It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Trends in Parenting: Potty-training

When I was newer at this business, I had my first doctor as a client. I was a little intimidated by this, truth be known. I’m a daycare provider. She was a DOCTOR.

And then one day I was giving her a piece of advice about something or other, can’t recall what. For the purposes of the story, we’ll say it was potty training. I was giving her advice, and then I sort of caught myself up short.

“But why am I telling you this” I said, a little sheepish. “You’re a doctor.”

She shrugged. “So? They don’t teach potty training in med school!” She shook her head, half amused, half exasperated. “I get this all the time. People expect me to know stuff about child-rearing. Why should I? I have one kid. She’s nine months old. That’s the extent of my expertise. Now, ask me about vaccinations or fifths disease, and I’ll have an informed opinion. But potty training, how to get your kid to eat veggies, what to do about tantrums? You know WAY more about that stuff than me. You’re the expert on that stuff, not me.”

Which gave me a bit of a paradigm shift, you know?

As the years have passed, as I’ve gained more experience and become more assured that yes, I really am an expert in this stuff, I’ve come around to her viewpoint. Now, she was a young doctor. A family physician who’s been in practice for twenty years will have a wealth of data that this young woman didn’t. But still, when it comes to hands-on toddler-parenting experience, they have only what they’ve gained with their own children.

Whereas I have child-rearing experience with dozens of the little critters.

So when I read an article about potty training which implies there is one way to train your child, I say, “pshaw!” — even though it’s written by a medical professional. It’s a valid way, for sure, but it’s not the only way.

The pendulum has done a full swing on this topic, at least where I live. When I was a young mother, common wisdom (and the Parenting Pundits) were poo-poo-ing pissing on roundly eschewing the previously-popular early potty training. Potty training, we were now being told, if deferred till the child was ready, could be accomplished in a matter of weeks! Less than a month!

Consequently, that’s the way I do it.

Now though, I’m noticing a distinct swing back in the early direction.

And you know what? That’s fine. If you don’t attempt it before the child is physically ready — they gain control of the requisite muscles sometime after 18 months of age — there is no harm in a long, slow, gradual potty training. There is little doubt that an early start and a long process does get the child out of diapers somewhat sooner. If diapers drive you insane and you CAN’T WAIT to be done with them, you may well choose to do it this way.

But for me? Ms. Not-All-That-Patient? The idea of a long, slow, gradual potty training is little short of horrifying.

“Make sure that you have lots of time and patience,” says the article. “Toilet training happens gradually, over many months.”

Over MANY MONTHS? No, no, noooooooo… The very thought makes me wilt with dismay. I would be tearing my hair in sheerest boredom within a month, I’m sure. For me, that approach is utter torture. Utter.Torture. I would far, far, faaaaar rather keep them in diapers and deal with poopy bottoms for those extra few weeks or months.

With the start-late-do-it-quick way, you go from poopy bottoms to daytime dry in two or three weeks. Progress is quick and clear. Independence is achieved in record time. It suits me down to the ground.

But it might not suit you. Maybe it’s the thought of waiting those extra months to start training that make you wilt with dismay. Maybe you’re thrilled by the thought that “every pee in a potty is one less diaper to change!!!” That thought could be so totally motivating for you that the months spent monitoring incremental process are inspirational, not horrifying. It’s all baby steps to the goal. You LOVE the feeling that you and your child are moving toward the goal, gradually. And if that’s how you respond, well, early and slow is the way to go!

Does it matter to your child whether you start early and go slow, or start late and go fast? No. As long as you’re not pressuring them, guilting them, getting angry or punitive… as long as the process is a fun game, full of accomplishment, it rarely matters to your child how you get to the goal.

Despite what the article implies, early and slow is only one way to train your child. Even though it’s my preference, late and fast is not the ‘best’ way, either. Fast or slow doesn’t matter, so long as we reach the goal and maintain respect and a sense of accomplishment for child (and parent!). That is what I know, after 25 years of toddler-raising, and dozens of children happily potty-trained.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | parenting, potty tales | | 16 Comments