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Potty Training in Other Cultures

by Carly Seifert, studioD

In Western culture, we love our diapers. Many parents do not begin potty-training until a minimum of age 2, and the Mayo Clinic even recommends that you don't begin training your child until he begins to show an interest, and can get himself up and down from the toilet on his own. Many other cultures begin potty-training their little ones before they are able to walk and talk.


While many Chinese city-dwellers are turning to the convenience of disposable diapers, the National Association of Child Development reported in its 2009 newsletter that the Chinese in rural areas and in generations past train their babies to go to the bathroom in a toilet when they are just a few months old. When the baby is strong enough to hold up his head, a parent holds him over the toilet and uses either a whistle or a straining sound to coax him to urinate or have a bowel movement. It is not unusual for Chinese babies being trained in this manner to wear crotch-less pants without a diaper or underwear.

Elimination Communication

According to the website WebMD, 75 countries -- including India and nations in Africa -- train their babies to use the toilet around their first birthday by using a method called "elimination communication." In this method, parents watch their babies for cues such as noises or facial expressions that indicate they have to go to the bathroom. Dr. Leslie Rubin, a pediatrician at Morehouse School of Medicine and Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said that the parents and children are more intimate in these cultures, which allows parents to be more in-tune to their babies' signals.

Digo Method

Members of the Digo tribe of East Africa toilet-train their children from birth, according to a paper published in the journal "Pediatrics." Because mother and child are in constant contact, the mother senses when the baby is about to urinate, and pulls him away from her body as she whispers a soothing noise to him. When the baby urinates, he is rewarded with praise, kisses or food. Using this approach, babies are conditioned to use a toilet whenever they hear the mother's noise, and are able to stay dry by the time they are 6 months old.

Assembly Line Style

Children who attend child care in Israel are trained together. The caregivers line them up and place them all on the toilets at the same time. The children who use the toilet are rewarded with praise and encouragement. The children who don't use the potty see that, and are more likely to ensure they make something happen the next time around.

About the Author

Carly Seifert has been a piano instructor since 2001. She has also covered adoption and introducing children to the arts for "Montana Parent Magazine." Seifert graduated from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.

Photo Credits

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