Living with Children: Some benchmarks on toilet training

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“There’s no one-size-fits-all model of childrearing for all the world’s parents,” opines Alma Gottlieb, Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of Illinois. Gottlieb was quoted in an online article reporting actress Kristen Bell’s revelation that her 5-year-old daughter is “still in diapers.”

Yes, Professor Gottlieb, there is indeed one world-wide model of childrearing. In every culture, in every historical time, parents have adhered to the objective of passing along to their children the core values of the culture in question. American parents were striving to raise children who respected the liberty and personal responsibility of the individual, for example, and so on. Every culture was striving to strengthen and perpetuate itself.

Until recently, that is. In the USA at least, we are currently living in the age of cultural relativism, the apparent fantasy behind which is world peace and climate utopia.

Cultural relativism begets parenting relativism which begets the notion that the raising of a child should be tailored to the “individual needs” of said child. A child’s individual needs, in the final analysis, are determined by parental attitudes. Thus, if Kristen Bell is too lazy to toilet train her child, she claims that her child’s unique nature is not conducive to being properly socialized.

Bell’s revelation met with lots of backlash, so I’ll add my own: It is an insult to the intelligence of a human being to allow said being to soil and wet herself past age thirty months, which is my most liberal limit. A dog can be trained to eliminate only in the back yard before six months, the human equivalent of which is between eighteen and thirty months. It is disgraceful to expect less of a human than one would expect of a dog.

When the backlash began to circulate on the Internet, Bell revised her claim. Her daughter only wears diapers at night, she now says. Okay. I can accept that she simply misspoke initially; that her daughter uses the toilet during her waking hours (albeit the full context of Bell’s original remarks renders that somewhat dubious).

In which case, I have a bit of advice for Bell: If you want your daughter to stop wetting the bed, do not put diapers on her at bedtime. The feel of bulky fabric around the pelvic area is associated with spontaneous release. Diapers and pull-ups at night extend bedwetting indefinitely.

To achieve night dryness, a child must wet the bed, not a diaper. She must experience the sensation of wetness, which modern diapers inhibit. If she does not, she will continue to wet. Put the child to bed with one or two fluffy towels underneath her. Teach her to take care of herself when she wets, as in, “You do not need to wake us up. Here are more towels. Use them if you must.”

If that doesn’t do the trick within a month (and yes, it’s an inconvenient month), then purchase a bedwetting alarm (pad-and-bell, not pull-up-and-bell) and do the work required to get the child to wake up when it signals urination. Specifically, because bedwetters, generally, sleep very deeply, one must wake the child when the alarm sounds until she begins to hear it on her own.

Expect two to six weeks of night training and then years of nighttime bliss.

[Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com. Copyright 2020, John K. Rosemond]