How to Help a Child Get over a Fear of Going Potty

Updated on May 07, 2010
L.O. asks from Marysville, WA
8 answers

My youngest daughter is 2 1/2. In many ways she is very ready for potty training. She can hold it for hours and hours. She tells me when she needs to go pee or poo. But, she acts deathly afraid of sitting on the potty. We have tried the potty seat on the regular sized potty and a smaller potty chair. She went potty (pee) one time on the small potty chair, and ever since then she has had the fear. She has some other sensory issues, so I am pretty sure that is what the problem is. But, how do we help her get over the fear?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the advice! When I say she can hold it for hours, I mean she has excellent control. She will get out of the bathtub when she needs to go and then she waits for us to put her diaper on so she can go in her diaper! She's quite stubborn/strong willed, so it's hard to think about waiting until she decides to start using the potty. I really think we could be waiting a very, very long time! I think I will try the cutting a hole in the diaper idea one day soon. Do you just cut the hole when you think she needs to go?

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answers from Eugene on

My daughter does not have sensory issues, but she was afraid of the potty. I did not force the issue, but instead her and I would sit by the potty or she would sit on it fully clothed and I would read a book to her or we would play with stickers. After several times of that I started having her sit on the potty without a diaper on and we would still read, etc. I also told her that when she was ready and didn't need diapers anymore then we would have a "Big Girl Party" with cake and balloons and presents. She loved to talk about having the "Big Girl Party" and all the things she wanted. A few days later it just "clicked" with her and she was ok with using the potty. Over the next 2 weeks or so she had a couple of accidents, but since that time she's been awesome at it. Oh, and we had a princess themed "Big Girl Party" which she still talks about several months later. :)

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answers from Austin on

I had a coworker whose small child was having fear issues (of many items, not only the toilet). She was beside herself on what to do... I suggested that she call the free mental health advice number that was offered with our health insurance. She was advised to go to the store with her daughter and let her daughter pick out packages of her favorite stickers; then, anything that her daughter thought was frightening, she was to let her daughter decorate it with the stickers... all over... until it wasn't scary anymore... And it worked!!!

So when my then 2 year old daughter mentioned once day that her little potty was scary, I responded "Really? Does it need some stickers?" So she stuck Mickey Mouse stickers all over her potty... And she didn't mention the potty fear again... (Maybe I got lucky?... or maybe those free health care advice lines do work-?!)

(However, I always cleaned up the potty or flushed the big toilet when she was out of the room... Just in case the flushing was scary...)

Good luck!

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answers from Orlando on

OK...this is very strange, but I knew some day I'd be telling this story.... years ago, I knew a man who had 6 grown children. He said that one of his daughters was very afraid of the potty when she was a toddler. He told her that there was a potty fairy who is the one who gets all of the pee and poop that you flush, and she saves it for you and keeps it safe, and when you grow up, she gives it all back to you. It worked. I think that is the strangest thing, but he somehow figured out that his daughter's fear was that by releasing the pee and poop into a potty to be flushed away that she would be giving up a part of herself. This may or may not be the case with your daughter, but this story may still help you because if nothing else, it will make you really dig deep and figure out what her issue really is and deal with HER fear instead of trying a bunch of things that don't work because you aren't getting to the root of the problem.

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answers from Portland on

Because she has sensory issues, I find myself wondering whether you might try a trick I've seen (never had the need to try, though). Let her wear her diaper sitting on the seat, but cut a hole in it. That way temperature differences, possible splash-back, and general sensations will be closer to what she's used to.

Even before trying that, though, I'd let her just sit on the little potty fully clothed while reading her a book or playing with puppets. Keep the focus OFF the potty for awhile until she's able to relax while just sitting there.

Some kids can sure hold out a long time before letting go. If she'll still use her diaper to relieve herself, I think I'd be inclinded to encourage that for a little while so constipation doesn't become a complicating factor. Just work on calming the fear first, potty success second.

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answers from Little Rock on

Take her to the store and make it this big deal that she gets to pick her own potty. Also make a rewards chart and use stickers she gets to pick out as well for each time she goes on the potty. And while she does seem ready in other ways if a child isn't fully ready you will find yourself potty training her for a looong time. You want to make it a fun experiance and not one that will upset as it won't be very successful if it isn't. Good luck!



answers from Honolulu on

Holding it for hours... is not good. She can get bladder problems and infections.

She does not sound ready, to me.



answers from Seattle on

Briefly, my usual saying--you can't make a child do these three things on cue--eat, sleep, or go pee and poop. (sigh) My son was like your daughter until he was four and I changed lots of diapers because I had a daughter 2 years younger. Finally the thing that made him what made him want to be "trained' was his 4 year old preschool teacher who said to me, in ear shot of him, that she didn't usually take children who weren't potty trained. Well, all his friends were going to that class. He was trained in 1 day, both day and night. It was the easiest thing I didn't do.

Perhaps you can find something like that to motivate your daughter. But it has to be the the right motivation.



answers from Seattle on

One thing we did to help was we would go pee first and then she could put her pee in with ours. Seemed to be helpful for my 2.5 year old.

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