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I have heard a variety of styles of potty-training and the ones I have been told of struck me as somewhat militant. This is not to say that discipline is something I want to ignore in my kids' lives, but, for example, one mother told me how she trained her kids: she left them naked and refused to leave the house or clothe them until they used the potty. She insisted that method worked, but it struck me as extremely coercive. I could be wrong, but this style is very unappealing to me. Our 4yr old daughter is autistic and non-verbal. Coercion of this sort would absolutely backfire. Our 2.5 yr old is not autistic but I am unsure of such an approach would be great for him.

Are there non-coercive methods that may take longer, but consider the child's free will to some extent? Or is that an unrealistic expectation?

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The "naked" approach to potty training isn't exactly "use the toilet or else you can't get clothes on", or at least that isn't the idea. The idea is for the child to walk around the house without clothes (which typically, at the age this is done - 18 months to three years - they don't care one way or the other about) so that they are better able to recognize their bodily needs and functions. Walking around with clothes on makes it easy to miss the accidents until well after they happened - walking around without, they notice pretty quickly, and are better able to make the connection between the physical feeling that we adults equate to "need to go" which they can't otherwise recognize.

Your older child I would recommend talking to someone who specializes in non-verbal autistic children, as there will be very different approaches to helping them I suspect than with your 2.5 year old. If she can work with reward systems, you can try the sticker chart method (sticker chart with a star for each time the toilet is used, whether or not she actually goes, and after certain number of stars she gets a reward appropriate to her; after a large number she gets a very large reward). You can also try simply one potty-one reward with small things (we bought a "bag of hot wheels cars" for $5 from some family in the neighborhood with ~100 cars, and just gave our oldest a car each time he pooped, which was a challenge for him).

Ultimately you need to follow the child here - each child is different and has different ways that will work for them to potty train. You definitely don't need to be coercive, though, there are plenty of non-coercive methods that work - really just like any other skill you teach a younger child. This one just is a bit ... messier. :)

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