A Parent-Child Communication Mismatch in Dealing with Encopresis?

It is not uncommon for me to encounter parents at complete loggerheads with their child’s constant soiling. It is so very OBVIOUS: the smell, the visual evidence, his holding behavior, and refusal to sit and use the bathroom. So, it is logical to visually and verbally point this out to the child.  BUT, he does not get it. He denies the evidence of his own senses. Communication fails both parent and child. This is so illogical on his part! So, let’s point this out to him/her over and over again as everyone’s frustrations mount.

When I present the logical process of my Soiling Solutions protocol, which is based on a very simple, elementary conditioning process cited and analyzed in every Psychology 101 textbook, this parent rejects it. It ignores her own analysis of the child’s failure to understand what is so obvious. What is the matter here? Surely the child, her own flesh and blood is not stupid. He is so wonderful and smart in so many other ways. The mother’s observations are correct. If the child obeyed her, his encopresis would cease! Some parents will go on to add a moral dimension or demand that the child be responsible. This only escalates conflict because now you are adding moral outrage.

Well, she might as well be talking to her child in Chinese or German. She is speaking in mature adult language and he listens and cognitively processes at a very different level. His thinking is more impulse and emotionally driven in the immediate NOW. That is his nature. His brain is still developing and his prefrontal cortex is not yet mature enough to harness his basic impulses. He may be thinking such thoughts as “Dun wanna!,” “Ain’t gunna!,” “Leave me alone!” or, “You’re a mean mom!” In fact the human has the longest period of development of any organism on this planet requiring adult guidance for years. We know teen-agers and even young college students act impulsively without the planning and insight that is eventually taken over and guided by the prefrontal cortex.

Soiling Solutions is effective because it is bypasses the higher cognitive and verbal processes. It operates at a more primitive, elementary automatic level of change. Of course, it is fine to use reason and logic for the many years that your child goes to school and learns from you, but keep in mind that toileting is a very primitive behavioral sequence and that can be fostered more directly at an elementary level. Use language to explain what you are doing and to attempt him to get to recognize his bodily sensations and actions, but his insight will follow from the change that you are implementing, not from what you are verbally demanding. For children, insight may follow more from behavioral change and not so much behavior change from the verbal insight that you are trying so hard to convey.