My goodness has this been a hot topic lately! I have read several articles recently about the damaging effects of potty training too soon and the competitive nature of parents.
Can I just start off by providing a little disclaimer, this is not an article on how, or even when to potty train your child. Did you know that there is a way to avoid potty training all together? We did! If you think that means that my child will be in nappies until his teens, that I will still be wiping his bottom on his wedding day, then let me explain. The reason I wont be potty training my child is because since he was born I have been following his signals for eliminating and helping him to go to the toilet in an appropriate place.
This practice is known as elimination communication, natural infant hygiene or in most countries where it is common practice, is so accepted it doesn’t even have a special name. My son has never learned to ignore his body, and never lost the ability to signal and communicate his toileting needs. I have always been there to aid him, and recently when he reached 15 months old, he figured out how to sit on the potty without my help. He also learned the words poo poo and wee wee, simply by me explaining what he was doing each time he went. Although he is as yet unable to remove his own clothing, if left undressed from the waist down he will get 90% of his wees/poos in the potty during the day and will usually be dry or tell me his needs when we are out and about too. Do I tell you this to compete and prove that I am the better mother with the most advanced son? No. I tell you this to show you that my 16 month old boy who has never been rewarded or punished for eliminating, whether he does it in a cloth nappy or the toilet, has naturally developed to the stage where he can take the reins on the majority of his toileting needs.
The idea that a child can become traumatised from early potty training is quite a different subject from elimination communication and is entirely possible. If you ignore your baby’s signals and teach them to eliminate into a nappy, then one day suddenly tell them that this behaviour is no longer acceptable, it can be incredibly traumatic for a child. The act of punishing a child for having accidents because you as the parent have now decided that they finally need to start listening to their own bodies is cruel and humiliating. What many parents don’t understand is that 2 year old’s are not suddenly ready, although often they begin to take an interest in their eliminations, they are having to start from scratch and relearn the feelings that come from having a full bladder. They need to figure out the timings and push their bladder to its limit in order to discover how long they can wait – and how long is too long!
Elimination communication is something I am so passionate about, and I feel the reason many parents see it as something to have a bash at or something that only hippies do, is really so similar to the breastfeeding debate. Parents may give it a try, but its not considered the norm in our culture and they soon give up and rely on nappies instead. It is just so accepted that our children will soil themselves and we will train them out of the habit later.
Natural and gentle parenting is thankfully becoming more common now, but there seems to be some confusion over the best way to approach potty training so that it causes no upset and distress to the child. Parents are so concerned with being baby led they fall in to this trap of waiting and waiting for their child to be ready when in fact they are missing a key fact – They are born ready!
There are so many myths floating around, the strangest one being that boys are lazy and more difficult to teach when it comes to potty training. Perhaps this is true if they have learned to go in a nappy but let me tell you that my personal story is not an isolated incident. Boys all around the globe have their toileting under control by a considerably younger age than we have grown to expect. I actually hear of people leaving their child wearing nappies until 5 or even 6 years old. If early potty training is traumatic, let me ask these parents how do they think their 6 year old child might feel amongst peers? How do they feel having to lay on the floor to be cleaned up like a tiny baby. That is not a way to enable your child’s independence and I really cant see who benefits from doing this. Certainly not the child.
Why not avoid the trouble and the sticker charts and just not bother with potty training? Life is not designed to be stress and worry, and humans are not designed to bribe their young to go on the potty. The most natural way of handling your child’s toileting progression from relying on the parents help, to being self sufficient, is to follow all of your babies cues from as early as possible.
You might also be interested in how to get started with ec.