A doctor’s case for training later in childhood
You’ve probably heard the arguments in favor of early toilet training. They train early in Europe! Toddlers are more compliant than three-year-olds! Diapers are bad for the environment! Perhaps you’ve even read scientific studies concluding that children who train later are more likely to end up having accidents.
As a pediatric urologist who specializes in toileting problems, I’ll tell you this: Children under age 3 should not manage their own toileting habits any more than they should manage their college funds. Preschools that require 3-year-olds to be potty trained — like the one in Virginia that suspended 3 ½-year-old Zoe Rosso for excessive potty accidents — are harming kids. And infant toilet training, promoted in Mayim Bialik’s new book Beyond the Sling, is just plain nuts — unless, like Bialik, you monitor your child 24/7, feed your child a high-fiber vegan diet, and home-school your child. Babies need to experience uninhibited voiding, or elimination, without the expectation of using the toilet at such an early age.
It’s not that young kids can’t be potty trained. Sure they can. But knowing how to poop on the potty is not the same as responding to your body’s urges in a judicious manner.
Let’s fast-forward two or three years. That’s when potty prodigies show up at my clinic — one of a handful specializing in dysfunctional voiding — with the sudden onset of pee and poop accidents, urinary tract infections (UTIs), urinary frequency, and/or bedwetting.
“I don’t get it,” a mom will tell me. “I didn’t push her — she basically trained herself.”
I believe these parents, but unfortunately it’s typically the kids who trained earliest and most easily who develop the most serious problems. I see about 100 kids a week at my clinic, and about half are dysfunctional voiders; most of them trained before 3.
To understand the risks of early training, it’s important to know that virtually all toileting problems — pee and poop accidents, bedwetting, urinary frequency, and urinary tract infections — are related to chronically holding pee or poop or both…