Is there an Unschooling approach to potty training? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 06-03-2012, 03:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Can you unschool potty training or is it something that needs to be really taught?


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#2 of 13 Old 06-03-2012, 06:18 PM
 
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I think you can definitely "unschool" toilet learning. I suppose that's pretty much what I did with my three older kids, though I never thought of it as such. I just waited for their interest and ability -- and they led the process. Perfectionists that they were they didn't really want to try underwear until they were sure that they could control their elimination pretty well, keeping their diapers dry. Naturally there were a few times after they ditched the dipes when their attention wandered and there were accidents. But this was really very minimal. 

 

I waited a long time for my eldest to reach the point of readiness. She was almost three and half (and already a beginning reader!) and was in diapers full-time until it suddenly clicked for her. But I didn't push the issue at all. Sometimes (maybe once a month?) I'd ask if she'd like to try using the toilet, but that was all. We got a toilet seat with a smaller ring for kids. Never bothered with a potty. My next two kids were young 2's I think ... presumably because they had the model of a slightly older sibling who was capably using the toilet. Though my ds was a bedwetter until age 6: that was just how he was wired. Again, though, we didn't try to "train" him out of it, not until he asked for help dealing with it, at which point an alarm system was instantly effective. 

 

Overall our child-led approach was very efficient and pretty much totally free of angst on the part of children and parents.

 

My youngest was EC'd which I think you could consider a very different approach but in some ways even truer to the unschooling philosophy (though it depends how you look at it). But that needs to be started in babyhood, so I'll assume that's not something you're considering.

 

So anyway, yeah. Be patient. Await readiness. Allow your child to lead the process. Drop any specific expectations about how and when the task will be mastered. Trust your child to learn. Provide a supportive environment free of uninvited teaching. Do not judge or manipulate. Enjoy the ride, however long it takes to get to the destination.
 

 

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#3 of 13 Old 06-04-2012, 09:22 AM
 
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The unschooling approach to hygiene is .... diaper-free!  You could call it undiapering if you want.  The chic term though, is ec - short for Elimination Communication.

 

For me, this was really connected to unschooling / natural learning. 

 

It involves listening to your infant and developing communication skills for meeting this basic need, right along side communicating about sleep and hunger.

 

Even if you haven't gone diaper-free so far, some people say that one can still ditch the diapers at any point as long as you are patient / nonchalant with accidents. I.e. the babies can still learn this way at a later age.  However if it is later than say age 2, then going suddenly diaper-free might be more difficult, if they have "learned" or been "trained" all along that this is wrong and that only going in the diaper is "right."  But if the baby/child is also patient / nonchalant with mishaps, then it could be stress-free and in fact a major relief to go diaper-free.  The root of it all is communication (as we ec'ers are always reminding one another!) 

 

Either way, at any age, whether doing ec or potty training, what Miranda wrote applies to learning hygiene (and learning in general).

 

Quote from Miranda:
Be patient. Await readiness. Allow your child to lead the process. Drop any specific expectations about how and when the task will be mastered. Trust your child to learn. Provide a supportive environment free of uninvited teaching. Do not judge or manipulate. Enjoy the ride, however long it takes to get to the destination.

no longer  or  or ... dd is going on 12 (!) how was I to know there was a homeschool going on?
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#4 of 13 Old 06-04-2012, 10:33 AM
 
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Originally Posted by rumi View Post

Even if you haven't gone diaper-free so far, some people say that one can still ditch the diapers at any point as long as you are patient / nonchalant with accidents. I.e. the babies can still learn this way at a later age.  However if it is later than say age 2, then going suddenly diaper-free might be more difficult, if they have "learned" or been "trained" all along that this is wrong and that only going in the diaper is "right."  But if the baby/child is also patient / nonchalant with mishaps, then it could be stress-free and in fact a major relief to go diaper-free.  The root of it all is communication (as we ec'ers are always reminding one another!) 

 

 Yes, you have to be ready for this.

 

In my home, we potty trained in high summer, perfect for little bare bottoms, and there was a brief moment of desperation when the time came once, but it easily passed for us, but I know this is not the case with every child--even when accidents are treated as normal and non-alarming.  Some just flip out if that diaper is not there.  And they can flip out about this and about having accidents, even if the parents don't make it a big deal.  You can do everything right, and still have a kid who is desperate for a diaper to poo in at 4yo.

 

For kids who aren't going to flip out about diapers, I highly recommend summertime and a lot of bare bottom time and making the potty available--ours started out in the play room* and didn't migrate into the bathroom for a couple of years (it's still there and being used by my 5.5yo-- it makes her feel secure that she can "make it" in time.)

 

I feel that potty training at night with dd2 helped ease her into using the potty more easily than dd1.  If you can.  I didn't do this with dd1 because dd2 was an infant and I was exhausted.  Maybe the differences were more personality in my case, but I know this helped my friend and her 4yo son "finish" daytime potty training.

 

Finally, as they got older, I stopped asking them if they had to go potty, even when they would do the "potty dance".  I trusted (uuummmmmmm....... acted like I trusted them?) and that helped them gain some confidence, I think.  At least it was one less instance for nagging.  Trusting in your children's abilities is a cornerstone of unschooling.

 

I won't pretend we did the perfect, child-led, unschooling-worthy version of potty training.  Summer came, and I kept those bottoms bare, the potty close by, and those diapers unavailable during those times. Once in the beginning, happy and naked dd1 asked to have on her diaper so she could go potty, and I said "no" (she had used the potty many times before) and I braced myself for protests that didn't happen.  I was desperate, and had 2 kids in cloth diapers at the time.  But, it worked out for us in the end.

 

*Kids don't like to interrupt their playtime to go use the potty.  Put it as close as you can to their games in the beginning.  Eventually it will be second nature to want to put their potties there.  Eventually!  It was a happy day when dd2 agreed to put the potty in the bathroom, and it will be a great day when she gives up the potty entirely.

 

I think I repeated myself a few times here, sorry!


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#5 of 13 Old 06-04-2012, 01:43 PM
 
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Yes, I definitely agree with using an unschooling approach to potty learning. EC sounds great, but I didn't learn abouit 'til my youngest was 15 months; I tried it but she didn't really like it at that point. So we continued with diapers.

 

I agree with Miranda that something does eventually just "click." This happened with both my girls. In each case, the child just decided that she was ready to use the potty and wanted to wear panties. With one child, this happened at two years of age and with the other, at four and a half years of age.


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#6 of 13 Old 06-05-2012, 05:10 AM
 
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I think that if there is an overarching lesson from unschooling it is that we as parents need to get out of the way. We cannot control learning. We cannot force another person to learn anything. We can facilitate. We should help in whatever ways we can. We can be our child's partner, supporting not just the way that they wish to go about learning/acquiring new skills -- but when they wish to do so.

 

Ironically in order to be a good partner to our child we have to forget the issue of 'when' and just be with them, patiently observing and helping when needed. 

 

Whenever I have a question about whether my *help* is helpful or intrusive I remember the process of learning to walk. I was there to make sure (as much as I could) that they had safe, soft places to land during the process. I couldn't help by stressing out over when or how or where they did their thing. I could only really, functionally, be there as a support person.

 

They did not need me to learn how to walk -- they just needed me to get outta the way. whistling.gif

 

All three of my children did just that -- they decided when and how to transition from diapers to potty on their own. Despite any *help* or intrusion from me. They did that, naturally, at the respective ages of 3y, 4y & 17 months. 


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#7 of 13 Old 06-05-2012, 08:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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In my home, we potty trained in high summer, perfect for little bare bottoms, 

 

And they can flip out about this and about having accidents, even if the parents don't make it a big deal.  You can do everything right, and still have a kid who is desperate for a diaper to poo in at 4yo.

 

For kids who aren't going to flip out about diapers, I highly recommend summertime and a lot of bare bottom time and making the potty available--ours started out in the play room* and didn't migrate into the bathroom for a couple of years (it's still there and being used by my 5.5yo-- it makes her feel secure that she can "make it" in time.)

 

Thanks silver, this is what I was wondering. I was kind of waiting until she was a proficient walker and then wanting to get a potty seat outside. I wasn't expecting her to walk proficiently until August because we have a lot of late walkers in our family but now at 16 months she is running around well. A few times after her bath at night I have let her runa round naked and when she has started to pee without a diaper she starts saying, "Uh oh! Oh no!" but not in a freak out way, just in that she has noticed that she was peeing and could feel it.

 

That's a good idea to have a potty in close distance for the babes. A friend of mine says she put one in almost every room when she was potty training.


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#8 of 13 Old 06-05-2012, 08:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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They did not need me to learn how to walk -- they just needed me to get outta the way. whistling.gif

 

OMG this is so true! We have late walkers in my family but since my DD is the only grandchild/niece everyone was ALWAYS asking if she was walking more, when is she going to walk blah blah blah, and joking that she will still be scooting on her butt until she is 6. Really not helpful things but luckily I had the confidence (even being a first time mom) to know that she will walk when she is comfortable walking. Her personality is just like mine when I was a kid (and even now a little still) in that she won't do anything until she knows that she has close to 0% chance a messing up. And I could see her testing herself in different ways as she was getting to be a better walker.

 

Thanks for all the responses. Sorry it took me so long to get back to this thread, for some reason it didn't show up in my profile.


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#9 of 13 Old 06-05-2012, 06:26 PM
 
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my LO decided she didn't want to wear diapers anymore, at 2, so then I had her not wear them anymore. I guess that could be considered her self teaching.


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#10 of 13 Old 06-05-2012, 08:45 PM
 
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It occurred to me that transitioning from diaper to no diaper is something like transitioning from school to no school.  If you did not have much diaper-free time from the beginning, then you will need something like the "deschooling" process that people talk about.  It should not be pushed, but allowed to happen in its own time and way.
 


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#11 of 13 Old 06-06-2012, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This morning was her first diaper free time. Other than her diaper being wet when she woke up this morning she has been dry all day. She just went down for a nap and she usually wakes up dry from her naps so hopefully I can get her on the potty within 15 minutes after she wakes up so she can try to pee again.


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#12 of 13 Old 06-14-2012, 08:30 AM
 
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I waited til my DD was 2 because I assumed that's what I was supposed to do. It took a week, and she was really easy about it. We used Elmo Potty time and rewards.

With DS, I had heard about Elimination Communication and he had experience with the Baby Bjorn Little Potty since early infancy...have a pic of him sitting on it smiling at 5 months. We sort of cloth diapered, sort of EC'd, on and off. At 19 months, he was done with diapers completely.

 

My current one also had mixed EC and diaper experience, and at 17 months, decided he wanted to use the potty, specifically the big toilet, while we were on vacation, at the hotel! AND he did not want diapers put back on him either...so I shrugged my shoulders, and took up the cause. With 2 older ones, I am not as punctual at taking him to the potty as I was with the first 2, so we have more accidents, but so far, we are diaper-free, just sometimes if I don't offer in time, he'll go on the floor. He never poops in his shorts, but he will wet if I don't get to it in time. Oddly enough, when he started this, at the hotel, he actually was wearing diapers, but would go to the potty and gesture and wanted me to get the diapers off him so he could be lifted onto the seat. At home, there are more distractions I guess.

 

But I suppose this a case that qualifies as unschooling potty training, since I am responding to him, not pressing it upon him, except that now that we have committed, I try to remember to take him every 1 to 2 hours, for a potty opportunity, since he doesn't always come to me in time. He gets distracted playing, and that keeps being an issue for at least a couple more years, so there's no benefit there, in waiting.

I was a tad groaning inwardly, because I could have been fine with letting him rock along a while longer in diapers, but I also knew that the eagerness to do it like big people, seems to happen at roughly 1 1/2 for otherwise diapered babies (at least in my smallish experience) and I've heard from plenty of people that if you let that window pass and don't take it, then they get resistant. I basically traded one hassle for another, but quite frankly, even picking up a turd from the floor, is easier than washing a squished one off the child's backside plus out of a diaper...even disposables make a big cleanup mess with the squished poo. 


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#13 of 13 Old 06-14-2012, 11:17 AM
 
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Here is what worked for me with my son. Keep in mind that he was very academic and communicative, and he was often motivated by the knowledge of how something worked.

 

I told him that as he grew older, his body would be able to control his bladder and bowel functions. I did this when showing him a book that illustrated human anatomy, pointing out the muscles that people can control for these processes. He found that fascinating. I told him that babies can't control those muscles but that gradually as he grew he would be able to. I also told him that if he wanted to let me know when he noticed that, I would get him a potty just his size. I saw one at a garage sale and asked if he thought I should get it. He did. So, I got it and sterilized it, placing it in the bathroom without comment. He would sometimes just go sit on it for fun, and he would take a book to look at too. I did not comment unless it was in response to something he said.

 

Eventually, he was able to sit on that potty and make himself go, though he wasn't able to necessarily prevent himself from going in his diaper. He would want me to come look at the "snakes" he made in the potty. I praised him lightly and went on about my business.

 

At one point, he commented that he didn't quite make it to the potty because it took him too long to get his diaper off. I asked him if he would like some Pullups to make it easier. He would, and I gave him some. He enjoyed helping to pick them out at the store. He continued to ask me to look at the great potty results. He commented that he was big enough to use the regular toilet because he was tall, so I put a cover on the seat that made the hole smaller. He quickly pointed out that he could just hold onto the sides and do his business with no problem, so we took the cover off.

 

Gradually, he stopped having bowel movements in his Pullups, even when he was focused on play. I left him in Pullups though because he did wet them sometimes during the day. When it had been a week since he had wet the Pullups during the day, I asked him if he thought he was ready for regular underwear. He said he was. It was fun picking out Winnie the Pook undies. He still wore Pullups at night and did for some time. I waited until he told me in no uncertain terms that he did not need to wear them at night. Then, I layered the bed with a mattress pad, a rubber sheet, a regular sheet, a rubber sheet, and a regular sheet and put easier to wash lighter blankets and heavier pajamas on him to make it easier to change the bed and his pj's if he wet the bed at night. Gradually, he only wet the bed occasionally, and that went on for a long time until it was very rare and then didn't happen at all.

 

I never ever made a big deal about any of it but I did offer mild praise when he pretty much asked for it. He did have one surprise bowel movement when he was still two in Pullups but was in a Montessori kindergarten class to allow me to attend business meetings. The teacher was aghast and handed me the diaper as she said they were unable to dispose of them there. That was absurd as the toddler room was twenty feet away and they had a used diaper bin. I suppose it might have been a hint to make sure it never happened again, but I took it in my stride, tossed the diaper in their outside trash can on my way out and did nothing else. My son didn't have another bowel movement for the rest of that year.

 

In contrast, the boy down the street from us was in fulltime day care and was not allowed in the two year old room until he was completely potty trained. His well meaning mom pushed him and then had to spend tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills for treatment of his condition which essentially was psychological with medical consequences. He held his feces and refused to release them.

 

Very occasionally, my son wet his bed till he was about seven. I never made the slightest issue over it. He never had any psychological issues or medical issues over it. I pulled him out of that Montessi very part time program anyway a month early because they didn't supervise him well enough to keep him safe. He was two and with five and six year olds. They lost him in the woods and forgot he ever came that day. He also wasn't learning anything new there as he came into the program knowing most of what they taught in their kindergarten. So, once he got home, he started reading within a month or two with what I was doing with him.

 

Hope this helps.

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