Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Potty Training in China

We're not fully in the "potty training" phase right now, but we've been teaching Hadassah how to use the toilet ever since a friend recommended we start teaching her when she was 8 months old. As she explained what she'd done with her child, it made sense to start teaching our little one the skill, not to have her fully potty trained really young, but to give her the knowledge to be able to go and make it a natural thing, not something we have issues with her rebelling against later, or something that she's scared to do, as I've heard can sometimes happen when you wait.

Soon after we started teaching Hadassah (she looks so little!). Though we got a potty chair, she soon decided she preferred the big toilet instead.
Hadassah picked up pretty quickly and occasionally goes potty, especially if we bring her right after we've been outside or right after meals. It's pretty neat, and she gets SO excited as we praise her for it, especially when Daddy does his special celebratory dance. Recently she has even been telling us more when she needs to go, though it's very irregular. Her saying "bafroom" and doing the sign language for "potty" is always exciting when it happens. We're not going to try to get towards being completely toilet trained until at least closer to age 2, but for now she's taking steps towards her noticing her body's needs. She's even started going in and laying down to be changed when she makes a poopy diaper, so she's definitely becoming aware and likes being clean and dry!

Potty training is a challenge anywhere, but as Hadassah wants to use the potty more when we're out, I'm realizing it's a special challenge in China.

Why? Squatty potties.

It's not so much the method as the state of most public, squatty potty restrooms. They're usually pretty gross. There have been far to many misses or splashes, that the floor is sticky or yellow sometimes. The smell... Ugh. I successfully avoided them for the first 11 months of living here, but had to face them once I was pregnant, we were traveling, and it was the only option. But take my toddler in there? I don't think so!

Except... she kept asking to go the potty every week after I shopped for groceries. The mall with the nicest/closest supermarket to us doesn't have western style toilets. I brought her in once (thankfully it weren't too dirty) and showed her how to use them, but she couldn't bring herself to go, and I didn't blame her. So for the following weeks, predictably, she would ask to go after I checked out, and I'd explain that these bathrooms didn't have potty chairs, they just had "hole potties" and Hadassah couldn't use those. But what to do when she got older and had to go somewhere? I didn't want to think about it.

Leave it to Hadassah to show me she could do it, though. We were walking outside one morning, and she saw a sewer cover with a hole in the middle and said "hole bafroom," squatted, and did the "shh" sound we do to help her think to go. I asked if she was pretending to use the hole potty, and she laughed, and continued copying her ritual at every sewer cover with a hole that we came to.

The next afternoon we were out for a long walk, with no public restrooms anywhere nearby, when she asked to go. So, I decided to do something very Chinese: let her go by a bush! You see, diapers are pretty expensive here, and some people in the city (and I've heard most people in the country) don't use diapers at all for their little ones. They put them in "split pants" that have the inner seams open, so they can hold them up to go whenever they need to. I hear it makes potty training pretty easy, but I would be pretty terrified to hold a young baby that wasn't wearing a diaper, not to mention not wanting to expose my child's private parts that much in public. But I digress... Anyways, it's a common site to see young children squatting or being held in a squatting position in public, on the outside of a sidewalk, in the grass, near a bush, or even over a trash can in the store. So, I let Hadassah try outside, and she actually went! We made a big deal of it, and since then she almost always wants to go when we're outside... so much so that Ryan joked that she must think going outside is some sort of upgrade to going inside - she seems to enjoy it more!

So, the next shopping trip rolled around on Monday. Again, she asked to go just after I checked out, and this time I took her, explaining it was going to be a "hole potty." And she did it. I helped her put her feet on either side (part of my fear of taking her into them is that she'll fall in!) and she went like a pro.

Hadassah is teaching me not to be afraid to try new things. Children are pretty adaptable, and willing to do things we're not always willing to do. I'm still not excited about full potty training here, as public restrooms themselves aren't always that common (though I guess she can use the great outdoors for a while!) but a step has been taken...

And sorry if that was all more than you wanted to know. ;) It all goes along with life in a foreign country!


  1. So proud of her and YOU !! yay!! -- Donna Jo

  2. Ahahaha!!!! That's hilarious! The article that you linked to was hysterical, too. The part with the sewer covers was great. Oh dear. TMI, maybe, but what else are you going to do? Better to laugh about it, in my opinion! -Natalie