Hi, I’m a parent educator and this is one of the top questions I’m asked, so here goes.
A three year old is still using immature reasoning. And they can misinterpret getting in trouble or not cooperating as another form of getting attention. It doesn’t make them spoiled or wrong, it’s just as far as their brain development has advanced at three.
This is especially true when a parent has a vested interest in seeing something happen, like potty training, sleeping, or eating. I go into how and why this happens, how a child applies this during the toddler and preschool years and how to change it, in every one of my online seminars. You can find them at: www.proavtiveparenting.net.
For your purposes you need to know that there are only 4 things a 3 yr old can be totally in charge of. When and if she will go potty, if she will eat, how fast she will go and when and if she will sleep. These are the power points of the preschool developmental stages.
Even when you take toys away a child can still learn that she has power to get what she wants in a situation, which is you and your attention. She can decide, after having toys taken away a few times, that no matter what toys you take away from me that’s not enough of a reason to go potty or eat what you want me to eat or to be separated at bedtime. To correct this parents need to flip this on its head.
My suggestion is that you take any punishment (removal of toys) and rewards (candy) out of the equation and treat going potty as a normal thing that all people do, which is true. And tell her, “It’s okay that you aren’t peeing in the potty. That from now on instead of mommy getting mad when you have an accident I’ll just put you back in diapers for right now. And when (being positive here) you go pee in the potty each time the timer goes off for 1 week then and only then will I take the diapers off.”
If you really release your interest in seeing her succeed with potty training, for the moment, it will shift the power and control. She will come to see that in order to gain power and attention she needs to be successful at potty training. She’ll also see that not going potty is no longer a place where she gets extra attention or power.
Try making potty training as bland and routine as eating and it will be much easier. When she has an accident, simply say “no worries, we’ll put you in a diaper and when you’ve gone without too many accidents in 1 week, we will take the diapers off and see what you can do.” No more bribes, no more please do it for mommy and things like that. I’m not saying you say any of that, but as an educator I’m always also writing for everyone who’s reading this as well.
Most children when the pressure is removed, if they are really ready, just begin going potty all on their own. It’s the extreme interest a parent has in seeing success with potty training that creates the resistance in a child.
Like I mentioned above, of course you can set a schedule to help her if needed. Get a timer and have her go once every hour. Take the diaper off and have her go. If she isn’t interested, or she has a tantrum, just keep the diaper on and try again in a day or so.
I hope this helps. If you have any more questions email me at ____@____.com