Friday, February 25, 2011

Potty Training

When we first got our newest pup Panda about 4 weeks ago I went in to a local pet store to buy a kennel to keep her in when we had to leave the house for whatever reason. I have had puppies before and although it has been a long time, I knew that if we wanted her to be safe and our belongings to be chew mark free, we had to have a place to keep her. The kennels were back in the corner of the store and this particular store is pretty small. A dog obedience class had been set-up right in front of the kennels and so I stood there and looked around the participants and looked at the different sizes and at the same time was trying to figure out how I was going to get the kennel once I had made a choice. Soon the teacher of the class zeroed in on me and asked what I was doing. I explained, puppy, need kennel, and nicely pointed out YOU ARE IN MY WAY. I did not really say they were in my way but I wanted to.

She then helped me to get the kennel I needed and load it on my cart. Which was good because up until that moment I had not figured out that this was going to be a challenge. I thanked her for her help and as I went to leave she mentioned that if we needed some help, the store offered "potty training" classes. I hope my face did not give away the HUH? are you serious that I was thinking. I nodded politely and headed to the door.

Potty training is not easy but it is simple. A puppy usually will get it over time. One of our dogs was potty trained in a matter of days, one a matter of weeks, and our Yorkshire Terrier took years to be completely potty trained. I think Rice (our yorky) would have gotten it sooner if we had been more consistent. I honestly think it is odd that there is an option to take your dog to a potty training class. It seems like a whole new level of, "experts know best" and "you people cannot possibly figure this out on your own".

Of course, in my mind it brought up the idea of potty training kids, which is similar but different. I hear people talking about potty training their kids quite often as I am a mom and on FaceBook. Potty training is the first thing people feel they must push there kids in to and possibly the first thing parents feel they must "teach" their kids. Up to this point, oddly enough, the child has learned to roll over, pull up, walk, and usually talk, all without rewards or parental intervention.

I look back on my own ideas about potty training and they certainly have changed. When my oldest was around 2 I decided it was "time". I now think that is a really funny idea. How can one person decide for another person it is time to learn anything. Ari made it very clear right away that she ran the show and that any sort of bribery or reward I might offer was not going to help. Rather than fight what felt like a losing battle, I decided to give up and regroup. I left her alone for a year.

The spring of the year Ari turned 3 she potty trained herself. It looked something like this. One morning we get up and Ari refuses to wear clothes. Okay, I roll with it. When she pees she looks down and sees that she is peeing. I had no idea what she was doing at the time so I think my response was, "AAHHHHHHH, lets go to the potty." After a week of nudism and some accidents Ari was completely potty trained. Not a single M&M, no books read while sitting on the John waiting for nature to follow my timeline, and surprisingly over the coming years only 1 accident EVER. "Huh", I thought "that was interesting." But what was more interesting to me was that she was also continent at night as soon as she was potty trained during the day.

When Mina came along, I never thought about potty training at all. One day, the spring she would turn 3 she decided she was not wearing clothes anymore either. End of the week, potty trained. I certainly did not expect it but I was more than happy to see her take initiative and learn how to use the bathroom herself. Once again, continent day and night and in the 2 years since very few accidents.

In general, I think the belief that we need to teach kids much of anything is outdated. Few people understand that learning to talk is actually much more challenging than learning to read. Just as some kids will be walking at nine months or talking at one year, learning many other things has a very variable timeline. Each person also will more than likely have their own unique path to this learning as well. Some people thrive with the use of phonics and follow a common path of letter recognition, then sound recognition, then word recognition. I think Mina will follow that path. Ari however, is a learner who goes from the whole to the part. She will learn to read later and I am watching her do it backwards of convention.

Standing back and letting my girls potty train themselves was my first lesson in child led learning.

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