Reuters News Service
Nando Media
, May 3, 1999

Parental encouragement, not spanking, is most effective in toilet training

SAN FRANCISCO - Potty chairs, parental encouragement and small gifts such as candy are the most effective means of toilet training young children, researchers reported Monday. One of the least effective techniques, the researchers found, was spanking.

The Medical College of Wisconsin, hailing what it called "the most comprehensive toilet-training study ever completed," said the new data presented to a convention of pediatricians should help harried parents guide their fretful children toward independent use of the bathroom.

"Toilet training is universal and the process is often frustrating and stressful for parent and child," Timothy Schum, the Medical College professor of pediatrics who headed the study, said in a news release.

"Toilet training takes time, understanding, and patience and is a common topic of discussion in the pediatrician's office."

The study, which was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in San Francisco, developed a new "weighted progress scale" to help doctors and parents understand the toilet-training process and each child's journey from diapers to self-sufficiency.

"The researchers used the weighted progress scale, based on cluster analysis, to separate children on the continuum of toilet training," the researchers said.

By repeatedly quizzing the parents of 267 normal children aged between 15 and 42 months, the researchers discovered that certain training techniques were more efficient than others, with parental praise and encouragement, cloth underwear, gifts of candy and potty chairs all high on the list.

"Parents often ask for assurance that their child is progressing appropriately through the toilet-training process," Schum said.

"Parents should be comforted to know that our study showed there is great variability in the duration and 64 percent of children were in the slow or intermediate group of the toilet-training progress phase."

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