Think your child doesn’t care that he is wearing pull-ups in pre-K? Well, he might not…yet. After all, he doesn’t know another life. He has been using a diaper (because we know that pull-ups aren’t anything other than a diaper, right?) for elimination since his first day of life. Wait until he is trained, and you may see the difference that being trained will make for him.
Children who have accomplished toilet training have made a significant step forward in independence. They are the masters of their domain, to borrow from Seinfeld. Not needing help for something so personal, they have a different attitude about body ownership and privacy. This is important and personally meaningful. We want children to have pride in their bodies and a sense that they own them. Even though you would never harm your child, when you are involved in their “business”, you are taking some of that pure ownership away. The sooner they have a sense that they can manage alone, or with only a bit of help for the hard bits, they build their sense of self.
When kids master a major life skill, they often are more willing to take on other skills such as writing and dressing. They are interested in holding their spoon and fork the “grown-up” way. They have entered the world of the older child, in their minds. And adults aren’t immune. We see potty trained kids differently too. When they are able to take care of themselves in the bathroom, we start raising our expectations for them as well, and treat them as older children, not babies. And they react to our change in perception as well. Toilet training can lift everyone up!
The practical realities of life mean that being trained allows them to go to activities and even schools that they wouldn’t be able to attend. Pools and camps have rules, and being fully engaged with their community means being out there and participating as much as possible.
A child’s independent toilet use will alter your sense of yourself as a caretaker. Whey you aren’t needed for physical care, it can take a bit of time to adjust your self-image. You are still the parent, and yes, you are still very much needed. But not as much in the hands-on way you used to be. I see this being a struggle for a lot of nannies. Their sense of value, maybe even their sense that they will still have a job, is wrapped up in physical care. So if you suspect that your nanny isn’t doing everything she could to build independence, investigate and assure her of all the things you need her to do every day. Spell it out. But make it clear that she is on “team potty” as part of her job.
A mom told me yesterday that her 5 year-old told her “I am so happy that I can use the potty!” It took him a long time to get all the skills together to be fully trained, and he is off on a family cruise next week. This will be the first time he can attend cruise camp with his older brother. He has arrived!