Saturday, 25 April 2020

A Short Guide to Respectful Potty Learning

I prefer the term "potty learning" instead of "potty training" for an important reason: it places the focus on the child, rather than the adult. We don't need to train children, we need to provide them the proper environment and support, so they learn to use the potty when they are ready. Rushing a child to do anything never works.

Potty learning “is a natural process that is best led completely by the child with our support.” (Janet Lansbury - Elevating Child Care: A Guide To Respectful Parenting)

Readiness is extremely important when it comes to learning to use the potty: kids need to have bladder control (physical readiness usually happens after 1), they need to know how to hold it until they sit on the potty (cognitive readiness), and they need to be in the right place emotionally (no major changes happening at the same time, like a new sibling, moving houses, starting daycare). When a child is ready, he will show us, first by telling us he has urinated in the diaper, later by telling us before it happens. We just need to trust that he will. And I bet you'll be so proud (as your child will be, also) of the first poo or pee in the potty - no need for bribes or rewards.

“We can create resistance, distrust, even shame when we coax a child to the potty one moment before he’s ready.” (Janet Lansbury - Elevating Child Care: A Guide To Respectful Parenting)

There are some things we can do to help with the process:

- make sure that all adults in the household are on the same page about potty learning, and noone tries to force the child to use the potty or bribes her with rewards
- create a nice and cozy corner in the bathroom, with some books (you could even add some books about using the potty). Recently, we bought a potty for E.'s favourite baby doll and she loves putting it on the potty next to her.
- expose the child to the potty and its function through books and by having one in the bathroom
- read books about how children use the potty. Do this in a relaxed environment, without the stress of "having to" go to the potty
- be patient with the process and know that it's not going to end in a few days, but when your child is ready and comfortable
- you can use the toilet at certain times/as part of your daily routine (after waking up, before going outside) and ask your child if she wants to use the potty too. If she says "no", leave it at that. Don't put pressure.
- cloth diapers might help your child know better when she is wet vs. dry. They absorb the pee, but in a different way compared to the standard diapers

E. started indicating that she wants to use the potty a few weeks after turning one. We had the potty in the bathroom for her to explore, and one day she said "poo", sat on it (with her diaper and clothes still on) and pooped. Since then, she goes regularly, sometimes indicates that she has peed/pooped, sometimes she tells me before and goes and sits down on the potty. She has had some nights when her diaper was dry, but most of the times it's not. I am planning on writing an update on the situation in a few months.

Do you have any other advice? What has worked for you?


  1. You’re right it’s so important to wait until they are ready. We tried to push it a bit too early with our first & when we realised we stopped & waited until he was really ready and then it happened much more easily and quickly!! No bribes needed 😉

    1. Yes! Sometimes it's hard not to forget that we need to trust that they will eventually learn something without us bugging them or trying to get them interested. I had that problem before my daughter could walk.