Why Your Toddler Refuses to Sit on the Potty (and what you can do about it)

Throughout the journey of potty training, you’ll ask yourself many questions.

Why does my toddler play with their poop?

What are the best rewards for potty training?

But one of the biggest questions parents ask when they start potty training is, “why is my toddler refusing to sit on the potty?”

It’s a common issue many parents face when their toddler is in the beginning stages of potty training.

If your toddler refuses to sit on the potty, here are some tips to get your potty training back on track.

Why Your Toddler Refuses to Sit on the Potty

As one of the most common issues that comes along with toilet training, the fact that your toddler is refusing to sit on the potty isn’t something to worry about.

There are a variety of reasons your toddler may be refusing to sit on the toilet.

These underlying reasons may be why your toddler is refusing to potty train:

They’re just not ready

If you’ve tried convincing your toddler to sit on the potty to no avail, they just might not be ready to potty train right now.

Before you push your toddler further to begin potty training, consider these signs of readiness:

  • Interest in others using the toilet
  • Pulling at a dirty diaper or asking to be changed after soiling their diaper
  • Having a dry diaper after waking
  • Telling you when they’re about to go or have just gone in their diaper
  • The ability to undress and redress themselves
  • Hiding to go pee or poop

If your toddler demonstrates some or all of these signs, it’s a good idea to continue pushing them to try to use the potty.

But if your little one hasn’t begun to demonstrate the signs their ready to begin training, it may be a good idea to hold off and let them develop further before pushing a toddler that refuses to go on the potty.

Your Toddler is Afraid of Falling In

This is a very common fear among toddlers who are in the beginning stages of toilet training, especially if you’re asking your toddler to sit on a full-sized toilet without support.

If your toddler seems like they’re afraid of the toilet, consider using a smaller potty chair to get them used to the idea of going potty before transitioning to the toilet.

Or add a potty training seat to the full-sized toilet to make it more comfortable for a smaller bottom to sit without feeling like they’re going to fall in.

They’re Afraid of the Flush

Imagine being little and hearing that flush under your tooshie. It can be scary to hear and feel the sensation of the toilet flushing and the water swirling down a hole into the unknown.

Sometimes this is a real issue with toddlers who refuse to sit on the potty, so to help them, try letting them finish their business and stepping away from the toilet before flushing it.

They’re Feeling Stressed about Potty Training

Have you been putting a little more pressure on your child to potty train lately?

If your little one is feeling the pressure to go on the potty, they may begin defying you and refusing to sit on the potty.

Help your toddler feel less anxiety around potty training by taking a more relaxed approach to training.

Sitting on the Potty is a Strange Sensation

Your toddler has been comfortably peeing and pooping in their diaper their entire life.

But sitting on the potty and wearing underwear is a strange new sensation that they may not be comfortable with.

Consider ways you can help your toddler ease into the transition, like allowing them to wear pull-ups for part of the day or giving them the option to poop in their diaper while they learn to pee in the potty.

Girl sitting on potty chair covering her face in anger.

What to Do When Your Toddler Refuses to Sit on the Potty

Now that you know some of the underlying reasons your toddler may be refusing to sit on the potty, you may be wondering what to do about it.

These easy tips may help your toddler overcome their fears or anxiety and take the next step in their potty training adventure:

Keep your cool

Seeing the signs that your toddler needs to potty only to have them refuse to sit on the toilet can be so frustrating.

But showing that frustration in a negative way, like yelling or forcing, can only have a negative impact on your child.

As hard as it may be, the most important thing to remember is to keep your cool.

If your toddler is flat out refusing to sit on the potty, put the issue to rest for a few days. Don’t mention going potty or sitting on the toilet for that time period.

In addition to avoiding negative associations with potty training, this cooling off time period will give you a chance to recollect your thoughts and consider a new approach to potty training your toddler.

Give them more control

While your toddler may not have much control over many aspects of their daily routine, going potty is somewhere they can be in complete control.

No matter how many times you ask them if they need to go, they’re the only ones that can control their pee and poop. Lean into that fact and give your toddler the choice to go or not go.

Instead of forcing your little one to sit on the potty throughout the day, gently remind them that they may need to use the potty and allow them to decide if they have to go at that moment or not.

Make it fun

If you’re having a hard time getting your toddler interested in sitting on the potty, think of ways you can make it a little more fun.

Potty training rewards are a great way to get your little one excited about potty training.

Or let them decorate their potty chair or potty seat before they start using it to help get them pumped about using their own potty.

Start small

Do you think your toddler is refusing to sit on the potty because they don’t like the sensations they feel without their diaper on?

Why not start small by allowing them to wear their big kid underwear for a short time each day?

During that time, continue to ask them if they want to sit on the potty. And when the time is up, allow them to put their diaper back on.

Gradually increase the amount of time your toddler wears their underwear until they’re wearing their big kid underwear all day.

Make the potty more accessible

Maybe your toddler is afraid to have an accident, which is forcing them to refuse potty training altogether.

If this is the case, make it easier for your toddler to get to the toilet by bringing their potty seat to them.

Move the potty seat into the family room or play room (where ever your toddler will be spending most of their day) and allow them to use the seat in a more comfortable environment.

This may help them relax and feel more comfortable sitting on the potty during the beginning stages of potty training.

And after they use the potty regularly, you can move it back into the bathroom.

Keep a predicable routine

When you begin potty training your toddler, it’s a good idea to stick to a predictable routine and try to stay at home as much as possible.

This will not only help you notice the times throughout the day when your toddler is more likely to need to use the potty, but it will also give your toddler some comfort during a stressful time in their life.

Choose the right method

Finally, make sure you’ve chosen a potty training method that works for you and your toddler.

There are a lot of different methods out there and there’s no one size fits all approach.


When your toddler refuses to sit on the potty it could be an indication that they are not comfortable with the method you’ve chosen. Take a few steps back and reevaluate.

Choosing a different method doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means that you’re dedicated to making sure your toddler succeeds.

You’ve got this.

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