by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D.– Parent Coach
What have you noticed about child-rearing changes in the US in recent decades?
I’ve noticed some positive changes. It seems that more parents are more warm and affectionate with their children than in the past. More Dads seem at ease being affectionate with their children and even serving as primary caregiver for the children, which is wonderful.
Some economic and lifestyle changes have greatly influenced child-rearing approach changes over the past 60+ years. One is that, in most families, both parents must work full-time now. And full-time has continued to produce longer and longer work days.
At the same time, people have become increasingly mobile and a large percentage of young families live far from their families of origin.
As our lives got busier and we had less help to raise our children, the market provided solutions—including TV dinners and fast food restaurants. We were all relieved to be able to find convenience options as our lives got busier and our sense of community shrank. Over time, we also came to realize that there is a cost – the convenience foods are often of poorer nutritional value and eating foods on-the-go results in fewer rich family conversations over meals.
The market brought another convenience when it created diapers with wicking technology. These diapers are another convenience with a cost.
Did you know that US children in 2015 are achieving independent toileting, during the day, 1 – 2 years later than they did just 6 decades ago? That is a huge delay! Without realizing it, we’re making it difficult for children to develop independent toileting in the most natural way, at the most natural time.
In the 1950s, most children achieved independent toileting – dry during the day—by 1 year old, on average. This wasn’t due to parent pressure; it was a natural thing for children to do.
In 2015, without even realizing it, parents and caregivers make it impossible for a child to develop independent toileting at that age. We put children in clothing they can’t remove—and removing one’s pants is part of the process of independent toileting.
We put them in diapers that wick the wet away from their skin, which means they never learn the connection between full bladder—>release—> feeling wet pants.
Effectively, we wait to introduce all the components of “potty training” at an age when children are naturally insistent about doing everything on their own.
Independent toileting requires a series of steps which take time to master, and each step is one the child is naturally interested in working at when they experience the wetness and have the opportunity to manage their clothing. We can make it easier by putting them in cloth pants early, so they experience the wetness and learn what it means. We can also make it easier by putting them in pants they can take off easily. When they are working hard at mastering independent toileting, we can even help by letting them hang out in just their cloth underpants, so it’s quite easy to get them off quickly when they realize they need to go.
Introducing the whole process at 2 years old or older is just bad timing. It can be frustrating and overwhelming to the child. “You’ve trained me my whole life that I should go in my diaper and you will change it for me—and now you’re changing all the rules?!” Starting it all so late puts more pressure on the child –and on the parent—for a faster process.
That’s why “potty training” has become so much later and so much more stressful than it was just 6 decades ago!
In my next post, I will address broader child-rearing changes that make child-rearing more difficult than it has to be and produce more immature, anxious children.