Seeking professional tips on potty training, I went to see Alona, an experienced parenting consultant who comes from the Adler approach. Our 2 hours interview is spread across several different articles in this site.
Here in this chapter are some interesting potty training ideas, shared by Alona in the context of responsibility: As part of the toilet training phase, we hand over the responsibility on toileting from the parent to the child.
How can we encourage children to take the responsibility?
The tips in this chapter refer to that: Alona brings two stories that show how we can let the child experience the results of his action, as a way of teaching responsibility and motivating him to take charge.
For months after being potty-trained for bladder control, this girl who was almost 3 years old kept insisting on making poo in a diaper.
The girl used to ask her mom for a diaper, and then she would go inside her mom’s closet and she would stay there until she finished making poo in the diaper. (This habit of hers always left the closet with a bad smell that stayed for hours.)
The mom had to “work on herself” every single day to control her frustration and disappointment.
At some point, as it became unbearable to her washing-up poo from her 3-year-old, the mom decided to set boundaries.
She said to the girl, very kindly and respectfully:
“Listen: You are a big girl by now. I don’t clean up big girls’ poo, because big kids can use the toilet. And I know that you too - are capable of making poo in the toilet, though you choose not to do that.
“I respect your choice to make poo in the diaper, but we do need to wash you up afterwards, and I - don’t want to do that anymore. It is unpleasant to me.
“So here’s what we’ll do: Whenever you make poo in the diaper, I will help you warm up the water in the shower. You will get into the shower and wash up by yourself. I’ll help you when you’re done and make sure that you haven’t missed a spot.
The first time after they had this talk, the daughter became very upset when her mom told her to go and wash up:
“I DON’T WANT TO CLEAN MYSELF UP!”
“BECAUSE IT’S DISGUSTING!”
Mom: “You’re right, it’s really unpleasant… for me too. But what else can we do? You need to wash up.”
After that first incident, there were 2 or 3 times when the girl unwillingly washed herself after making poo in the diaper, and that was it. As soon as she figured it wasn't paying off anymore, she stopped insisting on diaper and started to make poo in the toilet.
Let’s say that my little boy makes poo in his underpants on a daily basis.
I’ve been watching for some time and I'm pretty sure he's doing it to retain control, i.e. it's a sort of power struggle. Anyway I don't suspect a deeper problem there.
In this kind of scenario, Alona suggests:
Buy him a cool set of big-boy underpants. Let him pick something he really likes, like Superheroes.
Every time he makes poo in his underwear, toss them to the trash. Tell him “I’m sorry, but I’m not washing underpants filled with poo. These are going to the trash.”
Let him count how many pairs of underwear are left in the drawer. Hopefully he will sense the loss of each pair.
If you’re down to the last pair - tell him: “This is the last pair of superheroes underwear. What do you say? Can you keep these clean? I know you can. Let's see how you can guard this last pair”, etc.
again Alona reminds me that the dialog here is carried with a lot of warmth and
empathy. It is a constant balance
between assertiveness and kindness: We come from a very loving place, but
we guard the boundaries we've laid down.
The potty training ideas in this article are applicable, when the resistance has to do with power struggles, retaining control etc.
If as parents we sense a deeper problem such as anxiety, then we should get professional help.