In the 1960s, Pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton developed a “Child-Oriented” potty training (CO) method because he was concerned that parents were pushing their children to potty train before they were ready, and using rigid, sometimes harsh, tactics. This wasn’t good for the child, he argued, and proposed another way.
CO follows a series of steps. It’s gentle because it respects the child’s readiness for each new step, and it’s gradual because the child sets the pace; parents do not force new steps if the child pushes back.
CO may work well for you if you stay home with your child, you have a laid-back personality, or your child is headstrong.
Here is an overview of the CO steps:
The Steps of Child-Oriented Potty Training
- Sometime after your child is 18 months old, introduce a potty. Tell him it’s a very special chair, and it belongs to him. Explain that it serves the same purpose as the toilet in the bathroom.
- Encourage him to sit on the potty with his clothes on. This is a gentle way to introduce sitting on the potty; the coldness of the potty against his bare bottom may make him less likely to cooperate. While he’s sitting on it, read to him or offer him a reward (a treat or sticker, for example). Let him get up anytime he wants to. If this goes well…
- Encourage him to sit on the potty with his diaper off. This is still just sitting practice; actually peeing or pooping in the potty comes later. If this goes well…
- Start putting his dirty dippers into the potty, explaining that this is where pee and poop go. Once he has the gist of that…
- Introduce bare-bottom periods of time each day. Remind him that he knows what to do, and that he can do it all by himself. Leave his potty nearby while he plays. You can remind him about the potty from time to time, or if you see telltale signs of impending pee or poop like pausing during play, squatting or grunting.
Important Points About This Method
Praise. Like most modern potty training gurus, Dr. Brazelton emphasizes praise and says that shaming and punishing are big no-nos. Where praise is concerned, he puts extra oomph on highlighting your child’s autonomy by saying things like, “Wow, you used the potty all by yourself!”
Step back if your child pushes back. The premise of this method is that it approaches an emotional milestone for children with care and respect for the child. If your little one shows distress (or even disinterest) at any point in the process, Dr. Brazelton advises that you hit pause, try reintroducing the new step at a later time, and only proceed when he’s fully cooperative.
You can tweak the method. With so many potty training methods out there, you can easily borrow ideas from different approaches and customize a plan that works for your family. Many parents, for instance, like the gradualness of CO, but add structure by scheduling potty breaks at regular intervals throughout the day.
Pros and Cons
Plusses of CO are that it takes the pressure off of a tricky process that can be emotional for your child and frustrating for you. CO is gentle and helps you avoid potty-training power struggles. It also works. Research shows that a majority of children have success with this method.
Minuses are that it may take longer (several months or more) than other, “Fast-Track” methods. It can also lack consistency because it’s up to your child whether he wants to use the potty on any given day. This may pose a problem if you’re up against a deadline, like diaper-free pre-school, and your little one views potty use as optional.
For detailed information about CO, you can find Dr. Brazelton’s book here.