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Potty Training: Can We All Just Lighten Up?

This guest blog post is by Rose Cafasso, a senior editor and the community manager at School Family Media, Inc.

I was so fascinated by the recent preschool toilet-training debate we had here on the site that I had to put on my old teacher’s hat and have my say. (If you missed this and want to weigh in, cast your vote in our poll about whether preschools should require kids to be potty-trained, and then add your thoughts in the comments section below the poll!).

To all the parents out there, please don’t get stressed over potty training. There’s so much more really important stuff going on in your child’s life. When you are evaluating preschools, consider giving your kids – and yourselves – a break and think seriously about those schools that don’t have strict toileting rules.

Here’s why: Toileting is not the critical measure of a child’s development. A child can be ready emotionally, socially and cognitively for preschool and just not have worked out a potty routine yet.

If you come across a school that has strict toileting policies, there’s a good chance that this rule is more about the school's physical setup than any child development theory. In other words, schools that do not have bathrooms in preschool classrooms require that teachers accompany children on bathroom trips down the hall, thereby removing the teacher from the classroom several times a day. Because of this, these preschools tend to enforce strict toilet-training policies—but, again, only because of the building's setup, not because of any child development guideline that says toileting equals preschool readiness. 

So, don’t let toileting rules intimidate you. Before I came to School Family Media, I taught preschool for eight years. It’s true; we spent a fair amount of time in the bathroom helping kids with toileting during the first few weeks of school. But, by the time October rolled around, the whole toileting issue would have leveled off and we would have only an occasional “accident’’ or diaper change.

Yet, I can remember one year when I would get frantic phone calls from one mom in particular who wanted me to understand that she really was working on training her son. Of course she was. She also had a full-time job and another child.  We all understood. But it was still hard for her.

And what would it have been like for that family if they had tried to make a go of it at a school with strict potty rules?

Her little boy was quite a kid. Yes, he was still in diapers and some days I’d catch him zipping through the art room or heading toward the small blocks area with a fully soaked diaper and I’d just say, “Let’s head to the bathroom.’’ And we would, with extremely little fanfare.

What stands out more to me was how gentle this little boy was with his classmates. Also, he was writing his name halfway through the year. Plus, he was the only kid in my class that year that grasped when it came to watercolor painting, you had to dip the paintbrush in water before you put it in the paint. That is not an easy concept to grasp when you are just turning three.

Pretty much like toileting isn’t an easy concept to grasp at that age.

So, let’s lighten up. And worry more about what’s really important.


Rose Cafasso is a senior editor and the community manager at School Family Media, Inc. She was a PTO board member for many years at her daughters’ schools, and she’s worked as a writer, editor, and a preschool teacher. Follow her on Twitter @RosePTO and on Facebook at facebook.com/rose.ptoeditor.

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
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Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016