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How to Toilet Train an incredibly stubborn child….

Historic Tips from the Mum of two of them….

UPDATE: This post was written several years ago for a different blog. At the end of this blog post, I state that my daughter was accident free for 6 months. It is important to note that she has never had an accident since, and it’s been a fair few years – so I stand behind this method. I have since used it for my second child with the same results.

Ah toilet training. A somewhat short stage that seems to be draggggged out in the memories of mums everywhere. Unfortunately no two experiences are the same (damn that non-existent baby and child-rearing manual!), however; below is an insight into my personal journey, along with some recommendations for some brilliant toilet training products that I found along the way. 

I desperately wanted to get Sienna into a pre-kindy, which caters for children from 2-5years. It was a gorgeous, quaint and happy little place, where you are required to pack your child’s lunches. That may sound like too much effort coming from a day-care that did everything for you (and for the same price!), but it is absolutely perfect in a situation like ours; where your child has numerous food intolerances and allergies, as it allowed me to control her diet. But, there was one catch. I may have had her name down on the list since Sienna was only 12months old and just learning to walk; but they wouldn’t even consider us for the place unless she was toilet trained. Yikes.

Did I mention that Sienna was stubborn? Well, yeah. That’s an understatement. Following the old adage “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”; I have ended up with a very independent and strong-willed little girl. From 5 months of age she would only feed herself (get that spoon away from me!), from 10 months she refused to sit in a high-chair (somewhat possessed!) – and I still maintain that she hit her “terrible twos” at 11 months of age. She is very very loveable – but she is a lot of hard work too!


In light of the toilet training requirement for pre-kindy; I threw my old mantra out the window of “wait until she asks” and became the mother from hell. I was on her back more than one of those TV dance mums. And she didn’t care one-bit.

For months she had been able to tell me when she was wet or needed to do a poo; but she showed absolutely no discomfort whatsoever. (A ‘skill’ she has had from birth, I might add). A typical conversation of a 24-month-old-nappy-wearing Sienna would go like this:


Sienna: “muuummmm…. I’m doing a poop”

Me: “great job – let’s go to the toilet!”

Sienna: “no thanks mum… I’m busy playing!” 

This conversation repeated itself every single time she had to do a number 1 or 2… But slowly, over time, her response became slightly more full of attitude. (I mean, who was I to suggest she didn’t sit in the stench of her own faeces?)

She flat out refused to go anywhere near a toilet. And then, just like that, it was time. I was going in hardcore.

I must note:I strongly believe that no child can be successfully “toilet trained” unless it’s something they are ready for. Sienna was ready – she just didn’t know it yet. She could tell me her movements before they occurred, she was overly independent, she could pull her pants on and off herself and she was more than capable of communicating with me. For more information on readiness signs, see http://www.babycenter.com/0_potty-training-readiness-checklist_4384.bc

I also want to take a moment to appreciate that there are MANY different approaches to toilet training – and I suppose each method works in it’s own way and each more appropriate for certain types of little people. (I should know – I was something of a Google expert at this stage! HAH!)

For little miss Stubborn; I had decided that there was only one method that would work. This method is intensive, but the idea is that you go all in – and you go in hard. Sometimes referred to as the “3 day method”; essentially you go “nappy free” and spend as much time at home (and away from carpets) as possible, making constant toilet trips and praising all positive efforts.

The night before we planned to start; we let Sienna know that she was a big girl now, and big girls didn’t wear nappies! We had a big chat about starting at a school with other big kids who use the toilet, and we spoke about other “big kids” she looked up to and the fact that they use the toilet too!

I felt so confident following our conversation, that I was convinced it was going to be easy! Well, I’ve never been so wrong.

First thing in the morning, I took her to the toilet and encouraged her to wee. She refused of course. We rehashed the conversation from the night previous and I told her that she would be going nappy – and pants – free all day. (Not that pants were an issue for us, as she is forever in the nude!). I told her that she could only wear nappies to bed, so if she wanted to put her nappy back on – that meant she was ready for bed. She wasn’t impressed, but I followed though. Consistency is key!

Not only did she ‘miss’ every single wee that day – but just our luck, she came down with gastro as well. Let me tell you, my floors (and walls!) saw more shit in one day than you’d read in a years subscription to a gossip mag!

Enough. I caved. I told her she was sick, so she could go back to wearing nappies and we would try again soon. You know what? She said no! Foot stomping on the ground, she yelled “I am NOT a baby!”. 

Day two was somewhat better, as I felt like she was actually “trying”. After every “accident”, we would clean together and then have a trip to the toilet to discuss what should have happened. We scattered a few potties around and commented that if she couldn’t make it to the toilet in time, she could use those instead. We also introduced some rewards for making it in time – nothing like a bit of bribery!

I found that my stubborn child would not respond to the methods whereby you make them sit on the toilet at allotted times throughout the day, or make them stay seated until they have had some success. My stubborn child works best with making decisions herself, so I found that gentle reminders about the toilet worked best for us. I found myself commenting on how much I needed to use the toilet and wandering off several times an hour! 

Roll on day 3, and she was (almost) accident free! We were ready to venture out of the house. Yes it was scary, but we did it. And I can count the number of accidents on one hand – and a few weeks later they stopped. She has now been accident free for over 6 months!


MY TT TIPS:

  1. Remove all your favourite rugs and pop in temporary storage, especially any special sheep-skins you might have lying around. (Trust me on that one!)

  2. If you do have to leave the house before you are confident – I recommend using the thick underwear and discreetly putting a pull up over their undies. This ensures that they feel wet if they have an accident.

  3. Observation does amazing wonders! Ask if your little one can observe friends who are toilet trained, using the toilet (or potty). This includes older siblings too! 

  4. Get your little ones to help you clean up their accidents. Once you’re finished, take them straight to the toilet/potty and explain where it should go next time.

  5. Try not to get angry or act disappointed. Remain positive and explain and show them the behaviour that you want to see.

  6. Never use the toilet as a place for timeouts, or it may develop negative connotations.

  7. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a little bit of bribery and rewards of all kinds. It may help to let your little one choose their rewards and keep them somewhere out of reach but that they can see, reminding them that they will receive a reward when they use the toilet.

  8. If you have a large house, start by putting extra potties around and as the warning timeframe becomes larger, removing the extra potties one by one. Remember to remind your little one if you are removing a potty!

  9. Stock up on wine. (You will most likely need it after the first two days!)

MY ESSENTIAL TT PRODUCTS: 

  1. What is it?Thick terry-toweling type underwear

Why is it awesome? They are great for when you’re ready to pop underwear on as they absorb far more than regular undies 
Where can I get some?Best & Less approx. for $3.00 each.

  • What is it?Baby U Potette Plus – Foldable Travel Pottywith disposable bags

Why is it awesome? Yep, you read that right. For months, I carried a portable potty with me whenever we were going somewhere that I couldn’t guarantee we would have a toilet closeby, such as parks. It folds down super compact and slips inside a plastic carry bag, easily stored underneath your pram or in a larger nappy bag. It folds into a potty which takes disposable bags (so you can throw the bag – and contents – in the bin) and it can also fold flat working as a toilet seat topper when you are using toilets that aren’t very clean.

Where can I get some?$19.95 from www.babybunting.com.au. Pack of 20 disposable bags $5.99.

  • What is it?Car Seat Protector
    Why is it awesome? It’s fun, cute and super compact – whilst protecting your carseat (and your car!) from any accidents. We also used ours in the pram.

Where can I get one?We bought our Close brand Car Seat Protector online for $24.95 from www.limetreekids.com.au

  • What is it?Brolly Sheetswith wings

Why is it awesome? They are waterproof blankets that sit over the top of the bottom sheet, making removing wet blankets from the bed in the middle of the night far less difficult. When you’re ready to tackle sleep time nappy-free, grab 2-3 brolly sheets. 

Where can I get some?For approx. $49.95 each from http://www.brollysheets.com.au/

  • What is it?The First Years 3-in-1 Magical Sounds Potty

Why is it awesome? We loved this potty because it’s easy to clean and dispose of waste. It has an arm on the side which teaches them about “flushing” and lets off a cheering sound. When you progress to the toilet, it comes apart and can be used as a toilet seat topper perfect for small bottoms. The base then converts into a stool.

Where can I get some?$48 from www.target.com.au

Also make sure you grab lots and lots of cotton underwear(in designs of their choice!) for once they are more confident, as well as some Pull-ups(for sleeping).

Bianca Atkinson perth blogger family parent motherhood potty toilet training

All prices mentioned in this post are in Australian Dollars (AUS) and were correct at the time of the article being published. These tips and suggestions are just a few of many out there. Goodluck with your toileting adventures!

I'm Bianca; Managing Director of
Perth digital marketing agency,