Teachers all over the United States are taking notice of a shocking new trend: children not being potty-trained before starting school! What are the causes behind this, and what can be done?
Challenges of Being a Teacher
Everyone knows that being a teacher is difficult. Between creating lesson plans, keeping a head count of all children in the classroom to ensure no one’s missing, and dealing with unhappy parents, the job isn’t for the faint of heart.
Unfortunately, it seems the job isn’t about to get any easier as diaper changing has been added to the expectations of what a kindergarten teacher handles.
Many teachers are stumped over this rising trend and wonder about the cause.
In years past and up until just recently, students about to enter kindergarten were expected to be already potty-trained.
Looking at Average Statistics
The average age at which most children are fully potty-trained is around 36 months, according to UC Davis Health.
The process typically takes about six months for children to fully understand the concept of potty training. On top of that, girls tend to learn potty training faster than boys.
The New Trend
However, the aforementioned statistics are soon to be outdated and incorrect. Teachers have noticed an uptick in children being five years old and still not potty-trained.
We Are Teachers asked kindergarten teachers what level of preparedness their students were at and discovered that 15-20% of their classrooms weren’t potty-trained. Some even had a few first-graders still wearing pull-ups; this study didn’t include children with physical or cognitive disabilities or medical conditions.
This conundrum has been so widespread that one teacher expressed her concerns on the subreddit r/Teachers. She, too, had noticed a growing number of children starting kindergarten still in their diapers.
“Are we sending kids to kinder in diapers? My friend just started teaching kindergarten and says she has at least one in a diaper and probably another two in pull-ups. I cannot fathom this,” she wrote.
Multitude of Factors
Teachers, parents, and professionals alike quickly jumped into the comments to explain the possible reasons. Many of these explanations surprised teachers, especially the discovery that some parents had no intention of teaching their children to be potty-trained before starting school.
Unable to Complete Simple Tasks
One teacher took to TikTok under the username @maren.theteacher to divulge on the platform that she’d started to notice a “skill discrepancy” in her students, and this wasn’t limited to just potty-training. Maren, a third-grade teacher, claimed that during the previous school year, she had many students who couldn’t do something as simple as tie their shoes or zip their coats; these were students without developmental delays or disabilities.
Maren said, “They would just stomp their foot at me with laces all over the place and be like, ‘Tie this!’ Teachers know this: there is no time in the day to help 30 kids tie their shoes and zip up their coats.”
Overwhelmed and Busy
Maren received many comments on her video, as well as some backlash after many felt she was placing blame on parents. In response, Maren posted a follow-up video to explain that she hadn’t meant to make parents seem like villains.
She did, however, urge parents to have a conversation or email their child’s teacher if they feel their child is struggling with learning basic tasks instead of just sending them off to school and hoping for the best.
Say No to Enabling
Maren continued by advising parents and other teachers to avoid enabling “learned helplessness.”
This is a concept where an able-bodied and developmentally stable person can do more than they know but isn’t motivated to try and learn new skills.
Harming Their Health
In line with this, psychologist Gwen Dewar has claimed that potty-training children when they’re around two years of age can decrease their risk of developing urinary tract infections and rashes because they’ll be in their soiled diapers less.
In an interview with Parenting Science, she said, “Ten different published studies, addressing a total study population of more than 24,000 children—and the trend was clear. Kids who began training before 24 months tended to enjoy better long-term health outcomes. As long as they had initiated training before 24 months, they were less likely to have developed urinary tract problems.”
The Community’s Reactions
Some teachers believed that the rising number of children not being potty-trained before starting kindergarten was due to “gentle parenting,” where parents try to encourage a healthy bond with their children by focusing on validating their emotions and educating them instead of punishing and respecting their feelings and individuality. Some parents use gentle parenting because they believe the child must first express that they are ready to learn how to use the toilet; otherwise, it’s viewed as harmful.
One Redditor said, “My friend in another Texas district had a kid last year—kindergarten—that wasn’t potty-trained. The mom didn’t believe she should force her kid to be potty-trained, and he’d decide when he was ready.”
Accusations of Abuse
According to others, the rise in children not being potty-trained is due to fragile parents being afraid to allow their children to be temporarily uncomfortable or unhappy.
One user stated, “I’ve seen some people compare forcing a child to be potty-trained before they are ready to abuse.”
Another Redditor added, “Some parents believe that they are supposed to protect their child from every kind of discomfort, so the minute their child protests, they take it as a sign their kid isn’t ready.”
Other users have different thoughts on the reason behind kids’ late onset when it comes to being potty-trained.
One TikToker said, “It’s the fact parents have to work two to four jobs to make ends meet, and grandparents work as well, so there is no one teaching them.”
“My five-year-old is potty-trained, but I think people are genuinely exhausted and stressed out, and we will start to see a hike in this as more work hours increase,” commented another user.
Everyone Has a Different Pace
Despite all the opinions and advice from experts, the fact remains that some children take longer to learn potty training or other simple tasks than others, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Every child has a different pace of growth and development, and every parent’s experience with potty training will be different; no matter what, though, kids shouldn’t be coddled!
One said, “I have friends who tell me their not-trained five-year-olds ‘aren’t ready’ and ‘we can’t traumatize him.’ I wish they knew what trauma really meant. They’ve really lived comfortable lives.”
“The kid is developmentally delayed if they can’t use the bathroom in a toilet by kinder. You know how I know? Because the other kids were. This is another case of disability by nurture—as opposed to disability by nature—that leaders are too afraid to acknowledge is a thing, much less step up and have standards for parents,” said another.
What do you think about this issue? How would you change how things are being approached?
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This post first appeared as “Are We Sending Kids to Kinder in Diapers?”: A Daycare Teacher Is Appalled at the Rising Number of Un-Potty-Trained Kids in School. Is “Gentle Parenting” the Culprit? on Quote Ambition.