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How to Practice the Most Gentle Form of Respectful Parenting: Elimination Communication + Potty Training!

How to Practice the Most Gentle Form of Respectful Parenting Elimination Communication + Potty Training!

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

If you, like me, follow a gentle and respectful parenting approach, you might be confused about whether Elimination Communication is part of this or not. Two of the most popular US and UK gentle & respectful parenting guides (Sarah Ockwell Smith and Janet Lansbury) are not big fans of EC (but what I’ve found is that they have a very superficial understanding of it).

What could be more respectful than responding to your baby’s non-verbal communications?

With everything happening around the world today, it’s time to become more open-minded about what is normal in other cultures.

When my daughter was born I weighed the pros and cons. I noted that the original attachment parenting book (Jean Lideloff’s The Continuum Concept) mentioned the Yequana Indians of Venezuela practicing EC, and I took the plunge at 10 weeks. I never looked back.

What About Potty Training?

what about potty training the most gentle form of respectful parenting

Again, the gentle parenting world is awash with “potty training is disrespectful, unnecessary, stressful, etc.” SOS also mentions children are not emotionally ready and physically ready at the same time (which may be true – babies are physically ready at around 12 months, so perhaps that’s a bit early for our Western standards).

There are lots of proponents of the “wait it out” and do nothing approach. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, if we weren’t putting our children at risk of increased UTI’s, constipation, soiling, and wetting. Children who potty train themselves usually do it around 3.5 years old and up to 5 years of age, by which time they are able to say “I’m done with nappies” and also very capable of feeling shame from being the only ones their age still using nappies.

What if Our Children Were Actually Telling Us Much Earlier That They Were Done With Nappies – Earlier Than They Can Talk?

What if Our Children Were Actually Telling Us Much Earlier That They Were Done With Nappies – Earlier Than They Can Talk

Did your toddler suddenly go through a phase of actively resisting nappy changes – anywhere between 12 to 16 months? I’ve often thought this is most likely their way of saying they want a change, they just don’t have the words or reasoning skills to say I would like to start using the toilet please and avoid these nappy changes.

If you’re in the gentle parenting group and see nappy changes as an opportunity for connection and give them real choices, this may not be you, but did you notice they showed interest in the toilet or your toileting habits at around 16 – 18 months? What if that was their way of saying “I’m done with nappies” but we just thought it was too early?

If your toddler showed interest in brushing their teeth for two weeks and then lost interest, would you simply let it slide until they verbally said again I want to brush my teeth?

Would you allow your child not to brush their teeth until they were ready for it? After all, brushing their teeth is in many ways similar to using the toilet – there are hygiene and health implications, it’s a life-long skill, and ideally we want our children to want to do it for themselves, even if we sometimes have to find creative ways to convince them to do it.

I strongly believe that the gentlest thing to do with a toddler 18 – 24 months is to give them the opportunity to use the toilet and potty train. And we can only do this if we remove the nappy. Most likely until this point they haven’t had a chance (unless you’ve done EC) to experience what it feels like to pee, to be wet, and to be in control of their own bodies.

The key here is NOT to make it our agenda – we place our trust in our children to be able to do it at their own pace and we trust our parenting skills by removing the nappies and gently guiding them through it.

  • Resist the urge to ask them if they need to go.
  • If you do ask (we all do it, accidentally!) then be ok with their answer...which will likely be a NO.
  • Allow them to take control of the process and be there to support that.

Because the gentlest thing to do, for all humans, is to give them the opportunity to be dry and clean – even animals dislike being soiled, so why would we think our children are any different?

Thank you so much for this very honest and informative post, Maru.

All that said, if you need more information about how to go about doing EC or potty training with your child, please visit my store to see both of my books and choose the right one for your baby’s current age.

EC and potty training are, contrary to popular belief, very respectful aspects of parenting that you can take control over and guide today. But sometimes we all need a little bit of help!

What stood out to you from today’s episode? A word, an idea? Before you go, please leave a comment below!

Thank you!

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.

15 Comments

  1. Laura Durkee Laura Durkee on February 23, 2021 at 9:24 am

    “Did your toddler suddenly go through a phase of actively resisting nappy changes?…Did you notice they showed interest in the toilet or your toileting habits at around 16 – 18 months…but we just thought it was too early?” Oh, yes!! That was SO our #1, he was SO. STINKIN’. CLEAR. but we didn’t know about EC or early PT at that time and we listened to everyone’s “wait, he’s not “ready””…and what an awful time of potty training we had when we finally faced it! So grateful you’re encouraging mums to re-evaluate what their babes are telling them. And the tooth-brushing comparison – totally on point! :D

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 25, 2021 at 11:05 am

      Thank you for your support and for sharing your story! 🥰

  2. Avatar Steph on February 23, 2021 at 11:12 am

    The notion that brushing their teeth is hygienic just like potting stood out. Never thought about it that way. Great stuff!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 25, 2021 at 11:22 am

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the analogy! 💕

  3. Avatar Liesl on February 23, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    The letting them take control. I think I need to let go more, give my newly two year old the chance to lead more with when we go potty (most of the time). Even if it means more accidents. She rarely has accidents but we still take her most of the time without her saying “potty” first and I think she needs that space to really gain total independence.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 25, 2021 at 11:24 am

      Yes! Sometimes it is hard as parents to let go, but around that age they are really starting to dig their independence. 😊

      So wonderful of you, to be open to giving your little one more control. 🤩

  4. Avatar Ashliah B. on February 24, 2021 at 2:17 am

    I am laughing inside because my 14 month old just recently started opposing letting me brush her teeth and she is totally too young to effectively brush her teeth 🙃 she will close her mouth and turn away and “talk” about everything else in the bathroom. So right now my main look-to is praying for break through and consistentcy. So toothbrushing was a GREAT analogy for anyone who is doubting EC. As far as EC goes, my 14 month old has been out of diapers for 2+ months and almost has the concept down of pulling down her bottoms before she sits down on the potty. Going potty is normal to her and she is never stressed about the potty! Yay God! ** EC is gentle if you’re gentle 😉**

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 25, 2021 at 11:27 am

      So true! Thank you for sharing the story and including the toothbrush analogy with it.

      Congrats on your success with your 14 month old!! 🎉🎉🎉

  5. Avatar Tk on February 25, 2021 at 2:24 am

    Such great points! You are spot on – it is time to become more open minded about other cultures. I am wondering if anyone has ever tried to discuss this with SOS or JL? Does the diaper free baby nonprofit have an activism arm to do such activity?

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 25, 2021 at 11:47 am

      Thanks for your support! 💕

      You ask some good questions… and I am not 100% sure. 🤔

  6. Avatar Katie on March 9, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    “Did your toddler suddenly go through a phase of actively resisting nappy changes – anywhere between 12 to 16 months?”
    This has technically been our baby since day 1 but things escalated at 8 mo! We recently got back to getting some catches during the day (fell off the train when my husband had to go on a business trip) but our 10 mo old REALLY seems to want to be out of diapers. Not walking yet but crawling with ease! She doesn’t have a consistent way of “telling” us she needs to go, do we continue with EC or should I consider making the leap to potty training?

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 12, 2021 at 3:51 am

      Based on what you are telling me, it seems you are leaning to potty training your little one.

      Here is a blog post to help you decide what is right for you and your little one. 💕

      • Avatar Katie on March 12, 2021 at 10:28 am

        Link didn’t work but I’ll try searching the blog when I have time!

        Thanks!

  7. Avatar K on April 19, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Yes! There is so much to like about Janet Lansbury, but it’s so frustrating when people “poop” on EC without really understanding it as the ancestral/basic mammalian way of handling babies and elimination. When I speak to people about EC sometimes I tell them when I’m old and need help going to the potty I hope someone cares for me that way rather than putting me in adult diapers for hours.

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