For some, potty training is a relatively quick and painless process. But for others, it can seem like a never-ending diaper disaster. While some kids take to the toilet more quickly and easily than others, the inevitable struggle is a natural part of growing up. So, if your toddler refuses to potty train, you might need extra tricks up your sleeve to get them out of diapers and onto the toilet. Remember, even the most stubborn kids make it out of diapers eventually. But for those immersed in the process, it can be difficult, frustrating, and yes, of course, messy. So to make it easier, keep these tips in mind on how to potty train a stubborn toddler.


If your toddler refuses to potty train, it might simply be because they are not ready. Typically, children start getting ready to be potty trained at 2 years old but it might take until 3 or even longer to start. Remember, every child is different! Some toddlers might take to it quicker than others and that is ok. Keep in mind that potty training will not work if your child has not developed to the point of readiness. 

Watch out for the signs that it’s time to start. Fewer dirty diapers, more regular bowel movements, and starting to not want to sit in dirty diapers. If they’re recognizing their dirty diaper and finding it less than enjoyable, they might likely be ready to start trying a new, cleaner method. Listen for when they start speaking up about when they are going to the bathroom. If they are recognizing with more advanced time that they have the urge to go, they are likely ready to start controlling it and taking it to their new potty.


Toddler potty training can be a lot easier with the help of a structured, tangible reward system. It can be extremely helpful for kids to see their own progress and start to feel good about it. They can feel in control of their own achievements and start doing it for themselves! Consider creating a sparkly sticker calendar or chart to keep track of their progress. When they keep up the success for a certain amount of time, say, three days, you can offer rewards. It doesn’t have to be a big toy each time, but be sure to offer something that shows your child they did something special.

Along the way, avoid punishments related to potty training. If they can’t get it right away, that’s ok! Potty training is a personal and sometimes self-conscious experience. Any negativity can make kids feel like it’s not a safe space to learn. They can grow an aversion to the process and become even more stubborn. So instead, up your reward system to encourage them to see it as a positive, big kid activity. Don’t forget to praise them generously with verbal and physical cues such as smiling, laughing, high fiving and cheering them on!


If your toddler refuses to potty train, you might need some additional tools to get them on board. Let them try new types of underwear and even go without! Pull up diapers are a great option for transitioning to the potty because they allow kids to take control and pull them down themselves. They start to feel like they have responsibility for going by themselves, but if there are any accidents, it’s no problem! The diapers will absorb it. 

As they get better at controlling their urges long enough to get to their potty, you can try big kid underwear to allow them to get used to it and start enjoying the new freedom. In the meantime, it can be helpful to let them scamper around with no diapers or underwear on so they can be more aware of what is happening when they need to go to the bathroom. Instead of it just happening hidden in their diapers, they can see it and learn that the way to go is by using their potty. Just keep some wipes handy!


Looking for a way to get your child more comfortable and excited about going to the bathroom the grown up way? Try out a new toddler potty training lingo! Start using new words surrounding going to the bathroom. Take the opportunity to show your positivity around potty training. Remind them how fun and comfortable their new underwear is. Choose your words for going to the bathroom and use them consistently so your child gets the hang of understanding the terms and using them to communicate their needs. 

Remember to avoid using negative words like gross or yucky or anything commenting on the smell that might make your child feel shame or embarrassment. The ideal situation is to help them see all forms of going to the bathroom as normal and natural. Grown up language can be a helpful way to show your toddler that toilet training is an easier, comfier, cleaner, way to go! If they’re extra stubborn, don’t ask them if they want to go. Tell them it’s time or propose a challenge!

At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we are thrilled to see our patients and their families go through this exciting time of growth and independence. While we understand that it can be especially tricky when a toddler refuses to potty train, we know that when your child is ready, it will become a beautiful bonding and learning experience to see their success. As your family tests out potty training tips, your pediatrician can work with you to find the perfect solution to getting them out of diapers and onto the toilet. For more insight on how to potty train a stubborn toddler, don’t hesitate to reach out to your knowledgeable Coastal Kids pediatrician. To make an appointment, visit us at