when you go out. It folds up and easily fits in your bag.
- Bring a portable potty or the Potette Plus to keep in the car when undoubtedly your child will say “I need to go now” and you are no where near a bathroom.
- You can also just take your child’s potty with you. I kept the potty in the trunk of our SUV. When my daughter had to go I just put her right on it. Eventually we started using the foldable potty seat, but when we first started, bringing her own potty with us everywhere, was the key to her success. Yes we felt a little silly, but it was worth the extra effort.
If you are still having problems, have a difficult or stubborn child, or if your child’s fear is interfering with potty training. I can help! My daughter was extremely afraid of potty training, especially of letting it go. Traditional methods did not work. After figuring out why, I started potty training on a Friday evening, and by Monday morning my daughter who was so afraid of the potty was completely potty trained. I now help other parent going through the same struggles with my Potty Training Plan™ and support. Learn more about me here