Potty Training a Strong-Willed Toddler...

Updated on October 29, 2010
C.D. asks from Eugene, OR
23 answers

We are slowwwlllly trying to potty train my almost-three year year old daughter. She is very strong willed, so it has not been easy, but I have been taking the advice of lots of other mamapedia moms and am not pushing it. I know she will potty train when she is ready.

She will almost always tell me "NO, I don't want to." So I just tell her okay, maybe we can try later, and then we move on. She will sit on the potty every few days, but she has never peed or pooped on it yet. Although once she thought she went pee and she was so excited :) And this past month, she has asked to sit on the potty a few times. Yay!

Lately, during her bath, she will all of a sudden tell me she wants to use the potty, and I am realizing that she doesn't want to pee in the tub. But by the time I get her out, it seems she has already gone. But this sign is encouraging because it tells me she knows how it feels to have to go pee.

And then yesterday, she called for me from her bed after waking up from nap and wanted to sit on the potty! Exciting, until I realized she had already pooped in her diaper so it was too late anyway. I took her to the potty regardless. I put her poop from the diaper into the potty so she would get the idea that poop goes in the potty. She thought that was pretty cool. So I am hoping we are on an upswing now with potty training.

So here are my basic questions for you mamas:

Should I encourage her a little more firmly to try the potty every day? Even if she says she doesn't want to?
Should I start some kind of reward system for her?
Should I switch her from her diaper to a cloth training pant? (I hear pull ups are a waste of money and they aren't an effective potty training tool.)
Should I wait until she is more receptive to the whole thing?

And then my poop questions:
How do you all clean your potty? After I put her poop in it the other day it was really yucky. I dumped it in the toilet, but was not thrilled about washing it in the sink or tub. What do you do?
How do you wipe their bottom? Do you use toilet paper or wipes? Do you flush the wipes? I hear you are not supposed to and I don't want to clog the toilet.

Well thanks Mamas! didn't realize this potty training process would be so complicated! I appreciate your help!

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answers from Chicago on

Why does she need to be potty trained right now? I always waited for my kids to tell me when they were ready and it was very smooth & never had any accidents. Getting kids potty trained should be when the child is ready not the parent.

As far as potty chairs maybe you can get a potty seat that sits on top of the toilet, much cleaner that way. Good luck

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you would be smart to let her continue to lead on this.
Cotton training pants might speed the process (Pull ups for nap & night only).
Use/flush only flushable bathroom wipes, never baby wipes!
I always cleaned my potty in the laundry tub. It is gross--a good case for going right to the toilet instead of a potty chair.
Does you daughter like horses, spaceships, etc? Tell her she can sit backwards on the toilet like she's riding a horse and use a potty seat ring. I think they feel more secure that way since they can rest their hands on the tank of the toilet & balance.
And yes, great idea to start the bribes--ummmm---I mean----rewards! One m&m for pee, 2 for poo! Or a sticker chart! When she gets 5 stickers she can pick a prize from your stocked and stashed potty-basket!

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answers from Davenport on

I have just finished up potty training my 3 year old. She turned 3 in June. We started potty training around 2 when she was showing signs of being ready but then I was put on bed rest so things went down hill quickly and once I had the baby she did not want anything to do with potty training. What worked for us was having her sit on the potty for 2-5 minutes every 2 hours (per her ped.). Strangely, she was excellent at pooping but not so great at peeing. We put her in undies/training pants and that helped so much. She didn't like having to take the time to get her pants changed if she wet them. We started off using wipes but now my daughter wipes herself with toilet paper (she has clogged the toilet a few times using way, way too much so we still have to watch her). My husband flushed wipes a few times and they will indeed clog the toilet so just save yourself the trouble and toss them in the trash if you use them. Finally, when she was still working things out we told her if she went 7 days without an accident we would let her look in a box that we kept on a shelf above the toilet. It just had little dollar store stuff in it but she loved finding out what was in there. Oh, and lest I forget, my daughter hated using a "little potty." She wanted to use the same toilet we use so we just got her one of those toilet ring things and a bench and things went better after that. Good luck.

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answers from Chicago on

My daughter (she is 3 years and 3 mos) is VERY STRONG WILLED! She used the toilet at 2 for the first time and a few times then wanted NOTHING to do with it. I knew we were sending her to preschool at 3 (her bday is in July) and NEEDED her potty-trained. Here is what worked for us:

In February, we started a sticker chart- I bought stickers with her FAVORITE stuff on it (Disney princesses and Dora/Boots - little ones) and also colored stars. The chart is a whole poster board and we set it out into 6 weeks (ended up expanding it to 12 as it took her 4 to get used to the concept). For each "try" on the potty she got to pick a colored star. For each Pee, she got 1 disney or dora sticker and for each poop she got 2. If she had more than 7 combined stickers at the end of the day she got a small treat (like a SMALL cookie or fruit popsicle). By the end of 12, we told her she was a big girl and didn't need the baby chart anymore since she had gotten so good. She was in underpants all the time by then (even at night).

We tried so much forcing, and coercing and everything else before the chart. You have to know your kid and figure out what makes her *tick*. What works for one family or one kid might not work for the next. we are currently working on our 23 mo old son....we will see how it goes. I am DUE in May with #3 and would love to just have 1 kiddo in diapers at a time :)

Best wishes!

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answers from Portland on

My 2.5 yo daughter has just regressed and no longer will use the potty, sadly. Don't know what shifted, because she was using it 3-4x/day (at home). But, what worked for us while the going was good:
- having a potty book from the library, and I would agree to read it to her if she sat on the potty
- whether she actually went or not, she got a "potty prize" (a freeze-dried strawberry from Trader Joe's), as long as she sat on the potty while I read the book, wiped with toilet paper, and washed/dried her hands
- she got a "poop guy" if she pooped/wiped/washed/dried hands. A "poop guy" is one of those little capsules that you drop in warm water, and the capsule dissolves giving way to a spongy little animal. I get them at Target - 12 capsules for $1
- I didn't force it - entirely her choice

I think what might have turned her off is that she LOVES wearing diapers. Cloth, disposable - doesn't matter. She is not ready to give them up. I let her pick out her own 'panties' at the store and she was excited to buy them but doesn't want to wear them. I told her that big girls who use the potty get to wear panties, just like mama, but she said she doesn't want to wear them. She will readily wear pants without a diaper, but I don't want to go down the commando path and then later have to explain why all of a sudden panties are required.

Regarding cleaning the potty - I was also wondering what other parents do. My process is:
- dump potty contents into toilet, using toilet paper if necessary
- pump some hand soap into potty, then fill 1/3 way with hot/warm water (temp depending if my daughter is still in the room)
- dump soapy water into toilet
If poop, then continue with...
- repeat 2x
- spray with vinegar/water or a very diluted bleach solution (as in, 1 capful of bleach per spray bottle of water
- dry with toilet paper

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answers from Eugene on

I was a student when I faced toilet training the first time. My psychology professor was talking to the class about parental hang ups when he asked us, "How many adults do you know walking around untoilet trained." This brought forth gales of laughter from the students.
I talked it over with my mother and one day I went to Macy's and bought some training pants. I told my daughter when she wet herself she would wet her socks.
She was very excited about the training pants. In the morning she proudly put them on. A couple of hours later I heard a distressed call from the bathroom. I reminded her that when she wet herself she would wet her socks. I changed her without any complaint and that was the one and only time she did not make it to the toilet.
It was about seven months later that she told me she would not need diapers at night anymore.
Aim for the poop in the toilet as it is easier to discern that urge to go for children. Worry about her being dry later.
Urinating and defecating are two different tasks even though we flush both.
I did not use a potty chair. We had a ring over the toilet and a step to get up.



answers from San Francisco on

I think the reward system is the best idea personally...it allows your daughter to understand why she needs to use the potty and she gets some incentive for doing it as well...here, check out these ideas and rewarding suggestions by other parents:




answers from Seattle on

I'm glad you asked this because my now 3-year-old is suddenly not afraid of the potty anymore and he wore a pull-up for the first time on Sunday. I put cotton underwear INSIDE the pull-up b/c I wanted him to know when he was wet (I don't think he cared that he was, unfortunately, but I haven't rolled up our Bokara rug yet and didn't want to deal with the consequences if that issue...) - anyway, I'm going to continue to try the underwear inside the pullup for a while. I also bought miniature M&M's and have been offering one if he sits on the potty. He almost never gets candy so I'm hopeful that this will help. *lol* - I offered an M&M a couple of days ago and he said, "NO!" and I realized he didn't know what that item was - I explained that it was a small chocolate and he high-tailed it to the bathroom.

Regarding cleaning the potty - if you can keep a 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of it, it will help the poop slide out w/o sticking as much. I agree with the other moms that say those flushable wipes clog the toilet - if you decide to use those only flush one at a time. Tossing them in a lined wastebasket is a better idea.

Good luck to you and good luck to me, too. :) ~ D.



answers from Seattle on

Hi C.,

I started potty training similarly, asking my daughter if she wanted to use it. The answer was always NO. At about 2-1/2, we got to the point where she was holding it so long that the flood when she actually went would leak out of anything except a doubled cloth diaper, which didn't fit under her clothes...So we decided it was time to potty train...It was a painful for us, but it worked.

First, I cleared EVERYTHING from our schedules for the week. No errands. No visitors. No distractions.

Second, I told her for several days that she was going to get to wear big-girl panties (no waterproofing). After that, no more diapers during the day. I dressed her in the panties and a shirt to cut down on laundry.

She resisted. We went a full week of my setting the timer to let her know when to try. She would hold it until she couldn't anymore and go wherever she was standing. I would clean up the puddles and we would start again.

We eventually had a couple of happy accidents. After bath, she wasn't dressed yet and ran to the potty to go by herself. The next morning, I was cleaning up after an accident and hadn't dressed her yet. She went potty all by herself again.

In the end, she spent about two days naked from the waist down and immediately had no accidents at all. But she chose to use the big potty rather than the potty chair, even figuring out how to climb onto it by herself.

After a week or two, she started wearing pull-ups or waterproof training pants when we left the house. Now we're down to needing them only for night.

Some other things we tried that seemed to help (although I think she just made up her mind to do it herself...):
-Her favorite stuffed animals used the potty before she tried. Make sound effects, wipe, pretend to flush, etc.
-Rewards--We used chocolate chips for going. When she had full days without accidents, she could choose a potty prize (I had a little box of dollar store toys).
-Sticker chart

As far as wiping goes, I use TP for wet. When I wipe, she leans forward on the potty so I can reach her. I bought flushable toddler wipes for poo after having trouble getting her clean.

Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

This is what we did with my son...He wore underwear over a diaper for about a week. The first day, I was taking him to the bathroom every 15 minutes or so until he went - then I would wait for about 1 hour...He did great! We lengthened the time between visits each day. After (less then) a week, we just took the diaper away and kept going with the visits every hour. He (very honestly) only had one pee accident the entire time (and it was actually almost 6 months after he was trained). He was an early one - so we used diapers for nap and bed for a while after.

As for pull-ups - I think that they work for some people, but I didn't want him to pee in a pull up any more than I wanted him to pee in a diaper, so I didn't bother...

On to the poop question...my daughter (who is only 20 months, so really young for the process) has not pooped in a diaper for 2 months. We are totally not ready to encourage potty training, so we let her poop in the potty, but don't try to force her to always stay dry...soon, but not quite ready yet! We have a seat that goes on top of the regular toilet (and folds up so it is portable) and we have her poop sitting on that...no potty to clean! The few times that she has gone in the regular little potty seat, I have dumped it into the toilet and wiped the remains with disinfecting wipes, which I then put into the diaper pail.

Hope this helps! I wouldn't recommend flushing wipes...



answers from Boise on

-I would keep asking her when you change her, but don't push and if she gets upset by the questions, stop for a few days.
-I didn't do the rewards. The words and excitement was enough for my son. Sometimes I will do the poopie in the potty song/dance, but he hasn't needed anymore and I am thankful that I didn't start that.
-Don't switch her to anything until she is ready. If you want to try underwear, ask if she wants to wear them. If she wants to, that means that she needs to go potty in the toilet. (and other explanations)
-Yes, wait till she is ready.

-I usually would dump the poop in the toilet and then use a wipe to wipe it out (throw that in the trash). And rinse in the sink with hot water if necessary.
-When he started going on the potty, we have him lean across our leg and wipe with a flushable wipe, not a baby wipe, and toss it in the toilet.

You may try a potty that has a seat that can transfer to the big toilet. My son didn't really do much on the little potty.



answers from Portland on

I use the Clorox wipes to clean the potty after my son poops in it. First, I rinse it using some water from the sink and dump it out into the toilet. Once it is rinsed, I disinfect it with the wipes. These wipes go in the trash. You could use a spray and paper towell, etc.

For wiping bottoms, I use the Kandoo type of wipes that are flushable. I like these because it makes clean up easier and they can be flushed. It is also easier for the child once they start to wipe themselves.

As for getting more regular trips to the potty, I started my son with night-time potty. We go before going to bed. It has become routine and there isn't a fight now. Then added before nap. Then added upon waking in the morning. Then added upon waking at nap. Oh, at bath time, too. They are to go potty before getting in the bath. We slowly added the routine ones and it has made it much easier to get my son to go at other times, too. I also use M&Ms as a reward (yes bribary, sometimes it is necessary). He gets 2 for pee and 4 for poop. If he sits and tries, he gets 1. He is always happy and wants to get his m&m. There are still times he refuses to go and I never ask, I always tell him he needs to go try.

Good luck, it is a process and consistancy on our part is a big part of it. Try to get some timing down for when you suggest she go, like every 20 min. to start, then increase the timing gradually. They will learn to hold it for quite awhile when they get the hang of control. Make sure you have them go about the time needed after meals. My son usually needs to go potty (whether in potty or pullup/training pant about 15-20 min. after eating. Try to get some of the timing worked out. This will help and she may notice that she has a full tummy and needs to go.



answers from Eugene on

Hi, I don't have time to read the other answers--but my son always says "no" when I ask him if he has to go (and has been potty trained for almost 2 years)...but if we ask him "which of your toys has to go potty" he usually grabs a number of toys takes them to the potty and then goes himself.



answers from Eugene on

First of all, keep it fun and light-hearted. If it become a bad or frustrating thing, it will take forever to potty train your daughter! Second, don't worry about pushing your child. The longer you wait, the easier it is to potty train.

All kids are different, so you have to use whatever ideas will work with your child. Both of my kids are pretty different in how they do things, but for potty training m&m's and stickers worked as a great incentive tool. Whenever my child would try (for at least five seconds - we count slowly together while he sat), he would get an m&m (not a whole package, just a single m&m) and then when potty came out he would get a special sticker to wear on his shirt. For a poo, he would get a larger prize like a small toy or treat.

We started out with the fun little potty chair but switched to the toilet seat that sits on the big potty because it was so much easier to clean and the novelty wore off pretty quickly with the little one anyways. We used to clean it in the bathtub but I always felt kind of funny not sterilizing it every time. We brush our teeth in the sink so I didn't feel comfortable cleaning it there.

For wiping, I would just use a wipe (or two!) first and then dry off with toilet paper. It works well to put your diaper pail in the bathroom for dirty wipes.
For going out, I always used pull ups so we avoided accidents. But I also got some of those large toilet seat covers from Babies R Us which tape down to the seat and hang over the edges so the kids have something safe and clean to hang onto in public bathrooms.

Hope some of this may help you. Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

My daughter is 2 1/2 and she potty trained over the summer. It was a very slow/painful process until I started giving her an M & M after she went pee pee or poop in the potty. My kids don't get much candy, so this was a HUGE deal in my household. Within a week she was essentially potty trained.

I dump the poop out of her little potty, rinse with hot water - dump that in the potty - and wipe it out with a wipe. I think using the seat on the big potty is the ideal, but she doesn't want to and I figure at least she is going in a potty.



answers from Tulsa on

tatoos every time she sits. she will sit just for a tatoo my son is completely covered in them right now. trust me she will want to sit for a tatoo. he gets one wether he goes or not. sounds like running water triggers her. so have her sit for a tatoo and turn on the bath water. get her out of diapers. set a timer every 30 minutes and have her go sit for her tatoo. I use disenfectant wipes I use wipes to clean up but with a girl I would use toilet paper for pee and wipes for poop. dont flush the wipes. sounds like you are on the right track just need tatoos to motivate her to sit more. if she asks to sit for a tatoo and doesnt go she gets one anyway it will become a game. mine went from screaming when he had to sit to begging to sit just for a tatoo. :)



answers from Portland on

Naked...is the key....keep her naked when at home. This is the only thing that worked for our guy. He would only poop on the potty when he was naked. And don't make any kind of deal about it, just let him know where he needs to go, very causal, no big deal. Otherwise you may be instilling a fear or unintentional anxiety in him about the potty in general. Just let him know that it's okay if he has an "accident". He'll get it soon.



answers from Sacramento on

It depends on whether you really want to get this done or whether you have time to continue on.

Our son is extremely strong willed and I am 100 percent certain he would never show signs of being ready on his own. Even at seven, we have to remind him to go. He could care less about going potty. We forced it at three when all of his daycare class had moved to the preschool room but him. The trick was moving him from PullUps to underwear. No rewards, potty parties or any of the stuff we tried early on. Just made the move and praised him when he went. There was a lot of cleanup at first but within days he was on track enough to move to preschool.

As far as cleanup, we'd just dump the poop in the potty, flush, then rinse out the underwear in the clean toilet water, then straight to the washing machine. You can always use the flushable adult wipes instead of baby ones that aren't flushable.

Good luck!



answers from Portland on

i have three children under the age of three. So far we don't use a reward system other than flushing the toilet with huge praise from Mommy and Daddy. We do use cloth dipes/pants during the day if we are out and about, otherwise we let them run around naked. While my 18 month old tries really hard we still haven't gotten him to actually go in a potty but he gladly helps clean up the misses. My twins are much closer to a final finished potty training.

I hope this helps.


We started them with the little potty which when they used it we would wipe out with cottonelle wipes (they are flushable ans septic system safe) then spray with Bac-Out which is an enzyme based bacterial killer.

Fow a while there my twins would say no to the potty when we asked, we simply said "ok". and dropped it. I don't see it as a bad thing to continue ask. The fact that she is asking for the potty after she goes in her diaper is very encouraging. She is starting to recognize the cues for it.



answers from Seattle on

When I had my first child, the best advice I was given was that there were three things that you can not make a child do, eat, sleep, and pee or poop when and where you want them to. And boy did I learn that.

My son was still four when I went to introduce him to his four year old preschool teacher before the year started. I told her that he was still in diapers. She told me while he was within ear shot that she did not usually take children who were not potty trained.

Well, all his buddies were going to that class, so there was no way that he was not going to that class.

No way. He was trained in a day.

Easiest thing I never did.

I think you are doing the right thing. She seems to be training herself pretty much on her own. Step back and support her. Offer no rewards except praise and encouragement.

She probably will not be consistent for a while because she is so young, but so what. She's little. Let her learn this new skill on her own time. Just like you would any other new skill.



answers from Portland on

My daughter first started to show she was old enough to start potty training at around 18 months, when she started to tell me when she had poopoos in her diaper. Then about a week later, she started to tell me when she felt poopoos, but hadn't pooed yet. So we went and bought one of those seats that sits on top of the toilet. She loves being on the big potty. We didn't really "train" her like most people do. Anytime she mentioned she had poopoos, we'd put her on the potty, and we'd cheer and squeal with happiness everytime she successfully pooed. We didn't try to get her to go on a schedule or pee, or anything yet.

Then she peed on the toilet for the first time, while she pooed, around the age of 2. We cheered, and explained to her that those were peepees and that they go in the potty, too, and if she goes peepees and poo poos she gets a treat. We give her those organic gummy bears from Safeway.

She is now using the potty successfully, but she hasn't stopped going in her diaper. We've told her that if her diaper is dry, and she doesn't go pee pees in it, but goes pee pee on the potty, she can have two stickers and a treat. But she won't voluntarily ask to use the bathroom anymore. I know she understands, and she never poos her diaper, but perhaps by us making sure she uses the bathroom every so often, she's lost the ability to decide for herself if she needs to go. She's very smart, ahead of her milestones (speaking full 6-7 word sentences), but I can tell that she just doesn't WANT to, or is getting annoyed with having to pee anytime other than before she goes down for her nap and after dinner before she goes to bed. So I'm thinking of waiting because I don't want it to be a battle.

We're stumped, to be honest. We know she'll do it when she's ready, but how do we encourage her?



answers from Minneapolis on

My son (now 4 and potty trained for about 18 months) also is strong willed. I finally refused to let him wear diapers during the day any more. He refused to wear underwear, so he went around the house naked for a couple days. It worked for us. I did also use a reward system (stickers on a piece of paper on the wall by his potty chair). I had good luck with cloth training pants during the day and cloth diapers for sleep. I use flushable wipes (sold near the toilet paper) for wiping him. I kept disinfecting wipes in the bathroom for cleaning his potty chair. Good luck!

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