Articles by Peggy

Overcoming Tough Problems with Kids:
A Narrative Therapist's Approach

A few months ago, I was confronted with an issue that no parent wants to tackle. My 3-year-old daughter became constipated, was scared to go to the bathroom, and subsequently began soiling her underpants. All this was occurring shortly after I’d given birth to our second child, and life was feeling very overwhelming for both of us.

It was important to me that I preserve my daughter’s sense of self confidence, refrain from doing anything that would damage her future toileting rituals, and also find a quick solution to the problem. I was changing underpants as often as I was changing diapers, and I wanted to get on with taking care of a newborn without experiencing the monotonous whining and crying associated with my daughter’s fears, discomfort, and neediness that went along with her constipated state.

As a trained Narrative Therapist, I used an approach written about by fellow Narrative Therapist, David Epston. I found a moment in which we could be alone, sat down with my daughter, and in a pretty animated voice I said, "You sure have a sneaky poopy. It wants to sneak right into your underpants, doesn’t it?"

At this my daughter enthusiastically said "Oh, yeah."

I continued, "When you are playing and reading books, that Sneaky Poopy wants you to think that you don’t need to get up and go to the potty, right?"

Again, "Oh, Yeah!"

"Do you think you could outsneak that Sneaky Poopy? Do you know where it’s supposed to go?"

"In the Potty."

"That’s right! But the Sneaky Poopy wants us to think that you don’t know where it’s supposed to go, and it’s tricking you into letting it get into your underpants. Do you want to let Sneak Poopy do that?"

"NO!" she said excitedly. She was taking a stand against the problem.

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