Lo, and behold, I had no idea. My mother said, “He’ll be 18 months old soon, and he’ll be ready to potty train.” So I went to the library and got a couple of books on the subject. Two of the books were by the same author, so I just started with the latest, and it just so happened to be called Early Start Potty Training, by Linda Sonna. It was fantastic. I highly recommend it. I never needed another book.
Two weeks later, my 17 month old was into “big boy pants” and diapers only at night. And he was only having 1-2 accidents a day, always pee-pee. This is important because there are varying degrees of “potty trained.”
There are a few things that just blew me away about the whole potty training thing. One is how unbelievably easy it was (I’m a stay-at-home mom and I had time to be consistent, which is everything). Another is that the trend is really toward potty training even younger than I did it – like as young as three months, yes you read right – three months. I’ll tell you how they do it in a minute. The last thing that really struck me is how few moms and dads know about this yet. Just like breastfeeding, the art of potty training has been lost over the last couple of generations of Americans due to propaganda by big business.
We need to start spreading the word so we can save more children’s urine-soaked and poopy behinds, more dollars, and way more landfill space. After you read this, you’ll think it’s scandalous to keep a child in diapers until age 3. We can’t go blaming the parents though. They have no idea, or they wouldn’t still be dealing with poo. No way Jose.
The first cut off is at 4 months. If you wait until after this window, the baby will stop giving you any clues that it’s about to go, and the tactics are different. But up until 4 months, you do two things mainly. 1) let your baby go diaperless for a few days and really observe the child. Notice the cues that your baby gives right before she pees or poops (a grimace, a shiver, clasping hands, etc.) This way, if you’ve missed getting them to the potty on time, you’ll at least have a heads-up.
2) when you realize that your baby is just about to pee or poop, you set them up on the potty chair and as they pee, you go “psssss” into their ear. After a few of these potty experiences, the baby will just relax and go at your command of “pssss.” So if it’s been an hour or so, just set your baby up on the potty and say “psssss.”
That’s “potty trained” for a three month old. Some wouldn’t consider this truly “potty trained” because the child can’t tell you that they need to go and they can’t really get to the toilet either. This ability for the parent and the child to communicate non-verbally is being called E.C. for early communication. For some, it’s controversial, for others, it’s common sense.
For some parents, even the tradeoff of no more diapers isn’t enticing enough to have to take the baby to the toilet frequently. The next cut off is 18 months. If you wait until after this, as we’ve been taught to do, it’s really difficult to potty train. Since my 20 month old is totally potty trained, it breaks my heart that there are still three year olds in diapers out there. And I’m talking about children without disabilities. Under some circumstances, children take even longer than three years to potty train.
Before 18 months, children are really open to change, and they haven’t necessarily branded the diaper as the toilet. Once they get it, they rarely regress like a toddler is prone to do. At this age, you need a few more props. Sonna recommends finding a doll that drinks and pees, so that the child gets the concept. She also recommends having a treat for the child when they are successful on the potty. I use chocolate covered raisins, which are quite a treat in my almost sugar-free house hold.
A few diaperless days really drive the concept home because no one, not even a baby wants to pee or poop on the floor. You NEVER scold the child for messing up. Negative reinforcement does not change behavior. Only positive reinforcement can bring about desired behavior change. If you want to know more about this concept, I recommend a book called, Don’t Shoot the Dog. Positive reinforcement works on husbands and bosses and moms too.
Babies in Africa and China are almost always potty trained by the age one mainly due to the lack of disposable diapers and laundry facilities. American babies before the 1930’s were typically started potty training at age 9 mos. According to Sonna, when Pampers came out in the 40’s, they got a medical doctor to endorse their products and say that potty training children under the age of two could be psychologically traumatic. Like the unassuming lemmings we are, there we all went, over the cliff into a massive landfill of diapers.
The good news is, I’m pretty much your average Jolene, and if I’ve gotten the word, then it’s getting around. My whole family has been liberated from diapers and it’s so wonderful, that my guess is within the decade, toddlers’ families all over the country will be liberated as well. Spread the word. Amen.
I’d also like to suggest using the cotton, washable “big kid pants” instead of the disposable “pull-ups”. I got 5 Imse Vimses and 5 Bummis. They’ve been nothing but wonderful, and I’m glad I’ve had both. The Imse Vimses are more breathable and comfortable and the Bummis are more absorbent and don’t leak.