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How Experts Say to Potty Train vs. What Really Happens

Toddler potty-training, sitting in bathroom on toilet, US.
Photograph by Getty Images

I thought potty training worked like this: You informed your 2-year-old child it was time to use the toilet. You loaded them up with water and made them sit on the potty at regular intervals. When elimination products were produced, you bestowed a Cheerio or an M&M or something. Thus, in three days, your child was potty-trained.

I was so wrong.

Moms hate potty training. There are a million manuals on how to do it, and no manual at all. Some moms face pressure to potty train at some cutoff for daycare or preschool. Some moms don’t want to pay for diapers anymore. Some moms are just sick of changing diapers.

They tell you to potty train at 2 months old. That’s when kids are most susceptible, they say, and it’ll be quicker that way. They tell you no, you’ll end up with a kid who holds his poop if you train too early. You have to wait until the child is ready, which can be anywhere from 2-and-a-half to 4. There are some schools of thought that say you have to wait until the child shows interest in the potty, which might mean peeing in it or decorating it with flowers or some shit. But then, no, the ultimate potty training marker is when they’re dry at night on a regular basis. If they’re dry at night, they’re ready to control their bowels during the day.

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Then they tell you how to potty train. Some schools say you should go out and buy a ton of new underwear for your kid—underwear covered in his or her favorite characters, the type he won’t want to get wet. No one wants to pee on Cinderella! When they do pee on her, you note how sad it is to be peed on. Another option? Go total commando. That’ll teach them to control themselves by showing them what happens when they have the urge to go (i.e., they pee on the floor).

Then it’s just a matter of transferring the pee—or poop—from the floor to the potty.

You should put them back in diapers because they aren’t ready to be potty trained. No, you should keep scraping poop out of Cinderella underwear, perhaps in a Target bathroom.

Look, at some point in this process, you’re going to clean human feces off your floor. Invest in some bleach, a strong stomach, and a realization that you’ve been cleaning it off a butt for at least two years now anyway.

Then there’s the matter of what happens when the child actually produces. Some schools recommend floating Cheerios in the bowls so boys can aim for them. Others say boys should pee sitting down and naturally progress to standing up. Some say you should have waited to potty train until they can dress themselves, so you don’t have to do it. But how’s a 2-year-old supposed to dress himself? If you can get him to pull up his pants, you’ve pulled off a miracle on par with leper healing.

So your 2-year-old or 4-year-old has managed to pee on the potty. Congratulations! They deserve a reward. Or not. Some people say you should give them nothing, because peeing on the potty is what we do as human beings. Others think food’s a good motivator (think M&Ms or marshmallows). Some say you should make up a prize jar complete with toy rings and Matchbox cars and pirate hooks and glittery necklaces.

Those bitches have Pinterest.

But what if you run into problems (i.e., the dreaded, “I can pee on the potty whenever I want but refuse to poop on it?” They’re not potty-trained. No, they’re half potty-trained. You should put them back in diapers because they aren’t ready to be potty trained. No, you should keep scraping poop out of Cinderella underwear, perhaps in a Target bathroom. No, you should make them scrape the poop out of the Cinderella undies. That’ll learn ‘em! Or you can just let them go naked until they figure out that poop goes on the toilet, but that’s the lazy option and will get them kicked out of preschool.

Now you have to carry that stupid frog potty everywhere you go and pray little Jimmy will use the real toilet in Target if you hold him over it and beg and sing a potty song.

What if they won’t stay dry at night? Well, you shouldn’t have potty-trained in the first place. Or you should have potty trained, but now you need to invest in pull-ups. So long, diaper budget, hello pull-up budget! Or you should wake them up in the middle of the night to pee, preferably right before you go to bed and then later in the night after everyone’s cozy and asleep and you risk the decision to throw a 3 a.m. toddler party. Or preschooler party, whatever you’re into. Except this is all wrong, and you should buy a rubber sheet and a bed alarm. Make sure you change those sheets every single time—no throwing down a towel and yawning back to bed.

Finally, your child is potty-trained.

Hooray!

He or she will both poop and pee in a potty. Except they only poop in a potty, not on the toilet. You fucked that one up good, didn’t you? You should have invested in a potty seat. Or you could have just let them take their chances on the grown-up potty. Now you have to carry that stupid frog potty everywhere you go and pray little Jimmy will use the real toilet in Target if you hold him over it and beg and sing a potty song. Don’t know a potty song? What kind of parent are you, anyway? Try “Now We’re Pooping” to the tune of “Frère Jacques.”

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And then you’re done. Your kid will use the toilet for both kinds of elimination. Congratulations. This has been a marathon, and we salute you. Or this has been easy as fuck, and we hate you. One thing’s for sure, though: your floors will never be the same. Careful where you step.

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