How to Not Potty Train in 3 Easy Phases

 

I’m deep in walk training right now.  Yesterday my kid got 3 stickers for walking across the kitchen but today he’s been crawling all day!  I keep admonishing him that we don’t crawl anymore and I make him get up and walk for 10 minutes every hour.  This is exhausting!  I can’t wait till he’s walk trained!

Sounds funny, huh?  We don’t walk train or talk train our kids so why do we potty train?  Kids learn to walk and talk because we walk and talk and they become ready to imitate us.  Why isn’t the same true for learning to potty?

Now, I acknowledge that outside influences might force you to “train” your child to use the potty (daycare).  If you do need to potty train check out Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Potty Training Solution.  But, let’s admit that any potty training we do is for our (or another adult’s) convenience.  Using bribes or threats to get your kid to use the toilet benefits YOU in that you don’t have to buy diapers (or wash diapers) or spend time changing them.  I don’t believe there is any benefit to the child of potty training.  

Bodily Autonomy

In fact, I think there is great benefit in letting them lead the way.  Why?  To teach bodily autonomy.  Bodily autonomy means knowing that you are in charge of your own body.  The concept of bodily autonomy is so important to raising kids that respect their bodies and do not allow others to abuse it.  There are several ways to teach bodily autonomy but I think the biggest way is to LET THEM HAVE BODILY AUTONOMY.  That means they are in charge of what they wear, eat, and do with their bodies within safety guidelines.

What does this look like?  Well, my kids are naked a lot because what they wear in the house is not worth my trying to control.  Of course they have to be dressed to go outside but they can wear what they want.  My kids are not perfect little cuties in perfect little clothes (well, to me they are.)  It means I don’t force my daughter to have pigtails if she says no (although I do insist on a daily brushing).  It means they have access to food when they want and aren’t forced to eat something when I want them to.  It means I make bedtime enjoyable but they can go to sleep when they’re ready.  And it means that I am willing to change diapers until they don’t want me to anymore.

By 12 months old people (cough, Mom) started asking me about potty training.  Because Aellyn was “smart” she was clearly “ready”.  What they meant by that is she clearly had the communication skills and understanding for me to use behavioral conditioning to make her use the potty.  Behavioral conditioning (also called Operant conditioning – think Pavlov’s dog) is training someone to do something based on a consequence.  For example, use the potty and get a sticker or have an “accident” and get punished.  At this point, parents begin putting baby on the toilet often, asking if they have to go often, and giving rewards if they use the potty.

Since I had decided to not train we tried hard to ignore the naysayers.  This is hard!  I was often worried that she WOULD be the 18 year old in diapers!  But, I calmed down, trusted my instincts, and waited for Aellyn to be ready.  Here’s how it went.

Phase 1: Observation

Aellyn sees mommy and daddy use the potty often.  Some people are very private but I don’t think that serves well with kids.  My kids see me naked, see me shower and get dressed.  It isn’t like “now I”m going to show you how to sit on the potty” but just casual observation of how people do things normally.  Like walking and talking, kids want to do it because you are.

By 2.5 years old she was often saying “When I grow up I’ll go on the potty like mommy and daddy.”  She would also tell me BEFORE she went poop.  So, I’d ask calmly if she’d like to go on the potty.  She’d say “no” and go off to poo in her diaper and then come to me to change it.  She clearly had knowledge and control of her urges (the pressure to “train her, train her!” became stronger) but she said no and I respected that.

Phase 2: Responsibility (and Waiting)

I don’t know if this contributed to her finally going on the potty but I”ll put it in here in case you want to try it.  By 3 she could dress herself so we bought pull ups and she became responsible for changing her own pee diapers.  She was excited about this and I wouldn’t have done it if she had shown resistance.  She took off her own wet diaper, threw it away, got a new diaper and put it on.  When she had poops she came to me to change her.  During this time, since she’s often naked, she would run around “accident free” naked and then go get a diaper when she wanted to pee.  I would again ask her if she wanted to use the potty and she said no.  (I can literally hear my Mom saying “OMG TRAIN HER!”)

Phase 3: Click!

One day, when Aellyn was 39 months (3 yr. 3 mo.) her friend Caelan was visiting and she went potty on the toilet.  Aellyn watched.  After Caelan left Aellyn wanted to pee on the potty.  She did.  A few hours later she pooped on the potty.  I put a diaper on her that night and the next morning let her put on panties.  That was it.  She never wore another diaper.  Day or night.  She’s had 3 accidents.  She pooped once in her underpants and cried!  That was after we moved to the new house so I think she was holding it.  And twice she’s woken up wet; and really just a little wet and then she goes potty.  Better yet, she doesn’t need me at all.  She goes potty on her own and I never ask her if she needs to go.  She wipes herself and I decided not to intervene or “check” and a few times she had an itchy butt and we talked about wiping good and once she had an ouchy vagina and we talked about front to back and getting dry.  I’ve just been completely hands off about it.

Honestly, I’m not exaggerating!  It was in her time so when she was ready there was no training, or transition, or anything.  It was like walking – one day she did it and then she always did it.

I’m so glad we trusted her timing.  I had promised myself not to get worried until 4.5 years old (and I had to remind myself again and again).  Clearly, seeing a peer use the potty was her catalyst but I’m sure something would have eventually played that role if not Caelan (Thanks Caelan!).

(note: this post refers to traditional diapered kids and potty training.  I don’t consider Elimination Communication to be the same as potty training.  To learn more about EC check out these great posts.)

Carnival of Gentle Discipline Call for Submission on ParentingGently.com

Call for Submissions for the 3rd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline

I’m so excited to say that the Carnival is in its third year!  This year we have more great gentle parenting advice, great giveaways, and wonderful bloggers.

Well, at least I hope.  That’s where you come in!  If you are a blogger or writer please consider writing an article for the 3rd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline.

The 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline will take place June 27 through July 1.

How can you participate?

There are lots of ways!

  1. Original Posts – Submit an original post on a Gentle Discipline topic (see below for ideas) to be posted on your blog during the week of the Carnival.  This should be a well-written, unpublished piece submitted by June 18th using the submission form. You will receive instructions on when to post and header/footer information to include in your post.  I will be grouping posts by topic to debut on different days through out the week so you may submit multiple posts and they will be listed on a different day between June 25 and June 29.  The deadline for submission is Monday, June 18!
  2. If you are not a blogger: please email me at parentinggently AT gmail DOT com and I will find a blog to host your post.
  3. Discussion – Last year we had great discussion around many of the posts from bloggers and readers.  In the end this is the most valuable part of the Carnival!  I received several emails from people thanking me for opening their eyes to another way (perhaps you did too?) and that is the heart of this Carnival.  Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr – let the world know that gentle discipline works!

Oh, yeah, and PRIZES!

A Carnival and a Crusade

Carnivals are, of course, fun but this one can be so much more.  Getting the word out about the dangers of punitive discipline and about the valuable alternatives that exist can make a difference in the life of children everywhere.  You can use your blog posts and the Carnival posts to spread the word!  Tweet the Carnival (#CarGD) post it on Facebook and get the word out.  The more people who read about Gentle Discipline the more likely that we can change on child’s life for the better.

Post Ideas

Please take a look at last year’s topics for ideas.  You don’t have to consider yourself an “expert” on GD!  Writing about struggles/doubts makes GD more real to those unfamiliar with it!  You can write about any topic related to Gentle Discipline (GD) but here are some ideas;
  • Your childhood experience with/without GD
  • Why you choose GD with your kids
  • GD during difficult situations
  • Societal/family pressure to spank or give time outs
  • Permissiveness – the slippery slope and how to avoid it
  • Creating a “yes” environment
  • Using time-in instead of time-out
  • The dangers of praise
  • Respecting children’s feelings
  • Discipline through play
  • Sex differences in GD (apply differently to boys/girls? is this desirable?)
  • “The Hardest Part of GD is…”
  • Sibling “rivalry”
  • Dealing with teachers and caregivers

This is just a sample.  Feel free to post on any related topic!  Topics prohibited include spanking, corporal punishment, love-withdrawal, positive conditioning, parent-forced time-outs, withholding of basic care such as food, etc.

Please spread the word about the Carnival!  The more participants we have to stronger the cry for Gentle Discipline!  I’m a tiny blog in a big pond!  Help me get the word out!

National Spank Out Day: Violence Begins in the Nursery

Today is national Spank Out Day a day to give widespread attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior.

In honor, I’d like to share a story by Astrid Lindgren author of the Pipi Longstockings books.  She received the German Trade Book Peace Prize in 1978 and in her acceptance speech she shared;

“When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first of his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery–one can raise children into violence.”

The idea that some violence is ok and other types is not makes no sense to a child and if we look really deep in our hearts we know that it makes no logical sense to us either.  Gentle Discipline isn’t always easy, because it is so against the norm in our culture, but it works better.  I works better for a peaceful world, a healthy child, and a healthy parent/child relationship.  Give peace a chance starting with your kids.  You are all they’ll learn about violence – let it be that it is never ok.