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).
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:
“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. ;)