Three years old and still in diapers?

Recently presented with a question about when it is the “right” time to begin potty training your little romper some considerations come to mind. In your parents’ and grandparents’ time, adults (whether they had children or not) had very definite ideas when it is time to use the potty and relinquish the diaper to-night time only, or better yet, altogether. Mostly, the consensus was “as soon as possible.”

Modern moms have learned that it’s not always as easy as that or that the grandparents weren’t even correct with such blanket opinions. Science has taught us that the developing nervous system of small children differs from one child to the next the same as do their temperaments. It takes an enormous network of nerve transmissions from bladder to brain and back to the bladder wall and then to the little sphincter muscles to let the child know when it has to seek the receptacle of a potty and, very importantly, when to “hold it.”

In some children, this nervous pathway may be developed at the tender age of around two years old, but for some, perhaps even most; it may actually take quite a bit longer. For this reason, potty training will be totally useless and frustrating for child and parent alike, when the autonomic nervous system is not yet ready to relay such signals. The only way to find out if your child is ready is by trial and error. When potty training is initiated but there is absolutely no positive response in the acknowledgement of the pee and the poo for perhaps a week, then it’s recommended to wait another few months before reintroducing potty training.

Some parents are letting their child decide when it is time to leave the soft, warm, squishy comfort of a diaper behind and when they actually want to relieve themselves into something other — preferably a potty.  Most parents don’t recommend opting for quite that much unfettered freedom for a toddler. If you’re not really sure what child psychologists would advise, you may want to spend some time reading and gain some common sense and compassion for this big event in a child’s life. Most caring parents will choose the developmentally correct time to begin training their toddler to use that plastic potty chair. On the other hand, in defense of the above parents who let their children decide, you might say perhaps they are on to something. So long as their children are not ostracized by their playmates for being smelly and maybe leaky, and so long as there is no long-lasting societal stain on the child’s psyche, some would say, what’s the harm?

In all honesty, you can understand why some parents prefer to delay potty training. The task is very time-consuming because so frequently moms have to stop from whatever activity they are doing, just to watch their little tyke and listen for certain clues.

A grunt is pretty telling, but when it is just a tinkle, moms have to be on watch like hawks. The tinkles are often missed in mom’s daily housework which produces the fear that training has to start all over again — but it doesn’t, not really. By teaching the child that it is good manners to do their business into the potty, they glean some idea about the benefit of it from the beginning, even if they decide to resist. Doing the proper thing will gain them all kinds of praise and perhaps even rewards. So, even if some opportunities are missed, progress is made nevertheless, so long as the child’s nervous system is developed to handle the task of signaling. 

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