Several months ago, I went online and ordered a potty. It arrived, and we put it in the living room. After a few months, S sat on it… and tried to push it around the living room like a ride-on toy.
I had vaguely thought that I might try potty training some time over the summer. Nursery was closed for two weeks in August, so if S wasn’t trained by then, we would concentrate on it during those two weeks.
Talking to a friend, she told me she had trained her daughter completely, with no accidents, in a week using the Gina Ford potty training book. I balked at this suggestion; I have a deep-rooted mistrust of anything Ford has to say. My friend persisted though, telling me: if you can get your head past it being Gina Ford, it’s a great book. I bought the book. It’s a Gina Ford book. I got as far as the first case study, where she calls the child stubborn, and describes it as a nightmare. When the child had issues over eating tea, Ford advised the mother to take his tea away, and if he asked for food later not to give it to him. He was shut in his room to dress himself (at age four, when previously his mother had always dressed him), and bribed using a star chart to change his behaviour. At that point, I threw the book across the room. I’m not bribing my child or manipulating her behaviour in that way.
I’ve not been overly bothered by a desire to get S potty trained; I always figured she would get there in her own sweet time. I’ve been inundated with advice from well-meaning friends though, who seem to think S should be potty trained by now and completely out of nappies. I’m given advice almost daily: “what you need to do is…” or “what I did was…” The assumption seems to be that because she is two years old, she shouldn’t be wearing nappies any longer. Don’t worry about whether she’s ready, whether she wants to be potty trained, whether she’s capable of thinking “I need a wee, I’d better sit on the potty.” People delight in telling me how they potty trained their child, but a lot of the stories I hear do not sit well with me. Even the term “potty training” bothers me. It sounds like something you do with a dog, not a human child.
Over the last few months, S has occasionally expressed a desire to sit on the potty. Sometimes she does a wee in it, and proudly shows me… and then she gets a nappy out and brings it to me, asking me to put it on. Sometimes I ask if she would like to take her nappy off and use the potty when she needs a wee; about half the time she says yes, and takes her nappy off. The other fifty per cent of times, she says very clearly, “no!” Many times when she says she wants to take her nappy off, she sits straight on the potty and waits until she’s done a wee – even if that’s ten minutes or longer. Just as many times, she gets bored and goes off to play, and ends up going on the floor.
A well-meaning friend bought S some pants, which I offer to S from time to time. Only once has she agreed to put them on, and then ten minutes later she wanted them removed and replaced with a nappy. To me, this says that she is not quite ready to go into “big girl pants” just yet.
When S returned to nursery after the holidays, I asked them to offer her the potty when they went for nappy changes, but not to make a big deal out of it. She always seems to say yes to using the potty there, probably because all of her friends do. Yesterday I went to collect her, and found that she had sat on the potty twice, and done a wee both times. She was very pleased with herself, and rightly so. I’m still not taking away her nappies and making her exclusively use the potty though. As soon as we got home, I gave her the option of removing her nappy and she declined. I offered her the potty several times before bed, and she refused each time.
Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Toddlercalm (review on its way!), and it’s all about giving a child as much control as possible over their own lives. This is similar to what I’ve previously read in Happiest Toddler on the Block
, and something that resonates with me more than training my child like an animal. S is the person who knows best when she is ready to use the potty or toilet, and when she wants to stop wearing nappies. We have potties in the house; we have a step and a toilet seat. She can use them, or not.
In this article on the Huffington Post site
, Steve Hodges MD says that he believes few children are genuinely ready for toilet training before the age of 3. In this article on Babble
, Hodges goes on to say that children’s bladders are still growing up to the age of 3, and they are best placed to do that when filling and emptying uninhibited – without the child trying to hold it in for fear of not getting a star on a chart.
Yes, it’s entirely possible to potty train a child before they’re properly ready – and I believe these days a lot of children are trained very early, out of some weird sort of one-upmanship, or parents following Gina Ford’s overall plan of working to a schedule (right, you’re two, time to get rid of the nappies!). But that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for the child. I believe the likes of Gina Ford have encouraged us to believe our children are lazy, manipulative tantrum machines that need to be whipped into shape and “broken” into the correct way of doing things like wild animals. That is not how I see my child, and it is certainly not how I ever intend to treat her.
As with all other posts on this blog, I don’t care when or how you potty trained your child. I don’t care what you think I should be doing with my child and I really do not have the time or the inclination to judge anyone for their choices. For me, for S, we are doing what is right. And that is all that matters to either of us.