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When to Potty Train

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LET me start out by saying that potty training is not my strong point! In fact, I’d say I’m quite lazy about it. I find it far easier to just wait until the child can communicate and clearly control their bodily functions. It is simply more convenient for me to diaper the child and change him or her on my time, than to jump up to assist them in the bathroom on theirs. But I don’t think this is the best way to go about it! (Note to my British friends, diaper is the American word for nappies.)

I am aware of many parents who have joined the Elimination Communication (EC) movement. This refers to tuning in to your child’s cues about toileting and thus potty training quite early. In some cases, they never use diapers (nappies) at all! From the time the baby is born they start potty training! It’s quite amazing to see children who can’t even crawl or walk, yet are diaper free!

I am quite intrigued and impressed with parents who commit to EC. In fact, as a “natural mom,” it fits right in with my overall philosophies of life.

When I stop to think about it, I realize that by using diapers before potty training we are sending mixed messages to our children. Think of the confusion when all the child knows is the diaper, then suddenly, when mom is ready, we start expecting him/her to use the potty.

Up until this point, we freak out if they begin to urinate while we are changing them or undressing them to bathe. They learn to associate uncovered with holding it and covered with releasing. Suddenly we expect them to shift gears and release the urine when uncovered on the potty and hold it while covered in underpants. No wonder kids have a hard time the first few times we sit them on the potty!

Thanks to the convenience of diapers we have become lazy about our child’s toileting needs (myself included). We buy into the diaper market, which has been encouraging our delayed toilet training with increasing sizes that now go all the way up to size six to accommodate older and larger children not yet potty trained. We even have disposable underpants to facilitate toilet training without mothers having to contend with cleaning up inevitable accidents. These training pants are really just diapers in disguise that serve only to delay the potty training process while extending the manufacturer’s profit time from our prolonged purchases.

There is no doubt that diapering is a financial burden on families. What’s worse, our ecosystem and landfills pay a high price for our disposable diaper use. Diaper changing is also unpleasant and cumbersome for parents and caregivers, which increases as the child grows. It’s obvious that diapers increase the risk of painful rashes for the child. The older the child gets the more habit forming diaper wearing becomes.

On the contrary, it’s quite an accomplishment to toilet train. It is always a big relief on parents and caregivers. Children also benefit emotionally and physically from breaking the diaper habit.

In short, it really is a disservice to our children and our environment to delay toilet training. If parents commit to tuning in to their children and offering the potty very early the children will respond with early bladder control, as this will be what’s known to them.

Believe me, I am the last one to point fingers or criticize anyone’s potty training timing. I know there is a better way than mine and I commend those parents who have committed to training their children early.

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