Pull-Ups, Potty Training, and Other Bad Words
A question I get a lot, as a toddler teacher, is my child ready to potty train? Let me begin by telling you how much I do not like the term “potty training.” It literally makes me cringe. Firstly when starting the toileting process we do not recommend using a small potty chair. Using a small potty creates another transition for your child. We find it to be a smoother process going from diapers, to toilet. Secondly the word “Training,” makes me think of house breaking a pet. At Charlotte Montessori we refer to the process as “Toilet Learning.” The word toilet because as Montessorians we anchor our children in reality, and toilets are real and tangible things. Learning because our children are gaining a life skill, listening to their bodies, and knowing how and when to respond.
We also ask parents to send diapers rather than disposable training pants. Disposable training pants are marketed as the “no-mess” link between diapers and underwear. These training pants do contain the mess, but they do not provide the child with feedback on when they are wet or soiled. So while the clever marketing campaign is enticing to you as a parent, your child does not recognize any discernable difference between “pull-ups” and diapers. When your child is showing signs of readiness to begin the toileting process we recommend going for 100% cotton underwear (of your child’s choice.) This is a clear signifier that your child is finished with daytime diaper wearing. The cotton underwear allow the child to have instant feedback when they do have an accident allowing for them to learn the timing of their bodies.
Appropriate clothing for toileting is another big part of the process. Clothing independence is one of the first skills introduced to even the youngest toddler. Possessing the ability to manipulate their own clothing is very empowering to young children. They have a sense of pride in knowing they can do something for them self. It is also imperative to a successful toileting. How can a child be expected to use the toilet if they cannot remove their clothing to do so. We can help our children achieve this by providing them appropriate clothing options. For example, loose fitting bottoms with a soft, stretchy waistband are ideal for toileting. Rompers, onesies, belts, buttons, and clasps are very difficult for a child to manipulate, especially in a time sensitive situation.
Positive language and rewards are two things we talk about often. The impact of our words and perceptions will impact our children far into adulthood. Believe when I say, it is not easy. Even with my own son I have caught myself saying “shew, stinky poop.” Even delivered in a positive or joking tone can bring shame to a natural human function. As children become older and more aware they know that poop stinks, they can even feel embarrassment or dread in that situation. It is our responsibility as guides to put a positive on a natural function. We also recommend against giving rewards for using the toilet. Going back to the “potty-training” we are not “training” our children, we are “teaching” them. Just as I would never punish a child for having an accident, I would not reward a successful day of toileting. Providing a reward teaches the child to do for others rather than doing for themselves. We want children to be motivated to learn this skill as a part of their life and development, and become well rounded peoples of the world. Baring these things in mind we will set them up for success. When considering the toileting process remember to be patient, expect accidents, and be respectful. This is a new and exciting adventure for everyone, and we want to make it a positive experience.