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Potty training... HELP! Daughter won't get off toilet

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Dr. Markham,
My daughter decided yesterday that she was going to start using the potty. All is going great but we have one problem/ issue. She won't get off the toilet- she loves loves loves it. She is fighting us to get off the toilet and refuses to put on any pull ups or clothes. She's constantly pushing for more bowel movements and her anus is becoming very red and burnt from wipes. What should I do?


Dear Christine,
It sounds like your daughter sets very high standards for herself. In general, in parenting a child like this, you want to be gentle in your expectations and forgiving about errors.

The first thing to remember here is that the problem is that your daughter is pushing for more bowel movements, and that her anus is getting irritated from wiping. You can't fight with her about everything at once, so that is what you want to focus on preventing. If she wants to sit on the toilet nonstop and not put on clothes or pullups, who cares? I assure you that once she feels she has mastered this big hurdle, she will once again be interested in other things.

So rather than fight with her to get off the toilet, I would make a party out of it, to take the focus off of producing bowel movements and reduce the need for wiping. Distract her by giving her books and toys while she's on the toilet. Sit with her and read to her, sing songs, celebrate. It is entirely possible that once she feels she's accomplished her objective and been recognized for it, she will be ready to move on to other things. (Most toddlers don't sit still for long!)

Rather than just trying to tempt her off the toilet, you might connect it with her accomplishment. For instance, suggest that you two leave the toilet so she can do something else celebratory -- like call her grandmother to tell her she's using the toilet, or have a special party snack. But if she wants to stay on the toilet that's fine. Just tell her that her body did a great job making poop and now it needs to rest, so if she stays on the toilet she has to just play for awhile, not poop.

Also, if you can be the one to wipe for now it's a good idea. That way, you can minimize the wiping. By the way, if you are using wipes -- better than dry toilet paper -- be sure to buy the natural ones like Seventh Generation, that don't irritate her already chafed skin. Many wipes contain alcohol, chemical cleansing agents, or chemical preservatives. Another alternative is to use Babyspritz and tissues, which also don't irritate.

Good luck and congratulations on your toilet training daughter!
Dr. Laura Markham

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