Thursday, September 24, 2009

Potty Training with my Eleven Month Old

...also known as OMG you are freaking CRAZY!!!

(Disclaimer - this one is gonna be long, folks. It will also probably not be interesting to you unless you have a baby or are about to have a baby. Don't say I didn't warn you!!!)

I know. I know what people think when I say that I bought the baby potty chairs (yup, one in each bathroom!) and that I've started the whole process. They think he's not old enough. They think that he can't even WALK yet, how do I expect him to have control over his lower body to potty train? They think that it's way too early. They think I may be pushing him too hard, too early. They think it's unrealistic. But above all, they think it's a little bit insane.

Why do I know this? Simple. I know this because I totally used to think that way about it!

My friend Danea had her first baby a little over a year before I had mine. When he turned eight months old, she celebrated by buying him a potty chair. I scoffed. I snorted. I laughed out loud. That crazy Canadian, I told myself. You can't potty train a BABY!!!

Now, here I am with an eleven month old that I've been sitting on the potty for almost a month now. Consider my words eaten.

Our official first day was September eighth.

It all started because I've been reading up on Montessori. I learned about it a little from one of the teachers at the first school I worked in as an aide. I really liked the idea of empowering children to be able to do thing themselves, and to teach accountability. I think that's something that is sorely lacking in today's society.

Anyway, one of the things they cover is potty training. Their methods are VERY different from traditional potty training in this country. For starters - no diapers or pull ups. EVER. Also, no rewards, no bribes, no stickers, no targets in the bowl, etc. Peeing and pooping are a part of life, and you don't get rewards for doing it as an adult, therefore it's unrealistic to teach children they deserve them for doing the same thing. Also, you don't ask the child if they want to go potty - you tell them - "It's time to go potty." This means you're sitting them on the pot at the same times every day, specifically when they first get up, and after meals. Think about it. When do YOU have to go?

Some people go a little bit further, and practice something called Elimination Communication. This is where you pay attention to your baby's cues and learn when they are about to go, and then you put them on the pot. Ideally, this is started when your baby is just DAYS old. This means that regular potty chairs are too big, of course, so you end up using a little bowl.


That's a little bit far out there for me. More power to the folks who do it, but one non negotiable in my eyes is the ability to reliably sit upright - you know, like you would on a potty chair? I don't think I'd be trying this with a baby without that ability.

One book that kept coming up time and time again as I was reading various websites, books, and blogs was this one:

I went ahead and checked it out from the library. It's a pretty thin book, and a very interesting read. A lot of what I just wrote about is in there. It also talks about why we potty train the way we do, how we USED to potty train (interesting), and why you should start earlier. I'm going to give you the gist of it.

For starters, in this country we usually don't start potty training until after a kid is two years old. I say "in this country" because, like my Canadian friend told me, in other countries its more common for kids to be finished training by that age than to be starting. Part of it is out of necessity, part of it is because they spend more time at home and can devote the energy to that pursuit, and part of it is because we Americans luuurrrrrrvvvvee our experts.

There was this doctor, in the 50s or 60s who came out and said that people were potty training all wrong. He came up with a bunch of psychological reasons why we should wait to do this. You know how when you go to a bookstore, there are like a million books on how to get your kid to sleep? They're a dime a dozen. Well, this guy was sort of like those doctors - just another expert with his own theory and his own research to back it up.

The thing was, there was no one else telling us what to do. His theories gained credence. Imagine for a minute that Dr. Ferber was the only person to write a baby sleep book, and that's all there was as guidance. Imagine he was THE expert - there was no one else. Imagine that his way became the ONLY way, and if you did things differently, while, you'd just be wrong.

That's sort of what happened.

The author of the book does a pretty good job of stating which of his ideas were true, and which were crap, and why. It's interesting stuff. It's also not necessary to read, because the book is set up so you can skip to the important stuff. She acknowledges in the introduction that moms are busy and she understands if they can't read the whole thing because they don't have time!

I read the whole thing, because that's the kind of anal retentive, OCD-having person I am. I read owner's manuals too.

Don't judge.

There are now two of these little numbers in our apartment:

This is the Baby Bjorn Little Potty. Again, in website after website and book after book, this one was recommended because of it's simple design, no frills approach, and baby appropriate size. It's all one piece, so it's easy to clean. The baby can sit on it and have both feet flat on the floor. (apparently this is important to be able to poop - who knew?) It's small enough that you can take it with you if you need to be away from home for a while.

We got one in blue and one in green. There's a reason for this. Children are smart, but can be easily redirected. It's just important not to plant a thought into their head, and to try to see what the more important thought is. For example, if you say "It's time to potty" and the baby says "NO I don't want to potty", your first instinct may be to argue or explain it out. You'll say "But you need to go potty" or "just sit on the potty for a minute" but all you're doing is reminding them of the thing they do not want to do (go potty) and you're telling them what they HAVE to do, which sets up a situation where it's a battle of wills.

So, what you CAN say in this instance is "Would you like to use the Green or the Blue potty?" and now, the baby has a CHOICE. This is really important because little kids LOVE to make choices, they love to feel in control, and they love the cause and effect of it all - as in, I Made This Happen. get it?

Oh, those child psychologists are so sneaky!

That of course leads me to another reason to start early - while babies can't, toddlers will argue with you. They will resist lots of things, but especially change. You try toting a new potty chair into the home of a kid that's spent his entire two years on Earth pooping in a diaper, and tell him he needs to go in it now. I don't have to tell you what will happen, because you already know. You know because your friends with older kids have told you. You know because you laugh at parenting cartoons about it. You know because you dread the day it will happen to you.

That kid isn't going to want to have anything to do with this new thing.

You'll threaten, you'll beg, you'll plead, you'll bribe. On some, it may work. On most, they'll hold out because that's what toddlers do. They say no and act stubborn! LOL!

Initially, I was buying the potties just to have them in the house. I wanted them to be something that Bubba was used to seeing, not ever something new and scary. After they were here though, and I did some more reading, I decided to start using them. At first, I just sat him on there after he would wake up. I mean, I know where I head first thing in the morning! Then, I started to put him on there after meals. I want this to be routine - wake up, go potty. Eat, go potty, wash hands. This is going to sound kind of bad, but it reminds me a lot of housebreaking a puppy. I know. I can just SEE the hate mail. (Luckily, I turned off anonymous posting a while back. Take THAT Internet meanies!)

Here's the crazy part - it's working. He sits on the chair. He looks at books or plays with a straw. He chatters with us and giggles and grins. Best of all - HE GOES IN THE CHAIR!!! Talk about a cheap thrill/total mom pride moment the first time he peed on that thing. It all got repeated the first time he pooped too. Does he have any idea what he's doing? Probably not. Do we celebrate like that every time? No. Does he go every time? No.

Here's what it is now - a part of our routine. Little kids THRIVE on routine. You get up, you sit on the potty. If you go - good job for going. If you don't - good job for sitting on the potty anyway. Either way, it's just not a big deal. It's just another necessary fact of life. Everyone does it. Since it's something that we've always done (as far as he'll be able to remember), that whole "something new and scary" thing never gets factored into the equation. At least, this is the theory I'm working on here. :)

I guess you can say I'm doing a modified Elimination Communication. If I see him and he's obviously about to go (all of us parents know our baby's "Poop Face") I'll take him and sit him on the chair too. Sometimes we make it, sometimes we don't. I'll tell you what though - we're using a LOT less baby wipes these days! My husband is totally on board. We've got a chair stashed at his Godparent's house for Football Sundays. We're doing really well with sticking to our routine, and he's doing really well with how he's adapted to it. I'm not expecting him to be "trained" in the traditional sense of the word any time soon. I'm okay with that. I'm just trying to be on the path of least resistance here.

But that whole putting him in teeny cotton underpants ONLY all day? I think I'll wait a bit on that one. This IS a rental, after all.

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Blogger Miss Anne said...

This is all so interesting and inspiring, and I'm totally on board.

Thanks for bringing this to my attn... someday when I have a child, I think i'll start them at the same age. I agree with the ideas/practices behind it.


9:26 AM  
Blogger Paula - Buenos Aires said...

For statistical purposes: in my country (Argentina) we usually do it on the summer closest to the kids second birthday. That as an average, there are kids earlier and kids later.

Very interesting point about the choice your baby has with the colours.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Hooptee said...

hmmm.. very interesting! I might be going out to get potties this weekend. It makes sense and i definitely know that toddler tantrums will be coming my way soon. Might be nice to have her used to the potty before then.
thanks for the info! And I love the picture of Bubba on the potty, he's so cute!

12:31 PM  
Blogger Maggi said...

Sara, I admire you for your tenacity. I may suggest this to Dave soon, too; his cousin's kid is nearly 3 and still not potty trained, and I just don't want to go through that. I especially like the idea that you're making it a regular occurrence, so that by the time he *is* two, he's not petrified of the thing. That makes a LOT of sense. I think I may see some baby potties in our future...

1:02 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

We used it with our third and enjoyed it very much, were delighted to start and finish sooner than we had with traditional delayed toilet learning. Here's my webpage about it

I'm now using it with my first grandchild too!

Here's a link for "Infant Potty Training" (book) and "Potty Whispering" (DVD):

Thanks for writing about this topic!

1:47 PM  

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