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