As some of my readers already know, I have declared all-out war on the absurd, destructive idea -- promoted by a good number of pediatricians and mental health professionals -- that it is perfectly all right to allow an intelligent human being to continue soiling and wetting himself well into his or her fourth, even fifth, year of life. I say, if a puppy can be house-trained within a week, then surely an 18-month-old can be toilet trained within a month! The sole beneficiaries of the fact that the average age of successful toilet training has been steadily increasing over the past 30 years are the manufacturers of disposable diapers.
Here is a short list of some of the more nefarious contentions made by promoters of late training -- including pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, America's toilet-training-expert-in-residence -- along with my responses:
Contention: The typical child is not ready, either physically or psychologically, to be toilet trained before his or her second birthday. Therefore, whereas toilet training can be accomplished during this time, it is generally stressful for both parent and child and can result in later problems.
Response: Hogwash! In 1957, researchers at Harvard University found that more than 80 percent of American children were successfully trained by age 24 months. There is absolutely no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, to suggest this was generally stressful, much less harmful.
Contention: Letting the child determine when he/she will begin using the toilet results in fewer problems.
Response: Balderdash! This is as ridiculous as saying that one should let a child determine when to begin using proper table manners. Research has demonstrated that when parents fail to properly train by 30 months, the likelihood of resistance to learning to use the toilet begins to increase. Also, both pediatricians and psychologists generally report seeing an increase in toilet-training problems in children 3 and older since the trend toward later training became popular in the early '70s.
Contention: Later training is less stressful on parent and child because the child is not only more psychologically ready, but more physically able to use the toilet properly.
Response: Frog-feathers! Again, waiting beyond 30 months greatly increases the chances of what researchers call "stool withholding" and "toilet refusal," thus making parental frustration and (consequently) unfortunate acts of parental impulsiveness and anger more, not less, likely. As the age at which training is started has increased, so has child abuse triggered by toilet-training problems. The best time to train -- between 18 and 24 months -- is also the easiest.
Contention: When he is "ready," a child will train himself.
Response: Rubbish! The accounts of children training themselves are few, and pale in comparison to reports of 4-year-olds who show absolutely no interest whatsoever in using the toilet.
Contention: When one toilet trains a child is less important than how that training is conducted.
Response: Hooey! Whereas the matter of how the child is trained is certainly important, the matter of when is equally, and perhaps even more important.
Late training delays a child's proper socialization and prevents his/her parents, and Mom in particular, from making the critical transition from caretaker to authority figure on time (between her child's second and third birthdays). Said another way, late training perpetuates toddlerhood and prevents Mom from "liberating" herself from her child and beginning to properly discipline.
XJohn Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at Affirmative Parenting, 1020 E. 86th St., Suite 26B, Indianapolis, IN 46240 and at his Web site: http://www.rosemond.com/.