Potty Training a Strong Willed Child (Part 1)

What is a parent to do when it seems they've tried every potty training tip in the book?

By: Daniel Wagner.

In our experience with potty training, my wife, Manda, and I have never really had a huge problem for the most part with our three oldest children. They were easily taught and willing/curious to learn. But what is a parent to do when a child just doesn’t seem to “get it” when it comes to personal hygiene and the societal necessity for mature bathroom habits? 

Sophia, the youngest of our four children, is the sweetest little girl you could ever hope to meet. She loves to dance and sing, take pictures with her kid-proof digital camera, and talk your head off if you give her the opportunity. But when it came to potty training, she had no interest in learning. 

There have been many times when we’ll catch her doing the potty dance; wiggling and squirming, crossing her legs, etc. If we addressed it, and asked her if she had to go, she would deny, deny, deny like crazy—as if she were afraid she would miss out on something. 

There was a constant struggle between us. Manda and I were always trying to rack our brains, wondering, what do we do next? We tried everything we could think of; taking advice from our friends and family who had older kids. We tried:

·         Reward systems, including
o   Special Treats
o   Candy
o   Small Toys
o   Other various rewards
·         Spanking (a method from our old parenting philosophy before we discovered peaceful parenting)
Girl with Stickers
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·         Shaming (telling her that her friends at school would make fun of her and not be friends with her if she didn’t clean up her act)
·         Scolding (went hand-in-hand with shaming – only more firm)
·         Begging (that was a strange effort that taught her nothing)
·         Special Trips and Fun Days (such as going to the park or arcade if she made it a few days without any accidents)
·         Charting (using markers that we applied, or stickers which she applied)
·         We even Cut Off Drinks at a certain time of night (which didn’t seem to have any effect on the frequency of occurrences)

Something that seemed to work for a while was buying boy themed pull-ups. She responded to an aversion to wearing boy-themed pull-ups. If she was doing well, we would buy her the girl themed pull-ups. Kind of a reward/consequence system. 

Each of these methods worked for a week or two before she grew tired and bored of it and regressed right back into her old ways; sometimes worse, depending on the severity of the consequence or punishment. She was a rebel at heart, and there was nothing we could do to force her to learn. 

Every so often, we would go in her room and get hit in the face with the overwhelming scent of old urine. Upon investigation, we discovered that she was cleverly hiding her soiled clothing under the mattress, tucked into shelves, back in her dresser drawer, etc. She was not learning to use the bathroom properly; rather, she was learning that she would be punished for accidents and was actively developing the skills necessary to hide those accidents from us. 

So what exactly was going to work with little Sophia? 

In Part 2 I discuss how conscious and peaceful parenting helped us determine what made her different from the other kids and why none of the methods we tried seemed to work. 

 Daniel Wagner.

Daniel Wagner, owner of the Parent of Progress blog, shares his experiences, tips, and advice for new parents and/or parents who are new to the concept of peaceful parenting and the challenges associated with the transition in differing mindsets.

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