Moms Columns & Blogs

This generation's ways of potty training has gotta go

What's it going to take for American parents to realize that just as it's far easier to house-train a 4-month-old puppy than a 1-year-old dog, it's far easier to toilet-train a 20-month-old child than a 3-year-old?

Fifty-four years ago, according to a study conducted at the time by Harvard University, nearly 90 percent of America's children had been successfully trained before age 2.

Today – courtesy of several decades of toilet-babble issuing primarily from pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton – parents wrongly think training a child under age 2 is psychologically harmful, if not impossible.

So, they wait. And they wait. They're waiting, they tell me, for their children to show Brazelton's “readiness signs.”

As a consequence, children become ever more accustomed to and oblivious of letting go in their diapers. When their parents finally make the attempt, resistance develops, including today's common refusal to use the toilet for bowel movements.

Several weeks ago, a mother asked me for advice concerning her 4-year-old who was “absolutely refusing to p-o-o-p in the potty.”

My advice, and it's worked: Stop talking to your son about using the potty. Don't even ask “Do you want to try and p-o-o-p in the potty today?”

Get rid of the diapers, pull-ups, etc., and resolve to never use them again.

Every day, right after your son eats a high-fiber breakfast, gate him in the bathroom, naked from the waist down, and tell him his doctor said he has to stay there until he p-o-o-p-s in the potty. Don't stay there with him. Don't offer incentives, or even encouragement. Then make yourself scarce. Simply tell your son to call you when he p-o-o-p-s or if he needs help.

Respond coolly to success, as if it's no big deal. Say no more than “That's good. You can come out now.” No rewards or even lots of praise.

Gate him there every day until he's having regular bowel movements in the potty.

A week later, Mom wrote, “We have success.” At first, the little guy cried and acted like he was being traumatized, but Mom stayed the course.

“You will p-o-o-p in the potty,” she told him, and he did; and he has been ever since.