So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. (Genesis 3:22)
In the Spring of 2001, I received an urgent email from the mother of a nearly five-year-old girl who was still in diapers and refusing to use the toilet. "Help!" the mom pleaded. Her daughter was slated to begin school in four months, and the school had made it perfectly clear they would not accept her unless she was trained and required no help to use the toilet. I don't usually render assistance through email, but this situation was intriguing and challenging. So, I emailed the mother back, offering that if she was willing to take the following week off work and devote herself to implementing and firmly enforcing the plan I was going to recommend, I'd help her.
Less than a day went by before I received her response. She couldn't take time off from work right now, she said, and besides, her daughter was going to be in a dance recital in a month. Could we wait until after the dance recital was over? No, I replied, either she agreed to my timetable or I was not interested. This time, her response was almost immediate. All right, she said, she'd take the week off and do what I told her to do. Many of today's parents need discipline almost as much as do their children.
I told the mom to begin the program on the Saturday before her week of "vacation." Send your daughter to spend the day with a relative, I said. While she's out of the house, remove from the house any and all signs of her ever having worn diapers. Then remove all of her personal possessions from her room and the rest of the house, leaving only essential clothing and furniture. Store these things where she can't get to them. When she comes home, inform her that she will no longer be wearing diapers and hand her a pair of the thinnest of cotton underpants. Then take her to her room and inform her that she will live with nothing but clothing and furniture until she begins using the toilet successfully and reliably. Furthermore, if she has an "on purpose" (let's face it, folks, as regards a child who has passed his/her third birthday, we're no longer talking about "accidents"), she will spend the remainder of the day in The Most Boring Bedroom in the World and go to bed immediately after supper. She can, however, earn parole if while she is in her room she asks permission to use the toilet and does so successfully.
I told the mother (and by proxy, the father) that under no circumstances were they to encourage her to use the toilet, ask if she needed to, or talk about her problem within earshot of her.
Instead of micromanaging (as they had been doing), they were to stand back, giving her plenty of room to come to grips with her situation and make the decisions she needed to make.
"How long will this take?" Mom asked, her email dripping with desperation.
"If you do exactly what I tell you to do," I said, "not long."
This was hardly the first time I had recommended "kicking a child out of the Garden of Eden." Time and again, this admittedly extreme (but not at all harsh) discipline had proven itself with children of all ages (excepting infancy and toddlerhood, of course). Take, for example, the 16-year-old whose car suddenly disappeared into car limbo and who had to either take the bus, walk, or pay his parents for providing taxi service. Almost immediately, he repented of his rebellious ways, chose a new group of friends, and began applying himself to his schoolwork. As if by magic, his car reappeared in the driveway three months later. Then there was the 10-year-old who went from being the worst behaved child in his class to the best behaved in less than a week because he was locked out of his room. Nevertheless, to make sure the incident became permanently lodged in his memory, for two months he slept on the sofa and dressed himself out of three cardboard boxes. When his parents felt his exile from the Garden was sufficient, they unlocked his door with the promise to lock it again the first time his teacher reported any misbehavior. Meanwhile, his teacher marveled aloud at how a child with so many apparent "disorders" could have been cured in such a short period of time. Powerful stuff, Scripture-based parenting.
The next Saturday, our little Diaper Queen was sent to her aunt's. When she came home and was shown her room, she pitched the fit to end all fits and promptly pooped in her underpants. Mom made her clean herself up and put her in her room. Linda Blair had nothing on the tantrum that ensued. Three hours later, she calmed down and asked, sobbing, to use the toilet, which she did, and she never had another "on purpose," ever again. Every three days thereafter (contingent on no "on purposes"), Mom and Dad returned one of her possessions. Several months later, her life was normal. Her parents gleefully reported that not only was she doing well in school, but her overall behavior at home had improved dramatically as well. She had also placed first in her dance recital.
It must be a lot easier to dance without diapers on.