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Late Potty Training Can Cause Lasting Problems

Think changing your four-year-old’s diapers is just part of the work of parenting? Think again.

Before disposable diapers, most kids began potty training as soon as they learned to walk. The process was generally completed sometime around 18 months. All over the world, kids are still potty trained at this age in cultures where disposable diapers are not readily available.

Even here, elimination communication is on the rise. More parents are working with their kids to say goodbye to diapers sooner rather than later. Some are eschewing diapers altogether.

There’s an American cultural ideal that tells us to just let kids develop at their own pace. They can potty train when they’re ready, the thinking goes. As far as I’m concerned, the thinking is wrong. Kids are able and ready to potty train long before they can think through the idea or tell you about it with words.

That’s where another trendy baby care technique comes in: baby signs!

I know. I know. Baby signs. This is the realm of overachieving helicopter parents who put their kids on posh kindergarten waitlists while they’re still in the womb.

It’s also an extremely useful tool for communicating with a baby. I potty trained my own preverbal toddler using baby signs she made up herself, at about 17 months.

The founders of the Baby Signs Institute have created a Baby Signs Potty Training Program, for those of you who don’t want to go the DIY route. The kit includes stickers, “potty train” whistles, a board book for baby, an instruction manual, and of course lots of potty related baby signs.

Whatever route you take to it, consider at least offering your kid a potty starting around when they learn to walk. Not only will Mother Nature thank you for keeping thousands of disposable diapers out of landfills, but you may save your kids from some health problems.

There’s evidence suggesting that late toilet training may cause bladder problems that plague kids for years. By contrast, early potty training has been shown to be safe and effective as long as the kid is a willing participant.

Photo: Manish Bansal

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