Frustration in potty training can lead parents to child abuse

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on November 22, 2011 at 12:38 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 22 at 4:36 PM

DALLAS - It's a case that grabbed national headlines. Elizabeth Escalona was so upset, she allegedly beat and tortured her daughter, 2-year-old Joselyn Cedillo, even gluing her hands to a wall because the child soiled her pants.
 
Escalona's sister described the abuse to News 8.

"Yeah, She was extremely bruised," the sister said. "She had a head concussion, she had a broken leg and broken ribs. We don't know how it happened, but she was covered with bruises."
 
Escalona's family says the 22-year-old mom simply snapped under the pressure of raising four children.

“There [are] all sorts of horrible things that occur sometimes, simply because a potty training issue has suddenly been the straw that broke the camel’s back in this person's life," said Sgt. Brenda Nichols of the Dallas police.
 
Potty training can be one of the most frustrating times for parents.

“It's like the parent or the caretaker can't take that any more," Nichols said. "The frustration level at that point is just beyond what they can bear."
 
Nichols is a child-abuse detective for the Dallas Police Department. In her more than two decades as an officer,  she has seen it all.
 
She recalled her first week on the job. A little boy was dipped in scalding bath water, because he had smeared his feces on the wall. He died 19 days later.
 
"[...A]nd the reason he died wasn't really because of the burn itself," Nichols said. "But our doctors told us that his little heart exploded in his chest, because his heart was having to pump so hard to pump fluids to the burned region of his body."
 
The stories are excruciating to listen to, but they happen every day in all walks of life, across every racial, economic and social line. And the abuse happens at the hands of parents or caretakers - the very people who are supposed to love and care for them.
 
But, parents can get help.

At the Child Abuse Prevention Center, they help first-time mothers deal with the stress of raising a child, and how to potty train correctly. Mothers like Shannique Banks, a 19-year-old single mom, are considered at risk for abuse.
 
“[There are] definitely some challenges to it," Banks said. "I mean, because they don't always want to listen to what you are saying."
 
She entered a program here when she was pregnant with her 2-year-old Shamyah, who she is trying to potty train now.
 
“You have to be extremely patient, and not only that, you have to be willing to take the time to teach them and go through the motions with them," Banks said.
 
The center says 95 percent of the women who go through the program never have a substantiated case with Child Protective Services.  
 
"We work with them on stress management, [on] coping strategies for when they do get frustrated," said Amy McShane, who works at the center.
 
Sgt. Nichols applauds the efforts. She believes if more mothers like Escalona asked for help before they snapped, the child abuse could have been prevented.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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