How to Potty Train a Strong-Willed Child

I’m going to be honest: I really can’t tell you exactly, step-by-step how my son was potty trained a year ago. I can’t say that it “just happened”, because there was definitely lots of work involved; but I also can’t say that my husband and I followed a certain plan for it. I’ve read and heard countless pieces of advice on the subject: everyone has their own opinion! This is because every child is different! I don’t believe in a miracle, one-size-fits-all approach to potty training, because methods that work for one child may not work for another, even within families.

So I’ve put together some advice for you parents who are wondering this: How do I potty train my strong-willed child? All toddlers are strong-willed by definition… ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I’m talking about those Type A toddlers, the ones who are 2-going-on-13, the ones who see Mom and Dad as their minions rather than their authority figures. Oh wait, am I just talking about my toddler??? *cough cough*

Anyway, here is the advice I have for you parents of strong-willed children!

how to potty train a strong willed child


  • Don’t force the issue.

It took about three different potty training attempts for the idea to finally stick with my son. I knew it was too soon for him when he started to act anxious about going poo. Potty training does take encouragement from parents, but we can’t force a child to be ready on our timetable. They probably won’t come up to us and declare “Mom, I’m ready to use the potty now.” But if they’re ready to try the transition, they won’t fight it too much.

  • Prepare your child by saying that the diapers are almost gone.

This approach worked really well for my son! After we told him that the diapers were all gone, the concept clicked with him that his underwear was it! I think he felt that as long as there were diapers to rely on, he could always save his poop for when he wore a diaper at night instead of relying on his own body cues. Which brings me to my next point….

  • First, focus on staying dry during the day, then tackle nighttime.

I got this advice from a family member as my son was starting to potty train. She suggested to us that we focus on getting him to learn how to stay dry during the day, then once that was established, to help him learn the nighttime potty training.

  • Don’t rely on pull-ups. Transition from diapers to underwear.

I know lots of parents swear by them, but we decided to not use pull-ups. My son only wore underwear (or nothing!) during the day, then wore a diaper at night. Eventually, after he figured out how to stay dry during the day, and after he understood that we didn’t have any more diapers at home (P.S. We actually did have SOME left… We just told him that they were “all gone”), ย he wore underwear at night. I feel that wearing underwear forces kids to learn what it feels like to sit in their own pee or poop…. And helps them understand that they are growing out of diapers and into a new, bigger, cool phase: UNDIES!

  • Don’t shame your child when they have accidents, but be firm with them that we cannot pee and poop in our underwear.

We don’t want to make our kids develop complexes about their body functions, but we also don’t want them to believe that there aren’t consequences for peeing and pooping everywhere. My son actually thought his first poop-on-the-floor accident was funny… But we kept telling him that “we don’t poop on the floor- it’s so yucky” and he watched us clean it up. (I wasn’t comfortable with having my son clean up poo quite yet…) We tried to not laugh or make it seem funny around him, but we also didn’t scold him for the accident.

  • Help your child feel accomplished and proud whenever he/she stays dry for a period of time.

Rewards for going pee or poo in the potty are great, too! But don’t forget that STAYING DRY is a huge part of the potty training process!


Good luck to all of you brave parents! ๐Ÿ™‚ What are some of your potty training tips?


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