On Potty Learning: Wait Until They Are Ready!
Posted by Laissez Faire
Nothing fills me with more sighs of consternation than the line, “Wait until they are ready!” when it comes to having children use the toilet. Let us exclude the special cases of children who have sensory disorders and delays, and discuss the rest.
Why does this line fill me with enough exasperation that I am forced to use twelve-letter words just to convey it? Those five words never, ever come with any more explanation. I present you with my argument.
1. We were not born with diapers; it’s not the human condition. This means diaper use is a learned behavior; not instinctual behavior. This “Wait” phrase implies the diaper use with no introductions to the toilet is the only option. It implies that if you don’t wait, you are pushing children too soon too fast. It makes parents afraid to merely introduce the toilet for fear they are being damaging. Babies and toddlers around the world demonstrate that they can learn to pee other places as easily as they learned to pee into a diaper.
2. We are mammals and thus babies are very aware that they have to empty their bladders and bowels as surely as they are aware of hunger, thirst, and temperature. They are already ready to go; we need only bring them to it. US culture tells parents that babies and toddlers have no idea what they are doing when they are voiding bladders and bowels “until they are ready”. When is that exactly?
3. We provide puppies with more opportunities to learn where the proper places go potty are as soon as they are capable, yet, our culture tells us that human children are incapable of understanding their own need to pee. Our culture says that unless children can talk, pull down their pants, sit down to do their business, and pull their pants up by themselves they aren’t ready to use the toilet. High expectations for a very simple process.
4. Readiness is not capability. No baby is born ready to use a diaper. The simple fact is that society says we are to put them in one and expect them to use it. Yet, it is considered crazy to not put a diaper on them and expect them to void somewhere other than a diaper.
5. Waiting doesn’t mean you do nothing. Waiting means you actually continue to encourage use of diapers by putting them on until the child wants to spontaneously use the toilet. It can happen that way, but it requires commitment to do that for as long as it takes. That might mean as early as eighteen months or as late as age six. Average age for American children to be out of diapers is now edging towards age four. Inconsistency is confusing.
6. In reference to number five: Around age 3.5 to 4, parents start to lose their patience as the pees get larger and the poops messier and the blowouts more frequent. But because they have been told to, “Wait Until They Are Ready,” they have missed every window of opportunity that presented itself prior to the “age of autonomy.” They are now in power struggle territory which is exacerbated by inconsistent signals (sometimes diaper, sometimes no diaper).
7. “Wait Until They Are Ready” is never accompanied by an explanation of what that looks like. I’ve yet to have anyone say that a signal might be: Young children who are in the mimicry age range show interest by wanting to follow the parent to the toilet and sit. Children who despise diapers and take them off at every available opportunity, even defeating backwards pajamas and duct tape tricks. Children who hold themselves when they pee in a diaper. Children who go hide in a corner to drop bombs. Children who bring a fresh diaper as soon as they soil themselves. These and more all demonstrate awareness.
8. Waiting doesn’t make potty learning easier. It simply takes the parent out of the process except for diaper changes and does not encourage parents to offer input. This method is an option, but it requires commitment to waiting as long as it takes and to accept issues that are common with late toilet users. Older children may have trouble peeing and pooping without a diaper. The longer they are in diapers, the more likely this is to happen. It does not happen all the time, but it is a very real possibility. It is more common because they have not had to exercise those muscles or think about their elimination for years. Sitting down on a toilet is also a whole different experience than peeing standing up just anywhere. It can be quite scary! They may not know how to release when sitting down, or release when their bladder isn’t full. If they are wearing pants they may forget that they aren’t in a diaper because it has been a long term habit. These children need even more patience and understanding because it is hard for them; it takes time to unlearn diapers and relearn body cues.
9. “Wait Until They Are Ready,” never comes with an age to expect the magic moment to happen or what to do when it’s getting to be quite a bit past the average age. What if the child is six and still shows no interest in toilet use for whatever reason unrelated to anything physical. They are healthy with no delays, but simply don’t want to use a toilet because they prefer a diaper. Yet, the parent is simply done with diapers. What then? When is it okay to offer encouragement? When is it okay for the parent to just stop participating in diaper changes? It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen.
10. These words are not a plan of action. It’s inaction to changing a parent-established routine. Some children do take to toileting all on their own, it’s true! What about the others who do not and their parents? What help does waiting provide them?
My advice is this if you want it. If you are going to wait, then you must wait as long as it takes and commit to that philosophy. However, don’t be afraid of introducing the concept in the first place.
Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with starting potty learning at any time. Whether that is Elimination Communication style from anywhere between birth to eighteen months (http://www.godiaperfree.com). To modern potty learning methods starting at the windows of opportunity between eighteen months to two and a half years (http://www.jamieglowacki.com). Waiting until after age three is a foot planted firmly into autonomous territory and it needs a whole different approach, understanding, and a heaping dose of gentle, but firm encouragement (http://www.jamieglowacki.com).
Choose your path; there is more than one!
About Laissez FaireI 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 26, 2015, in Attachment Parenting, Babies, Gentle Parenting, Parenting, potty, Potty Talk, Potty Training, Toddlers and tagged attachment parenting, children, diaper free, elimination communication, parenting, potty learning, potty training, toilet training, wait until they are ready. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.