• Mary Carlson Pap

So your toddler is ahead of the game. What about potty training?



Bright toddlers can be challenging to potty train. They are typically developmentally advanced in many areas, but often their development is not balanced. They often advance quickly in some areas, but not others. Bright children may even need more time to potty train!


Bright children have unique social and emotional characteristics that need to be recognized. Knowing and recognizing these unique traits and integrating them into your potty plan will prove to be helpful.


Is your child...

  • highly sensitive? If your child is highly sensitive it will be important to minimize your reaction to accidents. If an accident occurs, simply clean them up and move on.

  • perfectionistic? These kids may have high expectations of themselves and even expect perfection. We all know that potty training is not a perfect process. Help your child have reasonable expectations.

  • extremely stubborn? Children who are stubborn typically have stubborn parents. This creates an environment where power struggles can happen. Try to avoid power struggles as no one wins. Give your child time and be patient.

  • imaginative and creative? A bright child’s imaginative and creative spirit may need direction. I have read some crazy stories of bright children who are learning to potty train and decide they are an animal in the jungle, pooping in the wild. Of course, what you have is a mess. Try tapping into imaginative play and creativity that leads to the outcome you want. Many gifted children have truly enjoyed imaginative play with the Potty Fairies. Writing letters, drawing pictures and communicating with their potty fairy buddy in a productive way can be helpful.

  • funny with a keen sense of humor? A fun sense of humor is a life line as you potty train your child, both for you and your child. It lightens up everything and can help in so many ways.

  • independent? A bright child’s desire to be independent can be tapped in to as they learn that as they learn to use the potty chair they will be free of diapers and diaper changing. Celebrating their success towards being a “big kid” and independent will be just want they want to hear.

  • showing a strong sense of justice and fairness? Finally, bright children have a strong sense of justice and fairness. Telling your child that their unused diapers will be delivered to babies who need them is something that they will feel good about and will want to help others out. It is a motivator for them to know they are helping others.


Thinking about using rewards? Make sure the rewards or incentives that you provide your child is something they really want. Stickers or even rewards may not work with the bright child.


No matter what, be ready to celebrate your child’s successes. All kids eventually potty train- even if it is in their own way and on their own time.




If you believe your child is not ready to potty train, it doesn’t hurt to prepare for when they are ready. You can set the stage by singing potty training songs, giving your child a doll to potty train, and read potty training books. You might even let your child wear underwear over their diapers for a while. Learn all you can about potty training. Get tips from other parents and experts in the field.


Be kind to yourself, remember to breathe, and ask for help when you need a break. And remember: just because advanced children perform at a highly level in some areas doesn’t mean they will potty train quickly or easily or early. Be sure your child is ready for potty training before starting!

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