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"Why Bother" With Early Potty Training?

I was at a party several weeks ago and, as it invariably does among a group of moms, potty training talk ensued.  I generally avoid such conversations because my opinions don’t align with the majority of Americans; discussions of “potty training in a day” and “M&M rewards” are absurd to me.

When someone attempted to draw my into the conversation, I commented that I advocate early potty training.

“I started both my children before they turned a year-old,” I said.  I was met by confused and shocked looks all around.

“But….how long did it take you?” asked one mom finally.  I explained that I started the kids in cotton training pants around 15 months old and my first daughter was trained by 18 months (the second child is taking longer, but still doing very well).  The mom seemed puzzled and somewhat skeptical.

“But….doesn’t it BOTHER you that the potty training process took you months and months whereas if you’d waited until they were older it could have been done in a day?” she asked.

First of all, I thought that was a pretty ballsy question–akin to questioning another parent’s disciplinary techniques, for example.  Second, it strikes at the heart of why Americans have the oldest average potty training age in the world.  We’re brainwashed.  We’re fed the readiness myth until we can’t conceive of any other approach to training and suddenly the process consists of sticker charts, Cheerios, and potty dolls.  That, and we’re LAZY.  We want everything to be faster, easier, and less hands-on.

Potty training as a process (rather than an event) doesn’t bother me.  What bothers me is seeing 2- and 3-yr old children defecate in the pants (or diaper, or Pull-Up) and then sit in it until Mom or Dad feels like dealing with it.  What bothers me is that parents put greater emphasis on learning to use a fork and spoon to avoid mealtime mess than they do in teaching kids where to relieve themselves to avoid a mess on their person.  What bothers me is that hundreds of thousands of disposable diapers are ending up in landfills because Little Timmy or Suzy wasn’t “ready” (i.e. Mom or Dad wasn’t ready). Most children gain voluntary control of their bowels in the first year of life, and all children are born with a desire not to soil their living area.  We teach them that it’s okay, then we reinforce it by letting them do it for years. 

So I guess the answer is, no, it doesn’t bother me.  I love the independence, responsibility, and body awareness that potty training brings.  I love that my children have learned it as a natural process, free from bribes and begs, and have had lots of attention and books read to them during the process.

If you are interested in early potty training, all you need to do is gather these supplies and follow these steps.

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