Before most children can tell which way is up, Alicia Silverstone’s son was potty trained. As the actress-cum-vegan diet pusher explains in her new, and already much derided, parenting book The Kind Mama, young Bear Blu was learning the fine art of sphincter control well before he could speak or walk.
It worked like this: When Bear Blu clenched his body and pouted his face just so, Silverstone—at all times, super in-tune with her baby’s bodily proclivities—knew that he was ready to go, and would promptly find a toilet over which to hold him. Silverstone employed a potty training technique called “elimination communication”—which, she explained in a recent interview, is based on the idea that babies “give you cues but we’re ignoring those cues.” Even the youngest infants can purportedly communicate when they are ready to go; attentive parents need only respond to these “cues” in time. “Elimination Communication” (EC) was made popular in the early 00’s by writer Ingrid Bauer’s book Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene. The book was inspired by a trip Bauer took to India, and her observation of how “mothers in these cultures” approach toilet training.
A rather antithetical strategy was used in East Germany just a quarter-century ago; there, officials used militant, communal potty training schemes as a means of breeding steadfast Soviet citizens. Under the Communist German Democratic Republic, toddlers attended state-run crèches that were equipped with large “potty benches,” on which, several times a day, every child sat down—and remained seated until everyone was done. “This not only aimed at training [children] to use the toilet,” explains Berlin’s DDR Museum, “it was a first step to social education.” Forcing children to defecate on cue ostensibly taught submission to authority. Synchronized bowel movements preceded a synchronized politics.