What is the right age to start potty training your child? Could your one year-old already have fallen behind?! Tania looks at how it’s done in many parts of Asia, where many kids are potty trained from birth…

As parents, we strive to be green and to create the healthiest environment in our household. However, the amount of diapers that we go through is nagging at our conscience. The debate between cloth versus plastic diapers is endless and there is just no perfect solution where we live. Therefore, we decided to try out elimination communication with our toddler son. In other words: potty training from an early age.

This one, environmentally friendly effort is the pride of many parents in Asia. It is such a rite of passage for some that I’ve heard grandmamas are arriving to visit with the intention of teaching the babies this very special skill. Many started before the babies turn one year-old, and in some cases like in China, from birth*.

When my husband visited his relatives in China, the de rigueur parenting conversation went something like this:

Friend: “Is your 11 month-old son potty trained yet?”
Husband: “Mmmm, not really. He is still in diapers.”
Friend with widened eyes and look of disbelief: “Oh, but my son, about your son’s age, is diaper free since he was three months old… DIAPER FREEEEEE…”
Husband: “Does hiding in the corner count? OK, how about drinking from a straw? Cruising around? Saying Mama? Papa? No? That doesn’t count? Oh…”

Although we agree that very early exposure puts too much pressure on the baby, we tried a middle solution based on our son’s initiative. The whole process took four months. We began by teaching him the word “poo-poo” whenever he hid behind the sofa or under the dining table to do his business, quiet as a mouse. When he started informing us back, we whisked him away and plopped him onto the potty. The little guy was so confused at first that he stopped everything, only to continue after he had his diaper back. We did this for a few times and then backed off. Within a month, however, he began running to us announcing “poo-poo” before doing the deed, which is a very good sign… and voila! Our boy did it! We all agree that flushing is so cool and that is a powerful reward for using the potty.

Do we have setbacks? Of course we do. Strikes and late notices happen very often. “Pee-pee” is quite oblivious as well. But he also managed to ask to “poo” at regular times, after his breakfast and dinner. The most important reminders are that he is to be in control and that we praise for the right actions and never penalize him for the setbacks.

At 18 months, we are not diaper free, but we have managed to decrease consumption. Cleaning up has never been so much more delightful as well. At least now my husband has something new to brag when he visits China. Now, if we can move on to the word “pee-pee” and pray that he aims well…

*If you are very curious about how some things are done there, you can Google “baby pants in China” and see for yourself. Not everyone is doing this anymore, though, especially in urban areas as diapers are becoming more mainstream.

– Tania