In the wake of settling into a “new normal” at home with my two year old son and his older sister, I have been left with time and opportunity that screams the inevitable: time to potty train! Now, I spend a great deal of my time professionally at Phoenix Physical Therapy helping children and families address their own needs in this area, but if I am honest, my daughter potty trained herself. We set out a potty seat in the cramped living room of our first, tiny family home which our brother-in-law lovingly referred to as “the quarter bath with a view of the TV”. We allowed her to model after us with gentle positive encouragement and minimal power struggles. Her drive to potty train came from a ferocious independence and self-efficacy that she was gifted with from Day-1 of her life.
My son, however, is a different matter. As independent as his sister is, we sometimes refer to him by the nickname “co-dependent”. He is snuggly, overgrown, and capitalizes on every possible efficiency life offers: Why use a fork when I can use my hand? Why put my own shoes on when mom will do it for me? Why bother using the potty when I can just keep playing? I should also note that while some children are sensitive to the sensory experience of being wet or soiled, others aren’t. My son falls into the latter category.
I often use the phrase in the Phoenix Physical Therapy clinic, “when you engage in a power struggle with your child, both parties lose”. I now remind myself of this every day. True to my word, I am (usually) upbeat, encouraging, and emphasize the positive. The literature tells us that negative reinforcement with potty training doesn’t work, and only creates shame. So I express frustration with the process openly and frequently, but away from my son.
Every family is different; some families with children who are on the older end of potty training may need strict schedules, reminder watches, tracking/reward systems, or other strategies like coordinating with school. Other children may need help understanding how to use the muscles in their own bodies to maintain continence and empty waste in the bathroom. In these cases, or if a child has additional medical or learning needs, then talking with your family doctor or specialist and meeting with a Physical Therapist at Phoenix Physical Therapy would be a wonderful fit. We are here to support families with our expertise and experience, working with patients, as well as our own families. We can help you understand what is “normal”, develop goals in coordination with your doctor, and find a path to move forward.
Our family is at the beginning of our potty training journey with our son. I understand that this process will have ups and downs, and I am prepared to do a LOT of laundry in the upcoming weeks. I also know that my son will get there. What I value the most is for the process to fit in with our family; we want to reach our goal, but we also want to maintain our well-being along the way. This is what I want for each of your families as well.
If you need more information, please contact Phoenix Physical Therapy through emailing our website or if you want to talk to someone in the office please call us at 802-863-6662. During these times of suspended treatments due to COVID-19 someone from the Phoenix Physical Therapy office will always check the phone and email messages daily, getting back to you as needed. Telemedicine appointments are always a great option for those in immediate need. Please let us know as we are here to help!!