Back to Blog

Toddler parallels: toileting 🚽

3things jordan myska allen personal growth relatefulness stayinlove Apr 04, 2024


I recently heard a description of toileting as “‘recognize’ and take control of sphincter reflexes”, and thought, man, that’s so similar to our triggers as adults—We don’t know how to control our assholes! (Whether ours or someone we’re close to)

When you’re being an ‘asshole’ or ‘tightass’ you probably have an impulse you haven’t yet learned to recognize. (A word in quotes in the original text because if you haven’t cognized it yet, how can you re-cognize it?). The most common reaction is to protect others from this (diaper up), judge ourselves (shame), or be proud of it (we’ve all seen those kids). Like children, we all have stages where any of these reactions may be necessary or appropriate, but eventually we want to take more responsibility for what’s happening through our bodies. Here are some insights from toddler potty training that are equally viable for us learning to be more conscious around whatever triggers us.

1) Everyone is on a different timeline—not just when we’re able to finally get conscious about what’s really going on when we’re triggered, but how long it takes is different for each of us to learn once we start the process. With toddlers as with adults, there is such a thing as over-prompting that engenders resistance so it’s better to surrender to the process. 

2) It doesn’t help to force the learning, or make someone wrong for accidents. They will happen. Sometimes as the kid is learning, they’re going to intentionally poop on a toy train; just like you might use anger you’re learning to integrate in a way that feels good in the moment, but isn’t healthy.

3) There are still better and worse ways to learn. Even though every person is different, it helps to talk to people who have done it before. Experts can be helpful even when your situation is unique.

4) One worse way is ignoring consequences, the other is overdoing them. Things (relationships, jobs) can get ruined. Even so, it's going to be OK. Plus, knowing this you can keep expensive things locked away.

5) It can be hard. Practically, this calls for patience and compassion whether with ourselves or those that lash out against us.

6) A lot of people are worried about extrinsic rewards (as parents we didn’t go this route), but honestly have you ever met an adult that only took a crap in the toilet if they were going to get a piece of candy for it?

Relatefulness is all about bringing unconsciousness into awareness; interosubjects into interobjects; or as Freud said, “where it was there shall I be.” Let’s remember that we’re all potty training on whatever edge we’re on. And perhaps bring patience with others, and humility with ourselves.


With love, Jordan


More like this?

Fresh practices, psyche-activating perspectives, & relationship tips every week in your inbox. Plus occasional updates from our team.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.