Working through Resistance: A Case Study

Potty Training Public Bathroom

Following up on my post from last week, my well-potty trained daughter quickly developed a fear of public bathrooms because of an autoflusher gone haywire (and a lot of I-know-better mistakes on my part).  Now, we have the aftermath of that experience to work through – resistance in the public bathroom.  I thought this would be a great time to demonstrate some basics of working through resistance.  I’m going to give you the specifics of my situation, but this can readily be adapted to other circumstances.

We can’t have a situation where we can’t go into public bathrooms – if nothing else, momma’s gotta go sometimes!  A great public bathroom approach is to say that *you* have to go, instead of putting a spotlight on the child and their needs.  When even this generated resistance, I first took a moment to get down on her level, look her in the eye, and calmly explain the situation to her, “I need to peepee, and I *need* you to come with me.  You can’t wait out here.”  Still resistant, but waning, I gently but firmly repeated this as we went in.

We chose a situation at daddy’s work on the weekend – ample public bathroom space, knowing that no-one was going to come in and interrupt us.  The less busy the better.  To start with, I sat down on the big potty and put the travel potty chair out in front of me.  I reminded babygirl that she had just told me she needed to pee, and pointed out where her potty was.  “You can sit when you’re ready.”  We can’t *make* kids sit, and we can’t *make* them pee.  It’s frustrating, but the more we try to do this, the more resistance will increase.  You want to work through resistance when you know you’re not going to be pressed for time, etc.  No pressure on the child or you.

I calmly sat and watched as she danced around doing everything she could to distract from the situation.  "The bathroom is blue!"  "Look at that!"  At a certain point it became clear that the need to pee was urgent.  In her case, this involved stopping what she was doing with an abrupt, “peepee!”.   I pointed to her potty, “You’re potty’s right there – you can sit when you’re ready.”  She went over to the potty.  Ideally she would have been bottomless already.  But, since we had resistance to even taking the pants off, this was another step in the process for us.  So again – not to spook her, I gave a warning of what I was about to do.  Gently, “Ok, I’m going to help you take your pants down."  Unfortunately I jumped the gun and tried to help her sit too – NOT having that!  So we had to start over, but I did not have to wait long for the cycle to play through.  Learning my lesson from the last time, I went through the exact same steps but instead of trying to help her sit, I gave her a choice, “Do you want to sit, or do you want me to help you?”  Door #1 – we have a winner!

This process took ½ hour.  It sounds like a long time (if you're actively working through resistance this might actually sound like a short time).  It takes a LOT of patience, but the reward is so great.  The next time we did this, the time was cut in half, and so forth.  It can take some creativity to apply these concepts to your own situation - my consultation services can help if you need a personalized plan.

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at

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