Putting Learning in Its Place

By Megan

This particular Megan, not FriedOkra Megan, but a pretty awesome substitute, for sure, is mama to two gorgeous girls and is never one to shy away from bathroom conversations. She and her family are making their way back to their home state of Oklahoma after many happy years in Texas. When not in the throes of major life changes, you can find her blogging at SortaCrunchy.

Next month marks three years since I started using cloth diapers. When I first started, I didn’t know prefold from a pocket, nor a doubler from a soaker, and certainly not a Fuzzi Bunz from a Happy Heiney. The learning curve was intimidating and steep, and so I turned (as most modern mothers do) to various internet message boards for tutelage.

(Get it? Tutelage on diapering? Tootelage? Clearly, I have been spending way too much time with my husband.)

Within a couple of weeks, I sorta started to figure out the lingo. Amongst the discussions on which diapers were the most daddy-friendly and which detergent works best in a front loading washer and which cloth wipe material was the softest and most absorbent, I kept coming across a phrase I found bewildering: potty learning.

Potty what-ing?

Hanging out in natural parenting circles allowed me to understand a little more about the concept of potty learning, and the idea started to grow on me. Essentially, potty learning allows for the fact that each child becomes potty ready at a time that is unique entirely to him, and that time is based on his own physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Where potty training is more parent-directed with the parent deciding when the child will learn to use the potty and employing techniques to train the child in how to accomplish this milestone, potty learning is more child-directed in that the child isn’t trained at all, but rather learns about the pottying process and is provided with the tools and encouragement to make a natural transition from diaper-covered bum to big kid underwear.

When it all comes down to it, potty learning sounded so much easier to me, and I am always and forever all about the easy, so this was the path I planned to take. I have to be honest, though, and tell you that by the time our daughter reached two and a half and showed zero, nada, zilch signs of interest in the potty, I started to get a little antsy in my own pantsies. Um, had I missed the boat? Fewer and fewer of her friends were sporting diaper roll-out above the waistlines. What were their parents teaching them that I wasn’t communicating to my determined-to-be-in-diapers toddler?

But by this time, I was nearing the end of my second pregnancy and it was summer and I was hot and tired all the time, so I figured we’d just keep coasting. I had the luxury of freedom from any deadlines being imposed on our potty learning experiment. There was no preschool or Mother’s Day Out or Sunday School class or pushy grandmother or nosy neighbor mandating a day when she had to be out of diapers, so we figured we’d just continue to follow her lead (she’s not the sort of child that can be talked into much of anything anyway), and if we had forever damaged her psyche in the process then we’d just shell out for her therapy sessions on down the road.

(Sidenote: It was about this time that I read Tina’s Antique Mommy post on Whatever Dude potty training. Oh, it was so inspiring! Whateverr Dude became my mantra.)

Fast forward to two months before her third birthday, and one night she decided to sit on the potty while I bathed her baby sister and voila! A tinkle! And you know what? That was it! In one weekend, she went from Diaper Diva to Diaper Dissenter. Oh sure, it took us a little longer to get that number two business down, but I can honestly say that the potty learning approach was a beautiful, effortless, tear-free, stress-free path to diaper liberation for us.

More than a simple change in my lexicon, I so appreciate what the shift from training to learning did inside me. I got a little worked up and stressed out at times, but I found peace in the knowledge that I was staying true to what was right and appropriate for us, not someone else’s timeline. And I actually learned quite a bit myself – most importantly that just as surely as I can trust that Mommy Instinct to give me a gentle nudge down the path I know is best for my family (no matter how non-traditional it might be), I can also trust my daughter to move ever forward towards independence, confident in the knowledge that her proud mama is cheering her on every step (and potty break) along the way.

6 Responses to Putting Learning in Its Place
  1. Stephanie
    September 1, 2008 | 8:16 am

    I agree completely – this type of thinking has been what works better for me, too. I know some parents find major success in the other methods, but for us, child-led things like this are what makes those transitions just better for everyone in my house!


  2. Kelly
    September 1, 2008 | 9:25 am

    This is the first time I’ve heard of potty learning. But it sounds similar to what we’ve done, although our process was less intentional. I just didn’t want to be fighting the fight of potty training for months at an early age. So I waited until the kids were at least 3 or 3.5 to even bring up the idea. It was much simpler to explain everything at that age. My daughter learned to use the potty in one week. It took my son a little longer, but once he figured out his body signals, he was also pretty easy.

    Different strokes for different folks, but I have no interest in trying to teach a two-year-old to use the potty.

  3. Pam
    September 1, 2008 | 9:50 am

    I find it intriguing that this line of thinking now has a name! We always just said, “they will go when they are good and ready!” and “haven’t seen one go to kindergarten in diapers yet”! Great post!

  4. Steph
    September 1, 2008 | 2:43 pm

    I am so grateful we have the internet to research and to share ideas like this – I learn so much from those of you a bit ahead of me on the parenting curve 😉 I haven’t given potty training (or learning) much thought yet, but this sounds so much more natural and less stressful!

    Thanks Megan! Hope all is going well with your move.

  5. Kate
    September 2, 2008 | 10:40 pm

    Oh my, am I glad a blogger tagged this article when she read my related potty woes today. Potty learning is going to become my new mantra

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