Toddlercalm – A Gentle Parenting Read

For ages I’ve been telling people that I’m reading this fantastic book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith called ToddlerCalm: A guide for calmer toddlers and happier parents. She sent me a copy as a thank you for providing a quote at the book’s start. Yet I hadn’t got around to finishing it because I have an unrealistic reading list at the moment. Instead, I read the introductory chapters and would dart in and out of other topics as I hit times of stress with my toddler.

ToddlerCalm quote

Talitha, at two years and eight months has leapt to a new stage in her development where she often automatically tells me “no” when I ask or tell her to do anything. She also often does exactly what I instruct her not to do. It’s frustrating because this new expression of will isn’t one I’ve yet developed the creativity or calm to cope with. So, just as she’s growing and changing, I need to as well.

With the new baby imminent (38 weeks tomorrow!) I devoured ToddlerCalm. It’s such a quick and accessible read. I feel like I’m sitting with Ockwell-Smith, chatting about all things child, one to five.

As I sip my coffee, I don’t feel she’s condescending to me. She doesn’t present herself as the expert. In fact, she affirms that I know my child better than anyone. I moan about selective eating and tantrums I don’t understand. She doesn’t whizz in with one-size-fits-all answers but helps me to think things through, equipping me to reach my own solutions.

She’s pulling from personal experience (her own and others’) which reassures me that I’m not the only one walking this path and making mistakes along the way. Yet she also pulls together an impressive amount of research, drawing from neurology, child psychology and other disciplines. In fact, many of the books she cites are ones that have long been on my parenting reading list.

ToddlerCalm isn’t a religion. I don’t feel I have to agree with everything. Most of it does speak true to me, though. I’ve never been comfortable with using praise, rewards or punishments as disciplinary strategies, even when I couldn’t explain why. This book gets inside why they don’t work for all children in the long term and what our alternatives could be. I’m not, however, too hot on the potty training views. I believe that babies are born ready, we just don’t listen to their cues to help them with their elimination needs.

ToddlerCalm

While ToddlerCalm very much focuses on understanding young children and learning how to parent them with unconditional love, this isn’t to be confused with parenting permissively. This isn’t a framework in which children have no boundaries or discipline. It’s simply thinking about how we can guide them while respecting them, and with long-term effect. Sometimes, they will cry. That’s unavoidable. There is space for both compassion and limits here.

I’ve previously taken a short parenting course with ToddlerCalm, so was already familiar with some of the concepts the book held key. However, this was such a helpful and timely read for me. Even since finishing it last week, it’s helped me to be more patient with both Talitha and myself. Already I’m finding that I’m enjoying our time together more. I’m also beginning to address habits I’ve not felt good about for quite some time. I feel freer to follow my instincts on a lot of things. All in all, I’d lend this book to anyone with a whole-hearted recommendation.

PS: I’ve included an affiliate link to Amazon. That just means that if you click through and buy it, I’ll get a few pence to spend on a cuppa or something.


Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques – Alternatives to Controlled Crying

I recently read Rebecca Welton’s Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques – Alternatives to Controlled Crying, and as infant sleep is a topic that seems to keep coming up in my conversations these days (both because I’m supporting others and because I’m looking toward the long neck of sleep deprivation once more), it seems timely.

It is an accessible read and, to be sure, a compassionate, sincere and often sensible one too. I fully embrace her much repeated assertion that night waking is normal and that sleeping through is a learned skill for all humans. However, I’m hesitant about some of the solutions offered. Some of this admittedly comes from the bias of my own experience as a parent who bedshared with her baby and found acceptance of her reliance on me the antidote to my frustrations over sleep deprivation, ie I became pretty happy with snuggling in and sticking a boob in as and when. The rest comes from awareness of how gaps in what’s said could be misinterpreted by parents desperate for sleep. There are, however, some useful suggestions in this book and I suspect that although it’s affirming of bedsharing (she refers to it as co-sleeping) it’s really better suited to those who would rather not sleep with their children, so I’m not really its target audience.

“As a species, it has been evolutionarily advantageous for babies to wake often overnight. Not only does it facilitate their physical and mental growth, but babies who woke easily whenever they were in uncomfortable or threatening situations were the ones who were likely to survive.”

Throughout, Welton paints pictures of her own family that many can identify with. Her aim is to bring together as one resource a number of gentler ideas from many sources. The basis is trust between parent and baby and the book even looks at helping siblings and coping with your own sleep deprivation. I found her explanation of the potential effects of controlled crying on the whole family particularly interesting. There are some solid practical ideas particularly for helping an older sibling understand and be a part of the sleeping plan: explaining to them what’s happening and why, special games and toys with someone else, getting them involved, amongst others. The reward/praise suggestions for getting older children to play quietly while the baby sleeps aren’t consistent with our parenting, though. Otherwise, there are some practical tips I’ll no doubt call on when life with two begins.

“Mothers who co-sleep tend to naturally sleep in a ‘c’ shape around their baby. This protests your baby from the pillow or blanket covering her face. Many families do co-sleep with their babies and the most important thing is to do so in the safest way possible.”

There are also sensible ideas about sleep cues and taking care not to make sleep more difficult than it need be. I nodded along to Welton’s description of her son’s napping schedule – two naps, 20 minutes. I remember feeling about to lose my mind over naps. Learning to develop and stick to a routine and helping her sleep as soon as he showed signs of tiredness were gold for us, just as she recommends. She’s also very encouraging of babywearing and seeking out sling meets to find the right carrier for you. The chapter on co-sleeping also pulls out great benefits which aren’t talked about enough. For us, both have been invaluable and I’m preparing to wear another baby. However, the discussions of nightweaning feel anecdotal rather than evidence-based and while it can be valuable to share maternal experience and wisdom (of course, it counts for a lot!), I am very uncomfortable that there is no mention of at what age other than certainly not in the first six months of life.

As for the techniques themselves, I feel the first “Gently Does it” is the kindest. It involves very gradually progressing from putting your baby down “sleepy but not asleep” to speaking sleep cues from outside your baby’s door. Personally, I would not have had the will to take on the work this technique involves, especially when breastfeeding while lying down meant I hardly knew how many times we were waking most of the time. But I can see that if you really don’t want your baby in bed with you, this may well be a route to explore.

The other cot techniques I’m just not comfortable with, personally. They all involve some form of not picking up, touching or even looking at babies. While this may allow parents to say “at least I’m not leaving them alone” my gut reaction is to wonder what is felt by a baby who doesn’t have the life experience to understand the parent’s intention. As for the co-sleeping technique “Playing dumb” I can see how that would work but I have questions about the age at which that would be developmentally appropriate. At some stage helping a child prioritise sleep over nursing can become necessary but I’m just asking when?

I guess I’m also coming at this from the perspective that sleeping through the night isn’t really something I actively taught my child. In many ways, I’ve probably been lucky. Other than giving her a good routine, including a solid bedtime, she kind of got there on her own. At two, she no longer needs or even wants to be fed to sleep and she’s in her own bed now, primarily by her own choice. We did night-wean so that was a teaching thing but she wasn’t waking much at all when we started that process. It was also something that came after the age of two. We’re also genuinely looking forward to bedsharing with our new baby and possibly welcoming our toddler back into the family bed (not next to the newborn, obviously!).

I’m not saying that everyone should do as we do – certainly not! I know full well that bedsharing is not for everyone and that families make different decisions and have different outcomes when it comes to breastfeeding. To that end, I echo Welton’s assertion that nightwaking as babies grow and develop is normal and that every baby is different. I’m just saying that, even if you just go with the flow, it can work out. A sleep problem is only a problem if it’s a problem for you, if that makes sense. But if it is a problem, then, well, this book may well offer you ideas to think about which differ from a lot of what’s out there.

I was sent a copy of Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques for the purpose of this review.


Reasons I’m Undecided About Santa Claus

It kind of surprised us this year that we’d have to think about Santa Claus. We’d given it very little thought and pretty much expected it to be something that was at least another year away. Of course, it just didn’t work out that way. My two and a half year old saw him everywhere and wanted to know who he was. I started off telling her that he was someone who liked Christmas a lot.

Then she one day told me that he was bringing her presents. I was amused that she’d understood this having overheard it or been told it somewhere and decided to go with it. She’ll see him at Westonbirt Arboretum later this week and her stocking presents will be from him (the best gifts – or what we think are the best, anyway – will be from us). The question, though, is about how far to go with it. That’s no doubt something we’ll fine tune in years to come but, for now, we’re just a bit cautious for a few reasons.

1. The Fear Factor

One of the biggest things that puts me off about Old St Nick is that he’s used throughout the month of December as a way of trying to get children to behave. It’s unmissable in the songs about him that he’s watching you so you better behave if you want him to come by this year. Actions and consequences make sense to me but I have to say that I really don’t get the whole threat/bribe thing. It strikes me as a bit weird. For one thing, I can’t understand how it really works with children under the age of five to have such a long term goal to “be good” and control their impulses for.

Even if it does work, I’m not so hot on the idea of motivating them with a reward. Do this and you will get presents. And I’ve seen children get unbelievably worked up out of fear that they haven’t been good enough this year. I guess, for me, I’m also put off by the fact that this is the picture of God a lot of people have – he’s, at best, a benign old man who’s nice to believe in and who’s love is conditional. That image doesn’t make sense to me either.

2. The Imagination Argument

But what about the imagination? Isn’t it healthy for children to exercise their imaginations. Isn’t believing in Santa Claus just a part of that? I think there are levels of belief. I “believed” in Santa Claus growing up but I also had no epiphany where I stopped believing. Part of me always knew that it was a game and that believing was a part of how we played. Perhaps this was because my parents never made a big deal of Santa and were always so obviously half-serious in talking with us about him. I do think it’s a bit of fun and that that’s an important part of childhood but I’m just cautious about the line between imagination and faith. I’m wary of making too strong a case for Santa I know isn’t real if it later causes her to wonder whether I’ve lied about something really important.

3. The Almost Inevitable Distraction

I know this isn’t an issue for everyone but for us, Christmas has a very specific focus. It’s when we remember how God broke into our reality and touched mankind in a mind-blowing way through Jesus, and when we look forward to the fulfilment of His life-changing promises, both those for now and the future. So, Father Christmas does seem a wee bit of an unnecessary distraction from something that’s already exciting. Not that I think he has to be at all. I think you can have a little fun with the whole Santa thing and still stay focused on what Christmas is about. In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Father Christmas celebrates Aslan’s return to Narnia. In a similar way, he can be part of our celebration without becoming central to it.

I guess the worry is that there is just SO much of him everywhere that if you’re not really into it, it can feel a bit overwhelming. It sends children the message that he is the focus of the excitement. I understand that if you’re not a Christian, that might not be as much of an issue but as I am, it makes me think about how much reminding I need to do in order to balance that message.

What to do about Santa

4. The Commercialism

I’ve heard people say that the idea of Santa Claus is one to be preserved because it reminds children of how important giving is. I kind of wonder how true this is, though, when so much about Santa is about what you’re getting. The wish lists detailing everything you want, the stockings laid out with care, the excitement about him coming so that you get presents… The “gimme” feel of it all really scares me, as much as I revel in watching my child enjoy opening presents.

We’ve been buying and wrapping lots of presents for other people this month and Talitha’s found it so exciting. Still, even now, she keeps asking when she’s going to get her presents. And all the ads we see around us are encouraging her to do just that. They tell us that Christmas is primarily about having a good time ourselves. Again, it doesn’t have to be so but it does take some thinking and a touch of caution to prevent it from going that way.

5. Our Own Histories

For us, the biggest thing is that we don’t have a strong connection to Santa Claus from our childhood memories. We both remember feeling that Christmas was a magical time but not particularly that it was all about St Nick. In fact, it had a lot more to do with our own families and with our parents in particular. So, we simply lack to drive to make a big thing of that jolly old elf. This may change over time – who knows? – but perhaps it’s more natural to us, personally, then, to find other creative ways to make Christmas special for our children.

I’m fully aware that every parent is going to tackle the Santa thing their own way and I’m not suggesting that there is any one way to do that. I may even feel differently about some or all of this in another year’s time. For now, this is where we’re at – giving him a half-nod but slightly leaning toward disinterest.

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How to Stay at Home Without Losing the Plot

Laurence sometimes gets a kick out of reminding me of what a lovely time I’m having staying at home with Talitha: “You got to go to the zoo today. You get to go to the zoo as part of your job.” It is in jest, though, because he knows that as wonderful as we both know staying at home with our two-year-old is, it’s incredibly hard work too. The hardest I’ve ever done.

And if I had the earning potential so the roles could be reversed, I’m pretty sure he’d not want to exchange with me. Which works out well because I wouldn’t want to exchange with him either. I’ve (mostly) moved beyond the place where I need a paycheque with my name on it to make me on it to make me feel valued. The identity crisis of my very early motherhood is no longer in sharp focus. Some days it’s not even there anymore. I’m finally becoming secure enough to admit not only that not only do I really enjoy being at home with my daughter but, sometimes, I’m even good at it.

There has needed to be a plan action, though, to keep me from falling apart. This is what’s been working for us so far. I’d love to know what works for you.

Balancing our desires

Most days, we try to do a little of what she enjoys…

What would my daughter would like to do all day

A little of what I enjoy…

OK only kind of what I want to do
OK, well it’s not what I enjoy but it’s what I do like done! She one the other hand actually does enjoy “cleaning” so maybe it’s all what she enjoys!

And something that we both enjoy…

What we both want to do

Some days this doesn’t work because I’m too tired or because someone very important is coming over and I need to de-trash the house. But, realistically, on a day-to-day basis, this is how things run most smoothly between us. It helps to structure it. At the beginning of the day, I’ll make a list with her. She suggests what to put on the list and I put what I know needs to be on the list. This helps her move from one activity to another more smoothly as I can remind her before and during an activity of what comes next. There’s also less incessant pleading to “Watch something” throughout the day.

Remaining flexible

I know this will probably have to slow down and take a different form when the new baby arrives and that’s fine. Today we had a pyjama day because we were both unwell. I kept our at-home routine vaguely the same but didn’t try to be overly ambitious about what I would get done. In fact, we haven’t done much at all other than read a lot of books and listen to music.

Getting out and staying in

It is so valuable to work out what’s going on around you and figure out some sort of weekly routine for where you go. It means you always have somewhere to go, which helps break up the week. Otherwise, every day can hang before you with no pattern. The undefined space is utterly daunting. When Talitha was a baby, this meant groups – breastfeeding group, baby sensory type stuff, Sing & Sign. Nowadays, it’s the zoo, a local toddler group, a women’s group at my church. It’s meant too that we’re meeting other mothers and children which meets important needs for both of us.

The proviso, though, is that I give us permission to stay at home when I think she, I or we need to and I try not to feel guilty about it. This has become more important as the pregnancy has progressed. My body simply insists that I slow down.

Prepare & Organise

Neither of these come naturally to me. But I’m having to learn them for my own sanity. The discovery that, if I organised Talitha’s play area so she could find everything easily, it would lead to more independent play was just gold. It’s such a big one too because her boxes have become a bit crowded of late and she’s getting less likely to initiate getting things out on her own. Time to sort again! Preparation has meant thinking ahead to the next day – what will we eat, what will wear, what will we do – and packing the bag ahead of time, writing down a reminder of what needs cooking and when, that sort of thing.

Let someone else help

I really struggle with letting Laurence help because I sort of feel like if he’s at the office all day, then surely the home is my responsibility but the reality is that we’re both having hectic days and by the end of it, we’re both tired. He’s been amazing at reminding me that we’re in this together.

Staying at home without losing my mind

Be realistic

I also think there’s a lot to be said for being realistic. So much of our frustration comes from believing things are not as they should be. Our children “should” be doing this by now. We “should” be able to tick all these boxes. And actually, whenever I really par what needs to done to the essentials, we end up having a far more productive and happier day than if I overshoot my expectations of us both and end up daunted by the sheer amount that needs doing.

Over to you – any ideas on how to stay home and stay sane?

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Gentle Parenting is Slow Parenting

I had such a frustrating day with Talitha today. And she had such a frustrating day with me. It was a combination of her still being a bit unwell, me being exhausted as I have been, her going through some crazy 2.5-year-old developmental leap and me not quite keeping up with it. Basically, we were both ineffective in communicating with the other – she because she’s, well, two-and-a-half, and me because I’ve never had to parent a child her age before.

After a particularly scalding temper tantrum, she fell asleep in my arms in the rocking chair. There we sat, in a darkened bedroom. She leaned against my chest as she had so many times as a baby. I can’t remember the last time we did this, she must have only been months old. I dozed a bit myself but I also spent a lot of time thinking. I raged against her for trapping me under her like this. I beat myself up for being so impatient with her. I worried, perhaps a little irrationally, about what’s going to happen in a few months time with a newborn who will inevitably need more of me. Mostly, I thought about the kind of parent I wanted to be, holding it in tandem with the kind of person I want her to become.

Laurence and I often talk about “gentle parenting” and “gentle discipline”. I mean, we talk about attachment parenting as well and what we’re doing now is, effectively, just a continuation of those concepts. “Gentle” seems a term more tangible to the stage of parenting we are moving into. For us, being gentle is about holding firm boundaries without being manipulative or unduly forceful, guiding rather than blindly dictating, and always, always starting from a place of love, acceptance and respect.

But these are such big principles and it’s sometimes really complicated trying to figure out how they weave into everyday parenting. How does one respectfully parent a child who repeatedly throws herself down on the pavement because she doesn’t want to walk? How do you prevent turning the potty into the backdrop of a power struggle (she held a wee for seven hours today!)? How do you teach a child to share while also acknowledging that they may not yet have all the cognitive skills to do it voluntarily?

Gentle parenting goes slowly

As I held her today in the rocking chair, it came as a powerful reminder that all of this is about slowing down. On so many levels it’s about slowing down. I was raging inside because I know where I want her to be and I want her to get there faster. The problem is my impatience, not her “defiance” or “naughtiness” or whatever else I might see it as when angry with her. I think the essence of our parenting philosophy is that we’re not rushing.

We didn’t rush her into sleeping in her own room or even sleeping through the night. We are not rushing her into weaning from the breast. We don’t intend to rush her into formal education. And we’re also not rushing her into learning all the sophisticated social skills she needs to get by in the world. She does need them and we’re confident that she will acquire them but at a pace that is unique to her rather than predestined by us.

She will learn to cope with her big emotions, her anger, her sadness, her fear. But for now, we must hold onto her in their midst. When she screams, I want to scream back. I want to walk away. I want to put her in her room and lock the door. I did, in fact, have to leave the room for a bit today because I was getting too angry. When I returned, I lifted her to me and she flopped against my shoulder. She hugged me tightly, still crying. We are both in this but I must see her and I must lead the way.

And that’s how we ended up in a darkened room on a rocking chair. I have no idea how this all works with two children but I don’t have to know right now. I just have to take life, parenting and childhood, day by day, slowly. I am gently slowing down.


I am a Mummy Blogger and a Feminist

The tension in the room was palpable, with sharp intakes of breath and much reiteration of what-I-meant-despite-what-I-sounded-like. The Mumsnet Blogfest 2013 Keynote Panel topic “Can you be a mummy blogger and still be a feminist?” was selected in order to be controversial, though one must ask, “To what end?”

Starting with arguably petty questions such as “Is making jam feminist?”, “Is wearing high heels feminist?”, many valuable points to be made were lost from the start. All delegates were invited to attend this session and yet, many would not have self-identified as feminists. The term is still grossly misunderstood and from the tweets during and following the blogging conference, it seems that there are a lot of women who find it divisive and would rather do away with it altogether. I am not one of them. Feminism has accomplished too much and has too much work yet to do to be thrown out with the bathwater.

For me, that was the core problem in this debate, the feminism presented in that hall at King’s Place was too small. We’d just emerged from a week where female genital mutilation is back in the media eye because of the huge figures of girls at risk and women and girls living with its ugly after-effects, right here in the UK. And yet, here we were, a room full of grown women, getting our feelings hurt (on and off stage) because we’re still hung up on what other people think of our decision to go to work or stay at home with our children.

OK, I admit that’s a bit flippant. Our identity is important and it’s often shaped more by what we’re doing now in the day-to-day than it is by the bigger picture. Our children are the piece of the world that we get to influence and the decisions we make around them do matter. Of course they do. I just wish we’d do more getting on with it and less worrying about whether another mother thinks we lack ambition or don’t love our families enough. I’m not sure many sensible people would honestly think that of us anyway.

Most of us don’t blog about issues like FGM – at least not on a regular basis. So where does that leave us? Does sharing recipes, blogging about potty training and even reviewing holidays consign us to complicity with a patriarchal system and its inherent commercialism? Not necessarily, and the reason why was touched upon in the session. I only wish it had been explored further as it was the sole useful point raised.

For too long, domesticity has been sidelined as unimportant because it is primarily the work of women. Now, one of the speakers on the panel argued that true feminism would attempt to subvert an order in which domesticity is considered a female pursuit but I take issue with that. Children are tied to their mothers in a unique way, whether or not they are breastfed. It is a biological imperative we can’t escape – and usually don’t want to, whether we work or stay at home. It is entirely natural that we would blog about our family life. There is something curious in any attempt to attach shame to that.

Which is why I shirk off discomfort over the term “mummy blogger”. It was compared to the word “girly” in the session and the chair even wondered if it was being reclaimed like the “N-word”, a suggestion which, though it was met with nervous laughter, I personally found offensive. The word “mummy” though mildly irritating in certain contexts, does not evoke an even vaguely similar history of oppression.

However, I believe the reason why we’re so awkward about words like “mummy”, “mum” or even “mother” (many have argued that we should simply say “parent”) is that we’ve accepted a lie that mothering is trivial. By extension, we’ve been conditioned to agree that being a woman is somehow other and lesser because being a man is normal and idealised.

Knowing that, why would I tip-toe around either of these terms? I am a feminist because I believe in change and will use all my womanly arts to listen, speak and act to create a world in which my children can grow up safe, confident and strong – regardless of their gender or sexuality. I am a mummy blogger because I know that, as a mother, the creation of that world begins with the way I raise my own children.

Mumsnet Blogfest

I thoroughly enjoyed Mumsnet Blogfest 2013. It was a great time to meet up with friends I’ve met through the Internet as well as an opportunity to brush up on social media, writing and photography skills. What a pleasure to be in the presence of speakers like Jo Brand, Charlotte Raven, A. L. Kennedy and Lionel Shriver. Many, many thanks to ARDO Breastpumps for sending me. If you haven’t yet read it, please check out my Three Things Every Parent Should Think About When Choosing a Breastpump.

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Potty training – how we did it and what I learned

I really hated that term, potty training. I recoiled from it. To me, training was something you did with a dog (or failed to do with a cat), complete with treats and manipulation. Instead, I looked to elimination communication for an answer but was flummoxed. At 18 months, my daughter flat refused to let me put her on a potty or bring a potty near her. EC in its traditional sense was no longer going to be possible.

However, I wish I’d not taken that as a cue to return to nappies. She recognised wee and poo and had a strong enough will to argue about the situation. It would have required much more effort on my part and would have taken longer, but I’m convinced that we would have been nappy-free much sooner and that that would have been worth it.

Instead, I spent much time looking for ideas on “gentle toilet learning” but so much of what I came across involved experts and parents saying that it is better to wait and let them choose to leave the nappies behind. This did not sit well with me either, though I couldn’t quite say why.

So I found myself caught in this weird place where I felt guilty that I wasn’t helping her out of nappies but also guilty for wanting when others said she was too young. Parents of generations past must wonder why it’s such a dilemma for us these days. Heck, parents in other countries must wonder.

I found the hardest bit of potty training wasn’t the actual potty training itself but the overwhelming onslaught of information that came at me. Wait, go, no rewards, yes sticker charts, bare bum, training pants and OMG if you do this wrong you’ll traumatise your child or end up with the hardest life ever!

At the end of the day, waiting until she wanted to do it did not make sense to me. If I’d waited, she’d still be in nappies now and it’s not as if nappies are even necessarily a natural solution. Babies are born ready to do their business away from their bodies. How strange that we train them to do it in a nappy instead then leave them to figure a way out for themselves. I realise that some people find waiting suits them fine and I’m not criticising anyone for that. Each of us have to work out what the best thing for our family is.

For me, I had to reach a point where I saw that leadership does not equal authoritarianism and that being firm does not mean being coercive – that “potty training” is not a bad term. I knew that I had to guide her but I just didn’t know how.

The last straws for me were:

  • Watching her waddle around @Bristol because her cloth nappies needed to be super boosted
  • One awful nappy rash
  • The fact that I was plain fed up of dealing with gross toddler nappies
  • I’d decided to practise elimination communication with our next baby

Potty training - how we did it and what I learned

So! The time had come. I remembered an ebook I’d seen advertised on an EC website and, though I was extremely dubious, I’d already made up my mind that it was going to be this week. The book is called “Oh Crap. Potty Training”. It’s straight talking and will definitely rub some people up the wrong way but it’s totally what I needed – a kick up the bum, a just-do-it-already attitude! It ticked my boxes: no courting power struggles, no rewards and no praise (I have said the odd “Well done” but have been very careful not to make a big deal of potty training this time around).

I didn’t even bother to wait the week it suggests. I consumed the whole thing in an evening and got down to business the next day. This is what happened:

Day 1: Half-naked, lots of crying, begging for nappies. I questioned myself internally but remained firm, resolute and clear about what was going to happen: poo and wee goes in the potty. I reminded myself that I was conveying to her that I have confidence in her. We stayed at home (in fact I cleared the calendar for the week) and had a wonderful day playing, building puzzles and reading books. I didn’t let her out of my sight for a moment. Every time she needed to go, she’d beg for a nappy but to my surprise, there were no accidents. She did everything in the potty. I felt like I’d found the cure to cancer.

Day 2: Fully clothed but with no pants. Still crying for nappies which I reminded her we’d thrown away and that she doesn’t wear anymore (conveniently avoiding the fact that I’d put her in one overnight!). She had an accident and didn’t seem to notice. I drew her attention to what had happened and had her help me clean it up. I didn’t make a big deal of it but I reminded her that wee and poo do not go in clothes, they go in the potty. Then she had another and this time she told me. I thanked her for telling me and reminded her. Inwardly, I was wondering if I’d made an awful mistake. Maybe she wasn’t ready. But there was no turning back. I’d committed. I’d told her the nappies were gone. The third time, she told me midway and stopped when I told her to wait. I took her to the potty and she finished there. And that was it. From then on, no more misses.

I’d been teaching her to take her clothes down and so from then she’s just taken herself off to the potty and called when done for a wipe. A week later, we introduced pants with no problem. A week after that we said goodbye to night nappies. That’s been a bit trickier. The book recommended that we day and night train at the same time but I was too chicken. Sometimes she was dry at night, sometimes not.

The first night, I told her it was potty time before bed so she would not wet the bed. I told her that we would come help her to the potty if she needed to wee in the night. At 11pm, I lifted her on to the potty half-asleep before going to bed myself. She went and then went back to sleep. At 3am, she called out, “Potty! Potty! Potty!” I replied, “Wait!” Laurence helped her to the potty then she went back to sleep.

The second night, I lifted her at midnight and she told me, half-asleep, “I do NOT need the potty!” Well, OK. I put her back to bed. I’d set the alarm for 3am and Laurence went in to lift her and she told him the same thing: “NO! I DON’T NEED TO WEE. I want my bed!” So, back to bed. And she was fine. She got up in the morning and used the potty.

From then on, we’ve just left her and she’s been fine, holding it until morning. In fact she’s only had two accidents and both were my fault. One in the day when I knew she’d had a lot to drink and hadn’t been to the loo in hours. We were out which she’s always a bit funny about, I think, because she’s not sure that everywhere we go has a toilet and she’s very private. Even then, she told me just when she’d started and we made it to the loo to finish. The other time was in the night when she’d got to bed extremely late, about 10.30 because we’d been out and she’d had a MASSIVE drink before bed. So, overtired and full-bladdered but I’d not really thought about it. The rest of the time it has been fine.

She’s also started using the toilet, with us just offering. It’s just been so interesting seeing this unfold and participating alongside her.

So, I’ve learned a few things from this so far…

  1. To trust my own instincts
  2. To stop being so damn afraid of everything
  3. To teach my daughter actual stuff – why was I teaching her the alphabet but not showing her how to dress and undress herself?!
  4. It is wonderful to see a child accomplish something and feel good about it

I realise this experience is going differ wildly from anyone else’s and I’m in no way attempting to tell anyone what they should do or offer a potty training guide. I just want to share because I think hearing different perspectives can be useful, once you remember to listen to your gut first and foremost. You know your child best.