19th Dec2010

Potty Training Problems

by Joe and Christi

potty training problemsEncountering a potty training problem is the most natural thing in the world. Why? Because for a toddler, learning to use the potty is the latest game in his world. It's new. It's interesting. And everyone is excited about it!

But…if you are the parent of a toddler, you understand the meaning of "short attention span". One and two year olds are famous for their lack of focus. Combine this reality with the need to learn something as complicated as toilet training and it's easy to see why the honeymoon with this new "game" is over fairly quickly for most children.

Then what? Then you get potty training resistance.

What happens next is crucial if, as a parent, what you want is the smoothest possible potty sailing.


Because once a toddler realizes that Mom or Dad is not backing off from playing the potty game you have the perfect environment for that most dreaded of parent-child encounters.

The power struggle.

A power struggle is a very straightforward concept. A child, young and bright, realizes that despite all of a parent's sweet-talking, no one can MAKE them actually GO on the potty.

Considering there is very little within a toddler's life that IS within his control, this is heady information.

Potty training resistance is all about this simple confrontation. Mom says "go potty". Toddler says "maybe – but only on my terms." Once you break the scenario down in these terms, it becomes fairly obvious that the only way to win a power struggle is to diffuse it – and even better – to avoid it altogether.

The good news is, avoiding a power struggle is mostly within your hands, Mom or Dad. You can control this part of the action. Here's how.

Ask backwards.

Use a bit of reverse psychology here. You want your child to practice using the toilet, right? Then you need to be interested in her bathroom habits but not overly so. Certainly you will benefit from using a plan and a structure for training your child, but sometimes hiding that structure from a kid – especially a strong-willed toddler – is a useful strategy.

"Did you use the potty this morning?" often works better than "go use the potty now" in these types of cases. You can ask the first question a hundred times, followed by a matter-of-fact response to whatever your child answers.

Using the second phrase about three times was all I got before my children would start saying "no!" and a power struggle would ensue.

Uh-oh. Mommie lost. Again.

Who cares?

The second part of this power struggle avoidance strategy is to remain indifferent, no matter how you may feel. I'm not saying let your child get away with intentional defiance. I am saying that it makes a big difference if you deal with the defiance separate from the potty training problem.

Does that make sense?

Keep the potty learning fun. Lighthearted. Kind of a "if-you-don't-do-this-you-sure-will-miss-out-on-a-whole-lot-of-fun-but-that's-up-to-you" sentiment.

Believe me. Not a lot of toddlers like the idea of missing out on anything. So instead of pushing them towards potty training, entice them with it.

It helps at this point to remember your true goal here: healthy bathroom habits that are second nature. To make any habit second nature for any human takes time and practice. Your job is to keep your toddler (or preschooler) practicing the potty game for long enough that a habit is formed and second nature kicks in.

That's why you can introduce potty training in a three day training blitz easily, but making the process stick takes time, patience and yes, daily practice.

Avoiding a power struggle is always the best strategy when it comes to potty training resistance. You may have to let training go for a few days during the process to give everyone a breather. During that time, happily help your child clean up her accidents (and help she must to the degree she is able) and casually – but repeatedly – remind her that being potty trained is more convenient for HER than cleaning up potty accidents.

She'll get it. When she's ready she'll finish her training quickly.

Remember: she has to do the pottying. You provide the support.

And the hugs.

Colleen Langenfeld has potty trained four kids and helps other moms get more out of their mothering at http://www.paintedgold.com . Do you know all you can about toilet training? Use these potty reward charts and creative ideas plus uncover more about potty training resistance by visiting this website today.

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