Sheepishly, the mom asked, “Should I still be wiping my seven year old’s tush after he makes a poop?” Some of you might be gasping in horror, but others of you are nodding in agreement as you wonder the same thing. The third time in a week that I was asked the question in a parenting group, I knew it was time to write about it: When should a child wipe his own bottom?
Isn’t it funny that parents flock to my seminars on raising self reliant children…. and the next morning they run to wipe their 5 year old’s hiney?
Toilet training, (though I prefer to call it toilet learning), is much more than just learning to put your pee and your poop in the toilet. It is also a giant step towards independence and self reliance when all the parts of the lesson fall into place. Not only does the child recognize the need to go while he’s building with Legos, but he makes it to the bathroom in time, pulls his own pants down, gets himself onto the toilet, releases his business there, wipes himself, pulls both his undies and his pants back up, and tops it off with washing his hands…with soap. That’s a whole lot of self reliance!
Not all the steps of toilet learning happen at the same time, but within months, most children are relatively accomplished at the task. That is, unless we parents sabotage their self reliance.
Of course, the wiping part is usually the last skill to be accomplished, and not many take to it easily. There’s not much that’s actually pleasant about poop, except being done with it. But it’s a necessary evil. And, unless you plan on accompanying your child on his honeymoon as his hand maiden, you best teach him how to wipe himself early on.
Learning to wipe should begin as soon as the child learns to use the toilet. At first you will do the dirty work, but your child should do the second wipe, as he learns the motion and becomes better able to reach his hind quarters. Some children even do best getting off the toilet and squatting down so their cheeks easily spread to an open target. Some children like to do a spot check in the mirror. (Back to the full length mirror, bend over, and look in the mirror between the legs.)
As a former preschool teacher, let me break the bad news: preschool teachers do not wipe their students’ behinds! They expect the children to do it themselves. Therein lies the answer to the what age question: Four year olds should do their own wiping.
I can hear you now, declaring the inadequate job he will do. Yes, this is part of the learning process. Children will have skid marks in their underpants. Some will even have sore bottoms from not doing a good enough job. But this is why God created baths, showers, and washing machines! And this is why pharmaceutical companies make all kinds of soothing creams that kids learn to apply all by themselves!
Continuing to wipe your child because he won’t or you won’t let him is a strong message about your faith in him. Learning to take care of all his bathroom needs is an important part of becoming a self reliant person. Now, out of the bathroom, please!