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Late potty training can hurt your child’s health

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Potty training tips

Do you cringe when your four-year-old asks for a pull-up or, worse, has an accident in public because you didn’t put a pull-up on her? Whether you don’t want to push the issue or your child simply doesn’t want to drop the diapers, potty training is a crucial step in your child’s development. We talked with Dr. Baruch Kushnir, creator of the children’s DVD The Magic Bowl: Potty Training Made Easy, about the negative health consequences of late potty training.

Potty training boyPotty training is a development milestone

Just as your child's first steps mark progress in her young life, potty training is another significant milestone. "Toilet training is a step in the process of overall development," says Dr. Kushnir, who is an expert on bed wetting, bladder control, and child development. "It symbolizes progress in the acquisition of independence and control."

Delayed potty training can affect your child's mental health

Our job as parents is to raise our children, bolstering their confidence and helping them develop a healthy self-image. Late potty training can not only hinder their development, it can cause them to be ashamed. "When a child is not completely potty trained by the age of four, he becomes an 'exception' and may suffer personal and social embarrassment and disappointments," warns Dr. Kushnir. "He may also be exposed to unpleasant reactions from the social environment … and they may damage the child's self-image and self-confidence and interfere with his developing personality."

Late potty training can lead to physical consequences

When young children become dependent on diapers or pull-ups, they don't learn how to recognize the need to go to the bathroom. Their inability to control their bladder and bowels at an early age can actually affect their bladder- and bowel-control as they grow older.

Lack of potty training may keep your child out of school

In addition to the social consequences of your child feeling different from his peers, not being potty trained can hinder his participation in age-appropriate activities. Dr. Kushnir explains, "He cannot participate in various activities and in some cases will not be accepted to [daycares], preschools or kindergartens."

What is the right age to start potty training?

Every child is different and readiness is based on a child's physical, physiological, cognitive and emotional states. For example, if a child is diagnosed as having physical or mental health problems that hinder her from understanding or being capable of potty training, it should be postponed, regardless of age. In general, however, Dr. Kushnir recommends encouraging your children to become potty trained between the ages of one and three years old.

Make potty training a positive experience

As challenging as potty training may be for some families, it's crucial for parents to make it a positive and enjoyable experience. "The subject of toilet training cannot become a source of a power struggle between parents and child," the child development expert says. "The child should not be allowed to control or dominate the parents by rewarding or punishing them in any way." Likewise, parents must remember that their personal comfort in potty training is secondary and to always give children the basic feeling that they are loved and appreciated, even when accidents occur.

Up next: Typical problems in the potty training process >>

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