How to potty train your child in time for Senior Prom

Posted on January 4, 2012


Got to pee

Welcome to another instalment of WTF Wednesday where you provide the questions and I provide other stuff.

Today’s question comes to us from nevercontrary who writes:

Dear IBMP,
I am about to start potty training my daughter. Any tips, advice, or suggestions?

Nevercontrary, it’s interesting that you’re looking for ways to get your child to use the potty because in about ten years you’ll be struggling to find ways to get them off it. But teen toilet hogging will have to be addressed in a future post.

Some of the most common potty training tips are repeated all over the web. These people, while well-meaning, are sadly misguided. I once was an actual child so I know a thing or two about child stuff. Plus I get accused of acting like one all the time. You can’t argue with those credentials. Well you could but I’d probably just delete your comment in the interest of, well, me.

Are you ready?

The first thing to ask is whether your child is ready. There is a tendency to want to rush into a diaper-free life. But ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you own a toilet? This should be one of the first things to be considered.
  • Will Grandma be jealous that she’s the only one still wearing diapers? We often forget to consider the feelings of others in our haste to ditch the diapers.
  • Can your child swim? Remember, safety should always be your prime consideration.
  • Are you prepared for a dramatic increase in the amount of laundry you’re doing? You’re trading diapers for dirty sheets and underwear.
  • Is your child embarrassed to go to the prom because his diaper gets in the way of his cummerbund? This may be a sign that the time has come.

We’ll assume that you have determined your child is indeed ready to begin the process.

Proper conditioning is essential

Potty training is serious business. There’s a reason it’s called potty training; it’s not potty practicing or potty wussy-half-assed-maybe-I’ll-use-the-toilet-and-maybe-I-won’t-ing. It’s training. And like all training, it requires years of conditioning and strong coaching. It requires both mental and physical readiness.  And most of all, it requires a good laundry machine.

Many people make the mistake of thinking potty training begins with an introduction to the toilet. This comes way later. Conditioning begins much earlier. The first focus of your conditioning should not be about peeing or pooping at all; it should be about not doing it. Sound counter-intuitive? Just wait until you’re at the movies and your improperly conditioned and trained potty “expert” declares their need for an urgent dash to the loo. That’s when you’ll realize that long before tossing the diapers in the bin you should have been working on stamina.

Stamina involves several muscles, good pain tolerance and the gradual stretching of the appropriate systems (primarily the bladder and the colon). The ideal time to begin conditioning is when your child is still young enough to be unable to remove duct tape from key body parts. The goal is to gradually increase your child’s stamina. I recommend moving on to the next stages of training only after your child is able to sit through the average length movie (about 2 hrs; 6 hrs with commercials and trailers).

The right gear

Once you are confident in your child’s stamina, you are ready to begin the training program.  For this stage, you will need the right gear. Invest in a bidet. You’re getting rid of diapers; you do not want to trade that for wiping dried poop off your child’s backside and washing three pairs of underwear a day. What? Did you think your child is somehow going to spend more time and effort on wiping than they do eating their broccoli? You’re asking a 3 year-old to wipe their ass – good luck with that.

You will also want to invest in an infrared hand sterilizer. Think about it: how does your kid do when wiping up spilled milk with a paper towel? Now trade the milk for poop and the paper towel for a tiny piece of water soluble tissue. Oh, and cut his finger nails, please.

Some “experts” will tell you to use night-time diapers and others will tell you to ditch them. They’re both wrong. The mistake there is assuming that your child will be sleeping in his or her bed. It’s an amateur mistake. During the training period, your child should sleep in a fishnet hammock suspended over the toilet. It’s better for the environment as you’ll use fewer diapers and wash fewer sheets. In the morning, the entire package –hammock and child — can be submersed in a full bathtub thus eliminating the need for laundry and providing your child’s morning bath simultaneously.

Using incentives

Everybody talks about incentives: buy them their own special potty, give them their favourite treat if they poop in the potty, praise the heck out of them. That kind of positive reinforcement is probably not harmful so go ahead. But it seems to me that the best incentive a child could have would be the threat of having to change their own diapers. Hell, that’s what’s got you so anxious to potty train your kid, so it’s bound to be a pretty good incentive for them, too.  After dealing with one of those nasty blowout jobs on their own, they’ll be sitting on the pot every time.

Watching Daddy wee

The watch and learn approach is also popular among the supposedly knowledgeable websites. In this approach, a parent models toilet use for the trainee. The child is invited to watch a parent and see how the pros do it. At this point, I don’t think there have been enough studies of adults whose parents invited them to watch them crap to know whether the years of therapy that resulted were worth the extra week of potty training time that it saved.

There is another problem with the watch and learn approach: do you really want your little boy taking lessons from Dad on how to properly use the toilet? Between the problems with aim and the failure to ever put the toilet seat back down, this does not seem to me to be the ideal learning scenario.

Practicing with targets

Finally, let’s talk about targets. They are a potentially fun way to get your little guy to focus on putting the pee in its proper place. This, of course, assumes that he has any ability to aim whatsoever. It’s fine to have a target but if your accuracy is in the plus or minus one meter range it really only assures that the toilet is at the center of the large puddle on the floor. You see, trying to aim a 3 year-old’s penis is like trying to sneeze on a dime: it’s highly accurate but far from precise. Sure, you’ll hit the toilet – and the sink and the mirror and the bathtub and the toothbrushes and the towels…

Now go get ‘em coach!

Potty training is a difficult endeavour but it’s not impossible. Keep your eyes focused on the goal, be consistent and you’ll find your son is well on his way to being fully potty trained in time for the Senior Prom.

Problem solved. You’re welcome!

Posted in: Advice (bad)