Child toilet training is a natural phase in every child’s life, and as parents, we know it has to happen sooner or later.
But before jumping-in, we may want to get a deeper understanding of what this phase means and the effect that it has, in terms of child development, education, and parent-child relationship.
I’ll admit -- I did jump-in without asking these questions first. To me, this became interesting after I already had experienced potty training with my eldest son. That first run, a difficult and long one, left me with a few "lesson-learned" about my parenting. It also left me with the desire to improve and learn more.
And so, with two potty trainings behind me and one more to go, I went to ask Alona Oren, a professional parenting consultant with whom I had an extensive interview about toilet training -- what she thinks about child potty training as an educational process.
Family Consultant certified by "Maagalim" Psychology Institute and the Ministry of Education (Israel) * Parenting Facilitator certified by Adler Institute and the Ministry of Education (Israel)
Alona bases her work widely on the Adlerian psychology school (see Adlerian psychology--Wikipedia), and combines other approaches such as behavioral - cognitive psychology and Imago Relationship Therapy.
The information presented in this page is based on a two-hours 'interview' I conducted with Alona on January 2012.
Based on your approach, how would you describe the significance of child toilet training, as a stage in child’s development, and from the perspective of parent-child relationship?
The issue of teaching or educating kids to defecate in a toilet, which means essentially to take charge of their bodies and control their peeing-and-pooping, is basically about personal hygiene education.
It’s also about educating to discipline and practicing self-discipline, and adjusting to our social rules.
Toilet training is part of a statement that says, parent-to-child and child-to-parent: You (the child) are now starting to take upon yourself to learn the same set of rules that the rest of the family lives by. You are learning the responsibility of accepting social rules and of being part of adults’ society.
It’s a step into adulthood.
Toilet training is a meaningful phase for children, in the sense that it’s when they start to mature towards controlling and managing themselves.
It is also a meaningful phase for the parent-child relationship. With babies and toddlers, the dynamics is usually characterized in the child’s doing what the parent instructs him to do. It evolves as the child grows older and becomes more independent. Toilet training is part of that evolvement, but it can also be a source for power struggles.
Many families that I’ve come to know in my work are not consciously cultivating cooperation as part of parent-child relationship. And in many cases, the parenting takes a more dominating nature, like: “You’ll do what I say because I’m the parent. I have the control.”
And then with potty training, the child has an opportunity to take the control. Same as it is with food. Children can now say (not articulately, but in their mind): "It’s my body. I’ll decide.” They control what goes in and what goes out.
That’s why in parenting we’ll often have “issues” around toilet training and food. It is a way for the child to take control, and parents can sometime freak out over it.
Child toilet training has a great significance to our relationship with the child, short and long term, and it also goes to building mutual trust.
The approach that we take, how we choose to manage toilet training, will have an effect on: