DARE TO ASK: Potty training: A black and white issue?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do white people potty train their kids so late, while black people train
Lynn, Memphis, Tenn.
Probably because more white women have the time to wipe their babies' bottoms
than many black women have the privilege to, between three jobs, rising out of
poverty and generations of slavery.
Daryl, 30, Asian, Texas
It's also very common in Europe and the former Soviet Union to potty train
early (12 months or so). This could be because diapers are expensive.
Kate, 34, white, Columbia, Md.
Pacifiers, bottles, breast-feeding and diapers are areas we black mothers
tend to want to rid our children of as early as possible because they weigh the
child down. Having a 3-year-old hooked on a pacifier is like having a 3-year-old
hooked on crack. I guess we also think it's hard enough for black kids to
progress in America, so why keep them attached to unnecessary "baby things"? We
tend to want our children far less dependent on us as soon as possible because
sometimes life has a way of happening, and we don't want to leave behind
Raquel, 33, black, Houston
I never recognized any correlation between race and potty-training. I do
think, however, that stingy people or those with lower incomes are more likely
to potty train early because day care for potty-trained infants is easier to
find and significantly cheaper.
Kristina, 23, black, Washington
When controversy like this rears its possibly dirty head (we aren't checking
- you do it), there's only one option: seek out the "Potty Pro."
Teri Crane, known by that moniker for having helped thousands of parents in
her "potty training boot camps," is author of Potty Train Your Child in Just One
Day (Simon & Schuster).
"I can tell you, emphatically, this is not a black or white thing. Black
people don't do it [potty train their kids] before white people. It's based on
the needs of the individual child."
Cheli English-Figaro, national president of the Mocha Moms support group for
mothers of color, agreed.
"I've never heard anything like that - us taking shorter time to train our
kids," she said. "Now, my mom did train me by age 1, but that was the cultural
norm for everyone back in the mid-'60s. Before Pampers and diaper services, you
had to wash your own cloth diapers, and people didn't want to deal with that for
While some cultures do train their children early - tribes in East Africa
have had success using a "soothing, calm approach" to train their offspring by
as young as 5 months - today in America it's generally not recommended to start
training until at least age 2, Crane said. Meanwhile, the American Academy of
Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics give no "set" date, but
both say many children don't show "readiness" until 18 to 24 months.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information. For Dare to Ask podcasts, go to
Jacksonville.com keyword: milano.