Can You Really Potty Train an Infant?

When I was a younger mom, I was at the birthday party of my friend’s daughter, and some crazy dad took his newborn baby into bathroom and held her over the toilet where the baby supposedly either peed or pooped or both. I remember thinking that the whole thing was ridiculous.

“He’s not potty training that baby,” we whispered to each other, “he’s just making himself a slave. Babies can’t control that.”

Diaper Free at Three Months?

But then, after having already gone through diapers and potty training with five kids, while I was pregnant with my sixth, I met someone who changed my thinking. I was at the park with a group of moms, and my friend Tanya was trying out one of her new slings on another mom’s baby. The baby began to squirm, and Tanya said, “Your baby has to pee.”

The mom chuckled and replied, “Oh no, she’s not potty trained.”

“Yes, but if you take her now, she will pee on the potty.”

The mom dismissed Tanya, but I was intrigued, and I asked Tanya how she knew that and what made her so sure. She told me that it’s called Elimination Communication and that she had learned how to read the signals of her babies and take them to a potty when they needed to go. She said her youngest daughter had been in underwear since she was three months old! (She had to special order those because they don’t sell such little panties in regular stores in the U.S.)

Frankly, the whole idea of this is totally foreign (and absurd) to most Americans. But that day in the park, I was intrigued. I think I was most captivated by Tanya’s comments about women in other countries who wear their babies for most of the day.

It’s Normal in Other Countries

These women, she told us, are very tuned in to their babies. Babies in many African, South American and Asian countries don’t wear diapers at all, and it’s shameful, she told us, if a mother allows her baby to pee or poop on her. So they learn to understand their baby’s cues, and when the baby needs to go, they unwrap and hold the infant in position to allow her to eliminate on the ground.

For some reason, that made perfect sense to me, and if those moms can do it, I thought, maybe I could too. I still had some time left in my pregnancy, and I used that time to read all about it. One of the best resources I found was Andrea Olsen of Go Diaper Free (formerly of EC Simplified). She’s going to be a guest on our radio show, Parenting on Purpose, this Saturday at 10AM (EDT). If you’re local to Sarasota, tune in live to 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen live streaming or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

But Aren’t You a Slave to Your Baby?

As I was researching this whole thing, I contacted a friend who I thought could help. She’s a super cool, crunchy mom who raises her own chickens and distills her family’s water and cloth diapers her babies — I thought she’d be in on all this EC stuff and have some advice for me. But I was wrong.

She said that EC is not infant potty training, it’s parent training, and she had no interest in being a slave to her baby, and besides, she loved her cloth diapers.

Well, she was right. EC is not about potty training your baby. I like the name Elimination Communication because it’s really about communicating with your baby. And my friend was also right that it is parent training. It’s training parents to understand just another of their baby’s needs. We are familiar with the hunger cry, and we can usually interpret the sleepy cry — the poop cry isn’t much harder to spot, once you know what to listen for.

But she was wrong about being a slave to your baby, and she wouldn’t have had to give up her cloth diapers. When my sixth baby was born we used cloth, but at every diaper change, I held him over a little potty chair before putting on the new diaper, and I learned to listen for his cues. The poop cry is pretty easy to spot, and he pooped on the potty almost exclusively for the first year of his life. It was AWESOME to not have to clean up poopy explosions!

By the time he was walking, he lost interest in the whole potty thing, and that was okay with me because it was never really about potty training, it was more about communicating.

Newborns Don’t Like to Poop on Themselves

I did learn something interesting — in the first three months, it was obvious to me that my baby did not want to poop in his diaper, and I was blown away at how long he could hold it. He would cry the “poop cry” and sometimes, I just couldn’t get him to a bathroom for a while. He was wearing a cloth diaper, so I figured we’d be covered if he didn’t make it to the toilet. That baby would arch his back, and his little face turned bright red, and it was obvious that he was uncomfortable. As soon as I’d get him to a toilet, he’d breathe an obvious sigh of relief, relax and let it go! There was no mistaking it — this newborn baby had been holding it in.

When it was time to really potty train the baby, I turned to Oh Crap! Potty Training. I’ll tell you more about that later in the week, and you’ll hear from the book’s author on Saturday’s radio show after we talk about EC. Don’t forget to tune in.


And by the way…today’s featured blog picture was actually my little guy! Can’t wait to do it again with our next baby. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts — the good, the bad and the freaked out!



Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Does Your Child Have This Habit?

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Originally posted in March, 2011

Recently an 11-year-old asked me a question that so impressed me, I was inspired to add new step in my family’s daily routine.

A few weeks ago, we were setting up for a big community garage sale as a fundraiser to help finance a week-long training camp for teens at the state capitol.  During set up, I spent more time chasing down the kids to help than actually working.  The fundraiser was for them, not the adults, but the adults seemed to be doing all the work, and I was irritated, to say the least.

Holding a serving spoon with a glob of nacho cheese caked to it, I turned to the nearest child to ask that it be cleaned.  Subconsciously, I expected her to comply, but it was clear the kids had their own agenda that day. They were there to socialize, and all parental orders distracted them from their real purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all obedient kids. There was no real disrespect, and they all did what was asked without complaint.  It was more of a clash of expectations — we expected them to socialize in the midst of the real agenda – work – and they expected to have to do some work in the midst of their real agenda – socializing.

So there I was, searching for a teen, cheese-encrusted spoon in hand.  Anna was closest to me, and at this point, my expectations had been set. I figured she’d take the spoon, shoulders subtly slumped at the faint disappointment of having to interrupt her conversation, and run off to the sink so she could hurry back and resume the real work of socializing.

Instead, she smiled and said, “Sure!” and reached out her hand to take the spoon. She was cheerful and unrushed, and everything about her body language said, “I have no other agenda right now but to serve you.”

When she returned, she didn’t drop the spoon on the table in a rush to resume her conversation. Instead, she handed me the spoon and said, “Is there anything else you would like me to do?”

I was amazed. Had she really just asked me if she could do anything else? And with a smile, no less?  WOW! My first instinct was to kiss her sweet cheeks and tell her to go play.  Her attitude made me want to bless the socks off her.  The truth of the matter was, I still needed her help, but after she completed a few more tasks for me, I lavished her in praise and sent her on her way.

Returning to frustration, I went on a manhunt to find the other teens, but Anna’s character that day inspired a new plan for my own kids.  Just like teaching our kids to use the potty, it’s all in the training.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Just like everything else we’ve trained in our kids, it takes persistent, hard work.  The truth is, we have to start by training ourselves.  Building a new character trait in a child starts with the parents making a decision, setting a plan, and then disciplining themselves to work the plan consistently. But it’s worth the payoff.

Here’s the plan we’ve been using:

  • We started by explaining that anytime a request is made or instruction is given, they are to return when they’re done and ask, “Is there anything else you would like me to do?”  That question is really what completes their task.
  • Then came role-playing. Whenever we role-play, we start small.  So in this case, it was “Bring me a tissue” or “Bring me a glass of water.” If they returned without asking the new question, we asked, “Is your task really complete?”
  • Just like any other habit, as we enforce it with every little task, it will soon become second nature to them.

It’s easy to focus on making sure they do their homework and keep their room clean, but it’s those subtle issues of character and attitude that can slip under our radar, and yet in life, these are the principle things.  God is faithful to point them out when we’re paying attention, and our reward for diligence is a respectful and cheerful child who blesses the people around him.

Occasionally we might even garner a few heart-warming compliments.  At the yard sale, it was my pleasure to pour out praises on Anna’s mom.  She deserved as much recognition as Anna.

At the end of the day, the work of character training pays large dividends.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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How are You Preparing Your Child For the Real World?

Facebook users, we have an AWESOME new group that’s all about preparing our kids for the real world. We want your voice and opinions and ideas, and we’d love for you to ask questions of the community and brainstorm with them.

This community is growing so quickly! We’ve added almost 500 people in the first few hours of it’s existence. Log into Facebook, join the group and invite your friends!

Here’s some info about the group:

This is a community for people who want to share ideas, ask questions and offer information that will help build the kind of skills kids need to succeed in the real world.

The goal of this community is simply to work together in raising kids who have REAL WORLD life skills — the stuff they probably won’t get in school (how to balance a checkbook, buy a house, grow a garden, learn about alternative energy, patent a product and bring it to market, harness social media for a purpose, etc.).

We’re here to talk about HOW and WHY to raise:

  • entrepreneurs
  • good communicators
  • civic-minded people
  • effective activists
  • debt-free, financially wise stewards of our planet
  • world changers
  • people who can manage their own thoughts, emotions and choices well
  • emotionally healthy people

We’re here to brainstorm together, offer ideas, ask questions and share information about:

  • how to help our kids start a business
  • how to teach our kids about our free market system
  • how to raise kids who will know how to cast an informed vote
  • how to help find their passion
  • how to nurture their passion
  • how to teach our kids to advocate effectively for what they believe in
  • how help kids negotiate well
  • how to teach kids good conflict management
  • you get the idea!

Did you join yet? Do it now, and share this post. See you on Facebook!

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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How to Raise Thankful Kids: The Art of Appreciation

This begins with a tale of two kids. Let’s call one kid Tom and the other Joe. Tom belongs to a Boy Scout troop that meets once a week, and he loves being a part of the troop. Every week he is fully engaged in the project or activity, raises his hand to ask questions, and beams with pride over even his smallest accomplishments. At the end of every meeting, as Tom is saying goodbye to his troop leader, he says, “Thank you so much! I had so much fun, and I learned something new. Can’t wait until next week.” Tom’s gratitude is palpable, and it validates all the hours that the leaders pour into the meetings.

Then there’s Joe. For the most part, Joe has a pretty good life. He’s got two parents who love him and love each other, and he has a fairly good relationship with his siblings. Joe’s parents work hard to give him as much as they can. He takes music lessons, has lots of toys, and gets to take annual family vacations. But for Joe, it always seems like life never gives him enough. When a group of friends invite him to a movie, he argues about which movie to see. If someone offers him a cookie, he wants to know why he can’t have two. If his parents take him to an amusement park, he pouts when they won’t buy him a souvenir.

Now let us ask you, the reader — which boy would you want living in your house?

Being thankful is really an art in the sense that gratitude brings beauty, and it adds significance to people and circumstances. A grateful heart is at peace. It values people over things and finds joy in nearly every situation.

On the flip side, an ungrateful heart feels self-entitled and is perpetually disappointed.

Some kids are born with an extra helping of appreciation, and others have to work at it, but the bottom line is this: as parents, we need to intentionally cultivate an attitude of gratitude in our kids.

It Starts with Us

You’ve probably heard the saying that more is caught than taught. Most people would probably say that they do a fairly good job of modeling gratitude by regularly saying please and thank you. And they would probably be right.

But just in case you need a little reminder, be sure to thank everyone! Thank the drive-thru people, the cashier, the people who hold doors open for you, and the coach of your child’s baseball team every time there’s a practice.

Smile at every one of their faces and look into every pair of eyes! Then turn to your kids, and have them thank those people too. Kids learn what they live, and in no time flat, you’ll have little gratitude machines.

But let’s take it even a step further. When it comes to appreciation, let’s go after excellence! Instead of simply thanking your waitress, say something specific about her service that you especially appreciated.

Occasionally, out of the blue, have the kids make thank you cards and maybe even small homemade gifts. Put them all in a cute basket and include a $10 gift card to Starbucks, and give it to your pastor as a token of gratitude for all he does for the church, your family and the community. Every Friday, park your car instead of waiting in the pick up line at your child’s school. Go in and ask what you can do to help them clean up for the week, and let them know that you appreciate the work they’re doing for your child.

And how about showing our kids that same level of gratitude. Aren’t we so grateful that these young people are in our lives? When they do something special, are we pouring out appreciation? Let’s lavish them in genuine gratitude for who they are and what they do. Then they’ll know firsthand how good it feels to be appreciated.

The Greater Role of Gratefulness

Ultimately, gratitude is the antithesis of selfishness. When we teach our children to value and appreciate people, we teach them empathy, compassion and a general regard for humanity. We remind them that they are part of a community, and they have responsibility in that community.

Lessons of appreciation help our kids become aware of other people’s time and money and effort, and they teach our kids to focus on what they have and not what they lack, which ultimately helps fight against entitlement. When kids are grateful for every breath they take, they are not likely to also feel like the world owes them something.

Living Gratitude

About 11 years ago (Jenni speaking), I took my preschool daughter to a mommy and me class, and I overheard a conversation between a mom and a little girl that I’ll never forget. I could tell by their clothing and accessories and the car they drove that this family was wealthy. As they were working together on a craft project, the mom was saying, “You are so lucky to get to go to a class like this! You have lots of friends and a wonderful teacher here to help you. You get to make pretty projects and play with toys. You are so lucky.”

I was deeply impressed by this mom’s deliberate attempt to cultivate a heart of gratitude in her young daughter. And I realized then that so much of this training happens in conversation with our kids, as we draw their attention to the many blessings in their lives.

If you’re looking for a fun way to raise the bar of appreciation in your home, consider starting a Family Book. Just get a Composition Journal and leave it somewhere central. As things happen (holidays, vacations, visitors, parties, etc.) encourage family members to write down things that they’re grateful for while they’re actually feeling thankful. They can also write down fun memories and funny things that family members said. Then, you could pull out the book once in a while and read through it together. It will be a reminder of all that you have to be grateful for, and when it’s full, you’ll have a treasured family keepsake.


Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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