Potty school, calling in the professionals

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Development/Milestones: Babies

I was chatting with a friend the other day about all the things parents are expected to teach their children that might be better handled by a professional. On the top of the list, after bike riding and shoe tying, was toilet training. Turns out that there is such as thing as 'poop school' and for some parents, enrolling is like "going to Betty Ford."

"Imagine my surprise to find out there were thousands of kids who had this problem," says mother of three Sarah Teres. Her daughter Molly was spooked by an automatic toilet at the age of two and thereafter refused to have anything to do with potties. By the time Molly was four-years-old, she was still in diapers.

That's when Teres enrolled her daughter in the Toilet Training School at Children's Hospital Boston. Run by pediatrician Dr. Alison Schonwald, the six-week program uses books, music and art to help kids overcome their fear of the toilet. "There are three things you cannot make a child do: eat, sleep or poop," she says.

The school also employs a psychologist, Elaine Leclair, who works with parents in a room separate from their children. She says by the time they get to 'poop school', many parents are are angry and anxious. "They come in feeling extremely discouraged, very isolated thinking they are the only ones in the world who have this problem," she says.

Schonwald says it is important for parents to see potty training not as a chore, but as a developmental skill that will "come in spurts with periods of regression." However, she says if a child isn't using a toilet by the age of four, it would be a good idea to talk to a pediatrician. And to put things in perspective, she adds, ""No one goes to college in diapers, right? Everyone will get through this time, as awful as it might feel if you're struggling."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.