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Why potty training in public is not performance parenting

4 Oct


Since introducing our off-grid parenting style, and appearing on the this morning show (where our daughter took centre stage by peeing through her nappy on the floor), our family have been touted as the parents who don’t do potty training. This is not entirely false, we actually don’t engage in any form of child training including sleep training and potty training since adopting the child-led parenting philosophy.

Last week I received an email from a researcher on ITV this morning that read….

“Sorry to bother you out of the blue, but we’re trying to cast a debate for Monday’s show and I was keen to get your thoughts.

In a nutshell, one of our team saw a child using a potty in the middle of a busy restaurant the other day and so we want to put together a debate on whether or not this is acceptable. I just wondered how you went about potty training your children and if you think using a potty whenever/wherever is OK?”

Conventional potty training didn’t work for our son so we took the ‘toilet learning’ approach and allowed him to transition in his own way and in his own time which took until he was around four year old. My youngest toddler has had some nappy free time this summer and doesn’t like sitting on a potty yet so we provided her with alternatives such as a waterproof mat or going out in the garden. She is now choosing to sit on a potty when she has a nappy on.

As long as children are exposed to healthy, social role modelling I believe they have an innate intelligence and desire to integrate and learn the skills they need to achieve both independence and cohesion in society, without the need for adult coercion. That said we all have different ways of achieving the same goal and for some potty training fits in perfectly with their family and their lifestyle.

The ITV this morning debate ensued on this topic of public potty training and created quite a stir.
Professional potty trainer, Amanda Jenner quite rightly pointed out that parents are potty training under stressful and chaotic environments and should not be expected to put their whole life on hold and not go out whilst their child is transitioning out of nappies.

Journalist and mum of one, Kelly Rose Bradford was quick to judge and labelled any such incidence as ‘ performance parenting’, going on to say “For me it just totally smacks of this total entitlement performance parenting, that we all seem to be totally subjected to all the time now and other people’s children’s needs come before anybody else’.

I personally wouldn’t encourage my child to go to the toilet near to where others are eating however, that doesn’t mean I would judge another who finds themselves in that situation. Perhaps the parent in question has a child who has a phobia of public toilets and there was no suitable alternative or maybe the child was desperate and couldn’t make it to the toilet in time. Would we prefer they wee all over the restaurant floor through their clothes?

Furthermore, the whole issue of eating and going to the toilet in the same place brings up the hypo racy of our society: many consider it perfectly acceptable to expect breastfeeding women to feed their child in a toilet which is surely the same thing an adult being expected to eat close to where a child is using a potty.

The whole idea of adult supremacy and that children’s needs should never take precedence over the needs of fully mature adults, seems ridiculous to me. Surely as grown adults we should be accepting that the needs of anybody’s young children come before our own preferences and opinions of what is unacceptable and unpleasant to those surrounding them….After all, there is nothing performance related about that, it’s simply called empathy and compassion!

Mirror image: Your child as your reflection

30 Oct


When you look in the mirror, what do you see?…You’re reflection and based upon how you view your reflection will determine  how you behave. Perhaps you use your mirror to apply make-up, straighten your hair and pluck any unwanted hairs before observing your outfit and accessories, making sure you are comfortable with what you see before embracing the day ahead with confidence that you look good….but how do you feel deep inside?

Did you choose your style, dressing the way you truly wanted or did you surrender to societal norms selecting smart clothes and shoes for work, minimal jewellery and discreet make-up in order to conform. For that matter did you surrender your dream job to go and work somewhere which would pay your bills and give you perceived ‘security’?

Is your reflection of who you have become what you thought it would be 10, 20 or even 30 years ago? What changed? What part of you might have been lost?

When the lake is still your reflection is clear, but throw a stone into the lake and you reflection becomes distorted, if you keep on throwing stones, clarity will evade you. Let’s compare the stones here to all that ‘noise’ we hear around us telling us what to do and how to act and all those feelings associated with that noise, feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and fear; if however, you allow the water to settle and become quiet, a clear reflection of your true self will be presented.

When we move away from the mirror or the lake do we stop seeing our reflection? Absolutely not, in reality we now come into contact with the mirrors of our inner world, the world we like to hide and distract ourselves from. How many of us find it near on impossible to sit still and quiet without any distraction such as  a book, film or even just running through our ‘to do’ list in our heads rather than remaining quiet by stilling the mind?

Everything we see in others can teach us something important about ourselves, perhaps something we wish we had as an attribute, or even worst something we do not like about ourselves . As a parent we are now given a unique opportunity to experience a completely unbiased and sometimes, painfully true set of reflections directly from the one’s who we cherish the most.

One of our greatest teachers is our two-year old son, but what can someone so young teach an adult you might ask? The answer is everything you have hidden away under the layers, over the years. They will reflect your anger, loneliness, sadness, despair and even your greatest joys and loves. They will reflect honestly every time, without prejudice. When you become angry and sad they will test you further and push all your buttons, reflecting straight back at you, the anger and sadness they can feel and provoking in you even more anger. When you laugh, they will laugh with you, reflecting your joy. A child will also teach you about time, reflecting back to you just how little time you believe you have and your inability to slow down and just be. They will also repeat things over and over, driving you crazy and reflecting back to you your impatience and your ego, ‘I know/have done this already, can’t we move on now?’

Children love to enquire, asking you questions about life and engaging with you by inviting you to see the world through their eyes rather than your ‘all-knowing’ eyes. The reflections are subtle and one of the most prominent reflections they give shows how adults are rarely present in the moment. Children are present all the time, showing imagination, creativity and amazement at every detail. These attributes flourish in the present and diminish in the past and future where most adults find themselves dwelling. Surely adults cannot afford this luxury of being present as they have responsibilities to concern themselves with and money to earn for their family?

Yet all we have is right now, it’s not about quantity, it’s quality and if we learn to be truly present in the precious moments we spend with our children then they will demand less of us. So next time you see your child run to the computer when you ask them a question, ask yourself what is this reflecting back to you, do you often multi task and talk on your phone whilst having ‘quality time’ with your child?

Unconditional love from a child is pure, they smile, make you melt and their innocence can make the most hardened person laugh. Their giving is endless and if you share unconditionally with them they will demonstrate this to others they come across. We were told many times by other parents that ‘not sharing’ phase was inevitable yet nearing on 3 years now it still hasn’t arrived.

If you teach your child possession, not allowing them to share what you deem to be ‘yours’ and demonstrate fear of loss, you may miss the reflective teaching when your child snatches from another and they may grow to become possessive, believing in separation and inequality rather than infinite abundance and connectedness.

A child is never innately violent and spiteful. These traits have become a reflection of what they are seeing around them in their environment; somewhere they have seen this violence play out and they imitate what they’ve witnessed. In our family we once watched The Bee movie, there is a part in the film where the bee playfully slaps the other bees in the hive. All of a sudden soon after viewing the film our then 20 month old son began slapping us around the face. We then began noticing similar behaviour in other animations he was exposed to and even though it was only playful banter we had to accept the responsibility for exposing him to a behaviour he was not yet able to comprehend yet. Thankfully with love, patience, acceptance and surrender we have now overcome this phase.

We live in a fast paced, stressed society and when you have had a tough day and are perhaps feeling exhausted and wired the last thing you need is your child playing up. At this point you must realise that your child doesn’t discriminate between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of behaving, they simply feed off of your energy and reflect it back to you no matter how hard you think you may be covering it up. If you can detach yourself and notice the feelings and reflections, you will see it is not personal. The sooner you can re-set your mood to positive, the sooner your child will follow suit. Maybe a soak in the bath, a short meditation or walk or a tasty meal will help you achieve this, whatever you do though remember to first change yourself rather than trying to change the child’s behaviour. As Mahatma Ghandi famously said ‘be the change you want to see’.

The teaching of reflections isn’t permanent and simply reveals your current transitional state. The more present you can be around your family, the less reactive you will become and the happier you will all be.

Ultimately you create your reality and if it is not the reality that you wanted then the teaching of reflections can guide you to remove the very obstacles that you yourself have placed in your way. By demonstrating to you via the behaviour and mood of those you attract into your life and who share your life with you, you are given the opportunity to grow and learn about yourself using compassion as your guide.

Reflective teaching is simply like attracts like, the difficult part is sometimes accepting who we are when the behaviour we have attracted into our world is negative, we cannot possibly attract negative things into our lives? Well we do on a daily basis and we end up blaming others and passing our responsibility on to others as well as circumstances for its presence. When we practice with compassion we recognise that we are all reflecting our pain and pleasure simultaneously, that we all have mountains to climb and obstacles to overcome, especially you could argue when it comes to parenting. Ultimately compassionate parenting is about honouring the reflective teaching of your child and accepting responsiblity for that regardless of you judging who’s right or wrong, good or bad and simply surrendering and accepting what is before you. If you can meet the reflection with an open heart you will be amazed at what it will reveal about you.

Be present and open to witness the magic occur.


(Co-written with Matt Allen