Last updated on March 4th, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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Preventing Power Struggles: A Guide to Harmonious Potty Training


Today, we’re opening up a discussion about how to prevent or rectify power struggles that can arise during the potty training process. The goal is to guide you towards a more harmonious potty training journey for both you and your child.

The initial and perhaps most critical thing to keep in mind is that your child needs time to prepare for this significant life transition. The shift from the familiar security of diapers to using the potty is a considerable milestone! Prior to plunging into toilet learning, it’s crucial to plant the seed gently, setting the stage for the upcoming changes. Don’t simply choose a random weekend when you’re free; take the time to subtly introduce the concept and gradually get your child accustomed to the idea.


Harmonious Potty Training


Next, consider your child’s past behavior and reactions to change. If your child has shown resistance to change in other areas, intrinsic motivation—motivation that comes from within—might not be enough. In such cases, extrinsic motivation could be the key. And yes, that means rewards! The reluctance to perform an undesired task is not exclusive to adults; kids are just as influenced by a good incentive system. It’s human nature to be driven by rewards, so finding suitable ways to reward your child’s potty successes can be a significant motivating factor.

Following that, it’s essential to reconsider the practice of timed potty sits. Requesting your active toddler to pause their playtime and sit on the potty every 15 minutes might inadvertently trigger a power struggle. Instead, learn to identify the signs that they need to go—like the potty dance or grimacing—and guide them towards the potty at those times. This approach not only reduces resistance but also helps your child start recognizing their body’s signals, a crucial step towards potty training success.


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Lastly, empower your child by providing choices whenever feasible. Choices translate to control, and control translates to power. By offering your child a sense of autonomy in appropriate ways, you create a win-win situation. Let them pick out their potty and underwear, decide where the potty should be placed, or select a book to read while they sit on the potty. These small decisions can significantly contribute to your child’s sense of agency and cooperation in the potty training process.

Remember that children, like all of us, thrive on feedback and reactions. They are particularly responsive to attention, whether it’s for good behavior or less desirable actions. Make a conscious effort to concentrate your attention and energy on positive potty behaviors. Acknowledge their efforts, praise their successes, and handle accidents with calm reassurance. In doing so, you encourage more of the positive behavior, and the less desirable actions will naturally start to fade.

As with all aspects of child-rearing, patience and understanding are your greatest allies in the potty training journey. Recognize that every child is unique, and their pace of learning will differ. Remain supportive, maintain consistency, and rest assured that they will eventually master this critical life skill.

Are you still feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to tackle the potty training process?

Our FREE Guide For Parents Ready to Potty Train comes with tips to determine if your child is ready to use the potty, and the steps you need to take before you get started. Grab your guide here!

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Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!