Everything was going just great – what’s up with the sudden resistance? Today on Ask Andrea, I share part 1 of the “what, how, and why” of sudden EC resistance and how you can interpret and respond to it like a parenting pro.
You Will Hear:
- what sudden resistance really means (hint: it’s probably good news)
- how to roll with resistance without losing your cool
- tools that encourage emerging independence
- a resource for constipation
- the value of your intuition (and how to hear it)
- when to do a pottying reset
- how to evaluate the Hybrid Plan vs. Tiny Potty Training
Links and other resources mentioned today:
EPISODE 210: Complete Resistance Part 1
Hey there, welcome to the Go Diaper Free podcast. I'm Andrea Olson, your host, author, and mom of five babies - all ECed from birth, all out of diapers by walking.
This is episode 210, Complete Resistance Part 1. You can find the show notes over at godiaperfree.com/210. Leave a comment, ask a question, and find the links to all the things mentioned in today's show.
I know a lot of you have struggled with complete resistance after a lot of success with EC. In fact, probably 100% of you are in our private Facebook group or our private, off-Facebook group. Something just stopped working, and you don't know what it is, and your baby cries or seems to hate it every time they go to the potty. (Side note: this is not referring to newborns - that would be last week, episode 209. This week, we're talking about a child who's been doing EC for some time, and then all of a sudden it's not working.)
The first question I have today is from Dani:
(Dani) Hey Andrea, thank you so much for all of your content. Your books and your podcasts have been really helpful. I have been ECing my baby since she was two weeks old, and she's now 12 and a half months. She goes to the potty every single day. She uses it every day. We almost never miss a poop, we're on point. My challenge is that she hates it. We've been doing it since day one. She doesn't know any different. And for the past couple of months, I feel like she just tantrums. She still goes. We put her on it, and she goes. If we distract her, if we're lucky enough to be able to distract her with a toy or something, she'll go on the toilet.
But it is just a fight every time. I try to give her privacy, but she's a little too little, she'll just get off. She'll just try and get off. I just don't really know what to do to stop the tantrums, because it's really making my husband want to skip the potty-tunities. And it's a little bit making me, and I know we have to persevere. We have to keep going, but these full-on tantrums where she's just contorting her body, she's making it impossible, are just so overwhelming. Help.
Alright, raise your hand (if you're not driving) if this is you, completely. This definitely happened with me and Twyla, my fifth, and Cooper, my third. For some reason, they just didn't like peeing and pooping on the toilet, but they had to. So I'd put them on there as if we had no other choice, and they would cry for a sec (or raise heck for a sec), and then…they would go. So, I feel you, Dani. And I've got some good news for you and for everybody else listening.
I want to say, can we please just pause and celebrate that your child is still going willingly on the toilet? The tantrum might not be personal. If you've ever read the Four Agreements, it reminds you: don't take things personally. It's easier said than done, especially when your toddler is the one who's doing something that you're taking personally, but it could be anything that is causing this tantrum.
If I could make just one guess as to what it could be, I would say that your child is ready for independence, and she's tantruming because she doesn't quite have the ability to take her pants on and off, to go completely independently without you. She’s reliant on you, yet she really wants to be independent, which is a huge, wonderful thing. In the Montessori way of thinking, you are totally on track here at 12 and a half months old. (My EC + Montessori podcast is here if you’re interested.)
This is their developmental task right now. They are ready for independence, and they're going for it. But it's also hard because she’s like, "I want to do this myself, but I don't have all the pieces yet. I know when I need to go to the bathroom. I know I don't want to go on myself. I know I'd rather go on the toilet", which is why she's willingly doing it. But she’s also feeling, “I really want to do it all myself, and my body is just not there yet."
Now, if we were in an intact indigenous culture, let's say a couple thousand years ago, this child would be going out with the other kids, walking over to where everybody goes to the bathroom, probably not wearing much at all, and would go and then come back. And that is really where a lot of that struggle and tantrum probably comes from.
It's probably something that she can't put words to because she's probably not even talking yet. But how do you even describe to your parent that “I am wired from hundreds of thousands of years in this homo sapiens form to do this, and by now I would be independent. How do I explain it to you that I don't really want your help with this, because this is mine?”
Now, we live in the modern world and western culture requires us to use toilets and pants and things like that. Some of us have carpet, too. We have to bridge this gap that at first seems like, "Why are you throwing tantrums, but you're going willingly? You're acting like you hate it, but I know that this is what you need and want." How do we marry those disparate ideas and find some peace with it?
I want you to know that, as she gets bigger, giving her privacy will help. You can do this simply by turning your back. She can sit on the mini potty, you can be in the bathroom together, shut the door, you turn your back, and say, "Hey, just do your business." Also, the big toilet will help and we can keep the mini potty in the vehicle or just keep it in the living room to use as a signal. She goes up to it - that probably means she needs to go - then you bring her to the big toilet. This is so she just won't get up and walk off. When a mini potty becomes an issue, save it for later and switch to a toilet seat reducer on the big toilet. Finding one that is comfortable, padded, has handles, maybe that has characters on it would help. (We use this one at our house.)
The other thing I just want to say is that, this is such a great sign. Okay, first of all, you're still catching everything, but second of all, your child just wants independence. So, are there any things that you can teach your child during non potty times, that can help your child to be as independent as possible? You know your child best. Think, “what can I teach?” Maybe it's ordering some of our learn bear undies from TinyUndies.com, which help teach self-dressing. Maybe it's giving them really loose pants that are easy to push down. Maybe it's having them bottomless at home, because they just do better that way.
Another thing I just want to rule out is, are we having any pain with pooping? I have a podcast on constipation, I recommend you listen to it in case you just need to soften the stools a little bit. Even one hard stool can definitely cause some crying and resistance during potting. Twyla is almost four at the time of this recording, and sometimes I still have to push on her lower back, like you do during birth, to help her get a big poop out because she's afraid of it. Ever since she was 10 months old and had a big one that was hard, she has done what you're describing, because of that experience, that fear. So keep in mind, the reason for the tantrum might not be personal.
Here’s another point I want to make for Dani’s question, and anyone else in a similar situation: Dani, your husband's vibe is also impacting things. Please let your husband off of potty duty for a while. Just say, "Hey, I'll just catch everything for a couple weeks now. Just chill, because we're going to pretend like we have no other choice and this is what we're doing.” You can send him my way with a “Because Andrea said so.” Just know that our babies feel our vibes. They still feel like they're part of you, even though she's one year old. Everybody's emotions become the baby's emotions, you know that already. Your husband’s vibe, even if it's super subtle, even if he covers it up, is like, "No, I'm cool. I've got my poker face on”, it is still impacting it. So just let him off potty duty for a while and be like, "You got to trust."
A couple final thoughts: one, if you are experiencing constipation, I always recommend trying the elimination diet and seeing if that helps. The other final thought is, if you haven't already stopped using daytime diapers, stop! You can do it with my Wrap Up Course, or just put her into cotton pants during the daytime and just trust, finding whatever ways you can support that desire for independence.
Ok, on to Mona’s question:
(Mona) Hello, my name is Mona, and I live in New Jersey, and my daughter is now almost 16 months. And here's my question. I started doing EC and read your wonderful book - thank you for all you do - about a month ago. And we've been doing everything that the book says to do. And she just started walking now and she basically doesn't want to do it in her little mini toilet. She just doesn't want to. She cries and she screams, and we started wearing big girl panties, like the training ones that you recommended. And she cries even when I put that on. And I'm wondering if I should give her a two week break and start again, or if I should just stop altogether and just do the toddler training for toilet training when she's 18 months instead, or what I should do.
But my baby's not happy and I don't like it. She is not happy at all. She cries a lot. And when she has to go potty, she cries. And we did the potty, we did the sound, we did even the sign language with the thumb between the index and the other finger shaking like a rattle, to show her what it means that she does this when she goes potty. So I think I've done everything right, but I am not sure why she cries all the time. So I'm not sure what to do. Thank you so much. Hope you can help. Thanks. Bye.
All right, Mona, this is definitely common. The first thing I want to say for you is, this child is totally in that “I'm independent” stage just like Dani's child. I hear it, I see the writing on the wall. It is so clear to me, from the outside looking in. With a 15-month-old, instead of starting with pure EC, I would have done the hybrid plan that comes with my book. Now this is if your child is like what you’re saying: just started walking, et cetera. If, on the other hand, your child started walking at nine months old, and she’s now 15 months and you haven't done any EC, I would definitely tell you to go through my potty training book right away (instead of EC). Now, in Mona’s case, her daughter has just started walking at 15 months old, which means it's appropriate to do the hybrid plan in the Go Diaper Free book.
So here's the game plan: I want you to check in with your intuition if you have five minutes of quiet time. I know that's hard to get these days, but maybe you can hide in the closet or in the bathroom or in part of your yard, and just get five minutes to yourself. Or ask your husband or whomever to take your baby, so you could have a minute. Then ask yourself, “what do I feel like could be the answer?”
You said it, Mona, “reset for two weeks and start again.” Or “stop, and do the other toddler toilet training when she's 18 months instead.” You nailed it for yourself, but I just want to add in a little part of that hybrid plan that only comes with the Go Diaper Free EC book. It's a mixture of potty training and EC. It's not full on potty training, because it's just a couple of days of physically teaching them the movement to the potty and it's a bit of a middle ground, if you will.
As another note, I do feel like if we're repeating the sign and doing the "Pss" or the "mhm" sound at 15, 16 months old, that is not age-appropriate. Now, you didn't do anything wrong. But at this point in her development, we use words. Don't take this personally, but when we revert back to an earlier stage of a baby's babyhood, we're actually infantilizing them. Maybe inadvertently, but it might send the message to the toddler that, “ok, I guess I should act like a baby." And it could have a negative impact. If, instead, we talk to a two year old as if they're four, then they're going to rise to the occasion and be more mature in some ways. This is just something that I've experienced and also seen with other parents.
We don't want to use these sounds unless we're, say, pottying in the middle of the night when we really don't want to talk. In general, though, we're going to use words but also not over-talk. We are going to be brief and we are going to be steadfast. The key is to stay focused, but pretend like we're not focused on it at all. This is what I teach in my potty training book: just be “ninja” about it.
So this is Mona’s plan: do the reset for two weeks, to back off from this feeling of pressure (I know you’re not trying to pressure her, but she might be feeling it). A reset is where you don't take them to the potty, at any point, at all. You use a diaper as a diaper for two weeks. You give yourself a break, because this is stressing you out. If you know she totally has to go or she willingly goes poop or she willingly does the morning pee - whatever you've found works so far - you can do that, but I don't want you to talk about it at all. Just do it.
When I was in Africa in 2000, in Ghana, this is what the women did, nonverbally. I hardly ever heard a mom talk to her child. It was so physical and nonverbal and I saw zero tantrums the whole month I was there. I'm no anthropologist, but it makes sense to me after having five children, why that method works.
So, do a two week reset. Then, you are going to do the hybrid plan from my Go Diaper Free book. It is a couple of days of physically teaching them the movement to the potty and changing to words now, instead of sounds. Then, I would like you to stop using diapers and start just doing EC as if you have always been doing it.
Now, if she reacts the same way to this and it just doesn't work out, I want you to reset for one more week. During that week, you're going to read my potty training book. By then, we'll probably be at 16 and a half, 17 months. Do the potty training then.
You're going to be as nonverbal as possible. In my potty training book, I put in the beginning the “10 Ways of Being,” and one of them is: be brief and nonverbal. Don't over-talk. They really only need it once or twice. Then, while they're doing it, you can do something nonverbal like a sign, like the toilet shaking sign that you’re doing - that’s great. But just do it once. We don't want to over-communicate. It shows fear, and they can smell that on our breath.
What I want you to also start doing, is using the big toilet instead. And once you do that potty training experience, you're never going back to diapers. At 15 months old, we really want to not do diapers. We also don't want to use training pants if they're not responding positively to it. Use Tiny Undies instead. For this age, I'd probably get 2T or 3T and just use the big toilet (with a seat reducer) instead of the mini potty.
Some kids, if they haven't been using the mini potty from birth, might not like it. It's new and it's plastic and of course you can put a cozy on it and see if that helps. But we also have that “sit down and walk off” thing going on with a mini potty. So use the big toilet instead and set the mini potty in the living space to use as a signaling thing. When your baby goes up to it, touches it, or starts to play with it, use it like a sign in your own mind.
Don't say anything. Take her to the big toilet (with a reducer), set her on it, turn your back and allow her to go. (You could use the mini potty in the car or the minivan right now.)
So here’s the plan when you're in that “middle zone” of 15 to 18 months: if your toddler is not very verbal or mobile yet, we want to do the EC hybrid plan. If your toddler is already verbal and mobile and has been for a while, we just want to do a potty training experience from 15 to 18 months and stick with it and stop using diapers. Either way, (using a hybrid or a potty training experience) we're going to stop using diapers, because at 15, 16 months old, the longer you have your child in daytime diapers, the harder it will be to take them out of it.
Usually, they rise to the occasion pretty well, like, “Hey, mom, you finally caught up with where I'm at." Just remember: In 1957, 92% of American babies were completely potty trained by 18 months. Babies these days are no different from then. What is different is in 1961, the disposable diaper was invented. And from there…do the math. They have doubled, almost tripled our potty training age in just two generations. And it is a travesty.
So your baby is capable, your baby is willing, your baby has been waiting for you. Please get one of my books and figure out a place to start and then start, because the longer you wait, the harder it is. Please know I'm not pressuring you at all. I just want you to know that you got this, and I'll be here for you. Thank you so much for tuning in. Take care.
Have you experienced sudden resistance with EC? What worked for you? Head over to godiaperfree.com/210, and I'll see you there.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free Podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.
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