Month 24: Potty Fairness


I guess I’ve got a lot on my mind this month!      Thanks to the blogs of Loving Earth Mama and EC Simplified in particular, the wheels have been turning.

As with all basic skills potty-ing will be mastered just as seamlessly as crawling and babble turn into walking and talking.  You just don’t know exactly when.  We are so focused on it because the culture is hyper-diaper centered that it becomes this out of proportion Creature instead of the natural, easy skill it really is.

Though, we do have to be realistic and fair.

The EC community is very, very clear about no coercion, no punishments, no bribery, etc.  And rightly so!   It is very important not to put a specific end-date or end-goal onto the process.  Absolutely, it is true that being goal orientated becomes the wrong approach and sets up wrong behaviors and expectations.      However, it seems that sometimes this gets in the way of the rightful knowledge that there is an end.

And then you have the other end of the spectrum.   Thinking that babies and toddlers are passive participants without the ability to be aware of their own daily bodily functions or the capacity to learn how to deal with it.

Babies are exquisitely designed for the natural world where they would be free to pound rocks, pull grass, crush leaves, throw dirt, break branches, and do their business beside a bush or perhaps a communal dirt latrine.    They are not expecting to find books they can’t crush, figurines they can’t pound, objects they can’t throw, ground beneath their feet they can’t soil, a latrine taller than they are, and clothes complete with confounding fastener contraptions.

Diaper Company advertisements aside, I am convinced that the trend of waiting so long is rising also because there is this idea that a child must master MODERN inventions in order to potty successfully.     That is not really fair.

Babies were able to master  the simple daily act of elimination without needing to manipulate pants, buttons, snaps, or zippers.   Their toilet was ground level requiring only the skill to get there and the ability to squat not walk.    No more skill than a kitten needs and we expect wobbily kittens to mimic their mothers and litter train as soon as they can move around pretty well–as long as the box is low.

Diapers, unfortunately, discourage showing babies and toddlers from an early age where to go and how to get there themselves or with help.

There is a big difference between being potty aware, potty learned, potty independent, and toilet independent and I don’t think that is addressed anywhere.

  • Babies are potty aware but are unable to do anything about it on their own, just as they know how to suckle but can not get food on their own.
  • Crawlers and pre-walkers can be potty learned.  They are aware, have developed some control, know where potty places are if shown and ask for help.  Very much like their control of solid food if baby led weaned, for example.
  • Walkers can be potty independent.  They are aware, have good to mastered control, know the potty place and can get to it themselves IF they are set up for success in the modern environment (low potty chairs, minimal easy clothing or none) and have already been shown and modeled proper potty practices.   They can ask for help if they want, but won’t need to if no modern “convenience” hinders them.  This is much like them learning language.  They are compelled to mimic.
  • Older children become toilet independent at various ages.     It really depends on their fine motor control development and size, the types of clothes they usually wear, and the height of the items in the bathroom.  They must be coordinated enough to handle the fasteners on their own clothing, handle two layers of clothing (undergarments and outer garments),  and tall enough to get onto the toilet on their own with or without a stool and reach the sink to wash their hands.

Late trainers still need to go through the same stages, only they have to un-teach diaper use at the same time.

Being toilet independent is not a fair benchmark or endpoint whether you start early or late.   It does a great disservice to the abilities of toddlers under 2 and babies under 1 because they can do so much more than they are given credit for because the bar is set in the wrong place.   .  It would be like trying to measure someone’s basic knowledge of anything by giving them a test in language other than their own.    We expect toddlers to master our language before they learn to master their own pee!?

I’m not trying to be mean about diapers.  But the beast has a nature.   Let’s be fair about that.     If you’ve diapered exclusively at any time, how often did you show and demonstrate and encourage accepted and proper bathroom habits to the diapered little one before deciding to potty train one day?    Manners (please, thank you) get more rapt focus than the word toilet!

I can say that the end of the potty process is earlier than expected when the bar is placed back in its proper position, and anything after than is an additional MODERN skill.      Take away the “extras” and  the artificial delays diapers impose and you begin to see just how capable babies and toddlers are and just how quickly they learn to put their waste where they are taught.; and the pressure is lifted.    Wet pants at times become no more of a worry or thought than a toddler who falls down several times when learning to walk and run.

That alone changes the choices and resulting decisions.


I think it is important to consider our modern lives when we make decisions about the potty process (or anything we encourage or discourage our babes to do).    We live in this world, true, yet babies are the same.    We have property we want to protect but also an obligation to our little ones.     It is very easy to let the anxiety about the carpet, for example,  put off what needs to be done or take options off the table.   Diapers are the easiest way to save the carpet,yes,  but what would we do to save the carpet if they did not exist?       If we work, how would we handle things if there were no diapers or they did not fit past age 1 (or how did our working ancestors do it?). 

If we do make the conscious choice to use diapers, are we well aware of consequences that may come with that decision later or aware of ways to reduce issues?     I know I wouldn’t have been wise to any possible problems or solutions because no one tells you!   The diaper industry is no help…they just make them prettier and more absorbent.

How is this for a thought about how diapers shape our world.   In Japan, houses have a “genkan” an area to remove shoes before you step onto the clean home floor.  The US and UK have no such thing universal to homes, yet it quite a sensible way to keep dirt out of the house.      Would any modern family home come equipped with carpet in the living and central family areas IF diapers did not exist or were used only for infants and not for toddlers at all?  Would there be available a standard carpet protector for families to buy as easily as they buy anything else?


About Laissez Faire

I am 41...42...43...44, married with two children, two cats, and a dog. Writing is my hobby, and learning and teaching my passions. Books! It used to be that I could devour several books a week when I had the time. I am usually too tired to stray awake these days with two kids. Currently my brain and energy levels have steered me to casual games, writing contests, and some inconsistent blogging.

Posted on October 9, 2011, in Parenting, Potty Training, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Great post. In my quest for a more natural approach to things, getting back to the basics, I’ve cloth diapered my two children. With the first it was a more casual practice – disposables when I went out, say – but with my second it was exclusive after the first couple months. It goes hand in hand with potty learning, which I have also done at an early age (my almost-two-year-old has been wearing undies for most of the day and has been doing so for a while now).

    Realizing how smart babies are, how we should be teaching them the correct method from the beginning, I wish I had started even earlier. If we ever have another I will start from birth. The hardest thing for me to get my mind around is adapting our lifestyle – can I go anywhere or do anything if my baby isn’t wearing diapers?!

    I always think of it in terms of other skills we “teach” our children, things they naturally pick up – like speaking or walking. Do we stop talking to them or coaxing them to take steps because they can’t do so from the get-go? Of course not! I feel sad about all those children in Pull Ups who are expected to use the grown-up potty cold-turkey. And there have been some mothers I’ve run into who find it inconvenient to help their littles ones use the potty even when they have expressly shown interest.

    Yay for hardwood floors – we have them throughout the house. When we tore up the existing carpet, there was a thick layer of dirt and debris that no vacuum would ever get to. Even if you don’t have young children, carpets are simply not healthy; I think they promote allergies.

    • It isn’t easy when you haven’t grown up with the experience. The mindset is completely different and diaper advertising has worked very very hard to hold their products up as the shining example of convenience so much so that it is near impossible to think of them as anything else or see some other way as more convenient.

      I agree. It is so hard to keep a carpet clean. Wall to wall at least. The ones you can roll up and move around are a little easier.

  2. Can I just say, I love this post. I think this post is up there in my favies of the awesome EC posts that I have been seeing about over the past few weeks. It saddens me so much how we can so easily underestimate the potential of our little ones, and the “ready” mentality that so called potty training experts spout drives me nuts. Thanks writing things in perspective 🙂

    • I’m happy a few hear my ramblings. LOL
      We do underestimate ourselves too, don’t we? It might seem silly but I sometimes wonder if other mother animals ever feel as inadequate about their ability to raise their own offspring as we do or see their offspring as passive. Know what I mean?

  3. You put into words exactly what I’ve been thinking lately. I simply didn’t know how to answer the question “How long do you think that will take at her age?” when discussing infant potty training… how long what will take?

    It’s helpful to be able to lay out the difference in stages, especially between being “potty independent” and “toilet independent” they really are two different things! But really for us it also comes down to not being goal oriented. I don’t care how long “it” takes, whatever it is! I’m just glad I am communicating with my daughter and helping her to learn about her elimination needs without ignoring her.

    And you’re right, it isn’t about the end goal – but there certainly is one that we can look forward to!

    • Hey thanks for your comment!

      I thought about this a lot when she was younger. It would be like someone asking how long it would take for her to learn how to walk! I’ve never seen these pretty clear transitions discussed anywhere. Everything else they do has gradual gradations, why not this right?

  4. Exactly. To me it really betrays our cultural misunderstanding about pottying. We treat it like an academic skill rather than a natural skill. For example, lots of people talk about delaying learning to read or work on math skills because the older they are the less time it will take for them to learn it and the easier it will be. This is the same argument I hear for delaying potty training.

    But you would never tell someone to delay your child learning to crawl or talk. We realize that that sort of delay would be damaging. We don’t understand in our culture that babies are hard-wired to know how to “go potty” and so we delay teaching it to them in favor of convenience, less time to learn and until their ability is adequate in our eyes. And, just like when we force our children to delay other natural skills, it can have very damaging effects.

  1. Pingback: Month 27: Question–What are the EC Essentials? « Diaper Free…The Other Side of the Moon

  2. Pingback: Month 25: Question — How Do You Start ECing an Older Baby? « Diaper Free…The Other Side of the Moon

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