That title was enough to grab your attention? Yes, it’s true. Having just completed potty-training my 3-year-old son only this Spring, you would think I must be crazy to take up the mop and (environmentally-friendly) disinfectant yet again for my baby Noah. I like to think of it as “Antique Potty-Training,” thanks to the Baby Signs Potty Training Kit, which takes a global, historical, environmental and developmental perspective on early training. The more I learn about the program, the more I feel like I would be doing my son a disservice to wait until he’s older.
The kit, which includes a highly-informative and engaging manual, a DVD to watch with your child, reward stickers, a short storybook about riding the “potty train”, and a train whistle to round out the train theme (unfortunately, the attractive wooden whistle in my kit did not work at all. I may have to hunt one down, because both the kids are quite excited about it.) The concept purports that the one-year mark is the ideal time to begin potty-training. I’ll admit that while we were potty-training big-brother Joseph, baby Noah greatly enjoyed observing the process and wanted very much to be part of potty-world. We smiled wistfully (if only!) and held him aside, allowing Joseph his time to shine. However, according to Baby Signs:
- up until the 1960s, 95% of all children were potty-trained by age 18 months. It was a matter of sanity and practicality, I’m sure, for many moms. Consider that until the 1960s, there were no disposable diapers, and before the 1950s, moms didn’t have washing machines. So, you’ve got 5-15 dirty cloth diapers every single day to hand-wash? And what about, only a few decades before that, homes without running water and proper sewage? Those conditions would certainly make early training a no-brainer.
- Baby Signs lists 50 countries worldwide where babies are trained to do their ones and two’s “when prompted” beginning as early as 2-3 weeks of age, who remain mostly dry night and day by 4-6 months. Their mothers help them to relieve themselves in the appropriate place, taking nonverbal cues from baby—just like we Western mothers very quickly learn which sound or gesture means tired, and which means hungry, etc., we can also attune ourselves to baby’s evacuation habits.
- Today, with children in diapers until 37 months on average, the impact of disposables on landfills is enormous–approximately 2000 diapers per child, per year!
- Significantly, the emotional stress of training is greater as the child gets older. In our experience, potty-training during the “terrible two’s” made the issue an ongoing source of control for my son. His relationship with the potty fell alongside the arrival of his brother, beginning nursery school, and the onset of discovering himself as an individual apart from us. Baby Signs points out that a one-year-old, meanwhile, is happy to do whatever brings a smile, isn’t as mobile and therefore less likely to run off the second he or she sets booty upon potty, and hasn’t discovered the Total Meltdown parents of two’s are so familiar with. It’s also important to note that an infant hasn’t yet learned shame or embarrassment, the two things we would never want to impart to our child, even if by accident. (Sorry for the pun!)
OK, so I’ve already put the manual down and swung into action. Day 1: We began teaching Noah the recommended American sign language to establish communication about the potty. He loves itsy-bitsy spider and such, so he is game. We watched the DVD and I sat him on Joseph’s old potty and he was thrilled. I mean, he thought this was the best thing in the world. When Joseph arrived home from preschool and saw his old potty had returned to the bathroom, he was puzzled. I asked him if he would help me teach Noah to use the toilet and he agreed.
Day 2: Joseph loves the potty DVD and wants to see it again and again. Noah doesn’t care and would rather play with his toys or snuggle. When I was about to give Noah his first diaper change after breakfast, I set him on the potty and he went pee-pee!! He didn’t know what he was doing , but he did it!
The rest of the day, Joseph refused the toilet and did all his business in the potty. I tried to capitalize on it by making sure Noah was watching and making sure Joseph understood that he was “helping.” We went out to get a smaller potty, because Noah is only a baby, and then the trouble started. Joseph did not like that Noah was getting something and he was not. He wouldn’t let Noah near it and was screaming to be able to do his business in it. Maybe I shouldn’t make such a big deal, but I think Noah should be the first to, well, christen it. However, every time I tried to let Noah sit on it, Joseph would start howling to use it, and start pushing and shoving. I finally had to give him a timeout, only to have him come out and do it again. So, Noah was stressed out, and Joseph is having a negative experience with –what? Not training, because he’s already trained. With not having enough attention? I’m not sure what to do about this.
Tomorrow is another day. I think that if Noah can learn the sign language for potty, we will go straight to putting him on the toilet and take the new little potty back. I think he was more interested in using Joseph’s old potty anyway, because of what it represents to him–his adored older brother.
I’m very hopeful about this method and promise to be consistent, cheerful and supportive. For some reason, I also need to remind myself that now is the perfect time; I wonder why that is? I guess because with older children, we can tell them to walk over and sit down, we can negotiate. Training Noah is also going to involve a lot more messes because, at his age, he is much more wobbly and he doesn’t realize yet about what’s going on down below. So basically, I guess my parental urge to wait comes from wanting to put more of the potty-training responsibility in the child’s hands. Well, I can redirect that thought right now. This is a great opportunity for my son and I to work together as a team, just like we did when we began nursing. We paid attention to one another’s signals, we occasionally made mistakes, and even when it was 4am and I was exhausted and it was our hundredth feeding that night, it was worth it and we were connected and love was our goal.
Keep track of our success! Read Early Potty Training = Green Baby.