Archive for August, 2011

26 Aug 2011

Race you to the potty: First one there wins?

1 Comment Parenting, Toddlers, Toilet Learning

There have been a number of articles which I have come across lately on the topic of toilet learning. As I’ve been reading and contemplating these articles, I thought that I would share some of my own thoughts and insights here.

Right off the bat, I want to say that I don’t like the term “potty training”, I prefer “toilet learning”. This is because it’s something that a child learns to do as part of their development, not something that should be forced on them by their caregiver, as I feel the term “training” implies. We say that children learn to walk, they aren’t trained to walk; why should controlling their elimination be any different? That also really seems to be a theme when I think about the different articles I’ve come across on toilet learning. On one hand there are those who believe that the child will learn in their own time, and those who believe it is the parent (or caregiver)’s responsibility to motivate the process. I’m of the first school of thought; what’s the rush? Why pursue something that your child might not be ready for? It’s not a competition.

Every child is different and will be ready both physically and emotionally in their own time. Just as they learned to walk and talk on their own agenda, so will they learn to control their bladder and bowels. We all have that friend or relative or neighbour whose child was “potty trained” right out of the womb, however their child is not your child. It’s rarely helpful to compare one child’s growth and development to another’s as we all have different temperaments and our own strengths and weaknesses which make us unique. The bottom line is, your child will be ready… when they are ready.

In order to help ascertain whether your child is ready, here are some things to keep in mind. First of all, children typically aren’t physically ready to control their bladder and bowels until somewhere around their second birthday. So, in my opinion, unless they’re really interested and showing a lot of signs that they’re physically ready, I wouldn’t worry about it until they’re two. Another thing I’ve found helpful is to remember that there are three stages of “readiness”. The first is when your child knows after they’ve eliminated. The second is when your child knows when they are in the process of eliminating. The final stage is when your child knows before they have to eliminate. This third stage, along with the physical ability to “hold it” are crucial for successful toilet learning.

A few other skills that will help your child’s toilet learning success are the ability to independently take off their own clothes, the ability to get on/off the toilet (or potty) independently and the verbal skills to let you know when they need to go. All this being said, there will certainly be children who show interest in the toilet before they are physically ready. I would certainly encourage their interest, however far it extends. However I would do so with the understanding that nothing may come of it until they are more ready. As caregivers, we need to make sure that we have appropriate expectations of what individual children are capable of and allow them to reach milestones in their own time. After all, development isn’t a race.

Photo by Mollypop (Flickr)

19 Aug 2011

Why are we in such a rush to sit down?

No Comments ELECT, Infants, Physical
Infants (0-24 months)
Physical 

5.1 Gross Motor

Sitting

  • sitting without support
While the infant is straddling your extended leg, hold her arms and bounce her gently. 

This rhythmic movement strengthens the muscles and balance involved in sitting.

I’m going to jump ahead to the Physical domain for this post because of something that happened to me yesterday. I had stepped in as a substitute facilitator in a parenting group for women with young babies. My co-facilitator, who regularly leads the group, asked me to bring out a breastfeeding pillow and show one of the mothers how to prop her six month old infant into a sitting position. I knew where we kept the breastfeeding pillows, however, it occurred to me in that moment that I don’t actually know the best way to prop up an infant into a sitting position. I don’t know because I’ve never done it.

In my practice I’ve never felt the need to use a pillow or other supports to hold a child in any position “independently” when they aren’t able to get into that position on their own. They are going to sit eventually, so what’s the rush? Why do we create these artificial milestones that children are only able to achieve with adult intervention? The ability to sit supported no longer matters when the child is able to sit unsupported. In the ELECT the milestone is identified as “sitting without support” with no mention of sitting with support as either a skill or even a strategy to support the development of the skill. So unless a professional has instructed you to prop your infant into a sitting position as part of an early intervention, don’t do it. You don’t need to.

At times I wonder if young children, especially infants, feel like marionettes with adults pulling the strings and manipulating their movements. Infants are definitely willing and able to move around on their own. With ample opportunities for free movement and exploration, children will achieve developmental milestones on their own, in their own time. That’s why the ELECT uses only the most general age guidelines, so that we don’t try and enforce a timeline. It’s a continuum of development with each new milestone logically following the previous milestone; that’s how we were meant to develop.  Children will get there in their own time, no need to rush.

Photo by Honza Soukup (Flickr)

17 Aug 2011

First Feelings

2 Comments ELECT, Emotional, Infants
Infants (0-24 months)
Emotional

2.1 Expression of Emotion

  • expressing comfort and discomfort
  • expressing pleasure and displeasure
  • expressing anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, joy, excitement
  • showing affection with hugs
  • showing anxiety at separation from parents
  • showing clear attachment to parents
Observe infants to determine what senses and motor skills they enjoy and use for exploring.

Sensory and motor skills form the basis of individual differences in how infants calm themselves (self-regulation).

If an infant uses his visual sense to calm himself or pay attention, provide interesting visual stimulation to (your face or the infant’s favorite toy) to support self-regulation.

It can be easy to think that babies have two modes; babies who are happy smile and coo and play while babies who are sad cry. However what we forget in this assumption is that babies are people too with the same range of emotions that we experience as adults, although they aren’t yet able to express these emotions in the same ways that we do. Infants and young children are only just beginning the process of learning and understanding what emotions are, while at the same time experiencing them in a big way. This is why it’s so important that we acknowledge and label an infant’s feeling so that they can begin to learn to understand them and to manage them. This is also why it’s important to take the time to determine what a child is feeling before intervening. We are often quick to swoop in and try to “fix” a crying baby but how can we appropriately engage with an infant if we don’t know what they’re feeling.

If an infant begins to cry because of the frustration she is experiencing in her engagement with a toy and we pick her up and take her away from the toy, we remove the opportunity for her to work through her frustration. What message does that send? That if something frustrates you, you should give up? Will we further mislabel the feelings this infant experienced as “sad” or “tired” because we weren’t paying attention in the first place? Even worse will we send this child the message that it’s not alright to feel frustrated or to cry? For infants, crying is still the primary way that they are able to communicate their needs or express their negative emotions and we certainly don’t want to discourage that. We need to be respectful enough to allow the expression of all types of feelings.

We want infants and young children to express their emotions and to understand them. This means we need to pay close attention. As caregivers we should always respond to a crying baby in an observant and thoughtful way. This does not always mean picking a child up, but perhaps simply responding to them verbally. We should take the time to determine why they are crying so that we can respond appropriately. Further, although it’s easy to focus on the negative emotions and the act of crying, we also need to respond to and label the infant’s positive emotions, such as excitement or pride. Supporting an infant to understand and express their emotions is beneficial for both baby and caregiver.

Photo by Eric Fleming (Flickr).