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Don't Let Your Kids Pee in Public Please

By paulabernstein |

potty training

Playground or Potty?

Last summer I took my girls to a new playground in another part of town where they splashed in a play “river.” Trying to keep cool, I sat on a bench in the shade next to a water fountain. Despite the blistering New York in August heat, we were having a lovely time — until a little girl squatted next to me and urinated beside the water fountain.

If this had been a tiny tot who didn’t know any better, I might not have been as disturbed. But the girl was maybe 5 and her parents encouraged her to pee right there in public. I was tempted to say something to the parents, but I didn’t want to start a fight. And quite honestly, I was speechless.

When did it become okay for kids to pee in public? In this case, it was not only rude, but also incredibly unsanitary and unhygienic — she was urinating right next to the water fountain and not far from the rest of the playground.

Apparently, I’m not the only one grossed out by this trend of public peeing. Over at The Stir, K. Emily Bond writes:

Isn’t it just a bit uncouth to lean your recently potty-trained toddler over curbs, shrubbery, and boutique shoe stores to pee? Yes, public peeing.

They’re toddlers, not street vagrants or dogs. What’s with this public urination trend that’s taking over my city? I’ve even seen some parents cradling their kids’ butts in such a way that they can poop in public!

Thank goodness I haven’t had to witness a child defecate in public. I don’t think I can handle that. After all, I can’t even stomach the sight of a diaper change on a table at a Dunkin Donuts.

Bond blames the public pooping and peeing on premature potty training. I don’t think that’s the problem. Rather, I think it’s a case of parental entitlement. It’s this sort of behavior that gives today’s parents a bad name.

I know it’s tricky when your kid has to go and there’s not a bathroom in sight. Believe me, I’ve been there. If you happen to be in the woods, feel free to tell your kid to squat by a tree. But if you’re out in public, please make the extra effort to find a bathroom — even if it means packing up your stuff and leaving the playground (yes, there should be more public bathrooms, but that’s another story). And don’t forget to bring a change of clothes in case of accidents.

I’ve seen some folks who bring a kid size “port-o-potty” to the park with them. That might be the best compromise. Their child is learning not to pee or poop anywhere they like and the parents don’t have to frantically search for a bathroom.

I know a lot of parents will disagree with me on this point (including my fellow Strollerderby blogger John). But I wonder at what age is it no longer okay to urinate or defecate in public? As a city dweller, I’ve seen adults do it and believe me, it’s pretty nasty.

photo: flickr/dospaz

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About paulabernstein



Paula Bernstein is a freelance writer and social media manager with a background in entertainment journalism. She is also the co-author of Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

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0 thoughts on “Don't Let Your Kids Pee in Public Please

  1. Pee Mommy says:

    I gotta say, although I can understand the negative reaction to seeing this, I’ve totally been there with my 5yo who was a VERY reluctant potty trainer. She rarely has accidents anymore, but there are certainly times when she tells me she’s seconds away from peeing or pooping in her pants. When we’re at parks that don’t have bathrooms (or have them locked for the winter or something) or in the car miles from an available potty, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. If/when this type of emergency happens, I do my best to a) find a close bathroom, or b) find a discreet spot. I’m not encouraging my daughter to do this by any means, but there are times I literally have no other options.

  2. Meagan says:

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a sanitary issue- the water comes from pipes, not a well. But it’s still rude. I’m not sure why parents think it’s ok to teach their kids to do this- and when they think it will magically stop. I think it’s a little more understandable with a kid in the midst of potty training (and the plastic potty is a good compromise). The parents in that case are probably not so much entitled as desparate and oblivious. Most kids are pretty well potty trained by 5 though (I know, that’s changing) and even if they aren’t- isn’t that about when they start developing body privacy issues? Wouldn’t it confuse things to have them pee in public?

  3. paulabernstein says:

    Pee Mommy, what about just letting her pee in her pants? I always brought an extra change of clothing when my kids were young for this exact situation.

  4. Donna says:

    I certainly don’t think that having the little girl pee right by the water fountain in plain view was the right thing to do. At the same time, I’ve been to parks where the bathroom is locked for the winter or the porta-potties are no where near the playground and neither is your car. In that case, I think finding a convenient, discreet bush/tree is acceptable, rather than confusing the child with “ok, this time just pee in your pants.”

  5. goddess says:

    First let’s get all dogs to stopping using public places as there Doggy Doo Doo Spot, eh?
    I want to put a sign in my own yard that says “If you let your dog poop in my yard, may I com poop in yours?”
    Honestly, poop is poop- so that human poop is no more dangerous than the dog crap that seems to be acceptable to most.

  6. paulabernstein says:

    goddess, kids aren’t dogs! But for the record, I can’t stand when people don’t clean up after their dogs. Really nasty! It gives all dog owners a bad rap (and I love dogs).

  7. goddess says:

    I realize that- I was only addressing the hygiene issues you brought up in the article. Poop is poop and we accept all kinds of dog poop in parks, yards, etc. So I don’t think criticizing on the basis of the hygiene aspect in the child pooping at the park is fair. Behavioral aspects, yes. Go for it. Don’t have a horse in that race.

  8. goddess says:

    I actually don’t like dog poop in my yard at all. It’s not like they bring along disinfectant and clean the residual excrement on the grass my kids like to play on, the guys have to mow, etc., etc.
    I’ve had a dog- and he had a spot in MY yard. Walking was for exercising, not defecating all over the neighbor’s yards. Gross.

  9. paulabernstein says:

    Actually, goddess, dogs are not allowed to poop or pee in playgrounds either…

  10. Pee Mommy says:

    So, letting my daughter stand there and pee on herself and her clothes would be preferable to going on the ground behind a tree or something similar? I don’t see how this is less gross or unsanitary. Again, it’s not something I encourage, but in a pinch? Yeah, it happens, and in the case of an emergency, I try to be as discreet as possible. We’re all just doing our best here under the circumstances.

  11. Meagan says:

    @Pee Mommy I think the distinction is “discreet.” As a parent you do what you gotta do. Encouraging your kid to pee out in the open seems a little over the top. Behind a tree? Go for it.

  12. goddess says:

    Well you better patrol them around here Paula, LOL! And I was actually thinking of the playgrounds in the parks, where dogs and their excrement abound. My bad.

  13. Shana says:

    I agree with Pee Mommy. Sometimes in a pinch you do what you need to do BUT do it discreetly and I always tell my children this is because it is an emergency–NOT OK on a regular basis. I think expecting potty training children to understand that it is alright to pee in my pants now, but not other times is bound to be confusing. A discreet tree or bush is better than allowing children to purposefully soil themselves. As for pooping–that has never happened to me and I would not want my child doing that in public. I would race to another location.

  14. Betsy says:

    That totally depends on which country you live in. Living temporarily in France, I have yet to leave the house without seeing at least one, usually several, men peeing in public. They make no attempt to hide it. They just pull over, get out of their cars, and piss on the side of the road, or in the parking lot of the local pre-school, or up against the village church, whereever they happen to be when the urge overtakes them. I have half a mind to become the crazy public- peeing lady just to see if anyone would care. I would much rather see a tiny bum here and there than these dudes with their wangers out.

  15. paulabernstein says:

    Betsy, living in the East Village in Manhattan, I would often see men peeing on my street. Usually they were drunk and occasionally, menacing. The only time I saw a sober grown man pee in public was in the south of France!

  16. Rebecca Dube, TODAY Moms says:

    Interesting post! My son is only 1 so we’re not there yet. I think the occasional public pee is OK in an emergency, but it’s up to parents to teach discretion — like go behind a bush/tree. The age also makes a difference, and to be fair we don’t know if this little girl was actually 5 — she could have been a big/tall 3-year-old, right?
    I put it to a vote on the TODAY Moms blog:

  17. paulabernstein says:

    I’ll be curious to hear how your vote turns out, Rebecca! Meanwhile, the kid I saw was definitely at least 5. She had a full conversation with her parents about where she was going to pee. It was really hard for me to keep my mouth shut!

  18. Rebecca Dube, TODAY Moms says:

    Whoah, that is pretty crazy. A full conversation with the parents and they decided that next to the water fountain was the way to go?! Will keep you posted on the vote…

  19. paulabernstein says:

    Yeah, it was a pretty extreme situation!

  20. [...] over on, Paula Bernstein picked up the thread, describing a moment in the playground this summer when a [...]

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I am totally with you on this, Paula. I actually sort of stopped hanging out with someone because of it. We were at Coney Island and they encouraged their kid to go dig a hole in the sand. I was speechless – and also it dampened (so to speak) my enthusiasm for going to Coney Island ever again! So gross, people. Really. Find a bathroom or put them in a diaper.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Oh and just for the record, I also dislike dogs and camping, mainly on account of sanitary issues. I’m something of a fastidious person, I guess.

  23. blondie says:

    I once saw a little boy peeing in the bushes of a little park/grassy area while with his dad…worst part is that there WAS a bathroom in the store not 20 steps away! That’s just lazy, pure and simple! He actually walked the kid into the park, let him pee, and left! *face*palm

  24. Heather says:

    We had a public urination moment, and I think my daughter will remember it for the rest of her life. She was three and a half and we were on a bus driving from one city in Korea to another through mostly rural rice fields and things like that. Although she had gone to the restroom right before the bus left, she probably had too much water (we had lunch on a bus break during the trip) because suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, she had to GO and it seemed really urgent. I tried to explain the situation as best I could to the bus driver (in my very limited Korean as he spoke no English) and he indicated that he would stop the bus (I thought) so she could get off and relieve herself by the side of the road as tears ran down her cheeks and she ground her teeth together and held her bottom. After about fifteen minutes it became clear that the bus wasn’t going to stop and that we were going to have a mess on a bus crowded with people and no towels or anything to clean it up. Thank heavens a fellow traveler loaned us an empty Starbucks frappuccino cup and a napkin as the back of the bus had become aware of our situation. My daughter squatted on the seat while I held the cup for her and she peed in public for an audience – it was humiliating, but she was so relieved. She is very well potty trained, just sometimes people really have to go. She still talks about “the time she peed in the Starbucks cup on the bus.” Oh, and she’s perfectly capable of having an articulate and detailed discussion on where she will go to the restroom, so it is still possible that the child in your park scenario might be three years old.

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