Children who are in potty training are also at the age where they are experimenting with their independence and self-will. If you have a child between 2-3 years old, you know what I’m talking about! Even though this is all a part of their developmental process in becoming their own individual, it is obviously frustrating when you can tell that your child must go potty but refuses to!
As children grow and crave more independence, they also begin to experiment with boundaries and control. Almost every aspect of a child’s life is completely out of their control, so it makes sense that they want to feel like they are able to control something! There are appropriate aspects of our children’s life where it is acceptable to offer them outlets for control. We’ll talk more about helpful ways to offer children control below!
Power struggles are often two-sided. When neither parties give in or backs down, the tension and struggle can increase and emotions can heighten, leaving everyone frustrated and overwhelmed!
There are four main types of power struggles/behavioral issues that you may encounter when potty training:
Tantrums related to potty training
Complete lack of interest or desire to learn
Instead of getting caught up in the power struggle, it is important to find appropriate ways to give your child a level of control. By this I mean, instead of saying, “Do you have to go potty?” (Which will most likely result in a heavy “no!”), you can say, “Would you like to go potty in my bathroom or in yours?”. Offering choices give them the feeling of control which will prove to be very helpful!
If this doesn’t work and the power struggle continues or even worsens, do not be afraid to give a consequence equal to when they refuse to get ready for bed or get in the car for school in the morning. Appropriate and consistent consequences offer security and demonstrate healthy boundaries. When children learn that you mean what you say time and time again, they will be much more prone to listen the first time!
Here are some other helpful ways to avoid power struggles:
Before beginning the training process, have a countdown to the days of no more Pull-ups so that they can mentally prepare for this new transition.
Let your child choose their own potty and potty training supplies. You can even allow them to decorate their potty which will give them a sense of ownership and pride throughout the process.
Allow your child to choose where they put their floor potty (initially).
Focus on the positive aspects of the process like the successes, don’t focus on the accidents.
Avoid prompting unless they are about to go to bed or you’re about to leave the house. Prompting can create resistance which will through a huge wrench in the process.
Ultimately, don’t be afraid to be consistent, remain calm, and set clear expectations so that your child is fully aware of what is expected of them. Children love to get reactions out of us, good OR bad. Focus all of your attention and energy on the GOOD potty behaviors, and the bad ones will fade quickly.
When we focus on the positive aspects of our children’s potty training journey such as successes, healthy communication, and self-initiation; our children will learn that they get the best and the most attention when they successfully do what is being asked of them, which in this case is going to the POTTY!