What is it about the adorable pics that you scroll through on Insta and Facebook? Your child looks soooo cute. But behind the gorgeous eyes and chubby cheeks is a will of iron!
When we decide one day to take away the safety net of the nappy and get our child to use the toilet or potty instead, it can feel like you have lit a fuse and it is just a matter of time before a big tantrum is about to blow.
What I've learned from parenting a strong willed child is that behind all the yelling, defiance and tantrums is actually a little scared person whose greatest fear is being out of control.
We can spend a lot of time trying to make it ok, trying to not let them get away with being defiant and rude. Trying to make toilet training not feel like the next battle ground behind brushing their teeth, getting dressed and damn well doing as they are told!
What I have learnt is that some kids take change in their stride and for others their initial reaction is fear because of the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen next.
Their internal voice could be saying:
"I can't do this, I have no idea when a poo is coming and I want to go to my happy place to do it."
"I don't like this change I am used to weeing anytime I like in my nappy, I want to go back to the status quo."
"I feel uncertain about when to go to the toilet and I think I am going to fail."
But they can't articulate it with you. Instead they fly off the handle, shout, refuse, wee everywhere....
With our leader children they don't need to backed into corners where they feel they have to go into flight or fight mode. A child refusing to sit on the toilet and holding themselves like a surfboard; or a thrashing tornado, is not going to be relaxed enough to do "the business".
But all is not lost, if we can remain calm and positive our kids can surprise us with their brilliance.
1. Set a positive atmosphere
What they need is reassurance that it is ok to try. That having accidents is part of the learning process. That all they have to do is sit on the toilet or potty and have "a little go" and then they are going to move on and do something else.
That regardless of how many accidents they have your face and voice tone will remain the same: calm, in control and with no lectures.
Whether it is verbal or non verbal communication our kids are picking it up. Stories are a very powerful tool that we have to introduce using the toilet as a natural part of everyday life. It helps make the next step feel less daunting for the kids who like to control everything.
Hearing their parent say these 4 simple words can change your child's attitude towards toilet training...
"I believe in you"
"You can do it"
3. Play a Game
The strong willed leader children do not like to fail, they like to win! So making toilet training a game that they can win, where they feel in control is really important for their confidence.
Confidence and motivation are two very important ingredients to success.
4. Don't try to bribe them to keep them happy
A classic strategy that heaps of parents use is to give their kids an ipad or cell phone to watch something when they sit on the toilet or potty. In the short term, it's a great way of keeping them calm.
But in the long term it provides another hurdle to jump over to eventually get them using the toilet independently. It is easier not to compromise at the start by giving in to their demands because it makes the whole process longer.
Clear positive and negative natural consequences for certain toileting behaviour is what can make the difference
5. Remain calm when the tantrum blows
I say "when" rather than "if" because you know that strong willed kids have the potential to have long drawn out battles of will.
Before you start the day or when you start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated give yourself a pep talk:
" I am the big person here, I am not going to get on their emotional roller coaster. I am the cheer leader. "
Don't get intertwined with their emotional roller coaster. Don't try and negotiate with a tantruming toddler because they are not going to be reasonable or calm. Starve the negative behaviour of your attention and save your attention for when they are doing the right thing.
If they are in full tantruming mode and no amount of cuddles or emotional closeness is helping, then it's ok to give them some space. Put them in a quiet, safe space to calm down saying a simple phrase like "when you are ready, let me know".
When they have calmed down and are ready to sit on the toilet then great. Until then they need to know that life is not going to move on until they have done as they have been asked.
6. Put time aside
Kids get nervous and anxious when they feel that you are pressuring them. I hear lots of parents who put aside a weekend and expect by the end to send their kids to daycare on Monday.
Realistically it takes longer than 2 days for a strong will child to break the nappy habit, so take it slow.
Slow down, keep it calm and don't put heaps of pressure on them to learn this skill really quickly. Lots of my private clients will tell me that their kids are really intelligent and know what to do but choose not to. But toilet training is rarely connected with a child's academic intelligence.
When it comes to toilet training there can be good days and bad days. Days when they can't be bothered, days when they are grumpy, days when they are motivated and playful. The trick is to keep the gentle consistency through out and not give up when your child has a "bad day".
7. Make them feel more in control
It can be a simple as getting them to choose the colour of the potty, which Weepals potty sticker they like, which undies they want to wear, whether they want to sit on the toilet or potty.
All of these choices help your child to feel in control and leading the process which is critical for their success.
8. If you are feeling at a loss get some help
Your child is not a robot, every kid is unique. It would be great to follow the same formula that someone else has used and find that it works perfectly. But if it doesn't it does not mean you are a bad parent.
It means that you have a child who needs some help to toilet train and you need to find the strategies to get them there. That's where I come in, I listen to what you have tried so far and we put together an individual plan to help your child feel in control, relaxed and ultimately do their wees and poos on the toilet. click HERE to find out how to work with me.
From one parent of a strong willed child to another - keep smiling, one day they will be amazing, you just need to get there in one piece!