Gingerly Made: Potty Training a Defiant Child: Part 2

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Potty Training a Defiant Child: Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, I discussed how difficult it has been to potty train our oldest daughter. She is intelligent, independent, and strong-willed. At almost three years old, she is also going through a very defiant stage. We believe that not going on the toilet is a means of control for her. In a toddler's world they don't necessarily get a lot of control, but whether or not they go on the potty is one area where they rule.

After multiple positive methods of potty training including immediate and cumulative reward systems that didn't work, we have decided to use discipline in potty training. I know many 'experts' say not to do this. But we have known other families who have dealt with defiance in potty training this way in addition to being absolutely certain that Caitlin does in fact know when she needs to potty. We know because she can tell us when she wants to. She has looked at us, gasped, said 'no potty' and then immediately peed on the couch. This, among many other instances that has proved to us that she is physically aware of when she needs to go.

So first we tried time outs. Whoa that was a wrong choice. Time outs just led to massive meltdowns and didn't help on the potty front at all. So after fighting this route for a year, we decided that it was time to give spankings. I really didn't want potty training to have to be this way, and I suppose we could have just let Caitlin be and down the road at three and a half or even four, whenever she decided, she would just start going on her own. But we have two children now and this is getting ridiculous. Especially knowing that the only reason Caitlin was still using a pull-up is because she was simply being defiant.

We decided that after Christmas, while Hubs had a week off work, we would try putting her in panties again and really work on getting her to use the toilet. So after two and a half days of letting her run around the house with just panties, we told her that if she went in her panties again, she would get a spanking. This decision was made simply because of the outright defiance she was showing us and had been showing us for months. Hubs and I decided between us that spankings would only happen for defiance. Accidents happen and should not be punished. It was amazing the improvement that happened after only a couple of light spanks. (Please understand that in our family a spanking is only a light swat. We never bruise or injure our children! Spankings are given with out anger and accompanied by a conversation about why she was punished. They are also followed up with an apology from our daughter and lots of love and hugs from us.) She also continued getting rewards when she did use the toilet. The next day, day four, she went 3 for 5. She went potty when she woke up, stinky a little while later, then had two defiant episodes. We gently talked to her about it and administered the punishment. That night, she told us that she needed to go and did.

Day Five was mostly successful; 5 for 6. Her only accident was because she tried to hold it all morning so that she wouldn't have to go and sit on the potty. Finally, she couldn't hold it any longer and wet herself.

On day six, Caitlin was still resistant to sitting on the potty, but if we held fast and told her that she needed to sit and at least try, she would. There was only one accident again today, but it was a true accident. It was not an act of defiance and I count that as a victory. Day seven, January 1st, had zero accidents. Hurray!

I know that this is not the end of potty training. We will still have to be vigilant about asking Caitlin if she needs to go and telling her to go when it's been awhile. There are sure to be accidents. But as long as we have broken the defiance I am happy as a lark. My sweet little girl even told me "I like you Mommy" tonight, which means something totally different than "I love you Mommy." I like being told both!

Did this potty training method work long-term? Did we notice any negative consequences from our choice? Read about it in Part 3


  1. Some very good points.I especially agree with should be expertise. You really need to ‘tune in’ to the language.
    Potty Training Problems

  2. I LOVE your definition of what spanking should be and I totally jive with that. Whenever the conversation of spanking comes up (if people ask my opinion and what not), I use that EXACT definition: NOT in anger. Only with defiant behavior (not accidents). Explaining the whys. Conversation afterward with lots of hugs and kisses. So reassuring to hear someone else with that definition. LOVE it!

  3. Thank you for this! We started training our 20 mo daughter. Everyone looks at me with shock when I tell them how young she is, but when she can say pee and poo before she goes, that says ready to me. The first week went very well. She came and told me when she had to go then headed for the potty. We even spent a whole day out of the house (carpet shopping) with NO accidents! Then she started with the defiance. Peeing and pooping wherever she wanted. I started putting her on the potty and telling her to try and pee, which was followed by a sassy "no"and her running or of the room to pee on the floor! I like you was about to put her in pull-ups. My husband said we should spank her. I was hesitant because everything I've ever heard about potty training says you should act nonchalant when they go on the floor! What a joke. I found your article and it set my heart at ease with spanking her for those defiant messes. I am proud to say that we are on day three of this"new"program and she has only had one accident. Thank you for being real. And for being the voice of good parenting.


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