Kristen Bell is reminding the world that when it comes to childhood milestones, every kid is different and that just because something worked for one kid doesn’t mean the same parenting approach will work for their younger siblings.
On the latest episode of Momsplaining with Kristen Bell, the mama of two explained when it comes to potty training, 5-year-old Delta and 7-year-old Lincoln, Bell and her husband, Dax Shepard, needed to use different approaches.
“Currently, my youngest is five and a half, still in diapers,” says Bell, who adds that this is a totally different experience than potty training her oldest, who was done with diapers at around 21 months old.
“We merely suggested that she use the toilet in the other room and [she] never wore another diaper beyond that,” Bell explains. “We were lying in bed giggling about this, my husband and I, like, ‘Why does everyone make a big deal out of this potty training? It’s so easy. Just tell the kid to use the toilet.'”
And then they had a child who didn’t mesh with that approach and realized that every kid is different—and experts agree.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all model of child-rearing advice for all the world’s parents,” writes Alma Gottlieb, a Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In a post for The Conversation, Gottlieb explains that “Nowadays, only around half of children in the U.S. are fully toilet-trained by age three” but some kids around the world are trained before their first or second birthday. It just depends on what works for the child, their family and their culture. In places where disposable diapers aren’t available children tend to be trained earlier, says the anthropologist (but that’s obviously not a problem for Kristen Bell as she has her own line of diaper products through her baby care company, Hello Bello.)
Gottlieb suggests that as a society, we should be a bit more open-minded when it comes to raising kids because there’s no one right solution, no one-size-fits-all approach to toilet training.
As Bell’s story proves, even within a family siblings can require different parenting techniques and hit milestones at different ages. What worked for Lincoln did not work for Delta, and that’s totally okay.
According to Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist specializing in child development and the founder of Aha! Parenting, kids Delta’s age “are very busy, and they get absorbed in what they are doing. It takes time for humans to learn just how long we can delay starting for the bathroom.”
Her advice to a parent having a similar dilemma to Bell’s was simple: “You may need to remind your daughter to check in with her body and to take regular potty breaks. At school, of course, bathroom breaks are scheduled in. So offer reminders throughout the day, and have her use the bathroom at regular times, such as before and after every meal or snack. If you see her fidgeting, remind her that she needs to go to the potty AS SOON AS she notices she needs to.”
But punishing kids for potty accidents or reminding them that their sibling was out of diapers sooner isn’t the way to go. As Kristen Bell says, “every kid is different.”