EPISODE 224: Getting a young toddler to signal
Hello and welcome to the Go Diaper Free podcast. I'm your host for today's episode, Nicole Cheever, Go Diaper Free Certified Coach and mama of three kiddos who all did EC and potty training at different ages and stages.
Welcome back to the podcast. This is episode 224, getting a young toddler to signal. You can find the show notes, as always, over at godiaperfree.com/224. Please leave us a comment, ask us any questions you have, and find the links to everything I'm going to talk about in today's episode. We have two questions and the first one is from Haley.
Haley: Hello, my name is Haley. I am from Indiana, Central Indiana. My baby is 15 months and my question is: she doesn't communicate very much regarding diapers and needing to go potty, so how do I work on cuing and bettering the communication between her and I?
Thanks for the call, Haley. It is very common for signals to disappear or not exist. At 15 months, we're going to start teaching her the signals we want her to use and as we do this with repetition and time, she will most likely start to pick them up. Now I say most likely because it's very, very important for us to not have high expectations for our children to signal. In fact, Andrea recommends having no expectation. Never expect them to respond, or to signal, or to tell us ahead of time if they need to potty. One of the big reasons for this is when we have expectations on our children, we start to place these timelines that often are not really based on much except for our own hopes. We start to become potty-centered, which can really put a lot of inadvertent pressure on ourselves and our children. Really dropping those expectations to the absolute floor is going to be the least stressful situation for you.
Now, we are going to teach signals really like you're going to teach anything else to your child. Any other kind of language or response or interaction is done through repetition and it's going to often feel like you've been doing it for months with no response, and then all of a sudden, one day they might come up with a signal.
My baby's currently 15-and-a-half months and that has happened with quite a few things lately. I was signing potty to her since she was about six months and she only picked that up in about the last month. The sign for potty, for those of you listening, is the American Sign Language “T. You make a fist, but you put your thumb between your first and middle finger so it sticks out and then you shake it. You can see me if you're watching the video, but if you're listening on the podcast, you can look up that sign language “T” and I'll see if I can find a good graphic to link in the show notes. But we like to use that as our potty sign.
She doesn't do it exactly that way. A lot of times, they come up with their own way to copy that, but I'm teaching that to her just like you would teach them to identify anything. If you are holding a ball and you're saying, “ball, ball.” You give it to them and you say “ball,” eventually they're going to learn the word ball. Teaching them with signaling for the potty is really along the same lines.
It's a great idea to go off of natural timing and transition time. So you're going to take your baby to the potty probably with some of the easy catches, like the wake-up pee or poop. Or you're going to use the natural timing you've established, either by doing observation or just as you've been getting a sense of your baby, using the transition times, and just repeating, being consistent, reinforcing those signals you'd eventually like to use. I mentioned one shaking the “T,” potty. You can also say “potty.” Most of us eventually want our child to tell us verbally that they have to go potty.
Some people like to do two different signals for going to the bathroom and then peeing. Some have found that if you use the same thing, like you use that shaking “T” both when you need to move to the bathroom and when you want them to pee in the potty, they can take it really literally and they can just stand there and pee. If you're finding that, separate the two. For us, we just point and then shake the “T,” like the potty's over there and then we shake the “T.” And then as she's peeing, I will say “pee pee.” I'll say “potty” while I'm doing the sign,and then as she's actually peeing or pooping in the potty, at the point when she's actually releasing her pee, I will say “pee pee.” Or if she's pooping, I will say “poop.”
We want to be careful not to overdo it. If we are just saying the words all the time or using the signs all the time, then they don't really have anything to associate it with. That's why it's really important, if you think it's potty time, whether it's an easy catch, the natural timing, transition timing, you can say, "Mama, pee pee," or "Mama, potty," or whatever it is you want them to say when they need to go to the potty. Then once you put them on the potty or they mount the potty, wait for them to actually go. If we're just throwing these words out all over the place, it doesn't mean anything to them. That's why when we're teaching them words for anything else, we hold it up or we point to it when we say the word, because we need them to have something to connect it to.
Again, this won't happen overnight, and then at some point, it just kind of will. At some point, they'll go through a shift or a leap and suddenly, they're saying “pee pee” and they might just be saying it all the time. There's a phase as well where you'll want to help them when they start saying the word or they start making the sign, help them keep that only associated with what it belongs with. If your baby has started saying “pee pee”... right now, when my 15-month-old says “pee pee,” I take her to the bathroom, and so she's learning that if she says “pee pee” while she's walking around the house, we're going to go to the potty. If she doesn't want to go to the potty, then she shouldn't be saying “pee pee.” There's going to be a little bit of a trial and error there as well.
Just like when they get to that toddler phase, sometimes they say “no” when they mean yes. Sometimes they say “pee pee” when they don't have to go, so it's just our job to stay consistent with it and show them that this is what that word or that sign is associated with. I'm going to link Episode 47. That is a little more in depth on teaching your baby to signal and how to do it, and then there's also a blog post on if your baby doesn't signal. Thanks so much for that question, Haley and now we've got one from Crystal.
Crystal: Hi, good morning. My name is Crystal. I live in Mount Olive, North Carolina and my daughter is 16 months old. My question is how do I get her to signal me when she has to pee? She tells me by sign every time when she needs to go number two, but so far, it doesn't even seem to be that she is aware that she is peeing. Thank you so much for your help.
Thanks so much, Crystal. I have a couple suggestions for you, some of them being what I just discussed for Haley, because that's very similar. Also, if you're finding that she doesn't seem to mind that she's wet, there are a few different options.
Number one, if your baby's back-up isn't working, if they don't seem to mind or they've gotten used to peeing in whatever back-up you're using, change the back-up. Whatever you're using right now doesn't seem to be working. If you're using a diaper still, it's time to change to undies. You can change to trainers, but they can still feel like a diaper, so I would, at this age, just go straight to undies. We've got them at Tiny Undies and they are definitely small, so make sure you check the size chart because they're nice and form fitting. If you're already using undies, try Commando. We want to go through the progression of back-ups until we find the one where she does mind being wet, or at least it encourages her to stay dry or encourages her to tell you when she needs to go.
It could also be if she's telling you for poop but not for pee, we could be running into the issue I just mentioned. If you're saying “pee pee” for it's time to go potty, she could be taking that literally and just peeing. Try to notice, either by keeping her naked or in just cotton undies where you can see them getting wet very easily, try to notice if maybe that's happening. But it might just be that she doesn't notice she's peeing, so that would require some naked teaching. Naked teaching in an area where it's easy to clean up the pee or you've got some kind of protection on your floors can be really helpful. It actually lets them see when they're peeing, and for some kids, they really need that visual. They really need to see, “when I have this sensation in my body, something comes out,” and that helps them to signal better and to have that click for them.
If you're using a sound for pee pee, like psh psh or pss, the sound of running water, stop. She's too old for that. I was just listening to something that Andrea has out recently, using those baby sounds at this age infantilizes them and they want to be growing up. They want to have that independence and show that they can do things for themselves. A way to do that is by using actual words or the signs rather than the sounds.
There's also the “Passing the Baton” Young Toddlers EC Program that I’ll link for both of you because that's a really nice, in-depth way of helping your child bridge the gap from you really being in charge of potty time to them being in charge of it. There's also a Wrapping Up EC MiniCourse. Both of these are going to go in depth through the Building Blocks of Potty Independence, which is in both the Go Diaper Free book and The Tiny Potty Training Book. The Building Blocks of Potty Independence are all of the pieces your child needs in order to successfully be potty independent. One of those aspects is prompting. Whether it's them telling you that they need to go, or you suggesting it's potty time and there's a positive response to it, but that's one of the building blocks that your child's going to need to be potty independent, so I will link all of that in the show notes.
Remember, signals come and go. When they're very busy with a leap or a shift and developing, they're not really prioritizing telling you they need to go potty, especially if they're wearing some kind of back-up that they really don't mind going in. That's where changing the back-up, giving them more independence, these kind of things can really help them.
That's everything I have for both of you today. Thanks for listening. For everyone who wants to join us over on the blog, please let us know: how did you get your baby signaling? If your baby doesn't signal right now, which one of these suggestions are you going to try? Head over to godiaperfree.com/224 for that comment section where you can leave us a comment, ask us a question, check out what other listeners have to say, and we will see you over there on the blog.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.