To potty or not to potty?


Training: Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. Training has specific goals of improving one’s capability, capacity, and performance.

Hello! Who out there is thinking about potty training their little one? Are you dreading it? Or are you looking forward to finally being free from those endless nappy changes?

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For me, hearing the term ‘potty training’ makes me want to shout out loud to EVERY parent thinking of doing it and say….STOP…it should be called ‘potty when they’re ready!’ They can’t be trained!! And indeed why should they?

I have three children, a daughter and two sons, two of which are fully ‘trained.’ (Third is only 10 months, think that’s a bit early!) When my daughter was just two, several of our friends in the local play group were already talking about training their little ones to go to the toilet. Whenever we were out and about together I swear they spent more time in the toilets than actually with anyone else. Every time the words ‘Mummy I need wee’ were uttered off they’d dash, scared of an accident and fearful of the child feeling like they’d failed, that they’d done something wrong by having an accident. The mums all had massive bags too, filled with sweets and chocolate as a reward for success, and about fifty million changes of clothes for those inevitable accidents. They bought books, Gina Ford’s guide to potty training was one, and read them whilst we were out to check they were training their little ones correctly. And I guess there was a kind of peer pressure. If they were all doing it, training their tiny people, then should I be? Did I need to go out and buy a giant sized suitcase so I could carry my daughters entire wardrobe around with me in case she had an accident? Did I need a portable potty so that she could feel free to go whenever and wherever she liked? It all seemed like an awful lot of hassle. Whilst they were all running to and from the bathroom and changing their children, wiping away the tears, I was playing with my daughter. Enjoying time with her, be it at the park or a friends house or indeed wherever we were. She wasn’t showing any interest in using a potty, and she was only just two. I kept thinking to myself, how many grown ups aren’t potty trained? How many children go to school still in nappies? (In my 13 years teaching experience I’ve only ever known of one) And I made the decision then to trust my instincts, I knew she wasn’t ready and I’d be damned if I was going to force her to do something that could potentially cause her more upset than good.

So, we waited. And waited. And 6 months later I spied her in the bathroom, sat on one of our potties (yes I had bought some just in case she was ready!) and her favourite teddy bear was sat on another. And they were having a lovely little chat together. She didn’t actually do a wee that time, but not long afterwards she did. And barely ever had an accident. I hadn’t need to train her, I’d waited until she was ready and she had done it all by herself. She knew when she needed to go. And go she did. There were no giant bags of spare clothes, no dashing off and spending hours in public toilets. It was easy. There was no stress involved at all!

Nighttime dryness was the same. As soon as her nappies had been dry for a week or so I took them off. And left a potty in the room if she needed it. Which she did occasionally. But we never had a nighttime accident. Because when those nappies had finally been removed, her body and her brain were ready for it. They’d made the connection. They knew when it was time to go, and could wait when it wasn’t.

It was a similar story with my 3 year old son. Yet for him to be ready we had to wait until he was three and a half. He would happily sit on the potty, and enjoyed watching his Gruffalo do ‘wees’ on the potty (Which was actually me sneakily pouring water in whilst he wasn’t looking!) But his body wasn’t ready for him to do it himself for a long time later. And whilst everyone else at pre-school ditched the nappies, my little boy remained in his. It didn’t bother him. It didn’t bother me. I knew he’d get there in the end. When he was ready. And he did. At night time too. And we’ve had just one accident.

So I guess what I am trying to say with all of these lovely potty anecdotes, is that in my opinion children shouldn’t be trained. Their bodies are complex little things and only when the connections are made in their brains are they ready to use the toilet. It happens at different times for each different child. It’s such an easier and happier experience for everyone involved if you have the courage to wait until they are ready. To not feel the pressure of everyone else waffling on about how their child was trained at 6 months. (Bet these were the children that slept through the night from 6 weeks as well!) Take your time, they all get there in the end.

Behaviour


Behaviour: Behavior or behaviour is the range of actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary.

‘It wouldn’t do for us all to be the same!’ my Dad used to say. It’s amazing the silly little things you remember from someone who is no longer around. And scary how much you forget. But this little phrase has stuck with me over the years. Whenever I have a differing of opinions with someone, or start to be Mrs Judgey Mcjudgerson, I think to myself how dull life would be if we were all the same. How boring relationships and friendships could be if we didn’t all bring a myriad of different things into them. There are certainly positive things that come out of us all being different, and then there are undoubtedly some negative things. And if there is one area where everyone is doing it differently, it’s parenting. How we sleep, how we feed, how we school, or discipline our children, we all do it differently. But do we respect that? Often no. Parents are often very quick to criticise others and judge them on situations they know nothing about. I was recently judged by someone regarding my daughter’s behaviour, someone who probably doesn’t to this day realise that they made me feel judged. It’s not nice. It made me cry and do something I hate, which is doubt myself. They didn’t know my background, or my daughter’s and judged me on a two minute conversation I’d had with her. Anyway, I digress. The point I wanted to discuss in this post about us all being different, is about the differing ways we discipline our children, and whether our methods help our children to understand their actions, or shame them into feeling bad?

Yesterday I was involved in a Twitter chat about discipline and for a while it was difficult to work out if we were singing from the same hymn sheet or not, but we were both very respectful of the other’s opinions, using them to back up our own. It got me thinking. Disciplining children is often a hot topic for debate, many thinking that it should be simply black and white, right or wrong, and then there are others who adopt a kindness approach where they try and understand the children’s feelings and use this to help them understand that what they have done maybe wrong. Discipline is often historically though of as something which is based upon rewards and consequences. Children are often either praised for what they have done right, or disciplined for something they have done wrong. But are they ever allowed to have their feelings justified? Are they ever allowed to explain why they did something? Talk about how they felt? And if they were, would this be a more effective way of teaching them about what is/is not acceptable behaviour? Bad behaviour often stems from fear, or anger, or confusion. It often stems from an emotion, or an inability to control an emotion. And more often than not it stems from curiosity, from wondering ‘what would happen if?’ Maybe instead of telling your child off for them flooding the bathroom from experimenting with water, you could dunk them in the bath with all the tools they need to explore this further. Instead of criticising them for breaking a toy on purpose, explain that this isn’t how we treat our belongings, and then give them something they can rip, tear, break so they continue to learn and discover. Obviously hurting other people doesn’t fall into this category, but if they are frustrated and need to kick or punch or bite, give them something they can do this to. And then talk about their feelings when they’ve calmed down. Justify those feelings, tell them you know they are feeling angry, but that they must never hurt others. Bottling up angry feelings doesn’t ever have a good outcome, and a tantrum is simply a child trying to communicate to us how they feel.

Children in my opinion have an innate need to please, and crave endless attention. If they are often referred to as naughty and through being ‘naughty’ is how they get all of their attention, is it any wonder that they spiral into a succession of wrong doings or become fearful of experimenting, of using their imagination and nurturing their natural curiosity? Wouldn’t it be easier to say that what they are DOING is ‘naughty,’ not that THEY are naughty? (Personally I don’t even like to use the word naughty!) Sadly I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation that we’ve misjudged, and have fallen into the trap of making empty threats (I did this once, never again!) that are never going to be carried out. I think we need to be consistent, children need to know what is and isn’t acceptable, but they also need to understand why these things are or aren’t acceptable, and then they need to be taught to recognise, understand and manage their feelings.

And finally…NEVER forget the power of LEADING BY EXAMPLE, the more you show your children how to treat others, how to behave in certain situations and how to look after their belongings…then the more they will DO THE SAME!

So, what are your thoughts on discipline and behaviour?