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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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