Later Potty Training Spells Trouble for Children, Parents and Environment

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Americans potty training far later than any other country, a detrimental trend one program aims to change.

Potty training in the United States is being completed later and later due in large part to the convenience of the disposable diaper -- which now comes in sizes large enough to accommodate 5- to 6-year-old children. The problem with this trend is that later training is more difficult for parents, creates emotional and health problems for children, and contributes billions of pounds of unnecessary diapers to our landfills. By bringing the power of their best-selling Baby Signs® Program to potty training, developmental psychologists Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn are endeavoring to reverse this trend with a innovative new approach that makes it not only possible, but fun and easy, to both start and finish potty training before age 2.

Startling Trend Toward Later Training
Up until the 1960s, 95 percent of all children were potty trained by the age of 18 months. Since the advent of the disposable diaper, the average age of potty training in the United States has risen to 37 months -- an all-time historical high. This age is more than double the average age of toilet training in almost 50 countries worldwide. Moreover, the trend toward later potty training is likely to continue given the recent release of a size 7 diaper for children over 40 pounds, the average weight of a 5- to 6-year-old.

Later Training Is Problematic for Parents and Children
Since the 1960s, diaper companies have actively promoted a "modern approach" to potty training in which parents are advised to wait until their child is "ready" -- sometime after age 2 -- to start training. This advice implies that later potty training will be easier, with children practically training themselves. In truth, potty training after 2 is actually more difficult. Why? Because, as the term "the terrible twos" implies, this is an age when children begin to say "No!" to everything. As a result, potty training all too often becomes a battle of wills, especially because eliminating in a diaper has become a well-ingrained habit that's hard to break and also because parents, frantic over looming preschool deadlines, frequently resort to pressure tactics. There are other consequences of late training as well, according to Dr. Goodwyn. "After age 2, children develop the ability to experience shame and embarrassment about bodily functions which can lead to additional problems, such as low self-esteem and stool-withholding, a tendency that can result in chronic constipation."

Later Training Is Bad for the Environment
Later potty training also results in many more diapers in our landfills -- approximately 2,000 more per child per year. And while some parents believe that changing to cloth diapers alleviates the negative impact on the environment, many experts cite serious concerns about the increased use of energy, water and chemicals required for laundering cloth diapers.

New Approach Aims to Reverse Trend
Concerned about the detrimental effects of later and later potty training, Dr. Goodwyn and her research partner, Dr. Acredolo, began a 2-year investigation of potty training practices and concluded that the ideal age for potty training is between 12 and 24 months. "Because this is a time when verbal language is limited and because effective communication is important to successful potty training, we saw a natural role for our bestselling Baby Signs® Program," says Dr. Acredolo. "By using a few simple potty-time signs, babies can easily tell their parents they need to go potty even before they can talk." Acredolo and Goodwyn's Potty Training Made Easy with the Baby Signs® Program is an innovative approach that makes it not only possible, but easy, for parents to start and finish potty training their child by age 2.

The Baby Signs® Potty Training Program has been field tested by parents with children from 9 months to 4 years across the country with great success. Jennifer Macris, a mother of 5 who used the program says, "I potty trained my four older children before using this program with my youngest son, and I can definitely say that this is the most fun and effective program out there. It works."

About Dr. Acredolo and Dr. Goodwyn
Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, Davis. Susan Goodwyn, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at California State University, Stanislaus. Together, they have co-authored research articles in leading child development journals and have written three best-selling books for parents: Baby Signs, Baby Minds, and Baby Hearts.

About the Baby Signs® Program
The Baby Signs® Program is the world's leading sign language program for hearing babies. Built upon two decades of research conducted by Dr. Acredolo and Dr. Goodwyn, much of it funded by the National Institutes of Health, the program helps babies use simple signs to communicate before they can talk, thereby decreasing frustration, enriching the parent-child bond, fostering both emotional and intellectual development -- and helping babies talk sooner.

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