Posted by: Esther | October 20, 2007

Potty Training the Strongest Willed Child

A good friend of mine said that God gave me Isaiah so that I wouldn’t judge other parents. As a confession of my heart I see this to be true.

My first child was, and still is, text book perfect. Potty training was easy and we didn’t need to bribe him, which was so frowned upon in all of my child development classes. And then there was Isaiah…

We waited until we knew his mylen sheeth was developed. We had open door potty sessions. We watched the videos together, sang the songs and read the books. He would not, however, sit on the potty, not for anyone. He would scream. In fact he would not even tell us when his diaper was dirty. He would rather sit in it all day, even if a rash occured.

So we received lots of advice. “Find his money,” one would say. “Let him go in his underwear,” another would say. Aaahck! Could I actually resort to bribery. Well reluctantly I did. He loved chocolate, so we bribed him with it. But he didn’t care. He didn’t want it. We told him that boys in diapers could not play video games, but he didn’t care. When we let him go without diapers, he went all over the place, while screaming. Then he made a mess on our carpet and walls with his poop. That just was not working for us. I would rather have had him diapers forever than let that happen again. So I took a step back for a while.

We worked on getting him to tell us the truth when his diaper was dirty. We gave him a time out every time he lied to us and he finally complied. However he would not offer us the information. We always had to ask him. In this way, I knew that he did understand what it meant to be wet and pee and poop. I would test him by asking him when he was dry as well, making sure that he knew the difference. So I decided to try again. We sat him on the toilet and he held both his pee and poop for 24 hours. Well that was really scary for us, so we stopped again.

Finally I said, “This is it!” We sat him on the toilet for almost two days. We made it fun for him. We sang songs, read books, blew bubbles. He cried some, but also had some fun; however, he would not go. He held it the entire time. I called my sister, who is a pediatric nurse, to make sure that he wouldn’t get sick from doing. She said that he wouldn’t and that my situation is not unusual. So with that ammo, I refused to put a diaper back on him. I was determined to be the stronger will.

Well he finally went, on the third day, in the toilet. His little bladder was so bloated. I felt so bad, yet relieved at the same time (so did he, I am sure). He realized at some point that we were not giving up this time, so he reluctantly worked with us. After a few accidents, he finally understood that his life would be easier, and dryer, if he used the toilet.

Our struggle, however, is not over. He will not initiate the use. He still protests when we tell him he has to go. He would prefer to hold it until it falls out of him. He will go when we tell him to, but he is not pooping regularly anymore. He holds it until he can’t anymore and we are lucky to catch him at the right time. So the training continues. Did I mention he turned four in September. Ugh!



  1. Isaiah is certainly a different child. This undoubtedly will be his development mode. The key is consistency at least for a week or more. Same time, every day explaining 15-30 minutes for potty time morning, noon and night. All that is needed is 15-30 minutes three times a day without additional concern or special effort and continue the diapers in the meantime until you can tell he is cognizent of his body function. Kudos to parents with distinct children. Now is the time to stay consistent even after all the fuss : )

  2. Yes we did this for a long time. Probably could have kept doing it all year. I knew he was holding it for those 15 minutes he was sitting on the toilet, because he would go in his diaper as soon as I put it on him. That was when I decided to keep him on the toilet until he went. Well, he held it for 24 hours that day. When we tried it again, he held it for two days. Anyway, we are over that hump now. He is no longer in diapers. He has accidents occasionally and still tries to hold it until it falls out. The last couple of days however, he has told us when he had to go poop, but we still have to struggle to keep him on the toilet. He will eventually go however and he is definitely getting used to the idea and the fact that there is no alternative. He does not like to get his clothes wet. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My will has prevailed! Hehe.

  3. Congratulations! What do you think of his development and what do the experts say? Will it cause you anquish in later development? The next is talking and developing his word annouciation/vocabulary – happy days!

  4. It really has most to do with how darn smart he is. He just knows that if he can get away with not going, then he will. But when we put our foot down and stick through it, he does it; even though he may be reluctant. This is what we had to learn about him. He knows what he is doing. Tonight we were at a friends house and he kept saying he didn’t have to go, but finally I took him into the bathroom and he screamed a little, cause he didn’t want to go (he was playing and didn’t want to be interrupted), but went immediately, because he really did have to go. He is so smart. We are doing math and he is learning his letter sounds very quickly, so I am not worried at all about his cognitive development. He will learn that my will is stronger.:)

  5. On his word annunciation: He can repeat what I am saying clearly if I tell him to. He just needs to transfer that to conversational speaking and do it on his own. Some sounds are more difficult when put together with other sounds. Like the s sound. Maybe I will blog about this later.

  6. Welcome to the strong will-ed child club. 🙂

  7. I have a 3 1/2 yr olf grandson that I am raising. He will go to the pot at his other grandmas. He will not go at preschool unless on a 30 min timer. He will NOT go at my house. He will go in his pants! He was doing so well at one point that I put him in underware and he never had night time accidents. Now he is wetting the bed again and I am just confused and don’t know what to do. I have tried punishment it don’t work.

  8. I know with my son it really was a battle of wills and as soon as he realized that I had the stronger will, he submitted. We as parents have to be stronger willed than our children. I suggest tomato staking. Don’t let him leave your side till he gets the hang of it and understands that you are the boss. While he is with you, put him on the pot every 1-2 hours. If you miss it and he has an accident, set the timer and put him on after an hour and a half then sit there with him till he goes. Have him drink lots of water. You may have do nothing but potty train for a good week. No shopping, no friends, etc. Focus on the potty. My son held it for three days and he didn’t do anything outside of the bathroom except eat and sleep for those three days. After the third day the pee fell out of him. Then it was back in the bathroom every two hours and staying there until he went (that’s key). After those three days it only took about 4 more for him to really get it. IT takes lots of dedication, but your raising a child and that should be priority anyway.

  9. Wow, this sounds so much like my daughter. She will turn 4 next month and I told her that 4 year olds wear underwear. She told me that she doesn’t want to be 4 and will not turn 4 – no birthday party, no cake, no balloons (all things she loves). She will sit on the potty but will hold her pee and poo. She wakes up in the morning dry and I still can’t get her to go on the potty. Very frustrating. I’m really not sure what to do.

  10. God bless you for writing this post. What a source of encouragement for a mom like me who is going through something so similar with my iron-willed 4 year old son (he just turned 4 on Sunday). I was just about ready to give up…again, when I “stumbled” on this post (I use the word stumbled tongue in cheek knowing that God directed me here for encouragement and resolve). My husband and I have tried several times to potty train him, following the advice to just let him direct it, and he’ll do it when he’s ready. That method did not work. He won’t take the initiative. So, a couple weeks ago I decided enough was enough, and I make him sit on the potty. He will pee, but only when told to go sit on the potty (although the last couple of days, he has asked to sit on the potty to pee without being told). But he won’t poop in the potty. So, starting this week if he chooses to poop in his pants, he has to clean himself up. I eventually help with the last bit of poop, but I just tell him that I’m smearing it upward for him to finish wiping. We do use a reward/consequence system for putting poop and pee in the potty.

    I was at the end of my rope this morning, when I found this post. It encouraged me that I am not the only mom going thru this, and that I am not the only mom forcing my kid to use the potty. My son has no other options but to learn to use the potty. I will be tougher than him.

    Thank you again for this post. I realize it was written almost 2 years ago, but it is relevant for us moms going thru potty training a strong-willed child right now.

  11. It is now 2011 and I have the strongwilled grandchild, about to be 4 and very comfortable in diapers. Can you update me on what has happened with the children in the above blogs?

  12. Don’t forget – consistency and positive reinforcement will go far.
    Children, even babies, love to be praised for everything that they do, and praising the baby
    reinforces your potty training lessons. Traditional graduation announcements
    are totally lacking in originality and personality.

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