The Ups and Downs of Potty Training

Each week when I think about what to blog I ask myself two questions. One, what food made my heart happy this week? Or two, what did I learn as a mom this week. This week’s blog focuses on what I learned as a mom this week.

First a confession. I! Hate! Potty! Training! (Don’t tell my kids I said “hate”). When I think about having more kids, I consider the sleepless nights, the crying, the spitting up, dealing with sick kids, the homework, the fact that I’m now nothing more than a taxi service for small children, etc. While all those things are difficult, I think I could do them again. Then I think of potty training and I lose all confidence in my ability to mother another child without my head exploding. -

I don’t know what the problem is. It seems perfectly logical to do your business in a toilet rather than you pants. Maybe I’m overestimating the level of logic a 2-year-old possesses. ¬†When I asked my mom about her potty training experiences, she claims the two worst parts of being a mother are potty training, and teaching your children how to drive. So far, I agree with her on the first one. Ask me in a few years if I agree with the second.

Here are some things we’ve tried with potty training. Some have been successful and some have bombed. And one thing I’ve realized is, every child is different. What worked with my oldest, didn’t work with my youngest and vice versa (though I’m still not 100% what works with my youngest, hence this tirade).

(Warning: Explicit Content! I use the words poop and pee in the remainder of this post. If you are opposed to such vocabulary, stop reading now).

REWARDS (AKA: What worked):

  • Every time my kids peed in the toilet, they got some kind of treat. I tried to make it small (marshmallow, yogurt raisin, one chocolate chip, a sticker, etc). This worked fairly well. The hard part was weening them off the treats. I can’t very well send my kids to school with a bag of treats and instruct their teacher to give them one each time they pee. That’s just setting them up for social failure. We weened them to one in the morning if there were no accidents and one in the evening. Then they got one a day and then none…
  • For some reason, my kids struggled most with the pooping. On several occasions during their respective potty trainings, I asked them if they enjoyed having poop in their pants. They both responded, “YES!” Hmmm… Maybe this will come up in therapy one day. But what got us through that tough time was a reward for each poop. For my son, I bought a pack of 10 hot wheel cars and propped them up on the towel rack in the bathroom. For my daughter, it was an 11-pack of tiny princesses. Each time they pooped in the toilet, they got a toy. Ten bucks for ten poops in the toilet… TOTALLY worth it.
  • Because pooping was such a struggle in our house, we also had big rewards for the first three poops. Each of my kids picked to make special cupcakes for their first poops. For my son, we made caterpillar cupcakes. For my daughter, we made pink frogs. The second time prizes included a trip to the zoo for my son (we have a membership) and pink, sparkly fingernails for my daughter.
  • The BIG prize: After 5 accident-free days in a row, they got to pick out a “big” toy. We’re still waiting on the Cinderella Barbie for my daughter… Though she does have sparkly, pink nails, so we’re making progress.
  • One reward that didn’t work for us was a sticker chart. We told my son if he went potty on the toilet 20 times, he’d get his toy. Well, he’s smarter than I am, and would pee all day in small doses. By the end of day one of potty training, we were up to about 15 (and that was with several accidents). We changed our tactic to five accident-free days, and he started peeing like a normal person and not a pregnant woman.

PUNISHMENT (AKA: What didn’t work):

  • Nothing in the punishment category actually worked. I took away toys. I gave time outs. I took away TV time. Nothing actually worked. I’d heard punishments didn’t work in this case, but when faced with 5 days of rinsing poop out of underwear and scrubbing pee out of carpet, every thought of being calm and reasonable leaves.
  • Possibly, the only thing that had a small impact was the disappointed face. I simply furrowed my eyebrows and said in a calm voice, “I’m very disappointed.” Though then I felt horribly guilty. But I’m a mom, so what else is new?


  • I am morally opposed to those toilet chairs with the attached bottom. Motherhood is hard enough without having to clean poop and pee out of a bucket several times a day. I buy potty chairs that go on the toilet. Plus this makes the transition to the toilet alone much easier.
  • Pull Ups: Some people go cold turkey with the diapers and to right to underwear. I’m personally not this brave, especially when we have to leave the house almost daily without choice (See taxi service comment above). I love them for going out and switch to training pants for staying in.
  • Training pants: These are GREAT! They are cloth like underwear, but are absorbent, so each accident isn’t like a bucket being turned over on your freshly-cleaned carpet.
  • Dark Chocolate: It keeps me sane during the horrors of potty training.

Since I’m still in the midst of potty training and since I’m sure many moms and dads out there are also involved in this painful phase, please post your potty training tips. It may just save a parent’s life.


One Response to “The Ups and Downs of Potty Training”

  1. Susan
    September 30, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    However, you must note that a potty-training child never killed anyone. A driver-training child has that capability. Just wait.