Monday, March 12, 2012

Chinese Split Pants: Kai Dang Ku

So, in my googling boredom last night, I was curious:

What do other countries' cloth diapers look like?  What kind of fluff does China use, Japan, Australia, etc.  Just looking for brands.

Well, little did I know what I would learn.   

I love learning new things about different cultures, I just didn't even have the slightest clue that this was an option! 

Culture is so fascinating to me!  I love that there are still traditions and things like this that are passed down.  EC, while I don't completely understand how it is done, I know it works, and parents love EC.  I also know not a lot of people are up for it, I can only imagine it has it's challenges just like everything else.  I know EC is not for us, but I do want to share a different culture view on toilet training.

When toilet training a child in China, the child wears special pants which aids in the toilet training process.  These pants are slit open through the crotch area and are available for either boys or girls.  They are called split pants or "Kai Dang Ku"

From reading about it, it sounds like there are little boy and girl's bums everywhere!  Cute...but this part is not so cute.  When training the child, the parents sit many times in the sidewalk or street with the child in their lap in a squatting position.  The parent makes a "ssss" sound as to condition them to learn that when they hear that sound they urinate or defecate.  After the child does their thing, it may be rinsed into the gutter, mopped up, or just let be.  Apparently it is common to see a child pull up their dress and squat in the street, a little boy #2 by the tree, or a mom hold her baby over the dirt to empty their bladder.  While the disposable diaper industry is making its way into many families, this still sounds like it is a social norm.  

Now-I don't know about you, but this...looks dangerous. 

and awfully cold.  Burr

Wait, why do the Chinese mothers use these split pants?
1. They make cleanup easier
2. They believe their children’s excretion is relatively clean
3. Diapers cause rashes
4. Diapers are expensive and wasteful

Although they are considered wasteful (200,000 trees per year are killed for America’s diaper needs), China has started to expand its diaper market. Diapers were originally seen among the high-class in cities, but with the growing rise of the middle class they are seen around the country on bottoms of all shapes and bank-account sizes. Since 1998 the diaper business has grown between 20% - 40% each year, and at this point in time, approximately 50% of Chinese babies wear diapers during the day and 90% are wearing them at night.

While this saves on environmental resources and landfill space, I can't imagine this is good for the water supply?  

The following was written by a Chinese woman who grew up in China but moved to America and married an American man.  She wrote this article on toilet training, comparing the two cultures.  It's pretty interesting!  

By Mary Exton

“These will get really stiff and uncomfortable and take hours to dry,” my mother said, poking suspiciously at the very expensive ducky-printed Velcro-closing cloth diapers my mother-in-law had sent across the Pacific.  Bicultural marriage was not that easy.  It seemed that we always had a lot to figure out about which way we should live.  Before my daughter Elizabeth was born, my husband told me of the disposable diapers.  But China didn’t make diapers, disposable or otherwise.   At the fancy hotel drugstore, imported Pampers or Huggies sold for the equivalent of a dollar apiece.  At that rate, we calculated Elizabeth would be going through $4,000 worth a year.  Our salaries were only half that amount.
One month after Elizabeth was born, my mother suggested we toilet train her.  My husband suspected this early toilet training wouldn’t work.   Having read several parent books sent from America, my husband mumbled something incoherent about the emotional scarring of over-early toilet training.  My mother often bragged to me that I was well done with my toilet training when I was six months old.  She was confident she could toilet train Elizabeth.  Motherhood was a new experience for me, so my mother became my first supervisor.
Chinese toilet training means to hold a baby gently by the hips over a potty or by the edge of the road and whistle softly to imitate the tinkle of urine.  Chinese babies and toddlers don’t wear diapers at all, not even cloth ones.  Instead, they always wear open-crotch pants.  Cotton, water and soap are all scarce items.  Someone is always available to be with a Chinese baby.  Parents begin to toilet train their child as early as one month.  Incredibly, most babies are toilet-trained by six months, at least during waking hours.  By the time they can walk, usually at twelve to fourteen months, they know to squat down in their open-crotch pants whenever they feel the urge.
Just as my mother said, Elizabeth was toilet-trained  when she was seven months old.  Even though she had some accidents, most of the time she knew to tell us she needed help to use the potty.
An American friend, Barbara, trying to toilet train her own son, watched in amazement once as teachers prepared fifteen toddlers for a turn on the trampoline in a playground.  “The teachers went around and said, ‘pee, pee, pee,’” said Barbara.  “I thought, how could they all have to go at the same time?  But they all squatted down.”  A lot of American people were shocked by Elizabeth’s well done toilet-training at that early age.  I was also shocked by some American three-year olds still using diapers.
I had my second child in America.  I tried to use the Chinese way to train him to use the potty, but it didn’t work!!  He is one and a half years old now, and he still uses diapers.  My mother called me a lazy mother because I am relaxed about training the American-born baby.  Living in the different culture, having heard much different information about this issue, I stuck to my guns.
Cultural conflicts can create quite a challenge.  In many ways, they are an asset.  You can not only gain strength and skills as you work your way through them, but you can gain new knowledge as well (Gonzalez-Mena, 1997).  Toilet-training is the issue that is heavily laden with emotion for most people, one which there seems to be no obvious answer which is right and which is wrong.  I was embroiled in a cultural conflict.
Part of the problem resides in the definition and goal of toilet training (Gonzalez-Mena, 1997).  If the caregiver defines toilet training as teaching or encouraging the child independently to take care of his or her own toileting needs and her goal is to accomplish this as quickly and painlessly as possible, she’ll regard twelve months as too early to start.  Children of under twelve months need adult help.  However, if toilet training is regarded as a reduction of the number of diapers used and the method is to form a partnership with the child to do just that, you’ll start as soon as you can read the children’s signals and “catch them in time.”  It focuses on interdependence or mutual dependence.
“Americans, who value independence and individuality, see the baby as dependent, undifferentiated… the Chinese, who prize close interdependence between a child and adult, regard the infant as having a small component of autonomy… believe they must tempt the infant into a dependent role, rush to soothe a crying infant, respond quietly to the baby’s excited babbling, and sleep with the young child at night in order to encourage the mutual bonding necessary for adult life.” (Kagan, 1984)
Chinese babies are held so much of the time, there is an immediate response from caregivers to urination and bowel movements.  Hence from an early age, there is an association in the infant’s mind between these functions and actions from the mother. Consequently, when the baby wants to urinate, his whole body participates in the preliminary process.  The Chinese mother, holding the baby in her arms, learns to be sensitive to the minute details of the process, and to hold the baby away from herself at exactly the critical moment.  Eventually, the infant learns to ask to be held out.  In contrast, the transition is more difficult for middle-class American infants whose functions typically occur alone.  The mother begins to interfere with bowel and bladder activity after many months of only cursory attention.
When I visited the teacher Althea Goundry who works in the Plymouth State College Development and Family Center, she told me American people won’t start to train their children until the children show an interest in using the toilet and are physically ready (Personal Interview).  A toddler should have the verbal and conceptual skills to be able to understand what is expected during toilet training.  He should know that certain things  belong in certain places.  She was very interested in what I said about Chinese toilet-training.  She said most Americans don’t try behaviorist strategies, maybe it is easier to stay the way it is than to change it.  American research also shows children won’t stay dry and clean much before 24 months of age.  “On the other hand,” she told me, “I think it is better to pull more than to push.”  She also feels it is necessary to provide the child with a treat after successful use of the toilet, to reinforce the learning that has occurred.  Two behaviorists (Azrin & Faxx, quoted in Shimoni, 1992) suggest that children over 24 months of age can be taught to use the potty by imitation and reward.
“There is no shame with accident,” Althea told me.  This is another different point from Chinese toilet-training.  The characteristic of Chinese culture is honor and “saving face”.  I punished my daughter’s feelings.  Chinese toilet training implies that the focus is on what the adult does, rather than what the child does.  Research shows that children have their own feelings about toilet-training.  They are being asked to do something that they often cannot see any reason for.  Their compliance will depend on their readiness (Shimoni, 1992).  If a child is not ready, toilet-training can become a battle of wills.  Toilet-training is regarded as a highly individualized process in America.  The children should be trained without pressure.
Culture is never static; it continues to evolve.  When one culture rubs up against another, both are transformed (Gonzalez-Mena, 1997).  A challenge for many parents in this country is to maintain their cultural identity and pass it on to their children in the face of this inevitable evolution.
 Cultures are not superior or inferior; they just are.  Toilet training is the issue that made me learn more about and appreciate human diversity.  Because I live in America now, I would say “help the children to learn” rather than “train them.”  Toilet-training should be though of as a combination of  skills that the child will acquire with guidance and assistance from parents and teachers.


Gonzalez-Mena, Janet (1997) Multicultural Issues in Child Care
                California:  Mayfield Publishing Company
Goundrey, Althea Facilitating Teacher and Health and Safety
                Coordinator in Plymouth State College Child Development and
                Family Center, Personal interview, 1997,11
Kagan, Jerome (1984) The Nature of the Child P.29
                New York:  Basic Books
Shimoni, Rena & Baxter, Joanne & Kugelmass, Judith (1992)
                Every Child Is Special
                New York:  Addison-Wesley Publishers Limited
Temke, Mary, Toilet Training UNH Cooperative Extension
                New Hampshire:  University of New Hampshire
Weiser, Margaret G. (1991) Infant/Toddler Care And Education
                New York:  Macmillan Publishing Company

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  1. Loved this! I had no idea there were split pants! But I did know and do use the 'pssss' method with my son. Totally works, has since he was 6 months. Can't get the #2 working with this method though! Thanks for the post!

  2. I would imagine part of the challenge toilet training in America, as the Chinese do it, is the acceptance of the people around.

    I imagine that in China, people walking down the street expect to see children squatting to do their business wherever they are, or parents hold a baby to help them eliminate. Here in the US, not so much. Parents here would get upset if a child urinated or defecated on the ground at a park. That probably comes from the difference in attitude about whether or not urine or feces is clean. Here in the states, not considered clean.

    I think it would take a change in attitude as a community to have that kind of toilet training work on a grander scale

  3. I love this post and In my opinion diapers are the basic need of every baby and if they are not made of good quality then they can harm your baby in many ways.So my suggestion is that you should use only those diapers which are best in the opinion of experts.

  4. I love this, you have great idea about such kind of baby products, diapers for babies

  5. Anyone seriously interested in learning to do EC really should go to this website I posted a link to below. Andrea helps you walk through every step on how to do it successfully, as it is an art to learn. She even has a forum which she responds to quickly with any questions you might have and gives you one on one individualized advice. She is great! I have tried it with my son and it really does work! with dedication any infant or young toddler can learn with her methods...which many people who already cloth diaper are the type of people who are dedicated :)
    Cloth diaper back up is very important in her method so you don't completely ditch your diapers, you just become less dependent on them and your child has "potty learned" at a much younger age! Really puts things in perspective on how erroneous our ways might truly be and how we should get back to what mothers from long ago used to do. There is something to it!

  6. You can make cloth diapers even greener than they are by using biodegradable, phosphate-free detergents; a cold-water cycle and air drying; washing the diapers in a full load as to not waste water; and buying a front-loading washing machine, which uses less water.

  7. It's a shame the splitpants are used less in China, but because of EC they become more known in the West. I think it's a bit funny we do "potty train" our dogs from the beginning but learn children to use a diaper instead...

  8. This is a great article - thanks so much for writing it and finding all these great photos too! I am an Elimination Communication educator and author and one of my readers mentioned " kaidangku" on my I googled it and found you! For anyone who is interested, EC is really a great practice. We used split crotch for a while when my son started walking (I made them myself) as he was diaper-free since 9 months (daytime)...I must say though that I encourage parents to be *extremely* discreet when pottying in public or nature, and that they clean up after themselves! I wish I could get my hands on some Kai Dang Ku!!! :) Would love to share more info on ECing with a cloth diaper back-up if ya wanna email me to connect about it! :) Hugs, Andrea

  9. My wife was born and raised in China, but is now a US citizen. We have a 9 month old baby and she has decided to avoid split pants and "help her learn." She finds the disposable diapers more in line with our lifestyle. She wants our daughter to be independent and learn things on her own with encouragement from us.

    She has a friend whose son was practically raised by her parents while she and her husband have to work in another city. Her parents indulge the boys every whim. she and her husband were shocked to find out at her last visit that at the age of five, because her parents do everything for him, he does not know how to dress or feed himself.

    It was especially embarrassing when they invited us to a restaurant and the boy just squatted and relieved himself on the floor. The parents are contemplating taking their son away from the grandparents and undergo an intensive retraining program before he gets to set in expecting anything he wants.

    1. I might also add that instead of feeding himself, he sat next to his mother and demanded she feed him first.