Potty training is the messy, exhausting, and glorious goal of parents across the country and around the world. The average age of complete potty training is 3 years old for boys and girls.And when I think of how long that really is, I think “I do not want to wash diapers for 3 years for every child we plan to have”. I wash 5 loads of diapers a week on top of my 7 loads of clothes and I need to consolidate this precious time. Furthermore, I would really love to nurture a spirit of independence in my children from an early age. Solution? I started potty training at 8 months.
I know, you probably think I am crazy. But the first thing we should discuss is that I am not potty training, she is potty learning. There is a big difference between training and learning. Training is by definition an action whereas learning is by definition an acquisition over time. Learning is something that can be accomplished by seeing, by doing, and by hearing. It is the process of acquiring independence rather than complete dependence. While I am training her, the overall learning is what is important.
In reality, potty training and learning in our house started earlier than 8 months. I have always brought my daughter into the bathroom with me. For the first 4 months of life, there was a reclining seat that I would lay her in while I used the bathroom. She saw and heard what I was doing each time. That means that when 8 months rolled around and I started holding her over the toilet, it wasn’t a completely new experience. I would make a “psss” noise and eventually she would potty. And then I would make a BIG DEAL out of it! Occasionally, to my surprise, she would poop. And I would make a BIGGER deal out of it! I don’t reward or bribe her with treats, I simply give her praise. We all perform better with a little bit of cheering and extra approval; even little birds learning to fly get some encouragement towards their journey of independence. She knows what she is doing and that it is a good thing and that’s the first step towards learning and it’s all a part of continuing to nurture an independent spirit in her. I want her to believe that she can do things on her own and that she can be proud of what she does.
The second step towards learning was getting her a big girl seat. In my opinion, if a child is learning practical life (whether you follow Montessori or not), they have to be included like everyone else. So a little potty seat that doesn’t look like a toilet and doesn’t flush like a toilet will not be what I use in my home to potty train. Plus, if I want to have less laundry, why would I want to add cleaning a potty seat to my list?
(Disclaimer: The following contains affiliate links to two products I dearly love and use. I am not being paid by a company, but purchases through these links helps support my family). I purchased the Church NextStep 2-in-1 with Adult/child ring and I LOVE it. (Find it here) It was well worth and it and I have never regretted the purchase. First of all, the main seat is wood which is nice from and environmental aspect and then the child seat magnetically stays attached to the lid when not in use. The average guest doesn’t notice it, but parents always do and are so thankful we have it! I don’t have to hold her anymore so it allows her to go on her own time frame. I have found that if I wait to take her down once she’s a bit fussy instead of rushing her, she may pee a few times and sometimes even surprise me with a bonus potty training victory. And for on the go, traveling, and visiting family, the PRI folding potty with handles is so handy!
While we do still use cloth diapers and are not a fully committed EC (Elimination Communication) family, we do try to read her cues. If a certain face or grunt is seen or heard, we rush over to the bathroom. Because one less diaper is a win in my book. Each morning the first thing we do is go to the bathroom. The last thing we do before bed is also go to the bathroom. I will try to take her in there occasionally during the day in the spaces between long intervals, but the overall goal is for her to learn and not for me to force something on her.So now she is almost 13 months old and uses the toilet about 5 times a day. While she is still a far cry from true independence in the bathroom, I feel like this is a step in the right direction.
The take-away I want you to have is this: even if this is not right for your child, remember that simply including them in bathroom time from an early age is a crucial part of potty learning and learning what it even means to do things independently. It also makes potty training not as foreign when the time comes.
UPDATE: She is now 18 months old and she uses the restroom every morning. Many times we have dry diapers from overnight and every day she tells me poop or potty (she now knows the sign for potty too). Sometimes she tells me after she has gone, but she still runs to the bathroom, so we nurture that action. Sometimes she tells me beforehand and those are the days of small victories!
How early did you start the potty training or potty learning process?
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!