How to Potty Train a Stubborn Child

Potty training a toddler can feel like a frustrating process. But if you have a stubborn kid, potty training can sometimes turn into a nightmare.

Whether they don’t want to wear their big-kid underwear or refuse to sit on the toilet, there are a variety of ways a stubborn kid can hinder their own potty training progress.

Instead of going through a power struggle with your strong-willed toddler, try some of these tips and tricks to get a handle on how to potty train a stubborn child.

young, angry boy sitting on a potty chair.

What do you do when your child refuses to potty train?

If your toddler flat out refuses to potty train, it’s time to step back and reassess the situation.

There’s a good chance they’re not fully ready to start the process. Unless they need to be trained for preschool, it’s a good idea to hold off on training until they’re ready to start.

During your break from potty training, keep the conversation about the potty going. You can allow your child to wear diapers for a few more weeks, while also incorporating potty training into other aspects of their day-to-day life.

While you’re waiting for your toddler to show signs of readiness, do these other potty training activities with them:

  • Watch potty training videos and songs on YouTube with your toddler. One of the most important aspects of potty training is keeping it as fun and enjoyable as possible for your toddler. Incorporating videos and songs into your routine helps keep the fun in and the stress out.
  • Read books to your child about potty training. Reading potty training books is the easiest activity you can do to encourage your child. Grab a few books from the library or purchase a few fun titles. Read them to your toddler and have a discussion about what’s happening in the stories.
  • Find episodes of your child’s favorite shows that focus on potty training, like Daniel Tiger or Sesame Street. When kids have a favorite movie, show or toy they pay a lot of attention to it. Use this to your advantage and find an episode of their favorite show that talks about potty training and let them watch it as often as they like.
  • Play potty training with a doll and a toddler potty. Using props like dolls and potty chairs can give your toddler a visual cue of what it means to use the potty. They can practice by using a potty training doll and before you know they’ll be ready to try on their own!
  • Let your toddler wear big kid underwear over their diaper. One way to encourage young kids is to let them know that they will get to do something big kids do soon. In potty training, that means getting to wear big kid underwear. While you’re waiting for your kiddo to ditch the diaper for good, let them wear undies on top of their diaper to get a taste of big kid life.

How do you know when your child is ready to potty train?

Knowing when your child is ready to start training is half the battle, especially when it’s time to potty train a stubborn toddler.

This is important because starting too early can cause resistance or stubbornness to the process.

Kids often show signs that they’re ready to start potty training between the ages of 18 and 36 months. And while age is a good place to start when determining if you toddler is ready, it’s not the only factor to consider.

Instead of using only their age as a guide, there are other signs to look for that will help you determine when your toddler is ready to get started, like:

  • Telling you when they have a dirty diaper.
  • Letting you know when they are going or when they’re about to go.
  • Keeping their diaper dry for at least two hours at a time during the day.
  • Regular bowel movements at the same time each day.
  • Staying dry throughout the night.
  • Showing an interest in the bathroom, toilet, or underpants.
  • Taking off their pants and/or diaper on their own.
  • Leaving the room or hiding while pooping.
  • Showing independence in other areas, like dressing themselves.

Alternately, there are some signs that your toddler is not ready to start training. One of the biggest signs you’ll see if your kid isn’t ready to start training is a fear of the toilet or resistance to using the bathroom.

Fear and resistance can sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness so be sure your child is ready before you begin.

Other signs your kid might not be ready is if they wet their diaper in less than two-hour intervals or go right after you take them off the potty.

How to Potty Train a Stubborn Child

Teaching a stubborn kid how to do anything can be difficult. But potty training is especially frustrating with a strong-willed toddler.

Before you throw in the towel, try these tips and tricks to help make the training process a little easier on both of you.

Understand if your toddler is really ready

Before you start to worry too much about training your stubborn toddler, ask yourself whether or not they’re really ready to start training.

More often than not, potty training resistance stems from the fact that your child just isn’t ready to start yet. If your toddler doesn’t NEED to be potty trained right now, consider waiting until they’re ready.

Get more involved

When dealing with a stubborn toddler, you’ll need to be on your a-game as you’re potty training. That means you and/or your partner will need to play a very active roll in the entire potty training process.

Start by making sure your toddler is within eyesight at all times so you can watch for tell-tell signs they need to go, like wiggling, holding their privates, or crossing their legs.

Don’t ask, just take them

If you ask a stubborn toddler if they need to go potty, the answer will always be “no.”

Instead of asking, take them to sit on the toilet at regular intervals throughout the day.

Let them sit on the toilet for around five minutes, then take them off. If they didn’t go, set a timer for 30 minutes and try again.

If they do go, set the timer for one hour, then start the process again.

Try going naked

One great way to help train your stubborn boy or girl is naked potty training. Even when wearing underwear, accidents can seem like no big deal to an uncooperative kid.

Naked potty training takes that final layer of security away, making accidents much more obvious to your child.

Give them some control

One big reason your toddler is resisting the process may be that they feel they’re not in control of the situation.

Give them back some control by allowing them to take the reins in some area of the process.

Whether they get to pick the underwear they wear each day or choose a reward when they’re finished going, allowing them to have some control is a great way to reduce a stubborn kid’s potty training resistance.

Help them relax

If your toddler gets worked up every time the sit on the toilet, the chances of them actually going are pretty low.

Every time your toddler sits on the potty, try to help them relax.

Singing songs, reading books, or watching videos are all great ways to help take their mind off what they’re doing, making it a little easier for them to relax and go.

Offer rewards

Giving your child a reward is one of the best ways to reinforce a good habit.

So, every time your toddler uses the potty successfully and doesn’t have an accident, offer them a reward.

You can let them put a sticker on a reward chart, giving them a piece of candy or small treat, or let them watch their favorite show.

The key to using rewards is to find one that entices your child to want to use the potty again.

Relax over accidents

Having accidents is a fact of life during potty training, so don’t make a big deal if an accident happens.

Instead of showing anger or frustration, simply clean up the mess and gently remind your toddler that they need to use the bathroom the next time they need to go.

Lower your expectations

Scrolling your Facebook feed and reading articles online can be pretty discouraging when you’re potty training a stubborn child. Chances are, your kid won’t be potty trained in three days.

Instead of putting extra pressure on yourself and your kid, try lowering your expectations. While it may take them weeks or months of practice, they’ll eventually figure it out if you give them the time and space to learn.

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