One of our readers, Lauren, shared that she is looking for tips to potty train her strong-willed 2-year-old twins. Lauren’s twins are each struggling with a different aspect of toileting. Her daughter is doing just fine peeing on the toilet, but she’s going to a private place to have a bowel movement (BM) on the floor. Her son only has pee accidents, but they happen when he’s wearing clothing (versus running around the house in the buff). If you’re in the midst of potty training, I’m sure you’re thinking of when your little one has done one or both of these things. So what do you do? Read on for our tips for potty training strong-willed kids!
5 Steps to Potty Training Strong-Willed Toddlers
- Positive reinforcement rather than punishment. It is critical that your little one has a positive association with going to the bathroom on the toilet, and the best way to do that is with positive reinforcement. When there is an accident, calmly walk your child to the bathroom and say, “We only go potty on the toilet.” Then clean up.
- Reward successes. What motivates your child? For my daughter, she’ll do just about anything for chocolate. So her toileting reward was 2 M&Ms for poop and 1 for pee on the toilet. The key is that she was not allowed to have M&Ms any other time – they were only used for a toileting reward.
- Involve your child in cleaning up accidents. I’m not suggesting that you make your child get out the cleaning agents and scrub the floor, but it’s important for your child to feel responsible for his accidents. He should remove his wet clothing and put it in a waterproof/wipeable hamper (or a bag in the bathroom) and put on his new clothing while seeing you clean up the floor if there was a mess. Soon he will realize the clean-up part is much less fun than playing, and it will help to break the habit.
- Track your child’s elimination schedule. We are creatures of habit, and if you track when your child goes, you will probably start to notice a pattern. If a BM happens 20-30 minutes after dinner, put your daughter on the toilet 15 minutes after dinner is over and sit in the bathroom with her. Play, read a book, sing songs – do something that will disarm her, and just wait for nature to take its course. Then reward her when she is successful!
- Write a social story. For younger kids, it’s helpful to use stories to teach them how to act. Take pictures of your child sitting on the toilet, playing, and the bag of M&Ms (or whatever your reward is). Write a story about your child playing (picture), feeling the urge to go potty, using the toilet (picture), and getting a treat (M&M or your reward) for being successful. End with a positive comment such as, “I did a good job” or “I am proud of myself.” Read the story at least a few times a day.
Potty training is not for the faint of heart, but it will happen. Be patient and try to stay calm throughout the process – keeping calm will help speed things along, and your little one will be fully potty-trained before you know it.