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The single most daunting task for a mother is trying to potty train a strong-willed child.
Mothers from all walks of life pull their hair out in search of the secret combination to make their strong-willed child obey, much less transition from diapers to underoos.
Having been there myself a time or two, and coming off the heels of a successful potty training venture (channeling my strong-willed daughter’s experience with my even stronger-willed grandson aka The Tiny Tornado), as well as picking the brains of many a young mama on the subject, I’m here to offer an answer.
Yes, you really can successfully potty train a strong-willed child in 3 days and here’s how.
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How to potty train a strong-willed child in 3 days
1.) Wait till he’s ready to potty train
Moms across the board advise this over and over. There’s a reason why – they’re MOMS, and they’ve all tried too soon and given up (myself included). When your kid doesn’t know if he’s pooped or peed, then 9 months is probably too early. Generally, ages 2 to 3 ½ is ideal.
2.) Talk it up
Once you see she recognizes when she poops, begins talking about the potty. Mention the function in everyday conversation and show her what to do (or what big sister does, etc). Introduce a kiddie potty. Moreover, keep the conversation going. Also, Potty Training Without Tantrums is a great resource to dig into before you’re knee-deep in…well, you know.
3.) Recognize the signs for potty training
When a child can hold his pee for 3 hours, is dry after a night’s sleep, or tells you to “go away I need to poop”, he is physically ready. NOTE: Strong-willed children often disappear or even announce they’re going in the other room to poop.
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4.) Continue enforcing non-negotiable rules (use link to swiller)
In addition, strong-willed children will take you down a road, around the turn, and up a steep hill if you choose to go along for the ride. This is a subject better saved for another article – in fact, I addressed it here – just know he or she will take you on that same ride when it comes to potty training if you’re not already practicing consistency in your discipline.
5.) Determine when to potty train
Once you’ve witnessed the signs of physical and mental readiness, chatted about it, and worked on your discipline skills, it’s time to figure out when. So, my suggestion is a time when you can maintain consistency for around ten days. Preferably when he can either stay home with you or in a controlled environment with a sitter you’ve clued in on the plan.
6.) Stay home for maximum potty training
This is my best recommendation to potty train a strong-willed child. Don’t plan it during vacation, Christmas, or a get-away with your hubby. Mentally prepare to lock yourself into staying home and maintaining a consistent schedule. (If you’re a social bug or like shopping, you’ll have to especially psych yourself up for stepping away from TJ Maxx and the Rae Dunn plate wear.)
7.) Let them go naked
This is crucial for your child to recognize when he or she goes. Especially when he’s not sold on using the potty. Our swiller had never acknowledged when he peed, only pooped. So the first time he had a #1 accident in his Mickey Mouse-a-roos, he was quite disturbed. It gave him something tangible and he didn’t like making a mess on the kitchen floor.
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8.) Set a timer for potty training
It’s kinda like Pavlov’s dog – when the timer went off, he knew what it meant. With the rule consistently reinforced, he gave up the fight. By day 3 when the family was at my house for independence day festivities, the timer went off and his parents both acknowledged and reinforced the pattern. He just grinned and went along with the program.
9.) Let them go outside
One of the biggest sellers for boys is the ability to shoot a stream off the back deck. Admittedly, they have the advantage over girls, but this tactic can be used if you’re willing. Just keep diaper wipes and a trash can on hand, or place the potty wherever you are.
10.) Give grace, yet firmness
There will be accidents. Know this. Indeed, expect them and when they happen, revisit the plan and even have them help clean the mess if possible. Do it with grace, yet firmness. Again, if your child is out of his element at the accidentally poops because he’s distracted, roll with it.
A few more thoughts from a seasoned mama on potty training…
Indeed, kids don’t like to give up their business. Their poop is their precious.
It sounds crazy, but giving that up is like giving up a part of their bodies. Also, some kids are scared of the potty. The Tornado was worried he’d get sucked down the drain so his aunt (my youngest daughter) spun a yarn about how she got sucked down the toilet and went to Disney Land. Hey, whatever works!
Also – bribery doesn’t generally work with the Swiller. You can try – and you’ll find a few suggestions in my downloadable checklist of 25 successful tips and tricks for potty training, but don’t get too discouraged if that doesn’t work.
Also, it’s not worth it to scream and yell. Don’t go down that road – for more help on the frustration of motherhood, read my book, Count to Nine; 9 Liberating Steps for Mom Frustration and Anger. You’ll be glad you did.
You can do this, mom. Patiently lay the groundwork and when the time comes, you and your Swiller (Strong-willer) will be ready to roll!
yasmine zayas says
I have read and tried to apply all of the above my grandson just turned four and he is anti potty anti big boy under wear and def anti going naked! he will have a one-two hour tantrum about the whole situation I have raised and potty trained three children and also potty trained my grand daughter as well as a friend’s grandson I have tried throwing cherrios making a game a song sending him with his dad and granddad when they go and he isn’t having it! what advaice can you give?
My best advice is to just wait. I thought my grandson would NEVER be trained because he is the KING of strong-willed souls LOL. He had already turned 4 before this finally worked for us. When it’s so frustrating, sometimes you just have to give it a bit more time. They know when they are ready. Hang in there!! <3
I been having alot of trouble with my 3 year old girl she told me she’s scared of the toilet and she snot interest in the Elmo potty she peed on her underwear and pants bunch of times and poop twice and she seems to not care! Any advice
I already told my husband to let her be and try again when she’s ready!
Hi Sandii, you actually just hit on your answer! She is NOT ready if she’s scared. Kids do this – who knows why, but they fear the toilet. Little ones have BIG fears and it’s not worth the battle nor the frustration. Just “let her be and try again when she’s ready” is RIGHT!!