PETULA DVORAK

It's up to parents to keep achievement race from going down the toilet

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Every year, Maria Zimmitti fields the panicked calls as summer winds down and the school year looms.

Parents leave frantic messages on her cellphone. They bombard the D.C. child psychologist with e-mails. They need her - NOW!

What's the Bat Signal for? Pee. But more likely, poop.

Zimmitti is one of the area's premier potty trainers. And each year she sees a bigger frenzy among parents frantic to potty train their children - fast.

"There are real deadlines," she said, "and the parents are just filled with extreme anxiety."

Maybe that's why the plight of Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso has generated such heated debate. Rosso used every trick on the Internet to try to potty train her 3-year-old to satisfy the requirements of the excellent Arlington public schools Montessori Preschool at Claremont Elementary the girl was lucky enough to get into.

But the school said the 3-year-old was having too many accidents and suspended her - an outcome that some decried and others cheered.

Potty training has always been a polarizing topic.

You've got the old-school folks, who took diapers off 1-year-olds and scrambled along behind them with portable potties in a Tiger Mom, carpet-staining endeavor.

There are the nouveau old-schoolers who hold their bobble-headed infants over the toilet every time it looks like they're about to go. Thus, training the parents.

And there's the let-the-child-be-the-guide camp that fuels a multi-billion dollar disposable diaper industry, which makes nappies big enough for first-graders.

Most parents are probably somewhere in between, urging kids along with toy incentives or sticker rewards, hoping to get them out of diapers soon but not freaking out if it takes awhile.


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