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Notes to a Montessori Parent - Let's remove negative language and shame around Toilet Learning

How we Montessori toilet lesrning area for toddler

How we talk to our children is so important. But it's also difficult because often we are rushed, pushed, tired, under pressure and we don't always have a moment to pause before we react. This is true for me and on many occasions I've used negative language around toilet learning like "oh no...", "accident", and "mess".  

There is some feeling that negative language and possibly shaming about toilet learning behaviour can result in anxiety, constipation and toileting regression (like "holding on"). While we don't need to be thrilled about their behaviour, we can use a positive or neutral tone, and help the child accept that toilet learning, and all that it involves, is a completely natural process. 

"When your child has an accident, don't make a fuss. Don't shame or scold. You can simply say, "Your underpants are wet. Let's change them." Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child the RIE Way. This is the perfect language to use, it is neutral and a matter-of-fact! 

Is it possible to change our mindset? Toilet learning does not have to be a negative process. It's not always the verbal language that is important, it's also our body language and our tone. 

"Having our toddler learn how to use the toilet does not have to be a dreaded thing. After all, it is a completely natural part of being a human. Our children pick up our attitudes to dirty nappies from infancy and, if we are screwing up our face, they will learn that it is a dirty thing instead of a normal bodily process."

"Then we can help them go to the bathroom to change. Montessori teachers generally say, "You have wet clothes. Let's go change," rather than saying it was an "accident"." The Montessori Toddler: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being.

Yes, we need to stop screwing up our faces and use this positive language - from birth! Sarah Moudry has an excellent section on this:

"In order to create a prepared emotional environment, you will need to be aware of your own opinions of potty training, urinating and bowel movements. Children can often sense the feelings of their parents, even when the parent does their best to hide them. Before the age of three, a child learns appropriate and acceptable reactions and responses from the adults around him.

Thus, it is important to use positive language when talking with your child about his toileting. It is from your attitudes and expressions that he will learn to feel comfortable with his normal bodily functions. It is essential that he feels comfortable and relaxed through the process as that he does not withhold his urine or bowel movements, which can lead to other challenges."

"When your child misses the toilet, don't shame him or use negative language. This is just as important as not using praise. Again, treat it as just another moment in the day. Without judgement, state what happened, "I see that your urine is on the floor. We need to clean up the urine and you need dry underpants." In both situations it is important to use matter-of-fact tone of voice."

"If it just fine to recognize the situation as your child may also have noticed, but may not know the appropriate reactions. However, saying something such as "Whew, you are stinky!" may work against you and hinder your child's effort and toileting. A child may feel ashamed or discouraged from such messages." - Toilet Awareness: Using Montessori Philosophy to Create a Potty Learning Routine

It's too important for us not to try and remove these negative associations with toilet learning, not just with our own children but with other families and with other parents too!

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