The inventor of efficient disposable nappies has a lot to answer for. The average child gets through 5,000 of the wretched things in a lifetime, at a cost of around £2,000. Then the nasty polluting objects, which took oodles of resources to create – have to be disposed of, usually as landfill.
And now we discover, from a National Foundation for Educational Research survey commissioned by Sky News, that hundreds of five year-olds are being sent to schools in them. I expect the manufacturers are rubbing their hands in glee.
Before the advent of disposable nappies, parents got their children dry as early as possible because the laundering of towelling ones was such a chore. There was a real incentive to keep the number used as low as possible. Chinese mothers don’t use nappies at all – they put their babies in split crotch trousers and become skilled at catching what falls out.
Spare me the stuff that a child has no real bladder control until they are 20 months old. You can still stick him or her on a potty regularly, catch what you can (especially immediately after meals) and save yourself a load of work. I almost never had a dirty nappy from either of my boys after the first few weeks, and from a year old rarely a wet one either.
Why have we got kids running about with their bottoms wrapped up in filth because they don’t know how to use a lavatory? Nine per cent of the 602 primary teachers surveyed said that they had seen a nappy-clad child aged between five and seven in school in the last year. Even more alarming are the reports of the occasional 11 year-old coming to school wearing a nappy, and children as old as 15 who don’t know how to use a lavatory.
It is down, I’m afraid, to laziness among the people who look after children. Parents are often at work and may regard themselves as too busy to deal properly with their children’s habits. But nurseries and child-minders could quite easily pop children onto potties so that it becomes a routine – and soon a habit.
Something has to be done. We need to change the current child-centred wait-until-they’re-ready nonsense which merely lines the pockets of the nappy manufacturing companies.
Schools from reception onwards should be entitled to refuse admission to children who wear nappies and cannot use a lavatory – except, of course, for those with special needs for whom appropriate arrangements have to be made. Janet Marsh, almost unbelievably, runs a toilet training programme in a Kent primary school and says that some of the children she works with are missing 25% of classroom time as they’re taken out to be changed.
If you leave a child to foul themselves at will until they are five years-old, then teaching them to change this behaviour will be an uphill struggle. If you practise a version of the Chinese method from a few weeks-old then, it becomes a long established habit and there is never an issue. I know this is true because I did it with my own, as did millions of British parents before the arrival of disposable nappies.
I doubt that any of this will happen because nappy makers are part of that unchallenged, omnipotent god of the 21st century - Big Business. And any proposal which might dent their profits is blasphemy.