Lisa "Dee" Perusse, our certified coach in Montreal, Quebec. Some links here may earn her a referral commission. We only refer to products or services we’ve actually tried and think are super useful, because we’re practical and helpful like that. :)
The Role of Co-Regulation in Elimination Communication
We are a generation of parents who tend towards Gentle Parenting, a.k.a. Authoritative Parenting (not to be confused with Authoritarian Parenting, with which many of us were raised). For many of us, adopting this parenting framework also involves flipping the narrative from the way we ourselves were raised. If you’ve looked into gentle parenting resources, you’re likely to have come across the term cycle-breaking. You may even identify as a cycle-breaker yourself. I sure do. The concept of “breaking the cycle” refers to interrupting generational trauma. In my own case, this is trauma handed down to me from my parents that was handed down to them from their parents, which was likely handed down to THEM from the previous generation. We, in the age of the internet, are lucky enough to have access to resources to change that narrative, to break the cycle.
If you’re like me, then you were likely raised to “behave”, to “be good”, and when you weren’t doing these things, you were punished. This was pretty standard for us Gen X-ers. The net result? We were conditioned with fear to act in a way that pleased our caregivers. Anyone else out there still a people-pleaser? 😬
As a younger adult, I had to come to terms with the fact that I had no coping skills for dysregulation. I had to develop self-regulation tools that I never learned from my parents. It’s not their fault - they never learned them either! For me, this has meant meditation, regulatory movement practices, honouring my nervous system’s maximal load and lots and lots of therapy.
Why do I bring this all up and what does it have to do with Elimination Communication (EC)? Well, quite simply, it has everything to do with EC! Our nervous system dictates when we can eliminate safely. Even as adults, our nervous system manages our digestive system. I know many adults who get diarrhea when they’re nervous. I myself get fully constipated! This is an evolutionary function designed to allow us to fight or flight without pooping ourselves. We either release pee or poop quickly or hold it so we can flee danger.
Case in point: While I was on maternity leave with my second baby, I binge-watched all of The Handmaid’s Tale. If you’ve watched it, you know it can be a frightening show I know that for some of the more intense episodes, my entire body would feel fear. This came into our EC practice because I would mostly binge the show while contact napping my baby. I’d nurse him to sleep and once he passed out, I’d pop on an episode and get engrossed in the world of Gilead. I started to notice that when my own body was in a heightened state and that my baby would wake from his nap and need the potty, he would have an entirely different demeanour than if I was watching a light comedy. And he wouldn’t pee or poop. Why? And then I noticed that this coincided with tension in my body and decided to deliberately self-regulate while holding my babe over the potty. Breathe in Myself; Breathe out June Osborne. Relax my shoulders, unclench my jaw. Take another deep breath. All of a sudden, pee! giggles! What just happened? Oh, I regulated my own nervous system and it made my baby chill out and release his bladder. Huh!
Our babies’ tender nervous systems are evolved to downregulate with us. This is called coregulation. That means, if we’re stressed in our bodies, our babies might not be able to pee or poop. It sounds crazy, but our babies’ anus and urethra need their bodies to feel safe and calm in order to release in a gentle way. And that means, we need to be genuinely chill about it. Many parents I’ve worked with for potty training their older children will tell me some variation of the following with regard to a resistant child who refuses to sit on the toilet: “I stayed calm, but he still wouldn’t relax enough to go!” After some prodding and discussion, it becomes clear that this parent wasn’t truly regulated, they were pretending to be calm. When they told me they stayed calm, what they meant was keeping their temper in check and refusing to yell at their child, even though they were mad on the inside. YES, we absolutely want this, but also …the nervous system doesn’t lie, baby! If you’re performing calm, but you are secretly dysregulated, your child will pick up on it. We need to find you a way to regulate yourself, sweet parent.
So, next time you’re trying to potty your child when you’re not in a calm mood, notice how it might affect them. Then, drop your shoulders, take a deep belly breath, release attachments to results, and see if that changes anything. You might be surprised ;)
Watch the Video Version
If you want to watch the recording of today’s podcast episode, you can do that on my youtube version right here:
Thanks for Listening!
To help out the show and help more parents find out about EC:
- Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
- Subscribe on iTunes
- Share your thoughts by leaving a note in the comments section below!
Have you noticed how your own state of regulation has affected your baby’s ability to use the potty?