Child-Centered Potty Training

2014-11-07 11.14.09As a therapist I get to work with children in a unique way. I am not a teacher, a parent, or any authority  figure for that matter. I am simply their friend and I get to honor their little personalities by getting know and interpret their behavior through an intervention called “Child-Centered Play Therapy”. In a nutshell Child-Centered Play Therapy can be described as a philosophy of relating to children, one that prizes the inner world of the child over the presenting problem. In a therapy setting I get on the floor in a room full of toys and simply play with the child and narrated what they are doing. It may seem pointless but what I’m doing is building report and trust with my tiny clients and formulating an idea of how they relate to their world by watching them play. 

Now lets get to how this relates to potty training. Well It donned on me today as I was celebrating a successful poop in the toilet with my son that the way I’ve been potty training Waylon is closely aligned with CCPT, which is how I came up with Child-Centered Potty Training. Just a few months ago when Waylon was about 28 months, I tried to push potty training on him for a couple tearful days in a row and I knew what I was doing wasn’t working with my strong-willed child. So I backed off him and decided that I would follow his lead with a few gentle encouragements, suggestions and rewards for choosing to go potty in the toilet instead of his pants. We traded the tears for more giggles and celebrating each success. Waylon isn’t fully potty trained yet, he still wears a pull-up when we go out and a diaper at night. In the morning he gets to choose when I ask him what he wants to wear, undies or pull-ups and I honor his choice. Now if he’s (4) and still choosing a pull-up I might eat my words, but I’m choosing to trust his readiness.

Here are some tools that merge the ideas of Child-Centered Play therapy with potty training.

  1. Children are not miniature adults, and the potty training parent does not respond to them as if they were.
  2. Children are people. They are capable of experiencing deep emotional pain and joy.
  3. Children are unique and worthy of respect. The potty training parent prizes the uniqueness of each child and respects the person the child is.
  4. Children are resilient. Children possess a tremendous capacity to overcome obstacles and circumstances in their lives.
  5. Children have an inherent tendency toward growth and maturity. They possess an inner intuitive wisdom and will choose the potty when they are ready.
  6. Children are capable of positive self-direction. They are capable of dealing with their world in creative ways. Sometimes you need to be creative with potty training and reward a successful trip to the potty in a creative way or put Cheerios in the toilet for proper pee pee aim. 
  7. Children’s natural language is play, and this is the medium of self-expression with which they are most comfortable.
  8. Children have the right to remain silent. The potty training parent respects a child’s decision not to go in the potty.
  9. Children will take the potty training experience to where they need to be. The potty training parent does not attempt to determine when or how a child should go.
  10. Children’s growth cannot be sped up. The potty training parent recognizes this and is patient with the child’s developmental process.

I am not an expert in potty training at all but this has been our experience so far and for now I’m not pulling my hair out trying to make my kid hit a milestone. Below are some resources I recommend for entering into the potty-training stage.

potty training tools

* All items found on Amazon.

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