Today’s parents are inundated with thousands of resources on Potty Training. This plethora of resources, representing so many people with differing back grounds and experiences, offers contradictory advice and too often leads parents to find themselves, delaying this developmental milestone. Add to the confusion over what or who’s advice to follow, the frustration so frequently experienced by parents who” just aren’t ready yet,” and the task of “training” can be transformed from a joyful journey to a tedious and challenging experience. Nevertheless, the restrictions society is placing on young children’s abilities and capabilities to learn is a major contributing factor of the fear that so easily entangles a parent’s intent to press forward.
The Montessori way to Toileting is a liberating approach, freeing both parent and child from pressure facilitated through the parent’s efforts, and allowing the process to be a natural one which grows out of gradual evolving neurological development, the child’s interest, and a desire for independence and self-respect. We are thus continuing to line up the prepared environment with the developmental needs of the child.
Children learn to use the toilet when they are ready, not necessarily when it’s most convenient. Parents can however, prepare the environment and play a supporting role. This is simply performed by, understanding that children go through intellectual interest and curiosity, which Maria Montessori called “Sensitive Period.” During this time your child becomes intrigued and their mind is absorbent by certain aspects of their environment and if taken advantage of, can influence your child’s toileting experience profoundly.
An observant parent, like yourself, will typically see a child enter a sensitive period around 18 months of age, where they can most easily gain control of their more developed and integrated nervous system. At this point, a child has the physical ability and interest to gain both bladder and bowel control. When hit at the right time and given the opportunity to spend as much time in underwear, rather than diapers, they gain a greater awareness of these bodily functions. Therefore, will quickly learn to sense when their bladder is full and their need to go to the bathroom. Now the child has, developed the neuromuscular ability to control his body, his interest in using the toilet is there, and he is well under way in mastering the specific steps involved in using the toilet.
In a well prepared environment, hopefully, a parent can feel comfortable and equipped for this process. When accidents occur, stay calm, patient, and reassuring. Use words that breath life, such as, “That’s alright. You can help me clean up. Would you like to use the potty next time?” Remember this is a self-motivated process, driven out of a desire for independence, and can be detected through observation. Support the child when he is ready: using solely underpants, making underpants easily accessible, dressing in elastic waist line, allowing access to the bathroom, providing appropriate way for the child to explore the toilet and play with water, their patient explanation of bodily functions, the provision of old towels for clean up, and a hamper for soiled towels and wet underpants.
Most children, who are put into underpants at this age, can be using the toilet consistently within a few weeks or months. But take heart, if a child has past his sensitive period, observe for readiness, prepare for independence, and assist with creative and supportive ideas. Remember we support our children mastering this new skill. More often than not, the child will display signs of readiness before the parent thinks the child is ready or before the parent is ready. Ignoring the child’s need to learn a new skill at the appropriate time can result to a frustrated and rebellious learner. So, go ahead. Let the child set the pace for how little or how much support is needed during this process and stay away from rewards, accomplishing this skill is reward enough for the young child.
Portions adapted from an article, “Toileting the Montessori Way”, Susan Tracey