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Potty Training – Elimination Communication Is on the Rise

I was so laissez faire about my girls’ potty training, that even my mother — who almost never comments on my parenting — spoke up.  “I know you’re waiting until they’re ready,” she said, “But at some point you really do need to show them what they need to do.”

Both my girls were trained the same way:  The little potty came out at 18 months and was put on the kitchen floor.  Whether they wanted to sit on it or not was up to them.  At two, I started encouraging them to sit, especially when I discovered them naked or when they first got up in the morning.

At about 26 months, they both urinated in the pot for the first time, and we celebrated with lots of jumping up and down and cheering.  That same day, we started using undies.  There were no treats, no baby boot camps, and, honestly, very few accidents.   It’s always been my belief that waiting until they were ready ensured our potty training success, but a recent article at Salon.com has changed my mind.  It was a successful method because it was right for us, not because it was the “right” method.

In her piece on elimination communication, Heather Turgeon says that though we might view the practice as alternative, around the world late potty training is the more unusual practice.  “Throughout parts of Europe, China, Southeast Asia, India and Latin America there is no such thing as a walking, talking kid in nappies,” Turgeon writes.  In fact, it’s only been since the mid-20th century that kids weren’t potty trained by the time they were one.

Diaper companies might be raking in the profit from this particular parenting trend, but it’s psychologists that you can thank for keeping our kids in diapers until toddlerhood and beyond.  Turgeon writes:

He’s the one who told us that toilet training was something of psychological significance, and in a way we’re still listening to him. During the pivotal anal phase, he said, the way parents approach teaching kids to hold their bowels determines part of the child’s character. Too early or strict and the child becomes rigid and obsessive (the origin of the word “anal retentive”). Too lenient or late, and he develops a reckless, chaotic and rebellious personality.

But Turgeon argues that there really isn’t any scientific evidence (her claim, not mine) to back up this idea that one method is better than another. And, she argues, this idea that kids get to decide when they’re ready to use the potty might actually be holding them back. If you’ve got a kid unbothered by sitting in a wet, squishy diaper, then you’ve got a potty training problem on your hands.

Early parenthood was overwhelming for me — the sleepless nights, the constant breastfeeding, the inability to spend 24 hours doing nothing but caring for a baby and still finding myself unable to dind time to shower. Having to watch my baby for cues that she was ready to eliminate probably would have pushed me over the edge. But I’ll admit, the idea of having a fully trained 18-month-old is intriguing.

Sturgeon writes:

But I think the recent emergence of younger baby toilet training is a good thing. Not because it’s inherently a better or more healthy way for kids (mine is 2 years old and still in diapers, so clearly I’m not a radical covert), but because it pokes holes in some of our outdated cultural notions about the potty. It’s not really about when the kid is ready — it’s when the family is ready.

And I agree. Assuming that a parent isn’t using harsh consequences or punishment to potty training a child, choosing a method that fits your parenting style and child’s personality is probably healthier for everyone.

Have you tried elimination communication? Tell us how it went for you. And if you haven’t, how did you potty train your child?

Photo:  Todd Morris, Flickr

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