When Aristotle was little, I read about a parenting idea called elimination communication. It goes by a variety of other names, too – infant potty training, natural infant hygiene, and diaper free are just some of the terms I have come across. If you don’t know what elimination communication is, I think you can pretty much guess from those other terms. This idea recognises that infants are born with potty training readiness. The reason it is so hard to get a toddler off diapers is because we’ve inadvertently trained him to use his diaper as a toilet and now we have to un-train him.
I really liked the idea of going diaper free because I hated having to wipe up after a messy poop and having diaper leaks, etc. Although we managed to achieve it to some degree with Aristotle (not perfectly, but we had our moments), I confess that we failed completely with Hercules. Admittedly, I was never very good at recognising the cues to begin with, and with toddler Aristotle as a massive distraction, it was all but impossible for me to notice that baby Hercules was squirming from a need to pee. So I thought to replicate our poop elimination success that we had with Aristotle on Hercules, unfortunately, that plan failed as well. When baby Aristotle was ready to poop, I could always strip his diaper and rush him to the toilet – mostly on time. When baby Hercules was in the act of pooping, the process of stripping his diaper and rushing him to the toilet served as a distracter for him. By the time his bottom landed on the toilet seat, he would be too distracted to poop. He would reach for the toilet paper, the bidet, the toilet cleaning brush… anything but poop. Eventually, he would get bored and want to get off the toilet only to poop into a fresh diaper 15 minutes or so later.
So we abandoned the idea of early potty training for Hercules and let time run its course. Now that Hercules is 3, it was time to try again. If I thought going to school and watching the other kids use the bathroom would be a motivator, I was wrong. As long as Hercules had a diaper on, he would never tell when he needed the toilet to pee or to poop. We had to do things the painful way – we went commando, and by commando, I mean we let him run around bare-bottom. Here’s why it works…
If you’re potty training your child at 2-3 years old, your child will have been conditioned to poo and pee as and when the urge came. I made the mistake initially to think that wearing underwear was sufficiently different from a diaper for Hercules to remember that he needs to use the toilet or he would create a mess. Unfortunately, for a child like Hercules, it is easy to forget that he isn’t wearing a diaper because he still has the sensation of something covering him. He continues to pee and poop in his underwear because he forgets he has no diaper on. He is distracted by whatever activity occupies him at that point in time. But when I let him go commando, there is no underwear to give him that false sense of security.
Whenever he is at home, I would leave him bare-bottom, and it worked. He would always remember that he needed the toilet – I believe because the sensation of being commando is so different to wearing a diaper that it cannot be forgotten. In my study of one, I found we never had accidents whenever he was bare-bottom. They only occurred when he wore his underwear.
Of course, you can’t let your child run around bare-bottom if you need to go out, but I believe that if you can let your child get enough experience using the toilet at home, you are that much closer to complete potty training when your child is out and about with underwear on. You just need to help them get into the practice of remembering that they have to go to the toilet whenever they feel the urge to eliminate and I think the best way to do that is to give them a completely different sensation and bare-bottom versus diaper is an even greater difference compared with underwear versus diaper.
Even if you decide that you don’t want your child to go commando, you can potty train your child in a week by removing his diaper crutch and putting him in underwear. It will be a painful week with lots of potential cleaning up, but once your child conditions to the idea that peeing and pooping on the spot makes a big mess, he will adjust to the need of using the bathroom.
If your child is young enough and the idea of elimination communication appeals to you, check these articles out: