Our first attempt at potty training came to a shuddering halt after a week and a half. I had been convinced Little Miss was ready, and even when it was all going horribly wrong I persevered, sure that it would just click. Until I realised that wasn’t going to happen. Slightly traumatised I retreated, swearing I wasn’t going to do potty training again. Ever.
After a couple of months I started to allow myself to think about it again, but I knew this time it had to be different. It hadn’t really felt right at any point, the first time round. I didn’t like having to deposit Little Miss on the potty constantly throughout the day, and I definitely didn’t like that she would hold her bladder because she knew that if she didn’t she would get wet and there was no way she was doing it on the potty, thank you very much. The whole notion of ‘potty training’ just didn’t sit well with me and the way I want to parent my children, and it didn’t really fit in with what I know about how children learn. Children learn best when they can discover for themselves, at a time and in a way which is right for them. Our role is to facilitate that: give them the means and the opportunity and the rest will follow.
We’re moving more towards the notion of ‘toilet learning’, really. It’s how toilet training is approached in the Montessori community and I have to say, I like it. There is some more information on the Daily Montessori website, and there are some brilliant tips in this post from How we Montessori (which is a lovely blog with some great inspiration for how to incorporate Montessori principles in the home). The idea is that children learn how to use the toilet in a gradual way, at their own pace, rather than an intensive training course ‘administered’ by adults. They actually need to have ‘accidents’, so they can start to understand how it feels just before a wee appears and learn to get to the potty first.
The Montessori recommendation is to start quite young – to start sitting a child on the potty as soon as they can sit up. Well, I’ve missed that window and I’m not convinced it is something I would have managed with baby twins! But we have had potties around for a while – they happily sit on them and they know what they’re for.
There is also encouragement to use cloth nappies as children can feel when they are wet. This makes a lot of sense to me, but I stopped using cloth nappies at 16 months. Yes, cloth nappies, with twins, until 16 months. I now wish I hadn’t stopped – disposables have cost us a fortune since then – but at the 16 month point I could no longer handle two little ones following me into the loo when I went to remove the solids from the nappy liners, and trying to ‘help’ me. And if I shut the door they would scream until I came back out. Last week I tried to put one on Little Miss, but she didn’t like it. She said it was too big, which I suppose is understandable after a year in disposables – cloth ones are quite a bit bulkier.
Another suggestion is to start putting little ones in training pants around the house from around 18 months (or sometimes earlier!), also so they get used to the feeling of being wet. Then they go to their little toilet area (of which there is a lovely example photo in the How we Montessori post) to have a sit on the potty and change into a dry pair of pants. I like this idea too, and we’re going to start doing this soon. At least with training pants you don’t end up with puddles all over the carpets. They are absorbent but not so much you can’t feel that you are wet. It then becomes it’s own motivation to get to the potty before it’s too late!
So this is the plan. We’re going to start using training pants, rather than nappies, while we’re at home, and also have some specific times of the day to sit on potties. No expectation to do anything, just establishing a bit of a routine and getting into the habit of sitting on the potty. This time, I’m following their lead. And I’m doing them both at the same time!