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Child-led Toilet Training Promotes Emotional Self-Awareness
September 4, 2023
A well-behaved child, isn't always an emotionally-well child. And an emotionally-well child isn't always well behaved.
-Eli Harwood (aka the Attachment Nerd), Therapist
In adopting a child-led approach to toilet training, where the child chooses whether to use the toilet and when to wear a diaper or underwear, Kseni Belous Enabi makes a connection between children having control over this developmental milestone and mastering emotional self-awareness:

There is one specific outcome I witnessed that I have never seen mentioned anywhere before: children learn to understand their emotional state and to evaluate what they can and cannot handle at any given time…Eventually all of them stopped using diapers and would choose to wear them on very special occasions. These could be days when a child got a new bed, or mommy went to a hospital to give a birth to a sibling, or when they slept over at grannies, or a parent traveled for work. On those days, they felt less secure and more sensitive than usual, and did not have the emotional capacity to control or to remember to use a potty/toilet. They just could not or did not want to deal with that on those days and we trusted their decision. Witnessing this, I was struck to the core to see:

  • how exactly emotional regulation is a part of the process;
  • how much more complicated the whole process is;
  • how well children know their bodies and minds; and,
  • how well they learned to listen to themselves.
Belous Enabi's full article, "I Want to Wear a Diaper Today! What We Learned From Child-Led Toilet Learning," reflects her direct experience, grounded in Pikler® and RIE® approaches to caring for young children.


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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · September 05, 2023
Eugene, OR, United States

And you address it so well in your book, Carol. I am so grateful for the ways you, Kseni and others help us have a more expansive view of children's unfolding lives, moment-by-moment, rather than unconsciously seeing them as points to move along some developmental trajectory.

Carol Murray · September 04, 2023
New Paltz, New York, United States

Such an important article! Thank you! I have witnessed (just this past year) several children (ages 4 and 5) still having problems with withholding, accidents, and constipation. I can also remember when at age 2 or 3 their parents suddenly decided it was time to toilet train and the process was not led by them. This is one of the most critical and challenging partnerships to negotiate with families.

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