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The Bottom Line on Toilet Training

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"Some children get so used to life in diapers they could get to be 3, 3½ and they are still in them," Schum says. "I usually tell parents this child is already too old. Get them out of diapers."

Specifically, from the one-time survey of the families with children of the varying ages, the researchers found black children had the highest rate of toilet-training completion at 39%. Other ethnicities followed with 14% trained completely, while white parents reported a 7% trained rate.

The study also provided data for the association between day care and mother's work status, and toilet training. Schum and colleagues write, "It should be reassuring to parents that the child's participation in day care does not seem to affect the acquisition of completing toilet training within the standard time frame." Whether the mother worked or not also was an unimportant variable.

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."

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