How to Potty Train a Stubborn Toddler (When Traditional Potty Training Methods Fail)

When traditional potty training methods failed, I had to dig deep for ideas on how to make this process successful. Here’s a new approach that worked for us.

My daughter was just over 3 years old, and no method we used could convince her that using the potty was “cool” or “grown-up”. She refused to stay on the potty for more than 20 seconds, and there was no chart or reward that she cared enough about to change. She was having more accidents than successes, and we felt pressured because preschool was starting soon. This is what we did that worked. You can use this guide AFTER typical potty training ideas and methods have failed.

1. Let Your Child Have Potty Options

For the stubborn toddler, this is key. They like to feel like they are in control, and giving them options will let them. We had small potties available, as well as attachments on our regular toilets. We would ask, “Do you want to use the big potty or the small one?” which let her decide. Sometimes she would try the small one with no luck, then we would ask, “Do you want to try the big one too?”. This lead to some successes.
Babybjorn Potty $15.99 – Any little potty like this will do. These are nice too, because we would bring them in the car if we were visiting a park or playground that didn’t have public bathrooms.
TinyHiney Adult/Child Seat $36.99 – We read a lot of reviews before deciding on toilet seat attachments. This had the best reviews as far as functionality for both children and adults (some other brands make the adult’s use more uncomfortable). These were easy to install, and my toddler can change the seat size on her own. We have found no issues with these and we’ve had them installed for over 18 months now.

2. Have Someone Else Convince Your Toddler That Using The Potty Is Cool

You know, someone they REALLLLY look up to, like Elmo or Daniel Tiger. Because mom and dad are lame, but if Elmo endorses potty training, then it must be cool. This is 100% the best thing that worked for us. We restricted all other media, and allowed only potty-related shows. We had been reading potty books for years, but they were little help. After watching the Elmo episode once, there was a noticible difference in her interest in the potty. We watched it every morning for three straight days, and every day it reaffirmed her willingness to use the potty.

Elmo’s Potty Time DVD $7.50 or Elmo’s Potty Time 30-day rental $2.99 – This episode is honestly really cute, and it has some catchy songs.
Daniel Tiger (Prince Wednesday Goes to the Potty/ Daniel Goes to the Potty ) FREE – available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or for free!

3. Have Something Else Remind Them To Go

Again, a stubborn toddler doesn’t want to admit to mom or dad that they need to go. Asking if she needed to go was always met with, “NO!”. We got a kitchen timer and when the timer went off we would say, “The TIMER says you need to try. I think we need to listen to the timer!” If she gave an honest try, we would set it for another half an hour until she went, then go back to setting it for 90 minutes. You could use your cell phone, which we tried, but I think she associated the phone too closely with the parent being in control.

99 Minute Digital Kitchen Timer $8.50 – I chose this because typical kitchen timers are 90 minutes, and I wanted something we could set for longer.
Learning Resources Time Tracker $15.99 – We almost bought this time tracker. It features green, yellow, and red lights which will help a child that needs time to transition between activities. You can set the length of each light. I had this in my cart ready to get it if a regular timer failed, but luckily we didn’t need this one.

4. Be Kind, Allow For Mistakes, and You Can Do It, Etc!

Don’t let potty training be a battle between you and your child. This is why my method worked – I took myself out of the equation. I let Elmo and the Timer do the work. If your child has an accident, make it a positive learning experience. If your child truely isn’t ready, be prepared to stop for a few weeks and try again later. And lastly, remember that you will get through this phase too. Potty training can be a stressful time, but eventually your child will get it. (Remember when you thought colicky nights would never end? Soon, the stress of potty training will be something of the past too.)

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