By Dr. Sue Hubbard, M.D.
Does your child play a sport after school? It seems children as young as 3 and 4 years old are now involved in soccer and even football. Some children are barely walking before they are signed up for a team. Parents tell me various reasons for this, including:
"If they don't start young they will be at a disadvantage athletically."
"If we don't get on a team now, there will not be room for our child once they start kindergarten or first grade."
"Our child wants to play and wear a uniform."
It seems awfully early to start "team sports" to me. I am a huge advocate of families and children playing together and learning all sorts of games and sporting skills. Kicking a soccer ball in the yard, hitting the wiffleball off of the tee or having Dad throw a pass with the football all seems pretty "normal." But organized sports with a 3-year-old who is still in diapers? Maybe one of the "guidelines" should be you have to be potty trained.
While some of these well-intentioned parents have told me that they are having fun being the coach or attending games with other friends, their pre-school children "don't have time to be potty trained." They are too busy going to school, followed by organized activities, and "it is just easier to let them stay in diapers."
At some point these children will need to skip a practice or two and stay home long enough to get potty trained. I am noticing that children are getting older and older before they are potty trained. I was even with a 4-year-old at a football game, and she was still in diapers.
I know there are books written on this topic with the philosophy that "children will ultimately train themselves" or "how to potty train in three days." But really, in my experience, if you watch your child's cues, spend the time to "talk bathroom habits," and have the "time" to be home to potty train, most children are potty trained between 24 and 36 months of age. Yes, there are occasional children (none of my own) that show interest earlier, say things like, "I go potty now," and really do it on their own. There are also some who are more difficult to get interested and may be harder to potty train. But again, which is probably a more important life time skill: getting out of a diaper or trying to figure out how to line up for a soccer game?
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. "The Kid's Doctor" TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid's Doctor e-book, "Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today's Teen," is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.
This column was printed in the June 12, 2016 - June 25, 2016 edition.