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Posted at 11:01 AM ET, 01/31/2011

Blowback: Potty training story hits a nerve

By Brigid Schulte

When Betsy Rosso contacted me to tell me about her three-year-old daughter being suspended from her preschool for having too many potty accidents, I knew the story would resonate. Toilet training your children, as I can certainly attest, is often difficult, messy and frustrating.

But the issue that the story explored - the push for academics and higher expectations at younger and younger ages, as parents compete for a limited number of spots at preschools seen as more academic and, hence, more desirable - struck a nerve with many readers, who were completely divided and said as much in the comments section on The Post's web site and in personal e-mails to me.

Some thought the school was entirely in the right.

sceptic1 wrote:

GOOD GRIEF!! When I was little, most children were completely potty-trained by 18 months. With cloth diapers, it was a necessity, not to mention much more pleasant for adults and children. Get a grip, grown-ups and get serious about training. Why should the school have to clean up after your stinky kid?

Others felt the school had been too harsh.

randysbailin wrote:

What's this country coming to when a 3 year old can't poop and pee to his/her heart's content? One of the joys of being a small child is that you get to soil your undies and someone else has to clean it up.

We ran a poll on Story Lab, and, as of Monday morning, an overwhelming majority of the 3,233 responses agreed that preschools should be allowed to require children to be potty trained:

The American Academy of Pediatrics says it is normal for children to become toilet trained anywhere from the age of 18 months to four years, and that there will be plenty of accidents and regression - particularly around stressful times or whenever there's change - along the way. Further, there is no scientific evidence, they said, that a child who is trained early will have any greater future success in life.

Yes, today's diapers make it easier for children to feel dry and less uncomfortable, so toilet training does take longer than it did 20 or 30 years ago. And yes, a majority of mothers work outside the home, which many commenters blamed for not having children trained by the age of two. But pediatricians and child development experts say that training a child early only trains the parents, it doesn't teach a child to recognize their own body's signals - something that takes both brain and body time to develop.

I got an e-mail from "cancian," making a plea for common sense. She wrote:

I read your article with interest--and the perspective of a retired school nurse. Taking care of a child who has an accident at school is always a big issue as teachers and aides generally do not regard assisting a child with changing as part of their job description. If the school system wants to offer preschool education then they need to have a plan to help with accidents as these are a normal developmental phenomena.

By Brigid Schulte  | January 31, 2011; 11:01 AM ET
Categories:  The Blowback  
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My boy was slow to potty train, and I'm fortunate our (private) pre-school was patient. He knew he had to go, he just couldn't process the signals in time. What's the big deal? The school sacks up the soiled clothes and moves on. Kindergarten might require potty trained kids, but any earlier is madness.

Posted by: jimward21 | January 31, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

We've experienced the issue of needing to ensure that our children were toilet-trained in time for particular daycare. The reality is that diaper changing, and/or frequent accidents, requires a whole different level of staffing and facilities from dealing with well-toilet-trained children, and costs more money. It is not reasonable to expect non-toilet-trained children to be admitted to a class designed for toilet-trained children.

The idea is that students attend certain classes/schools when they are mentally, emotionally, AND physically ready. Why should physical maturity be excluded, as the parent maintains?

To me, the big question is, why is the government involved in this matter? If daycare for 3 year olds (not "preschool" in the fullest sense at that age) were left as a wholly private affair, the parents would simply be expected to choose an appropriately-equipped daycare facility for their kid (there are plenty out there), and that would be that. As it is, the parents appear to be paying a lot of money, so why is the preschool public?

Posted by: S8thRd | January 31, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

You conveniently left out the criticism of you and the parents here for considering this a newsworthy item. Now you are compounding the error. I know that this paper is swiftly sinking to the level of tabloid trash - all "entertainment" and pathos and no actual news - but adding all the self-referential navel gazing to it is ridiculous.

Please move along.

Posted by: BadMommy1 | January 31, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Not an issue of a push for academics.... More an issue of staffing and facilities. The school system allows for some accidents (as stated in the article by the school official) but can not accommodate a child who is not trained. All parents are provided info before they sign up about training. If the parent did not read it before she placed her child then the parent should have known better. There are many sanitary issues with a child who is not trained and if I had signed my child up for a program that stated all should be trained first but this child had frequent accidents then I would support the school for making the environment safe for the other children who attend the program.
Wish the Post had done a better job of doing their job to present a balanced story including the headline!

Posted by: ugh3 | January 31, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

"When Betsy Rosso contacted me to tell me about her three-year-old daughter being suspended from her preschool for having too many potty accidents, I knew the story would resonate."

But instead of hearing out your friend and then broadening the topic out into a larger story where you interviewed a variety of parents and experts on both sides of the issue, you let your friend use the story as a vehicle to push a personal agenda. You didn't tell us she was your friend, and you even put her child's name in print (tsk, tsk). Sorry, it's poor journalism ethics. Period.

Posted by: workplacediva | January 31, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

To workplacediva: What makes you think Betsy Rosso is my friend? She contacted me because she had heard me speak at a public forum. And I did interview a host of parents and daycare providers and preschool teachers to put together this story, some of whom were quoted in the piece.

To ugh3: What isn't balanced about the piece? The parents have their say. The school has their say. Child development experts have their say. The American Academy of Pediatrics has their say. Other preschool and daycare providers have their say. The issue of staffing and facilities was indeed part of the story.

To BadMommy1: Why isn't this a newsworthy issue worth exploring? A good newspaper writes about its community, it tells the stories that are going on around us. It shows us how we live now. How is it tabloid trash to explore how the changing expectations of our society affect parents and children?

Posted by: BrigidSchulte | January 31, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

It is unbelievable to me that anyone would pass judgment on a three year old, and an obviously concerned and involved set of parents. The behavior demonstrated by the teacher, the principal, and the county is the issue here. First of all, how in the world can a public school charge $835 a month for what is supposed to be a free, universally available public education? Second, what sort of teacher excludes a child from class based on something he or she cannot control? Anyone ever heard of the universal right to public education? Did I fall asleep and wake up in a different country? All means all, people, that's the law. Third, as a teacher of kindergarten and first grade, I can tell you that students have accidents for many years -- even up through age 7-8! It happens! Get over it! There is absolutely no excuse for this policy, particularly since the child in question was cleaning up after herself! She's a human, not a coffee pot -- you can't program her!! The problem is not with the 3 year old or her parents, the problem is with the system and its lack of concern or consideration for the needs of its children. There's no excuse for putting that child out of school and treating her parents like criminals. $835 a month, indeed! Should be more than plenty of money to afford the help required to handle normal toileting accidents. Arlington Public Schools, the school, the prinicipal, and the teachers involved should be ashamed of themselves!! And so should everyone who passed judgment here in the anonymity of the online world. Seriously, people, get a grip.

Posted by: KarinRoberts | January 31, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I recently fostered a 10 year old child who had a potty issue when it came to going number one.

The child showed up with a bag full of pull-ups, I found this odd for child of 10 years who by all other yardsticks was healthy and normal. In every socilaization respect the kid was normal...engaged and bright. The social worker said the child had "accidents" at night.

The child had a strong urine did all of the clothing and stuffed animals that the child showed up with.

As it turned out the child used the pull-ups to urinate freely at any time of the day or night...up to 5 times in one day.

We were able to break the child of this dependence upon the pull-ups by taking the following steps:

1) Making the child bathe after every accident. As it turned out previous homes were more than willing to let the kid set the bathing schedule.

2) We equiped the child a 20 dollar wrist watch with an hourly beeper. Every hour when the beeper went off we had the kid go sit on the toilet...even when the child said "I don't have to go potty" as it turned out the child often went pee even after saying that. There was something about sitting on the toilet would trigger a urination.

3) We took away the pull-ups. We had the child wear regular underware like fruit of the loom and bvd which don't hide the evidence of urination.

4) Reward. We told the child that if we could make it through an entire day without an accident we would let the kid pick a dvd to watch that night or request a favorite meal. The child responded quickly, proving to that it was possible to make it through the day without an accident.

5) We washed every item of clothing and stuffed animals/toys that kid came with until there was no odor left. Then we explained that becoming used to the odor doesn't mean that other can't smell it. We explained that it was unhealthy to be exposed to bodily waste without cleaning immediately.

These steps worked for us and for the child.

Granted this child was much older than the kids this article was about...however my experience was that the pull-ups/diapers made the child less conscience about soiling himself and extended the problem all the way to the age of 10 years old.

After a certain age ya gotta put your kid in cloth underware and let the chips fall where they may until the kid gets the point.

I would say that having your child potty trained by pre-school is a reasonable goal the is beneficial for the child and everyone who comes into contact with the child.

Posted by: Rockman2 | January 31, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

There are occasional accidents and then there are parents who for whatever reasons don't do a proper job of toilet training there children. This didn't sound occasional but rather daily and multiple times. Parents use pre-school as really little more than a baby sitting service except in many cases the tax payer is footing the bill for them if it is through the educational system. Therefore, this woman complaining about the school not being fair should keep her mouth shut, quit blaming others for her failures and pay someone to baby sit her child and change her diapers. And pre -schools? A 3 year old should not be going to a school anyway! They are too young and again just a place for mom to dump the kids while she works or watches tv.
Fed Up With New Parents

Posted by: jrussell1 | January 31, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I find it odd that the child in question is a girl; typically they potty train more quickly and more easily than boys. What other issues are going on? Or did the parents not take the time to potting train fully, expecting the pre-school to take up the slack?
I don't mean to be harsh but not pooing and peeing in your pants is a lot different than not cleaning up your bedroom; you can really just say "oh they're 3, let them poo where they want to".
It sounds like the little girl was doing more than having the occasional understandable accident. I'm just suspicious because potting issues are often a sign of something else. Maybe she has bladder infections?
Instead of complaining, maybe try to find out why this is happening; you know, put the child first.

Posted by: hebe1 | January 31, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The original work received a majority of comments that were in support of the school's policy. I suppose this is a rebuttal just because the author has the ability.

Again, as several as said, the school wasn't faulting the child or punishing anyone. They, in their experience, have a policy that indicates to them when children are ready for the school experience. They believe this child is not ready. It isn't a parenting failure or embarrassment by any means.

This attention by the Post would lead someone to believe the child was publicly disgraced. It was the Post who ran the child's name, not the school system.

Posted by: sarahabc | January 31, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

You forgot another option: Is it fair for a public preschool to restrict admittance to kids that can clean up after themselves if allowed to use pull ups?

Posted by: sacramentogirl | January 31, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

To workplacediva: What makes you think Betsy Rosso is my friend? She contacted me because she had heard me speak at a public forum. And I did interview a host of parents and daycare providers and preschool teachers to put together this story, some of whom were quoted in the piece.

Well, she's one of your Facebook friends, as was noted on the message boards by more than one person. Many people will assume that even a tenuous Facebook connection connotes a strong friendship. That's just the world we live in, I guess.

Maybe you were trying to use the Rossos as a lead-in readers could relate to, but minus the experts the story seems like it all about Rosso and her beef with the school. Maybe for me to say it's unethical was a bit strong without knowing the state of your friendship -- and I apologize if so -- but maybe some further clarification would help readers understand where you were coming from. Just my thoughts.

Posted by: workplacediva | January 31, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

This notion of potty training is strictly Western modern. You teach your child to use a diaper, then you teach your child to use the potty because we have them.

In other cultures children don't go through the two different training periods--diaper and potty. They learn instead that you potty in a different place...from the beginning. And yes you can teach a western child this but it takes a full time interested parent to do so. Using a day care (nothing wrong with it by the way) already says you, the parent, don't have the time to dedicate to this learning function.

Watch the movie "babies" and see just how wrapped up in "cotton wool" we in the west keep our children...then notice that the African child and the Mongolian child don't wear diapers and don't have accidents. They also know where to get water without Mom (or Dad) and mingle with animals in a way that would make western parents "freak"...

Potty training is much much more about parents that children...and problems with training are more about parents then children too (and it's a Western phenomena). Oh and we in the west then not to trust Grandparents wisdom because--what do they know...silly us.

Posted by: mil1 | January 31, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

At no point does Ms. Schulte address an issue raised by several posters (including me), that by printing this child's full name in the WaPo, as well as her mother's name, one can guarantee (100% guarantee) that this 3 year old's issues will come up on Google for many years and that she will be teased about it by her "friends" and classmates. I don't understand why the child's full name was published.

And, I agree with some above that this
blogpost by Ms. Schulte is rather defensive of her original article, especially in light of the number of posters who were not supportive of the mother.

Posted by: vklip | January 31, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

The question is not whether or not the child is potty trained- she clearly understands that when she needs to use the bathroom she should use the toilet and typically she does. She wears underwear. She generally stays dry and makes it to the toilet. When she has accidents she cleans herself up and changes herself (so all the arguing about changing kids when that wasn't her issue is confusing to me). That is being toilet trained. What the preschool is indicating is not only do children need to be potty trained, but they also need to be accident free. That is a whole different story. So say you use the bathroom 4 times per day. There are 5 days in a school week, 4 school weeks a month. So she has 8 accidents in a month out of perhaps 80- 90 opportunities. Hmm. Around 90% accuracy. In any other subject, she would be considered an A student.

Posted by: CVteacher | January 31, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Love mil1's post.

The slant of the headline alone is an issue. The term suspended has a connotation that is negative when related to schools. This, as mil1 noted above, is about the parent and their lack of researching the schooling option for her child and then following through with the requirements. Nothing more or less.

Rather than get defensive about the large number of posts that have stated the above albeit in different ways perhaps it might be time to reflect.

Posted by: ugh3 | January 31, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The kid might be doing it to get attention.

Posted by: bronxace | January 31, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

ok here we go. See these issues are ALWAYS sensitive because EVERY parent thinks their way is the ONLY way. Pesonally when I heard this story it bothered me because as a single mother I put my girls on timetables for potty training, walking etc. I know I know boys are slower...IN LIFE as well I hear hahahaha BUT anyway I think a 3 yr should be trained unless there are other issues going on. I always was sensitive to other kids needs in daycare. I never made it about me. if it got to that point I switched. Not fair to other kids. Find a daycare for special needs children if this qualifies.

Just like the Asian mother being trashed for how she is raing her girls. My first thought was "If her girls are happy and successful then I'm happy because our society it training too many idiots!!!"

Posted by: MDlady2 | January 31, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

KarinRoberts wrote, "It is unbelievable to me that anyone would pass judgment on a three year old, and an obviously concerned and involved set of parents."

I didn't read (and can't find) the original article, but I haven't seen anything in these letters that approaches your description of passing judgment on either the child or the parents, but then I don't consider it mean-spirited to suggest that some children aren't yet developmentally ready for some settings.

Let's pose a hypothetical situation.... You're an early-grades teacher and you're assigned to "teach" in a classroom of toddlers, not one of whom is toilet trained; you're expected to change their diapers as needed. Is that a job you'd want? Would you perhaps find yourself wishing that these otherwise involved sets of parents had kept their kids home another year or two, until the children could manage their own sanitary needs?

Like some others, I harbor the suspicion that some folks seem to want someone else to raise their children (and, on the other end, care for their elderly, by now again diaper-wearing parents.)

Posted by: fdrew | January 31, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

The school has a reasonable requirement and this story should include more details as to why the staff has better things to do than change diapers and clean up accidents. That type of work is for daycares - not preschools. I would expect nothing less. Parents who have a problem with this requirement should do a double-take on their situation and figure out why it has taken so long for their child to graps the concept.

Potty training takes time and persistance on the parent's part well-before the child goes to pre-school. Some children get it in one to two days naturally and others take longer but it doesn't take one to two years to train a child unless they have other problems in which maybe regular school isn't the right place for them to be in. Or the parents just might have missed the boat on this one and have not understood that potty training isn't a part-time effort. It requires full-time dedication for every single minute of the day until they are completely trained.

Posted by: GenXer1 | January 31, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

As a former preschool teacher (ages 3+), we required children to be potty trained. We had neither the facilities, equipment or sanitary means to change diapers. And realize the amount of waste generated by a 3-year-old is much greater than a 3-month-old. Non potty-trained children require more staff time and usually cost more. Perhaps if mom wants to donate a changing table, wet wipes for cleanups, disposal bags, gloves for the staff, and extra pay, someone at the school might be willing to do it. Until then your child isn't ready!! Besides schools in the state I worked are licensed and inspected based on the age and potty-training of the children.

Posted by: shatom | January 31, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm a parent of three young children and I read plenty on education and public policy. Even so, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to see this on the front page of the Post. Really? With everything else going on in the world, this issue warranted priority coverage? It didn't resonate with me at all and I would have preferred to see better coverage of something more universal.

Posted by: erouscg | January 31, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I was very lucky because the private preschool I had my daughter enrolled in didn't require her to be potty trained by age 3. She was having some problems with that - in particular she had encopresis for several years. However to require a public preschool to have kids potty-trained is reasonable.

Posted by: mosere | January 31, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I think the article focused a bit too much on the question of whether a 3-year old should be potty trained. Whether it's developmentally appropriate or not, the school in question had a policy on potty training that was clearly stated, and didn't have enough staff to deal with frequent accidents. I'm probably too cynical, but I suspect that the focus was on the potty training angle because that gets a lot of attention in the mommy blogosphere.

I think that it would have been more interesting and useful to do some investigating on the overall daycare/preschool situation in this area. What are working parents doing, who don't have enough money for decent day care? What do parents do who have a child who doesn't "fit in" to existing day care options (such as special needs kids) etc.

Posted by: bubba777 | January 31, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

BrigidSchulte wrote:
"What makes you think Betsy Rosso is my friend? She contacted me because she had heard me speak at a public forum. And I did interview a host of parents and daycare providers and preschool teachers to put together this story, some of whom were quoted in the piece."

I personally think it was a well written and balanced article. And I think the above explanation - not that one was necessary - was an excellent response.

workplacediva then wrote:
Well, she's one of your Facebook friends, as was noted on the message boards by more than one person. Many people will assume that even a tenuous Facebook connection connotes a strong friendship. That's just the world we live in, I guess."

What?? The fact that someone is a Facebook friend is an assumption of a strong friendship? You don't think, and perhaps I'm naive, that a Facebook friend is no different than someone following someone on Twitter? You actually think that "friending" someone on Facebook means a strong friendship, such as going to the local club or being a golfing partner, perhaps on the same bowling team or sharing receipes over the back fence, doing the Sunday crossword puzzle together? Being facebook friends means you take extra care to make sure you picked out the right birthday or Christmas or anniversary gift for your "friend", each year without fail?

My first concern with the story was identifying the child by name, but if the family agreed or did it willingly...then so be it; it's the family's decision.

My second concern was, I understand 3 year olds being in nursery or groups, but I must be old-school, because I still view kindergarten as pre-school. But then I haven't figured out why 3 year olds (and younger) need to be on the computer with their own Facebook pages, My Space pages, and Twitter accounts. Wouldn't it be nice if 3 year olds could simple be young children growing, and not constrained with the confines of "pre-school"?

Posted by: Dungarees | January 31, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Part of the problem here is that more and more children are being put into school earlier. Why are three-year-olds put in "school" in the first place?

Posted by: Eric12345 | January 31, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

With working parents and disposble diapers in use for two generations now many of todays parents probably weren't potty trained until they were older. In my family if you could walk you could be trained. My mother had a regular routine with meals and bedtimes and had the task done in a couple of weeks with all 3 of us. Gov. Erlich's parents bragged that their boy was dry at 11 months!

Posted by: ritavanreuth | January 31, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I know I'm going way out on a limb here, but it seems to me that the mother hoped the school wasn't serious about their potty training rules and decided to throw a hissy fit about it when they were and disrupted her life by enforcing them. Or maybe the kid hated the school and was peeing her pants because of it, in which case the mother should have WANTED to change schools. I can't imagine reacting to it by contacting a reporter! Surely a lawyer has been contacted to, right?

Posted by: atb2 | January 31, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate the candid and often unvarnished comments people are making. But to those who say that the majority of the comments have been negative, you haven't been reading my e-mail inbox:

"Dear Ms. Shulte—Thank you for your eye-opening (but not surprising) cover story yesterday of the little girl who was suspended from preschool for having too many “accidents.” As a parent, I greatly appreciate your story because these stories need to be told publicly in order to change policies that are neither “child friendly” nor developmentally appropriate.

I am appalled at the pressure on parents to force toilet training on their kids at earlier ages than what is considered appropriate. I believe this will always be for the convenience of the adults (parents, preschool teachers, etc.) and not in the best interest of the child. My daughter was a late potty-trained child yet I chose a preschool who embraced her for who she was and did not shame her for being one of the last kids out of diapers. She is now a confident, kind, intelligent young student who was prepared for school based on her positive early experience in that preschool.

We pressure our children too much as it is. Let them become potty trained when they are ready – not when a school forces them to be ready. My advice to parents who are touring preschools with this policy in place….get out of there as fast as you can! They don’t get nor may not care to get who your child is and what they need. Choose a new place that respects them for where they are developmentally and who they are as a person. It could be one of the best gifts you give your young child."

Posted by: BrigidSchulte | January 31, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Follow the rules, Ms. Rosso.

Posted by: erodbaby | January 31, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Numerous people have noted that children with special needs need to choose a different preschool or daycare. We need to balance that special needs is a very broad category. For example, my son (3 years) is not potty trained, but has mild case of low muscle tone which makes it difficult for him to recognize when he needs to go. Should this special need be one that takes him out of a classroom that meets his intellectual/cognitive developmental status? We can't have different classrooms that meet all characteristics of each child. And we can't have all special needs lumped together either because there is a broad spectrum of special needs.

Posted by: dragonfly1 | January 31, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I cannot argue the point that every child is unique and will learn things in their own times. Potty training is not really about training the child, it is training the parents and care givers to clue in on signals children give when they 'gotta go - NOW'. Through this parent potty training, kids pick up on what they are feeling and where to go when they get that feeling.

I have to speak up about the sanitary issue as well as the peer issue. Children are cruel and can be insufferably cruel to those who still wet their pants, even at 3. The school is just trying to save their neck on disease and bullying and I have to stand with the school. It is clear that that the girl just is not ready yet and there is no shame in this fact.

Posted by: skramsv | January 31, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I believe that kids should be potty-trained by the time they're 2 yrs old, but no kid should be punished if he has an accident! & if you think it stops forever when you're an adult---think again! Since I hit middleage I still have accidents if I don't use the toilet before I leave the house or go to bed! In fact, I just had an accident last night! I dreamt I was peeing on a rest room toilet & woke myself up---I had accidently peed myself!

Posted by: gailschumacher | January 31, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey, parents: home school! If your kid isn't potty trained by 3, let him stay home with you and then maybe the two of you can figure it out. Too bad the kid feels the hotpoint of the magnifying glass when his parents should.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | January 31, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

"...We pressure our children too much as it is. Let them become potty trained when they are ready – not when a school forces them to be ready..."

Then the best solution for the child would be not to attend school, which is a stressor on a child...but I imagine that we are actually discussing a complex set of issues. Do both parents work? Is it impractical to not attend some kind of day care--then should some other arrangement be made? There is also the society of the children to think about---teasing and embarrassment are all possible at three.

Again, all the issues above MUST be solved by a parent as a three year old can't do that. Going to the newspaper is hardly a solution for child or family peace of why do it? It appears that sometimes parents get too wrapped up in what's best for them versus what's best for their child...sad, but true...and yes, we all do it. Most of us however, think about what might happen to the dynamics of family and children before turning to the press for "help".

Posted by: mil1 | January 31, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The main thoughts that came to me while reading the article in Sunday's paper were "get a grip on things, lady" and "who's this person's publicist" -- a front page story??? The school system's policy seems MORE than reasonable, and the school had rightly taken as much as it could.

Posted by: dooleyj | January 31, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

When I saw the headline on the article, I thought I'd picked up the National Enquirer. Surely this doesn't merit space in a respected newspaper! Not to mention that some of us are getting tired of entitled parents whining about this or that. Bunch of -- potty stuff!

Posted by: dottie_b | January 31, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

My take on this is twofold:
1) Mom clearly over-reacted and unless there's a medical problem, most kids should be potty trained by the time they are 3. Almost every preschool that I know of requires their 3 year olds to be potty trained.
2) For whatever reason the Montessori-type school was too stressful for the child, hence the regression and accidents. A less structured preschool clearly worked better as attested to by the mother's comments in the article. Not all children are cut out for the regimin and structure of Montessori schools.

Posted by: momE1 | January 31, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the mother will cut out the article and put it in the kid's scrapbook.

Posted by: dottie_b | January 31, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Oh gosh, you guys put the author on the defense. My take is that I can totally understand teachers not wanting to be daycare providers. My daycare providers toilet-trained my son at the age of 2. They were not spending all day changing diapers on grown toddlers. They were very adamant about that, and I went along with it (gratefully, because it made my job easier at home, hee hee). So he was ready for PK. But I can understand people who stay at home and are in no rush to potty train their kids. I can totally picture a few housewives dropping their kids off at school in diapers.

Posted by: forgetthis | January 31, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I totally understand that different kids potty train at different times. But if a particular preschool has an age requirement and that child has not met it, then find a different program for your child and don't expect the world to accommodate you. My child is in a fullday daycare with preschool and pre-k programs. They are set up to deal and help with potty training kids. Yeah, it's a bummer when your kid may not get to go to the preschool you've decided is perfect, but if those are the rules, then it is fair.

Posted by: bobcat2 | January 31, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I have 5 children, and ALL had to be potty-trained before they were admitted to preschool. If a 3 year old isn't ready, that's understandable. They just have to wait another year for preschool. Don't demonize the preschools. There's always daycare for parents who need it.

Posted by: mrennie1 | January 31, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I read the article about little Zoe Rosso peeing and am disgusted by her mother's selfish inability to respect her daughters privacy. Throughout the rest of Zoe's life when people Google her name they will learn that she peed in her pants at the age of three. Betsy, try to be a parent first next time.

Posted by: pumbu | January 31, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh please. The majority of comments from this article were not attacking children who weren't potty-trained or advocating one way or the other for potty training standards. They WERE commenting on the fact that the mother of this story had a child who didn't meet the school requirement, and a perfectly reasonable requirement, for a variety of reasons, such as limited resources, and the health and safety of other children. Ms. Rosso seemed to think the rules didn't apply to her or her child. Preschool for a 3-year-old is OPTIONAL. While it can be an enriching experience, there are plenty of other ways for children to get enrichment until they are ready to meet enrollment requirements. Any child with a developmental or cognitive delay would qualify for special accomodations, including pull-ups, were school attendance mandatory for this age. But that's not the case here. Quite simply put, Ms. Rosso lied to school officials about the readiness of her daughter for this particular preschool and then got angry when she got caught.

Posted by: candle96 | January 31, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

There are two instances of my acquaintance where a child who was at the upper end of the "normal" age range (3-4) and able to do a certain amount of intellectual reasoning - was TOLD by parents that they could not go to "school" unless they were completely potty trained, and amazingly, instantly, the child became potty trained. One child actually said "Okay". That indicates to me that in some children there must be some psychological factors at play which need to be examined closely. Clearly, if you are able to have a conversation about it with the child, then the child should be able to be trained. Maybe all they needed was the "right" motivation (such as the "reward" of being able to go to school - if you are 3 or 4, I guess that would be perceived as a "reward"!)

Posted by: jqw3827 | January 31, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

SHOULD a school be allowed to require preschoolers to be potty trained? Of course! Would I want my child enrolled in a school so rigid that it doesn't allow accidents in a 3-year-old class? Certainly not! The question this article did not clarify, (I did not read the original article), is did this school required absolute perfection or did it allow accidents. How many was too many? I can agree that there is such a thing as too many. If, for example, the child was having daily "accidents", he was not ready to be in that setting, as those were really not accidents at all but lack of training. Sometimes, we just start our children in school, too young. What's right for one child is too soon for another.

Posted by: spazmazilla | January 31, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't think requiring potty training for preschoolers is a new phenomenon, or has much to do with "the push for academics and higher expectations at younger and younger ages." My mother directed a preschool and taught 3-year-olds for many years, and children being potty trained was a requirement for attendance some 20 years ago. Of course there were accidents, and they were aocommodated -- but when you have a big group of 3-years old with 2 adults (1 teacher and 1 assistant teacher), just managing routine trips to the bathroom with individual children is a challenge. Dealing with constant accidents makes it difficult to appropriately supervise all the children and disrupts their classroom experience, which often relies on hands-on attention. It's a question of the school having a policy that best meets the needs of the majority of the children in the class. There were always children who, for one reason or another, turned out not to be ready for preschool at 3--or at least for this particularly preschool--but my mother the educator certainly would have been the first to tell the parents that this was not a commentary on the child's ultimate ability to succeed.

Posted by: cjm1234 | January 31, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

My boys were night time 'potty trained' before day time trained. I was convinced it was pure stubborness since they would be put on the potty, not go, and then pee in their pants 2 minutes later. They were 3 years apart from 1st to 3rd. They were finally trained by their dad when I was away for a weekend. To this day, I suspect he paddled them after each 'accident'.

Posted by: carolbee1597 | January 31, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I think we should look at this as the 15 minutes of fame - just think, twenty years from now little Zoe will be able to look back at a scrapbook full of articles, letters, blog entries - thank goodness, not pictures - all about her potty training. I can see the display board at her wedding now! Zoe's parents, this author, and the Washington Post are all phenomenally out of line to have publicized this. Even worse, this sort of thing, plus that turkey in PG County who decided to get back at a mistimed autocall, mean that the outrageous get attention rather than anyone who chooses more appropriate, quiet, private channels.

Posted by: Traveler8 | January 31, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

If I recall correctly from the earlier article, Zoe also was "called out" in front of other children (and maybe parents?) by one of the folks running the place for having too many accidents. That sort of thing can stick with you through like. Inhumane. And lots of therapy bills later on.

Posted by: seaduck2001 | January 31, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

The school staffer called her out in front of the other kids. Her own mother called her out in the Washington Post. Did you say therapy bills?

Posted by: dottie_b | January 31, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

As a former director of a Montessori preschool, may I give you my perspective? We enrolled children ages 3-6 years who were potty-trained. We required all children to have a complete change of clothes, however, anticipating that there would be accidents.

When a child had an occasional accident, we treated that child respectfully, and assisted in his or her cleanup away from the other children. An accident is an accident - completely understandable.

But if a child had frequent accidents, or came to school in training pants, the parents would be warned that this was unacceptable and that there would need to be an improvement by month's end, or the child's preschool education would have to be delayed. Rarely, we had to enforce the rule, as parents would devote a weekend to intense "training", with good results.

We were not a nursery or child care center, with facilities for changing diapers/training pants, or wet and soiled clothing. We were a preschool, with fewer staff members than a nursery, and we were not equipped, or furnished with facilities to deal with accidents where urine or feces would soil carpeted areas.

Parents were generally understanding and compliant because we were clear up front about our expectations - they were printed in our enrollment papers, and we required signatures by the parents that they had read all the conditions of enrollment. Perhaps better communication is the key.

Posted by: borntorun45 | January 31, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Brigid, you cherry-picked the letters you quoted and missed the point of most of the responders. First of all, many said a school has the right to expect toilet-trained kids and the mother -- your friend! -- should have looked for a daycare that didn't require it. Second, I read most of the responses, and it was nowhere evenhanded. The VAST majority of responders agreed with the school. I'm disappointed, to put it mildly, that you wrote such a self-serving "interpretation" and response today.

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | January 31, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

My favorite potty training 3 year old son went into the bathroom to sit on his little training seat over the toilet. It was very quiet. All at once he came running out of the bathroom, arms flailing, screaming "Alligator!!!"

When I went inside, there was a cricket doing the backstroke in the commode.

Posted by: ihave4ducks | January 31, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

It seems that no one is addressing the real problem: that the child in this story stayed dry when she was at home, yet had many accidents in pre-school. It would seem that the regression in the school may have been due to stress, as toilet trained children often regress in stressful situations. As a parent and a nurse, I am more concerned about why the child regressed in toilet training when in school. She seems to have gotten lost in the mother's fight against the rules that she overtly broke and made this about her, instead of addressing her daughter's needs and well-being.

An aspect of this that the reported failed to address was that there are state/county health laws that determine staffing levels and facility requirements for daycare/preschools based on whether the children are toilet trained or not. This was true when my sons, now in their 20's went to pre-school.

Posted by: tiggerinfairfax | January 31, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

My husband suggested that I buy a potty and start the process when my son was around 18 months. A "modern" mother, I said "Okay, but you know he'll wear it on his head or store toys in it for awhile. Boys are hard to toilet train." We bought the kid a potty, put it down on the bathroom floor, explained what it was for, and the kid sat down and peed in the pot. I told him what a genius he was. Shortly thereafter, he figured out that pooping in the pot was cool too. He was reliably potty-trained, at least in the daytime, a month later. Since that time, many years ago, I've used the same technique on other children AND young puppies. Showing and/or explaining to them what you want (in the case of dogs, taking them outside and then telling them what brilliant young things they are when they squat) seems to work pretty universally. Everybody likes praise. In the case of humans, having your very own potty just your size, improves the odds.

Posted by: eskarp | January 31, 2011 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Nearly 40 years ago, when I had a child who was dry during the day but wet at night, our pediatrician told me that children could not be "forced" to stay dry--it was completely dependent on biological maturity, and that the child wouldn't be wearing diapers to k'garten. Completely right in our case; problem resolved itself. Pre-school, or nursery school, can require children to be potty trained; if a child is not, he/she should be in day care or at home. (once a child reaches mandatory school age, a child who needs diapers is in a special ed. program)
My grandson responded very well to the information that once he could go to the potty, he could go to school--great motivation, positive reinforcement, and he participated in the process--he turned 3 right before school started, and he was ready. This story made it sound like the little girl was better off out of that particular school.

Posted by: loco71 | January 31, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I've never heard of a preschool for 3-year olds that *didn't* require them to be potty-trained. Now, of course they expect accidents. And it was unclear from the article exactly how many this child was having (one a week doesn't really sound beyond the pale). I wonder, also, if the school could have done a bit more to help: my kindergardner had two accidents at school this fall, something that hasn't happened in years. I emailed the teacher and asked her to remind my daughter that the new rule (according to me) is that she has to go to the bathroom at lunchtime every day. It never happened again.

Agree that publishing this child's full name was quite awful.

Posted by: floof | January 31, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

To KarinRoberts: Regarding your comments: "how in the world can a public school charge $835 a month for what is supposed to be a free, universally available public education? Second, what sort of teacher excludes a child from class based on something he or she cannot control? Anyone ever heard of the universal right to public education? Did I fall asleep and wake up in a different country? All means all, people, that's the law."

The issue with this is that public education is not mandated in the state of Virginia until age 6, if I recall correctly. It is absolutely not the law that 3 year olds are provided a free and public education. The family was paying for the Montessori program because it's an optional program that is only partially subsidized. Some families go for free, but most pay on a sliding scale based on income. Low-income families in VA have other options for free pre-k including the VPI program and Head Start. All of our programs are understaffed, under-financed, and at capacity. Because the child does not have to be there, the school absolutely had the right to temporarily suspend her.

Posted by: abg1985 | January 31, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what Happyland some parents are living in, but on my planet pre-school isn't optional. My neighbors are single moms or traditional families where all parents must work to make the mortgage. What's so important that a school can't slow down to accommodate an incontinent three year old? Chinese lessons?

Posted by: jimward21 | January 31, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

The issue isn't whether or not the child in the article was potty trained- Its clearly stated that she was- the issue is that blame for the "accidents" were placed on the mother and child.
As for the opinion of the retired school nurse cited above, she says "Taking care of a child who has an accident at school is always a big issue as teachers and aides generally do not regard assisting a child with changing as part of their job description."
This is an important statement because it infers that they are unwilling to deal with all of a toddlers needs. Accidents happen, especially to 3 year olds. Children in pre-k need more than just crayons, paint, and Old McDonald. If teachers and aides are unwilling to attend to all of a 3 year olds needs then they should find another job.
Most importantly, the teachers and administrators at the school (from the article) appeared unwilling to help the child find success during weak moments. Its those times that are most important in a childs social development, not the time spent sharing crayons. Those are the true colors that should be noted by parents and educators alike; their curriculum is merely theoretical. Their practice is counter-developmental at best.

Posted by: oo7 | January 31, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

My reaction to all of this is a feeling of sadness for this little girl who was escorted out of the school for her accidents. Her privacy was ignored by all concerned. Why could this not be done confidentially to save this lovely child from the slings and arrows of those around her for perhaps years to come? She committed no crime but she will be the one to suffer, perhaps it will take the form of more difficulty in potty training than it would have and in painful psychological recovery. Shame on all those who shared her name with the world. Children (and adults) are so cruel and this could come back to haunt her for years to come.

Posted by: leslieblair1 | January 31, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

I find the comments here very odd. So many people suggest the mother should have either kept the child at home or in daycare. Assuming that staying home isn't an option for all people and setting that issue aside, why does everyone make a distinction between preschool and daycare? I understand that there are staffing and sanitation requirements to consider, but is the only difference potty training? When my child is potty trained, should I take him out of his toddler friendly daycare? Because that seems to be the only important developmental milestone to differentiate the two for many commenters. Why does everything get to change when someone is miraculously accident free?

Posted by: PatientlyWaiting | January 31, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

It's simple: if kids aren't potty trained and you have 15 kids in a pre-school class either little teaching will go on because the teacher and her aides are spending half their time changing diapers, or the school will have to hire attendants to change diapers all day and tuition will go up. Besides which, could you pay someone enough to change diapers for hours a day every day?

A child probably doesn't lose much by delaying academic pre-school until fully toilet trained. And it is reasonable for a pre-school to opt out of diaper changing. If the child can't attend pre-school, then the parent can make alternative day care arrangements.

It's narcissistic for parents to insist that their untrained child has to be indulged. At a certain point, toilet training is a socialization priority. And a parent's job is to raise a well-socialized, functional member of society.

Posted by: cassandra9 | January 31, 2011 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Brigid-please respond to the question posed by so many: Why did you use the child's real name?

As you intimated in the article, the teacher from the unnamed preschool program that Zoe attended BEFORE attending Claremont, had done the very same thing, except she did it in front of a class. You (and her mother) "have announced in front of EVERYONE how many accidents" Zoe has had. When considering that this story will live on infinitum, that's a heckuva lot more shame.

Posted by: chinnymcchipstah | January 31, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

I think the author of this story posed an important question that is getting missed. The question was whether PUBLIC shools should be allowed to limit attendance based on whether children are potty trained. Private preschools can do whatever the heck they want.

I tend to agree with the nurse who was quoted in the follow-up. If the schools want to offer public programs for 3 year olds, they should be equipped to work with 3 year olds at least across the normative spectrum of development (and I would suggest outside it as well.) With potty training requirements, they are no longer providing a public service that doesn't discriminate. This goes against the philosophy of public education. If the scools are not equipped to handle potty training 3 year olds -- who are well within the range of normal -- then they shouldn't offer a program for 3 year olds.

For those who argue that teachers shouldn't have to serve these kids -- can't this same argument be made about serving children with behavior problems? Or children who cry a lot? Or other children who require increased attention from the teacher? Sure, there are the sanitary issues if the school isn't properly equipped -- but, again, if they want to serve 3 year olds, they should be prepared to serve all 3 year olds.

Posted by: skeptic421 | January 31, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

I don't have children of my own but My God, what has this world come too when we require a 3 year old -- a 3 year old be fully potty trained? surely you jest. I have nieces and nephews who have had all sort of accidents and when I am baby sitting I change the diapers so what?. Yes potty training is important but we are dealing with Toddlers here anyone who is expecting perfection (no accidents after 3 years of age) is in for a big shock. Let the have their entire lives to be what they want but this whole potty wars has me all worked up. Each child will learn to be potty trained. Being kicked out of preschool just for a couple of accidents is entirely wrong!.

Posted by: sunnyside1 | January 31, 2011 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Define "potty trained". I have a seven year old son who is able to stay dry for the most part; however, he wakes up wet every once in a while. These periods of wetness usually correspond to a growth spurt. Does this mean he's not potty trained? I think it's horrendous that a teacher or school administrator would announce to the classmates and parents how many times this little girl had an accident that day. It's interesting that the little girl hasn't had an accident since starting her new school. That's pretty telling about her old school. Naming her in a national newspaper also concerns me. You know what they say, "Once it's on-line, it's on-line FOREVER". When this child is an adult, someone can Google her name (or whatever search agent is used by then) and this article will come up. Wonder how she'll feel about that.

Posted by: ArlingtonVA1 | January 31, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

By the time I was 3-4, I was pretty well potty trained. I vividly remember on my way to school one morning with my mother holding my hand, waiting for the school van. I did not want to go. The van picked me up and would you know it, I did one of the few things I knew how to do to give me comfort at the time...and pooped in my pants. once in school I was sitting in the middle of all the children and the teachers noticed the misplacd aroma, circling the crowd they singled me out and off they sent they sent me to the public bathroom to be washed by a school cleaner. She hosed me down in front of all the kids who laughed and mocked me and afterwards I had to wear the red pants of my schoolmate, the only dry pants available. Of course in due time I forgot and made up and all is well. I am a successful physician scientist, my IQ is untouched, my academic career well on its way 38 years later. I will never forget the feeling or images of that day. Be gentle with your children and the children of others.

Posted by: bubulu1 | January 31, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

A few mistakes in others' posts about early childhood education:

1) There are no state staffing ratios that are based on potty-training. They are based on age cut-offs. This is because there is no evidence that age at potty-training is related to any aspect of developmental outcomes or school readiness. And regardless, these rules typically only apply to licensed day cares and preschools, which most public schools are not.

2) Whether school is mandatory or not is unrelated to the county's decisions of which age to serve children. The difference between voluntary and mandatory schooling is that parents must enroll their children in programs when it is mandatory.

And then there's my story.

I tried to potty train my older daughter just before age 2. We went through all kinds of hell trying to get her to potty train -- rewards, encouragement, etc etc. It was a nightmare -- she was constipated and that made potty training horrific. Then just as she turned three it was like a light went on -- and voila -- she was trained. But we wasted a year fighting over it, before she eventually hit the point when she was ready. I am not forcing it with my second daughter.

Judge me as you like -- I am a working mom, and I simply do not have a two week period at home with chidlren running around naked or without diapers. I am too busy trying to improve the public early learning programs in this country (oh, the irony!) But I am a good mom and I am responsible for two young, smart, developmentally advanced, but potty-challenged beautiful girls who will contribute to society in a meaningful way. They just might not be able to go to the Arlington preschools. No problem -- we have other arrangements. But it seems like a stupid rule for a school system that likes to brag that it serves 3 year olds.

Posted by: skeptic421 | January 31, 2011 9:27 PM | Report abuse

TO PatientlyWaiting-

The difference between Daycare and Preschool is this: NONE. A preschool may claim to have a curriculum which will work to advance your child's cognitive abilities and help them reach developmental milestones so that they are prepared for Kindergarten, specificallyt he things that a child must know to get into kidnergarten (look up your local districts kindergarten requirements). How does that differ from a daycare? It doesn't. A daycare can teach upper and lower clase letters to toddlers as well. But when you say preschool it conjures up a positive image of socially responsible parents trying to make sure that their child has every advantage possible, while daycare conjures a negative image of a place that lower middle class parents (and below) send their kids so that they can work a menial job.
Semantics, baby. Its all daycare.

Posted by: oo7 | January 31, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Another point -- after reading the perspective of the Montessori director -- most children who aren't potty-trained at age 3 are still fairly limited in the number of diaper changes they need. Many of them, especially if they wear pull-ups, may make it to the potty most of the time, and can even change their own pull-up. Now this may argue that physically they are probably ready for potty training -- I am not going to take that on. But it certainly raises questions about the arguments that chidlren who aren't potty trained will lead to tremendous time changing diapers or cleaning up accidents or soiled carpets. If anything, I would suspect you have more unsanitary accidents with the younger crowd if you require underwear, because they are more likely to have an accident that goes through their clothing than one that leaks through their pull-ups or diapers.

Which leads me to wonder whether this is more about inconvenience for teachers than what's sanitary? If that's the issue -- again -- I suggest that the public programs not even offer school for 3 year olds. Or staff them appropriately if they do.

Posted by: skeptic421 | January 31, 2011 9:43 PM | Report abuse

oo7 -- you hit the nail on the end. I've made this point to my mom friends many a time. One argued that she was enrolling her 1 year old in a "preschool" program. When I suggested it was child care, she freaked out. Frankly folks, an accredited (not just licensed) child care center probably has a better curriculum, better staff, and better ability to promote school readiness than a private unlicensed and/or unaccredited "preschool." The difference is that the preschool charges far more per hour than the child care center, because parents don't know enough to know they are being duped.

Posted by: skeptic421 | January 31, 2011 9:47 PM | Report abuse

I don't have kids, so I'll just let y'all fight it out, and may the right side win!

Posted by: jd5024 | January 31, 2011 10:27 PM | Report abuse

There is absolutely no excuse for parents not teaching potty training by age 3, and I stand with the school in expelling any child who has eight incidents. The staff has to take the time off their regular duties to clean up this mess just because parents have not done what parents have done for time immemorial. Someone suggested they could add staff to deal with this problem, but that is a cost issue and we pay enough for pre-school now. If the parents don't give a fig about teaching their kids, then why should the pre-school? Lazy parents shouldn't hand off their responsibilities to others, but should realize there is some duties to being a good parent rather than just parenting kids.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | January 31, 2011 10:32 PM | Report abuse

The story makes clear that the preschool in question had a very clear policy that was communicated to the parents in advance, and they enrolled their child in spite of it.

Well, people, preschool education is NOT a right in the USA. It should be, but it's not. Were it a legal right of all children, I would say ACPS should revisit their policy. (Although, as a 'special' rather than a 'neighborhood' program, you could make a case for having some criteria).

Not judging people for whether their children are potty-trained by a particular age. I'm just pointing out the natural consequence of our choice to consider preschool a privilege instead of a right - you have to play by the provider's rules, so make sure you know them well.

However, preschool is considered a privilege in this country, and they are within their rights to set admission standards. The parents are within their rights to look elsewhere. Hopefully when they find a new preschool, they'll read take the admissions criteria a little more seriously.

Posted by: mdennis74 | January 31, 2011 10:41 PM | Report abuse

does anyone find it strange that the kid stopped making mistakes when moved to a new school. What was the school doing to encourage mictruatition

Posted by: mottledhog | January 31, 2011 11:26 PM | Report abuse

What a self-serving response this is.
I feel shame on behalf of the Post.
The school policy isn't gonna be changed lady. Nor should it.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | January 31, 2011 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, everyone is missing the real issue here: a 3-year-old child should not be in an institutional setting. A little child like that needs and deserves to be AT HOME WITH HIS MOTHER! That's the real tragedy--that so many children don't get to have normal, happy childhoods anymore because of working mothers and absentee fathers. Yes, people, do have choices--if you don't have the time and money to provide a child with a nurturing environment in the home, then don't have them!

Posted by: KarenCCC | January 31, 2011 11:36 PM | Report abuse

I think a normal child at age three should have the ability to communicate that he needs to go to the bathroom. However, if the child is mentally disable, he/she may not yet have the maturity or understanding to deal with it. Also, I don't know whether the school is a private pre-school or a state or city run pre-school for under-priviledge children. If it is a public school, I am sure the school has already certain written rules in place that the parents had to sign and agree, before signing up the child. If it is a private pre-school, I think a reasonable solution for the school is to charge extra for the diaper change service, based on a hourly rate. A charge of $15 to $25 would not be unreasonable, since a teacher or instructional assistant has to attend to the needs of one child. If you start charging the parent, I am sure, her little darling will become potty trained in a hurry.

Posted by: fridaolay | January 31, 2011 11:55 PM | Report abuse

This should be a non-issue. Some children are just slower to be "potty trained".

With the amount of money they charge for the kid to be there, they willingly and without complaining or "suspending the little one" should just clean up the mess and gently teach the child to raise the hand when the need arises.


Posted by: mackiejw | January 31, 2011 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Nice try. We are not talking about that point. You might find some takers on another forum but not here.

Posted by: pipe1 | January 31, 2011 11:59 PM | Report abuse

With child seual assaults prevelant, why would any parent want a school employee eposed to a child's privates?
For God's sake, potty train the child so they can go to the bathroom by themselves and properly clean their privates and their hands by themselves. Do not be allowing school employees opportunities for abuse. Or anyone else. These are not people that you have interviewed and selected for child care. Granted, most people are not pediphiles and schools have back ground checks in place but wise up, people!!

Posted by: notmartha | February 1, 2011 6:44 AM | Report abuse

I would like to clarify something. Arlington County Schools (APS) provides a public education to children who reside in the county from kindergarten through 12th grade. APS does NOT provide free schooling to children under the age of 5. The montessori program is an OPTION PEOPLE but one must pay a sliding scale tuition based on the family's income. APS could provide early childhood education to residents for free but it'll cost all us Arl Co taxpayers.
As far as the specific potty needs of a 3 yr old-it varies wildly. My child was in the APS Montessori program @3 1/2 because he REALLY needed to start school. He already was reading on a 1st grade level and needed a school environment to challenge him. By the time he was entering kindergarten he knew all the countries in the world AND their capitals. He craved the lessons and structure and busted out of the door every morning to go to school. I was at home so it wasn't essential nor did his older sibling go to a full day. Some kids really thrive in an academic setting at ages 3-5. Some have more than 8 accidents a month. Bottomline: Find the environment suited to your own child. Stop trying to make all OPTIONS appropriate to ALL kids. It's total bs to say that a public school system HAS to provide daycare-type facilities and staffing unless all the residents of that county vote and allocate funding for that. Arlington County residents haven't.

Posted by: chinnymcchipstah | February 1, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Full disclosure: Unlike Brigid Schulte, I am a close friend of the Rossos so you can take my comments with a grain of salt. There are excellent arguments on both sides of the matter on whether the Arlington Public School's policy should be changed. The fact that there is so much debate about this, however, tells me that it would benefit everyone if the Arlington Public Schools clarified its policy.

Also, please, a request for civility. You can debate whether this a good policy or not. You can debate whether children these days take longer to toilet train or not. But unless you know the Rossos or have more information about them than can be conveyed in one newspaper article, please don't think you can judge whether they are good parents or not.

Posted by: sklacefield | February 1, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Full disclosure: Unlike Brigid Schulte, I am a close friend of the Rossos so you can take my comments with a grain of salt. There are excellent arguments on both sides of the matter on whether the Arlington Public School's policy should be changed. The fact that there is so much debate about this, however, tells me that it would benefit everyone if the Arlington Public Schools clarified its policy.

Also, please, a request for civility. You can debate whether this a good policy or not. You can debate whether children these days take longer to toilet train or not. But unless you know the Rossos or have more information about them than can be conveyed in one newspaper article, please don't think you can judge whether they are good parents or not.

Posted by: sklacefield | February 1, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I agree that people should be civil to one another. I take issue though with your complaint of others "judging" the Rosso's. If the purpose of the article was to force Arl. Co Schools to declare, in very specifics terms, their policy toward potty-training, the Rosso's could have accomplished that in several ways. It was NOT a good parenting decision to air their very individual and private grievances with APS policy on the front page of WaPo using their child's real name...sorry, but as a parent, I judge that to be wrong. I hope others take heed and realize everything that you communicate and disseminate should be carefully considered. Betsy, as a communication professional, should've understood that more than most and took better steps to protect her child's future.

Posted by: chinnymcchipstah | February 1, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"But pediatricians and child development experts say that training a child early only trains the parents, it doesn't teach a child to recognize their own body's signals - something that takes both brain and body time to develop."
--Brigid Schulte

I don't understand. How does this not teach the child to recognize their body's signals if the child is using the bathroom whenever he/she feels the urge to go?? To me, that's definetly an indicator that a child recognizes a bowel movement = need to defecate and full bladder = need to urinate and go upon command in a toilet. Where are you getting your "expertise" advice from?? The only pediatricians and so-called "child experts" claiming this are far and few, I bet.

Posted by: Soguns1 | February 1, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Point blank, Betsy Russo is a prima donna who wanted the school to bend to her wants. According to the article, APS's spokeswoman Linda Erdos, claimed it very clearly states that a child must be toilet trained and they accept no more than 8 accidents/month. Mrs. Russo signed the papers, got called on her bluff and now she's throwing a hissy fit about it.

And LOL at potty training classes. I didn't know such thing existed until I read the article. I wonder if Kaiser Permentante offered these classes when my 7 year old daughter was 2. It would've made my life at home so much easier! Something is seriously wrong when a parent utilitize such classes...

Posted by: Soguns1 | February 1, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

What bothered me in the original article was Mrs. Rosso talking about how you couldn't expect perfection from a 3 year old. That's the thing... they didn't. The cut off point was 8 accidents in a month. Let's say the child is in school 5 days a week, so 20 days a month. That's not perfection... it's not even close. A child who is actually potty-trained will not mess his/herself 8 times in a month.

Posted by: CNUCatherine | February 1, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I think one problem here could be that this is a Montessori school -- not a program designed specifically for 3-year-olds. Not all 3-year-olds are going to be mature enough to hang out with the big kids all day. It sounds like this little girl wasn't, and even if the school is overall an excellent environment, she might not be comfortable being among the youngest in a 3- to 6-year-old class (and that stress could be what caused her to regress each time she went back). I'm curious about whether her new school where she's happier has 3-year-olds in classes with kids so much older, or if they use narrower age ranges. Montessori is great, but it's not the best program for every child.

Posted by: silverspring4 | February 1, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I am so glad to hear that there are so many "experts" out there that think that just because they were able to potty train their child by a certain age or did it in just a weekend that this should be the case across the board. As a parent of a 3 year old who still has accidents 4 or 5 times a week, please feel free to contact me and volunteer your expert services as we have tried most of the methods listed in the above comments except for physical punishment and verbal degradation. The daycare our child is at has been understanding and trying to help us get past this all important milestone, but what is the alternative? Should the child be left with the 2 year old's until they are completely potty trained? That sounds more harmful from a development stand point and it seems to me that being around other kids that are using the toilet would be more beneficial than being around kids 8-12 months younger and still in diapers.

Posted by: s2011 | February 1, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

s2011-why don't you contact a mother in a developing nation or an old school notion type of parent and find out how they did it?
I find absolutely nothing wrong with paddling a child if the refusal to use the potty is due to stubborness. It work for me and I had to only employ it once. (My daughter was trained 6 months to poop in the toilet before she learned to stop wetting herself.)

Oh. And if you're still keeping your toilet (un)trained child in pull-ups/diaper during the day, remove at once and put cotton underwears on the child. Be prepare to a major clean up once the child realize that cotton underwear does not hold liquid well. Best piece of advice a friend gave to me when my daughter was still peeing on herself at 2 1/2. It was an INSTANT cure. If only I had know earlier...

Posted by: Soguns1 | February 1, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Enough of this Pottygate already!

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 1, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh, was THIS what the article was about?

"But the issue that the story explored - the push for academics and higher expectations at younger and younger ages, as parents compete for a limited number of spots at preschools seen as more academic and, hence, more desirable - struck a nerve with many readers"

That almost sounds like news. But you couldn't prove it by comparing the sentence space devoted to that purported phenomenon to the space devoted to the disingenuous and completely unsupported quotes and narrative from Betsy Rosso reaming the Claremont Montessori School for being harsh and inflexible in not changing their rules for her.

Posted by: pmacbee | February 2, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse


Worst journalism ever. And people already have low expectations for people in your profession. You should just apologize for the article, learn your lesson, and move on.

Posted by: Wallenstein | February 4, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Parents use pre-school as really little more than a baby sitting service except in many cases the tax payer is footing the bill for them if it is through the educational system. Therefore, this woman complaining about the school not being fair should keep her mouth shut, quit blaming others for her failures and pay someone to baby sit her child and change her diapers.

Did you miss the part about her paying $835 a month? Do some research before your fingers get to typing and your head gets to judging. Most pre-schools are tuition based, not taxpayer funded. That's why it's called PRE-school, because its not school, which is free (public school is, anyway).

I'm not saying that the parent is right here, but your incorrect statement was aggravating me.

Posted by: itsme1 | February 7, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse


How many kids did you personally potty train? And all before the age of 3, my goodness!

Posted by: itsme1 | February 7, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

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