Potty Learning, Not Potty Training

I got Horsey's permission before posting this adorable picture of when she was potty learning.

I got Horsey’s permission before posting this adorable picture of when she was potty learning.

(I wrote this a year ago, when little Ox was 3.*) 

When you stop and think about it, potty training really makes no sense. Children are inherently good learners. They want to grow up and become like adults; some of the most popular toddler games are just mimicking adult behavior.

Children teach themselves to walk. They also teach themselves to talk. They require no lessons or scheduled practices to do so. They don’t succeed faster with punishments or reward systems, charts or constant reminders to practice. The only things they require from us are patience and pride in their achievements. The same holds true for potty learning.

To be honest, I was a little worried about how potty learning would go with my current three-year-old. He has a handicap that prevents him from walking or standing.

About a week ago he started asking on and off to sit on the potty. We would take off his diaper and sit him down on the potty. It was cute, and he was just doing it for fun. This morning when he tried, he went! I put his diaper back on, and about an hour later he wanted to go again. He went again! And again! He has had only one wet diaper all day.

I’ll admit, it is a little tiring to stop what I’m doing, put down the baby, take off his diaper, and physically lift him on the potty every time he wants to try, but I am just so proud of him. I will continue to do it because this is his game now, his personal goal, and my job is to help him achieve his goals.

I have already gotten onto my oldest children because they were taking it upon themselves to remind him or ask him if he needs to go. Rule #1 about potty learning… Leave them alone! It’s just like walking and talking. They are not doing it for you. They are doing it for themselves. No nagging. No punishments. No treats. Just pride. Your pride in their own achievements is all they want!

The quickest way to stop his progress and cheat him out of his self-achievement would be to make it MY game, MY goal. To take this project away from him and make it my own project for him to accomplish for me would be a sin! Simply terrible! No wonder so many children have a hard time potty training, or regress once they’ve done so well!

I hope this helps some of you potty training mamas to relax. I know it can be really stressful, especially with your first. But it’s fine, I promise. Believe me, NO ONE wants to be in diapers if they have a choice.

So how do you know when they’re ready? Easy, they start going. 

I hope this was helpful to some people. I just want you to know that it’s not just better and more natural for the child. This way is better for the adult, and on the parent-child relationship too. But, possibly the best thing about them potty learning by themselves, is that once they learn they learn forever!

**Disclaimer** I wrote this in January, 2013, one year ago.  Because he was never able to get himself to the potty, he was never 100% into it. He relies on us right now for most of his mobility, and he eventually tired of making us take him. He still can, and does tell us he wants to sit on the potty, but not as much as when it was new. I know that if he had been able to go all by himself he would never have wanted to go back.  I’m not worried about it though. I stand by my statement… “NO ONE wants to be in diapers if they have a choice.” I also stand beside his knowledge of it. He won’t ever have to “relearn”. He hasn’t digressed, only decided it’s not easier for him. When he gets a bit stronger, and we can help think of a way around this obstacle, he won’t have any problems being independent about it. 


The “Love Bucket”

If/When my children (ages 11, 9, 7, 4, and 17mths) are sassy, act out, moody, or prone to tantrums, we know that it is not their fault. There is always, always an underlying meaning behind their misbehavior. At my house, we call that “an empty Love Bucket”. 

As adults, we can better realize our emotions and work through them ourselves. But we have to admit, sometimes it’s hard even for us! We can’t expect our children to always be able to vocalize their emotions. The reason they are misbehaving is because of their own emotions that they, themselves, cannot control. Instead of scolding them, or going straight to a punishment, we need to first reassure them that we love them, we are here for them, and everything will be okay. 

When I see my children arguing, or misbehaving in general, I can take them aside and ask them (with genuine concern) why they are acting out. I will calmly suggest that maybe they need their Love Bucket filled up.  Depending on which child I’m talking to, they will either stay silent and look at the floor, or they will look straight at me and begin to cry. No matter what their reaction, 100% of the time that means “yes”. I give them hugs and kisses, hold them, and invite them to talk about their feelings. Also 100% of the time, there are no further problems with that child. This is attachment parenting at its best! 


From the left: Spunky Monkey, Smart Horse, and Loving Dog all wet from playing in the sprinklers

Have you filled up your child’s Love Bucket today?


My True Story of My Questionable Ultrasound

I’m going to share with you my story of my ultrasound with my fourth child, my “Ox”. I am doing this in hopes that if anyone out there has a questionable ultrasound they won’t make the mistakes that I did…

In the summer of 2009 I was having my 20 week ultrasound with my fourth child. My husband went with me, and we were both a bit surprised at what we saw on the screen. I had three babies before, and, looking at the screen, I knew this was not typical fetal position.

If you can imagine… My baby’s head looked tilted back as if he were looking up. Both of his arms were straight, completely straight, and still at his sides. The ultrasound technician rotated around to look at his hips. She seemed quiet. My husband and I asked what was wrong with our baby. She ASSURED us everything was fine. I still remember the words she said: “Don’t worry, that’s why I’m here. I’m checking it all out, and he looks like he’s just fine. He’s just in a funny position… Let’s see if we can tell if this is a boy or girl.” The way his hips extended and legs bent reminded me of that of a frog.
My husband and I looked at each other. She again assured us that everything was normal and fine; her smile was reassuring. We could not tell at that appointment what the sex of our baby was because his feet were in the way.

Fast forward to the fall of that year. I was in the hospital in labor joined by my midwife, husband, and Doula. I wanted a natural, vaginal delivery; but this time around was like nothing I had ever experienced. There was something different, something wrong. The pain was immense, like I was delivering an axe. I kept feeling like he was stuck. I remember twisting and putting myself into unnatural positions to release him from whatever it was that held him in my pelvis. It worked, and he was freed. All the other times I’ve given birth, once the shoulders were out the baby just slid free. This time there was the definite, intense pain of my baby’s legs being stuck as the rest of him was out.

When it was over there was not as much relief in the atmosphere as there should have been. One of the nurses covered her mouth. When they handed him to me, I couldn’t see anything wrong. All I saw was my baby. ~~ I will interject here that I testify to you that if you go through a natural, unmedicated delivery, you will experience a surge of natural instincts you never knew you could have as a human being. I imprinted on my baby. I promise you I couldn’t even see his deformities, even after the nurses pointed them out. ~~ I remember a nurse gently asking me if I could see his arms and legs. I remember looking at them… There they were. So what?? They wanted to take him away from me. They wanted to “check him out to make sure he was okay”. I was hesitant, but my Doula was there, and she assured me she would stay with him. When I eventually “came back to Earth” I realized that he looked the same way he did on ultrasound. His arms were as straight as poles. He appeared to have no elbows at all. His legs were bent so completely that his feet touched his bottom. His knees pointed in separate directions at the sides of his body.


He was diagnosed with a condition called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita with Amyoplasia. It means some of his joints were stiff and he has trouble developing muscles. I learned that because of this condition, half of the babies born with arthrogryposis break bones during delivery. I don’t doubt it. That’s why I felt that he was getting stuck. I am SO THANKFUL that I went through his delivery without any medication, or I may not have felt how I needed to move in order to deliver him properly. I could have broken my baby.

The ultrasound technician was asked if she had seen his condition on ultrasound. -I know that she did. There’s no way she couldn’t have. My husband and I were not trained in ultrasound, but even we could tell something was different. She denied ever seeing it. (She was fired.)

I am telling this story because I think it’s important to realize the real reason we have ultrasound. Finding out if your baby is a boy or girl is nice, but that’s not why we go to an ultrasound appointment. We go to make sure our babies are developing as they should. If you have a questionable ultrasound, you have to right to ask for a specialist’s opinion, even if the first opinion is that everything is fine. I just want everyone to know that because I didn’t.

Btw… My precious baby boy is now a happy, healthy four-year-old. He cannot walk or stand up; nor can he put his hands to his face without levering his forearm against something. But he is extremely intelligent, and we know he’ll be just fine… better than fine. He’s great!

The Marble Jar Solution


As an unschooling family we spend a lot of time doing what we like to do. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I let my children play Wii, watch TV, or use electronics all day long. While that stuff is good, and has its place, we don’t believe children get all they need from that alone. We want to encourage our children to play outside. We want them to read, create, think of new ideas and new projects! We even want them to do chores. So where’s the balance? How do you monitor the time? With five kids it’s enough to drive a person crazy! This is the idea behind the marble jar. 

At my house each child has their own marble jar. The children earn marbles by:
• doing their chores
• performing random acts of kindness
• reading
• projects
• taking care of each other
• volunteering to help
• fulfilling personal responsibilities
• miscellaneous other things

The kids can spend their marbles on:
• Movies
• TV 
• Internet
• iPad 
• Wii
• Other electronics
• “junk” food/treat (Although we never have anything that “bad”… just special)

We generally say one marble is worth 15 minutes on whatever device they choose, or one treat. 

Some might argue that this is the negative method of “carrots and sticks” talked about by John Holt, to which I would argue that it is not. It is merely a learning tool encouraging them to balance their own time, and spend it productively. 
Not only does it teach them the numerical value of moments, but the value you put behind every moment. 
It teaches them fractions. “Two marbles is half an hour. One marble is 1/4…” 
It also teaches them budgeting skills. “If I want to watch a 2 hour family movie tonight, I had better not watch too much TV this afternoon.”
Addition, subtraction, reasoning, time well spent versus time wasted… I could go on and on! 
This is not some punishment and rewards system. This is the “real skills learned in the real world” system that we talk about, no, brag about, in our unschooling lives. Did I mention they put the marbles in their jars themselves? They also take their own marbles out of the jars when they spend them. This in itself teaches them responsibility, integrity and honor. 

This is a fabulous system and it has worked for us… I mean them.
Try it for yourself. You might find it changes the whole feel of your home as it has ours. Again, this is NOT about punishment vs. rewards… it’s all about teaching them balance.  Good luck!