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EC and…toothbrushing? Why we should treat potty training like toothbrushing

EC and toothbrushing Why we should treat potty training like toothbrushing

This is a guest post from Maru Rojas, our certified coach serving Greater London and the South East. Enjoy! xx Andrea

There are plenty of reasons why potty training has become a dreaded milestone, but the main one is that, culturally, urinating and defecating are taboo subjects. Few things cause parents so much anxiety these days.

Another reason is that throughout our babies’ life everything changes from one day to the next (that’s the only constant) – they go from drinking only milk to eating solids, from immobility to rolling, to crawling, walking and jumping. From crying to saying a few words to non-stop chatting.

But the one thing that remains a constant from the day they are born is nappies (diapers). The mental hurdle of ditching nappies is huge (for parents mostly, but also for toddlers).

I’m going to share a tip that, from my experience, has made the whole thing a lot easier to grasp: potty training is not that different from getting kids to brush their teeth.

If we treat it this way, we’ll feel less daunted, more confident in our parenting, and more committed to getting it done as soon as possible. So read below to find some helpful tips (and anytime I mention toothbrushing, swap it for potty training).

start early - ec and toothbrush

It needs to start early

If you try to introduce a toothbrush to a 3 – 4 year-old then you will no doubt be met with a resistant and strong-willed toddler, who wants nothing to do with this invasive toothbrush business.

Start early, when they’re keener to copy what we do and do what we say, instead of when they’re at the peak of the individuation phase (usually 2.5 - 3 years old) and will say NO to any request big or small.

(This is why EC is so great – you start easy and gentle as early as birth so when the time comes to ditch nappies, using the toilet is a normal, gradual process.)

At some point, they won’t like it

Regardless of when you started brushing teeth, at some point they start actively disliking it. However, we know what’s best for them so we must persevere.

We don’t give up the first time they run away with their mouth closed, worried we might've damaged them... If we do that, we’re saying that it’s not that important after all and it gives them too much power and little people definitely don’t like that!

It's a matter of hygiene & health.

We want to establish good life-long habits from the beginning. Yes, it is invasive at times – like when we have to hold the toothbrush in their mouth (or when we need to help them wipe properly) – and toddlers generally don’t like an adult doing things to them that they think they can do themselves.

But as per my point above, we know that toothbrushing is a healthy practice so we find creative ways of getting that toothbrush brushing those little teeth.

We can't force them, yet it's our job to make sure they do it.

You can’t force a child to open their mouth and stick a toothbrush in (any more than you can’t force them to sit on a potty). Getting into a battle of wills, twice a day (or 5 times a day for pottying) is emotionally draining, frustrating and exhausting. It’s not fun for anyone.

So we have to stay in tune and connected with them and be creative – some of us sing songs, or we may pretend the toothbrush is a dinosaur, or recite the alphabet – anything that makes your little one smile and open wide. I reckon 9 times out of 10 the best course of action is to see the humorous side and use play & games to elicit cooperation.

The readiness advice is just wrong - ec and toothbrush

The readiness advice is just wrong:

“Don't do it too early because they’re not physically or emotionally ready”.

For toothbrushing, you'd have to wait for them to want to brush their teeth, tell you (verbally) that they want to do it and be able to do the whole process on their own. Well, you may be waiting for 4, 5 or more years and by then the risk of tooth decay is just not worth it. It’s our responsibility to get them started, help them as little as they need and then allow them to take control.

And, as a side note, that’s exactly why I like GDF’s method for potty training.

With potty training, the increased risk of soiling, wetting, UTIs and constipation after 36 months is, in my opinion, just not worth the wait.

And a final thought:

Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s right.

A few years back, it was recommended to give infants and babies fruit juice in their bottle. The results were, naturally, cavities and baby bottle tooth decay.

Today, parents are recommended to use disposable diapers and to delay starting potty training until 2 or 3 years old. They are told that daytime potty training can take months to complete and that nighttime training shouldn’t start before they’re four(ish).

The results are that persistent bedwetting has become a common occurrence until age 5 and beyond, to the point where parents are now told to assume it’s part of normal development and they’ll grow out of it, one day.

Just to be clear, I'm not judging parents or their decisions, but I’m bothered by the incorrect advice we've all been given under the guise of science!

Now I have a question for you:

How do you feel about early exposure to the toothbrush, and early exposure to the potty thru EC?

Please share below!

PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)

Maru Rojas

About Maru Rojas

I’m a mother of two, artist-educator, writer, and now a GDF consultant, originally from Mexico but now based in London. I practised EC with both of my children (one from birth) and I incorporate Montessori, RIE & Aware Parenting into my EC and potty training advice.


  1. Avatar rebecca on August 18, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    I love this correlation/parallel with adult responsibility for early teaching about tooth brushing! Also this is just what I needed to read to help keep me on course. Recently I’ve been getting so disheartened and have been second guessing our EC approach. Our son is 25 months old and has been dry overnight since he was 19 months, but the days… oh the days are so inconsistent! Absolutely he does understand going to the potty and toilet and have successes, but recently he’s just blatantly refusing to acknowledge his need to go and choosing to wet himself or the floor instead. Or he tells us the moment after a poo in his pants. It’s become so frustrating. Like we’ve been nearly done with this for AGES, and he’s just not wanting to transition. He even has asked to wear nappies and to be changed like a baby. He hasn’t worn a nappy in at least 5 months!

    • Avatar Maru Rojas on August 19, 2020 at 3:30 am

      Hi Rebecca, that’s so great to hear it was useful. It can be tough when you know they totally get it but still don’t make it to the potty. Have you thought about doing a couple of days of potty training? Often the consistency of the naked days, plus your clear messaging that it’s his body, his process to control results in a lot more willingness to use the potty.
      And don’t be afraid to treat him like a baby if that’s what he wants – a bit of role-play can go a long way. You don’t have to actually put the nappy on, you can just pretend the whole thing and give him that dedicated time to “change” him, apply nappy cream, sing a song, etc. Good luck!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on August 20, 2020 at 6:29 pm

      Hi Rebecca! It isn’t uncommon for kids to want to act like a baby/want to be treated like a baby. It may be a craving for close attention, see how you can give that without putting him in diapers. As far as the misses, have him be responsible for cleaning up. Calmly say “pee goes in the potty” and hand him a rag, have him wipe up, put wet clothes in the hamper, get dry clothes, etc. You can help, but let him do everything he is capable of. xx Andrea

      • Avatar rebecca on September 2, 2020 at 2:22 pm

        Thanks Andrea, I’ve done this sometimes but will give it more attention!
        He hasn’t worn a nappy now since end of March, barring yesterday when his nursery said he HAD to wear one because they don’t have enough time to change kids in ‘pull-ups’. I am beyond fuming at this attitude and had already given notice so we won’t be there much longer. But it astounds me that they could be so blatantly unsupportive of pottying. Plus they have such a beautiful kid size bathroom with the sweetest row of teeny toilets. It’s the cutest ever 🙄🤯🤦‍♀️ … but I bet my son loved his little foray back into a nappy!

        • Avatar Andrea Olson on September 3, 2020 at 4:17 pm

          Oh that is frustrating! I hope you find a better nursery situation.

  2. Avatar JJ on August 26, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    All sound advice! I wish all parents/guardians would do this. “When the child is ready”? What a crock!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on August 29, 2020 at 4:53 pm

      The whole “child readiness” thing was a wonderful marketing ploy by disposable diaper companies. It’s so sad because kids are capable of so much more.

  3. Avatar JJ on September 1, 2020 at 11:33 pm

    Andrea, you said a mouthful in just that one sentence—-nay, the one word: “ploy”; that is exactly what it is. But wonderful? I highly doubt that (but thanks for the laugh)!

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