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The Bottom Line on Toilet Training

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Finally, the study found higher rates of toilet-training completion in children from single-parent homes. The researchers say further study is needed to discover why single parents are more successful at training.

Many methods for toilet training have been put forth, including one that you could say fast-tracks the "child orientation" theory. That would be family psychologist John Rosemond's "naked and $75" method -- in which unclothed children are allowed to walk around the house, dropping urine and stool. Their aversion to having excrement dripping down their legs, as well as parental reminders that they need to remember to use a nearby potty next time, gets them trained in days, he claims. (The 75 bucks is to clean the rugs).

Schum has another method: "We have developed a parent-coach method," he tells WebMD. "Once you see a sign of readiness, get them out of diapers," but not naked. Instead, put them in something like pull-ups, he says. Then, be consistent, praise the child and provide tangible rewards for doing the right thing. Signs of readiness usually appear between 22 and 30 months old.

"What we have published is an American experience," Schum clarifies. "In other parts of the world, children are toilet trained at an earlier age, and there is no evidence of psychological or physical damage."

Lawrence Balter, PhD, editor of Parenthood In America: An Encyclopedia and professor of applied psychology at New York University, says the study raises some interesting points but also some questions. For example, whether other unexplored variables were involved in the differing success rates for early toilet training. "Some people let their children remain a child. They allow them to stay on the bottle or breastfeed -- to sleep in a bed with the parents -- these things hang together [with toilet training]."

Still, he agrees there is an age at which all healthy kids ought to be using the toilet. "The average age of 3 seems to be where most kids get completely toilet trained; girls a little earlier, boys a little later. Once you get past 4 ... if the child is normal, they understand what they have to do. They have the muscle control, and it becomes a question of their willingness to do it."

 

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