Monday, July 9, 2012

Thank Goodness for Early Potty Training!

One of the things I’m most proud of is my development, with Dr. Susan Goodwyn, of the Baby Signs® Potty Training Program. The whole goal of the program is to (a) convince parents to potty training earlier than is typical today, and (b) to provide materials for both them and their toddlers to help make it happen. And, just recently I witnessed for myself exactly why training early is such a good idea. Here’s what happened.

It was 2 weeks ago that my husband and I accompanied my step-son, daughter-in-law, and twin grandchildren on their first ever camping trip. The twins, just a bit over 3 years old, were like whirling dervishes—running, jumping, and even somersaulting as they explored the tent, air-mattresses, and the great outdoors. Lay down for the usual afternoon nap? Are you kidding, Grandma?! Don’t throw the sand or the stones? Are you kidding, Grandpa?! Come eat food not cooked or served in the usual way. No way, Mom! Or more accurately, “Noooooooooooo!”

Don’t get me wrong: The twins are wonderful kids—but they are also typical 3-year-olds who have developed what psychologists call a “sense of self,” meaning that they are, for the first time, able to think of themselves as independent beings who can have their own thoughts and can express (loudly!!) their own opinions. This major advance typically begins around age 2 but is in full blossom by age 3—and stays that way until reason begins to reign around age 4 and 5. The achievement of a sense of self is a wonderful and necessary milestone, but it is also one that carries with it the inevitable consequence of tantrums, stubborn refusals, and the increasingly frequent use of the word “no.”

Back to the campsite: Despite all the feverish exploration, uncontrollable energy, and battles of will over many things, both twins went potty predictably and happily in their portable potty chairs time after time after time! What made this happy situation possible was the fact that the twins had already been potty trained for over 8 months. For them, using the potty was just a fact of life, not a novel skill to be learned—or, as is all too frequent with older toddlers, resisted.

And I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Mom and Dad, in describing difficulties their friends with older toddlers were having, said more than once what a nightmare it could have been had they waited. At least in this one important arena, the word “Nooooooo!” was not a problem!

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program
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