Montessori, Uncategorized

Montessori Mondays: Potty Time!

We are almost completely out of diapers!  This is a very strange phase for me to come to- I sell cloth diapers for a living… Cloth diaper people actually kind of like diapers- what with all the cute patterns, different styles and ease of use.

We are pretty much down to diapers at night (although he wakes up dry most mornings… he still sleeps in a diaper at night since we co-sleep) and diapers when we’re going to be out for a while.  J is TERRIFIED of the “big” potty so he won’t go pee when we’re out and about.  Fortunately several of the local malls and Ikea have kid size toilets  in the Family Restrooms(not that we’re going to be doing much shopping in 2013 but it’s fun to go play at the play places). Every time I wash a load a diapers I wonder if it’s going to be my last.  This is a strange and wonderful phase.  My bitty boy has super sensitive skin and pretty much had a constant diaper rash in spite of our best efforts to try different styles, detergents, brands, etc.   I’m thankful to not be changing diapers anymore and he loves his Hanna Andersson organic cotton training unders!

Lots of people have asked about our process so I thought I’d share.  We stuck fairly Montessori to this process although the “sensitive period” for Potty Learning according to Montessori is 12-18 months.  We didn’t really start trying until he was around 23 months.  I tried at around 16 months and he was not at all interested so we held off.  A lot of Montessorians practice Elimination Communication- I gave this a couple tries but could never read his signals and just ended up with pee all over the floor…

This post from At Home with Montessori is a GREAT post about Potty Learning if you want even more detailed info from a Montessori perspective.  I’m going to outline what we did and what helped the most for us:

  • Phrasing– I use the term “Potty Learning” over “Potty Training”…. you potty train a dog… toddlers are people and I really don’t like talking to them like dogs.  Changing this one simple word helps the mindset of the parent a ton… it helps remind you that your child is LEARNING how to control these new muscles, LEARNING to understand these new sensations and LEARNING a life without diapers!
  • Cloth diaper– With most cloth diapers (except pocket diapers and anything “stay dry”) the child will feel it every time they pee.  This will help them learn much faster- disposable diapers babies usually are toilet ready around a year after cloth diapered babies.  We used pocket diapers until he was around a year old and switched totally over to diapers that he could feel it.
  • Don’t force it- we let our children crawl, walk and talk when they are ready… let your child guide you for when they are ready.  Children who potty learn too early will often suffer from bladder infections.
  • Teach from an early age- Let your child watch you go potty, tell them what you’re doing from a VERY young age.  Let your child run around naked and when they go potty tell them what has happened- they’ll figure it out much faster that way
  • Expose them to a potty- have a little potty chair out and available as soon as they are able to sit up.  Put them on it whenever you want.  But if they fuss of get mad- don’t force it.
  • Be WITH your child- Don’t just sit them on the pot and walk away… sit and read them a book, tell them you are proud of them and give them lots of love
  • NEVER punish or shame them for an accident– You WILL have accidents… lots of them.  Do NOT punish your child, tell them they are bad, make them feel embarrassed or call them names.  Every new skill needs practice and this is a HUGE skill which requires muscles your child has to develop.  Accept that you’ll have accidents and show your child how to clean them up.  My son cleans up all of his accidents by himself now.  He’s also getting better about putting his wet undies into the hamper after an accident.  Children who are punished and shamed will often end up holding it for way too long and can end up with horrible bladder infections, anxiety and bowel problems. 
  • Watch your language choice- The MOST effective thing you can say is “poop and pee goes in the potty.” If they have an accident- say that.  If they want to wear a diaper again- say that. When they are first learning- say that.  Avoid “it’s ok” if they pee all over your couch… it’s not ok to pee on the couch… “poop and pee goes in the potty.”  And as I’ve said in previous posts- avoid “good girl/ good boy”- tell them you are proud of them, give hugs and high fives for successes.  
  • Don’t use rewards and punishments- I have never understood rewards charts for potty learning… this is just a natural developmental milestone like so many they’ve hit before.  Did you use a rewards chart to get your child to crawl or walk?  No!! Be consistent, honest and try these other tips and potty learning won’t be a battle.  Montessori parents don’t use reward systems but rather use natural consequences and follow the lead of the child.  (Read the link I posted above for better info)
  • Avoid “big girl/big boy”– I cringe every time I hear a parent buy “big boy” or “big girl” undies and every time someone call a child a “big boy” or “big girl” for going pee on the potty.  Toddlers are stuck in this confusing phase of wanting to be independent and growing up and yet still very much being babies who need Mommy and Daddy.  Most experts believe that children don’t fully differentiate between themselves and their mother until around two years old.  A lot of toddlers don’t WANT to be “big” yet, they want to be the baby.   Being a “big” kid is scary- it means not being around your parents as much and more responsibility… don’t force it on your child.  My son will come up to me and ask to be a tiny baby.  He wants to be held like a newborn, cuddled and treated like an itty bitty baby for a while.  I consistently see him having more accidents and wanting diapers back after lots of people have called him a “big” boy.
  • Listen to your instincts as a parents– American parents doubt themselves too much and doubt what their natural instincts are telling them.  You know your child better than anyone, what they understand and how capable they are.  TRUST THAT!!!!!! 

I look forward to joining you in the ranks of the diaper-less baby!

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