The child’s experience
Going diaper-free means transitioning from one habit to another. In modern society, we diaper newborn babies and “show them” the diaper is the place to do bodily functions, whenever and wherever they want. Later, after a year or more, when the child is living harmoniously with his “built-in” toilet, we change our instructions: no more pooping any time and any place.
From here on out, it has to happen in one place—the toilet. It’s like a situation when we have to relearn our driving habits by halting at a green light and driving off at a red one! Or switching to driving on the left-hand side of the road instead of the right.
Many parents will agree that transitioning from one habit to another is tough for adults as well. Two tough challenges are changing our eating habits and quitting smoking. However smart we are; however we long to change; know how important it is for our health; know exactly what we should and what we should not eat, we still fail time after time. It must be so much more difficult for kids to change their habits.
Some kids pick up clear hints on the subject. They notice that their parents, siblings, kids at daycare, all go to the bathroom to poop, and the urge to be like them kicks in. For them, it’s pretty simple to transition from pooping in a diaper to using the toilet. But for another large group of children, it’s far from simple. They have a strong dependence on the diaper. They feel secure with it, and the idea of abandoning it can seem alarming.
The parents’ role in the challenge of transitioning from diaper to toilet is particularly difficult and complex. Parents are society’s agents, and it’s their task to instill social norms in their kids from the outset. Toilet training is one of the first such educational norms.
As they embark on the task, parents present their kids with new demands. They are facilitators and teachers who cheer on success and console in cases of failure. With their deep emotional involvement in the process, they must put their irritation and frustration to one side, and create a harmonious, supportive atmosphere.
When successful, it’s an experience that contributes immensely to forming the child’s image of her parents. Parents are authoritative but still supportive, helpful, protective, understanding and encouraging. But if the process fails, it can affect the image-formation.
For the kid, a smooth and harmonious transition means stronger self-confidence and self-image. A transition that’s accompanied by conflict and irritation can delay the process and harm the child’s developing personality, self-image, and self-confidence.