Debra Hasbrook, M.Ed.
There are three things you cannot make a child do: eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom. Teachers and parents often try to control these three powers, but ultimately it is up to the child. A child’s developmental level is often a factor. There a times when a child is asked to control or give up their power before they are developmentally ready because the adult decides it’s time.
Studies have shown that trying to control these three powers can have long lasting results.
Have you ever had the experience when you weren't hungry, and someone was trying to force you to eat something? How did that make you feel? Angry, sad, guilty, that they wouldn't like you if you said no?
If food becomes an issue of power, later on a child may develop eating disorders such as obesity, bulimia, and anorexia.
Have you ever had someone keep you awake? Or tried to go to bed early because you had to wake up early the next day, and you weren't tired so you laid there tossing and turning?
If sleeping becomes a power issue a child can develop emotional difficulties and difficulty sustaining restful sleeping patterns.
Have you ever been in a position when you were unable to go to the bathroom and you really needed to go? Or gone to the Dr. and they wanted a urine test, and couldn't go?
If toileting becomes a power issue, children can develop emotional difficulties such as OCD and encopresis: which is when children hold their bowel and bladder movements and a little is discharged into their undergarments. Over time this can cause infections, social isolation (because they smell) and compacted bowel syndrome which can be life threatening.
Consider when you are dealing with these issues whether it is your expectation, or if it is developmentally appropriate for that individual child. No two children develop at the same rate in the same way.
If there is push back on a power you are trying to work with, consider a new strategy.
By the time a child is five years old they will know how to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom.
Support children with their individual development, it will be easier on both of you.