I recently read an article on Scary Mommy about how if children are empowered to engage with chores from birth, Mayan-style, households are much more equal and harmonious places. It made me hope that parents will apply this same logic to Potty Learning from birth.
When my youngest child was a toddler, my business partner and I were chatting in my kitchen and the conversation paused as she watched them “helping” to load the dishwasher.
“How do you have the patience to watch them doing it wrong? Doesn’t it frustrate you that it takes so much longer when they are helping?”
The answer is both yes of course and no, of course not. Children don’t wake up one morning suddenly being capable of contributing to the household – they learn by watching you model the behaviour so they understand that it’s a part of everyday life and then they practise the skill until they get it right. Your job as parent is to trust that they will learn it at some point and support them as they do.
Children are as capable as we allow them to be
Everybody who lives in a household should contribute – it takes a bit of work to create this culture in your household but it is worth it when they are older and have developed an internal framework of what needs to be done that they can connect to. Another obvious benefit of this is when they are even older, any future partners/co-residents will not have to take on an unequal percentage of the emotional labour of sharing a household with someone who has never been taught this kind of independence!
Some parents may object to children doing chores from an early age – perhaps because they find it unpleasant or stressful – but the Montessori method of “finding their work” is incredibly effective and aligns perfectly with directing that toddler energy towards becoming absorbed in a task and feeling so rewarded by mastering it.
Children thrive with a gentle learning curve
So how, you may ask, does this relate to Potty Learning, Rebecca?
We know that just like learning household chores, children should be given the opportunity to learn potty skills in line with their natural development arc – which is from birth.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Mayan method of learning chores is the same as their approach to potty learning was – to begin from infancy! If you’ve ever read The Continuum Concept, you’ll be familiar with infant pottying in indigenous and ancient Mesoamerican cultures.
Let’s compare this to the mainstream model of potty training.
Teaching children to completely ignore what their body is doing because a nappy feels immediately dry. Teaching them that they are not responsible for their own hygiene – someone else takes care of wiping them a few times a day. Teaching them that the place to void their bladder and bowels is in a nappy but then one day taking it away and expecting them to use a potty/toilet instead. What we are doing here is teaching them one thing and expecting them to adjust to an entirely different way of life, suddenly becoming responsible for noticing what their body is doing, responsible for their own hygiene, becoming responsible for communicating their needs to their caregiver, removing the barrier of clothes and underwear, learning to sit on/climb up to the spot where they should now pee and poop, learn to wipe themselves, wash and dry their hands, flush away. There are over 40 skills to learn before becoming toilet independent. It’s a major childhood milestone!
But the way we used to approach this – the way we still could if we recognise the value in it… Imagine if they always knew what a potty was for, were always familiar with the sensation of needing to pee and poop and always knew that they are involved in getting that pee and poop in the potty/toilet, at first with a little help and then gradually becoming more independent.
The transition would be so much easier, right? Especially when you don’t have to factor in trying to get a stubborn toddler to do something they might not be terribly interested in doing!
Parents can learn a lot from the Mayan method, don’t you think?
How can I get started?
If you are interested in learning how to introduce the potty from birth, read my book The Baby Pottying Guide. If you would like to learn how to gently prepare your toddler for toilet independence, my free Potty Training course is for you! To tailor my method for your unique child, learn how to approach day and night time potty training, plus access troubleshooting content – my Advanced Potty Training course is for you.