Toilet Training Isn’t Hands Off

Everywhere I go I am finding more & more parents with an odd sense of the “hands off” approach to parenting.  Now, don’t get me wrong. I am quite liberal when it comes to child-rearing, however, there are a few things that I will certainly be “hands on” for.  (Please note that this article is not about Free-Range vs. Helicopter parents. That is a whole other topic, soon to be addressed.)  This approach that I am referring to is the “let kids be kids” & “wait until the child is ready”.

I’ve met many mothers who subscribe to this child-lead approach when it comes to toilet training. I am meeting children who are four years old & beyond who are still donning the diaper.  “I am waiting for her to let me know when she’s ready” and “I know I shouldn’t be concerned about him yet since no one goes to kindergarten in diapers” is always the excuse I hear.  Then I get the raised eyebrows when these women discover that my 26 month old son is in Hanes not Huggies.  Now, perhaps I am biased because my son learned very early, perhaps I am judgmental because I am not that hands-off, perhaps there is a real problem here. Either way, four years old in a diaper is too old.

I truly am amazed at the number of parents who wait to do anything until the child is “ready”, like this woman who wrote an article for the NY Times. There are just some things that there shouldn’t be a choice over & when it comes to toilet training, why would a child ever be ready? A diaper is all their short lives have ever known, so why would they suddenly tell you they want to relieve themselves elsewhere?  Also, a diaper is more convenient & requires far less work on the toddler’s part than a toilet, so why would they suddenly want their play time interrupted or give up mom wiping their butt to use the potty.  Just because the parent or an older sibling uses a toilet does not mean that a toddler is at all interested to use one him or herself.  I’m even reading posts like this one where teachers are requesting the kids to wear diapers to school!  Then I’ve read statements about parents who send their kids to school or daycare where other children are in underwear & within a week their child changes their mind & wants to be trained. I can only imagine the teasing & bullying that took place for these little kids before they too ditched the diapers.  Why set your kid up for this kind of torment?

Besides the possible ridicule, there are other reasons why kids should sit on the pot earlier.  For instance, UTIs are much more common in those who wear diapers longer, diaper rashes are more prominent & should we even talk about the chemicals involved in diapers these days!  Plus, using the toilet earlier gives both the child & the parent the great feeling of independence & pride, and that is just priceless.

I do feel that a lot of these parents that wait and wait and wait for these kids to announce that they now want to be toilet trained are not only letting the kids lead the way, but are letting the kids lead themselves to other issues later in life.  (I’d love to see statistics on these kids later…) No, it shouldn’t be a “I’m in charge” or “it’s my way” situation, but the child should know that the parent is there to guide them & teach them through everything in life. And the parent should know that it is their job to do just that.  Many cultures train their children at early ages, and those children grow up to be just fine. A child who is toilet trained at 18 months or younger is not going to be traumatized by the ordeal & can lead fulfilling lives, just like those trained at 4 years.  There is no choice about it; using the toilet is just something that civilized human beings do.  Get rid of diapers & pull-ups and get that little patootie on the potty!


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