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Use These 7 Tips When Potty Training Your Strong-Willed Toddler
  • Learning how to use the toilet is an important milestone for children. However, potty training can be a challenge for moms and dads whose children are reluctant to learn to use the toilet by themselves. The reasons behind this stubbornness can vary from simply being not ready to having difficulty passing stool regularly.

    Why children may be reluctant to use the toilet

    According to Healthline, it is usually between the ages 18 months and 3 years when children begin to potty train. However, it is also possible (and normal) for some kids not to be ready to learn how to use the toilet even when they reach these ages. If this is the case with your little one, a possible explanation might be that she is simply not ready. There are a couple of signs that can tell you this is true for your child, including not being fazed even if her diaper is full of poop or urine and being unable to express herself verbally and to control her bladder.

    Some children might also be difficult about potty training because they are afraid of the toilet — specifically, of the loud sound it makes when flushing. Fatherly says that kids may also be scared of using the toilet because they might be flushing a part of themselves when they flush their poop. “Little kids aren’t quite clear on the concept that certain parts of our bodies, like our hair, fingernails, and even poop, don’t hurt when we get rid of them,” explains Dr. Heather Wittenberg, a child psychologist, and author. “As odd as it seems, it’s a long learning process for children to understand that flushing doesn’t hurt them.”


    Another explanation to why some children don’t want to use the toilet is because pooping might be painful for them — in other words, because they might be experiencing constipation. Constipation, which is when a person has infrequent bowel movements or dry, hard stools, is a common problem in kids. “If he is constipated and his stools are hard, he won’t want to go in the potty because pooping hurts,” Tanya Altmann, M.D., a parenting expert, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and author, explains in her book, Baby and Toddler Basics: Expert Answers to Parents’ Top 150 Questions.

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    How to potty-train your stubborn toddler

    Trying to potty-train a reluctant child might be difficult, but it’s not difficult. All you need is a whole lot of patience and words of encouragement and reassurance to let her know that you will support her throughout the process. A fiber-rich diet can also do wonders!

    Don’t try to control your child

    There’s no doubt that, at times, it can be very frustrating for parents when their kids are incredibly stubborn about learning how to use the potty. However, trying to force your child to use the toilet whenever she needs to urinate or defecate may only make things harder for you. Dr. Altmann tells Romper that it is completely normal for some children to not be ready to use the potty until they are around 3 years old or older and that attempting to pressure your child into toilet training might just make her resist even more.

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    Similarly, the AAP recommends refraining from constantly asking your child if she needs to go to the bathroom. Doing this might only end up robbing your child of her sense of control and make her want to resist more. Instead, allow her to take the lead! As you continue on the process of potty training, she will eventually be able to use the toilet even without your prompting.

    Ease her fears

    Some kids are reluctant to use the toilet because they may be scared of its flushing sound or because they think they might fall into it. If this is the case with your child, What to Expect advises taking the time to reassure your child that she has nothing to fear. For example, you can try supporting her arms while she is on the seat or not flushing the toilet until she has left the bathroom. Eventually, you can move on to letting her get used to the flushing sound of the toilet or to sitting without your help.

    The key to taking away your child’s fear, according to Dr. Wittenberg, is by reassuring her. “Reassure them that you won’t let anything hurt them. If your child is afraid of the loud, annoying flushers that you’d typically find in a public bathroom, help them cover their ears.”

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    Check for constipation

    Constipation is, unfortunately, a common issue for kids, according to Mayo Clinic. Its symptoms include less than three bowel movements in a week, hard and dry stools, abdominal pain, and traces of liquid or clay-like stool in a child’s underwear (which can be a sign that her stool is backed up in her rectum), among others.


    If you suspect that this is an issue your child is experiencing, one thing you can do is to give her foods that are rich in fiber, such as broccoli, beans, and oatmeal, as well as fruits like oranges and apples. However, if constipation lasts over two weeks and is accompanied by symptoms such as fever, vomiting, blood in the stool, abdominal swelling, and weight loss, it might be time to ask your pediatrician for help.

    Let her go commando

    Romper suggests that letting your child walk around the house naked for a little while can be another way to motivate her to use the toilet. “Often, if a child is older, you know they know what to do and they just aren’t ready, spending a week at home naked and encouraging them when they have success is the best thing you can do,” says Dr. Altmann.

    How do you go about this? Select a time of day when you don’t have too many things to do at home, then allow your child to move around with no underwear on. When she starts showing signs of needing to use the bathroom, such as squirming, encourage her to go to the bathroom and try to use the toilet.

    Remember to praise and encourage her

    Potty training is likely going to be a long, tough process for your child, so make sure to give her lots of motivation and encouragement along the way. Whenever she makes breakthroughs, don’t forget to praise her. You can give her rewards such as stickers on a chart for every time she succeeds in using the potty or even offer “time-limited incentives,” like 15 minutes of screen time, as pediatrician Barton D. Schmitt, M.D., suggests in an article on the journal Contemporary Pediatrics.


    However, remember also to be careful about the reward system you establish with your child, because “a treat in exchange for each potty use may motivate her to keep trying, as long as the treat is not so big that it distracts from the act itself,” the AAP says. You can even try including going to the potty in your child’s list of chores and letting her add a sticker to each chore once she finishes them, which is another great way for her to achieve a sense of accomplishment.

    Be patient

    In the process of potty training, every now and then, your child might hit some roadblocks. The AAP urges parents to treat their children’s mistakes lightly and to try not to get upset. “Focus instead on keeping her meals and naps on a regular schedule, asking her after each naptime and meal if she needs to go, and feeding her plenty of fruits, other foods high in fiber, and liquids. This will make her body’s urges more predictable and she will then be more likely to respond to them.”

    Ultimately, the most important thing for parents to do is to relax. Every child is different, and there is no harm in letting your child potty-train a little later than her peers. “Agonizing over your child’s training doesn’t do anything to help; it just makes you a stressed out, unhappy parent,” Romper writes.

    Ask for help if necessary

    According to What to Expect, sometimes it can help to enlist the help of another adult in training their child to use the toilet. Ask for assistance for a grandparent or even a house helper to encourage your little one to go potty. Their input might end up having more of an effect on your child than your pleadings.

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