Helen Martin: Our tot training has gone potty

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TEACHERS’ unions have reported that an increasing number of five-year-olds are not yet potty-trained when they turn up to start school. Understandably, teachers say it’s not their job, and blame the parents.

Further up the line, universities and employers are complaining that students and new young employees are unable to read, write and spell properly when they turn up for study or work. They blame the teachers.

So no-one seems to be pulling their weight these days, and mums and teachers of yesteryear (when every child could hold their water and had learned to spell antidisestablishmentarianism by the time they were eight) were smarter than we thought.

It’s obviously desirable that children are continent and controlled long before starting primary school. At the risk of embarrassing the Young Master (now 23), he had it all “mastered”, including dry nights, at about three years old.

I started when he was able to sit on a potty unaided. Having observed and noted what appeared to be optimum nappy filling time, he was placed on the pot in anticipation, and applauded loudly when he performed. He soon got the idea and had another couple of years in which to perfect it without undue pressure and learn that a potty or loo wouldn’t always magically appear on demand.

I was a single parent with a live-in nanny. And in some respects he was in the same position as a child with an at-home mother. The household routine worked around him and his needs. We agreed on a learning system so that he wouldn’t be confused by different instructions or words. Plus, I admit, the nanny had been through it all before so she probably deserves most of the credit.

Today, more and more mothers are working and the majority use a nursery, which has a routine of its own. Since the child spends most of its waking hours there, isn’t it reasonable for the mother to expect the care and development on offer to include some potty training?

I wouldn’t want to be a new mum today. I was born under the Call the Midwife regime of the early Fifties and my mother received virtually no advice at all. Women were expected to get on with it and instinctively know how to do everything. It was no-one’s business to interfere – even when mothers got it wrong.

By my turn in 1989, there were rules accepted as absolute truth that all good mothers should strictly adhere too – everything from the daily volume and type of fluids to be given, to the safest sleeping position for a newborn to avoid cot death.

It totally contradicted granny but made everything very clear cut, or would have done if any of those rules had stood the test of time.

Twenty-three years ago I was told baby milk, breast or otherwise, was “food” for an infant. Water should still be provided or, ideally, a herbal fennel drink.

A young colleague, who is currently about to pop, tells me the rule today is that milk is all an infant needs, definitely no water. She looked at me as if I was mad. “Fennel?” Have babies’ guts evolved somehow in 20 years? What’s changed – apart from the midwives’ opinions?

We were told babies should be allowed to cry themselves to sleep, in a distant bedroom. Now that’s tantamount to neglect and every baby has to be picked up when it cries.

I have absolutely no idea what the 2012 favoured method of potty training is. There’s probably an “App” for it. No wonder some new mothers, confused by the conflicting advice of elders and midwives, nurseries and trends, might be almost frozen into inactivity and wary of relying on their own common sense.

But look on the bright side – at least you still have the right to potty-train your own child. Later, when it comes to delivering lessons on morals, relationships, sex and contraception, that’s teacher’s job and your views are irrelevant.

Remote control

MORE attacks on parents come from a Scottish web security firm, which says that mums and dads aren’t doing enough to protect their children from online pornography or internet predators.

What the pointy-heads – such as web security boffins – apparently fail to realise is that kids will always be ahead of their parents when it comes to IT matters.

Why don’t the techno industries and manufacturers put automatic parental controls and software protection on in the first place.

Leave the problem with those who don’t want it.

Hardly a Trump card

DONALD Trump is speaking out against the Scottish Government’s green energy plans to build offshore wind turbines in full view of his luxury Aberdeenshire golf complex.

There are many strategies for gaining the Scottish public’s support against Holyrood policy.

But someone should tell him that an outspoken, self-seeking campaign by a filthy rich, right-wing American capitalist probably isn’t one of them.