My Deep Dark Potty Training Confession

I am going to make a confession now.  It is a horrible thing to admit considering the fact that I travel around speaking on child training.  But you know I am all about full disclosure, so here goes…..

Levi, at the ripe age of 3.83, is not yet potty trained.  I am the worst potty trainer in America today.  I am sure Octomom has all eight of her two-year-olds trained already while I sit here blogging and wondering where I can buy size 11 diapers.

Honestly, I blame the kids.  All of the books tell the signs of readiness, “When they are dry at night,” “Has dry periods of time lasting several hours,” “Shows discomfort when wet.”  My children have never had any of these signs.  Not one of them has ever been dry at night.  In fact, I feel that I can say with confidence that a few of them would be completely content to still be wearing a diaper.

The other signs of readiness are “Can follow simple instructions,” “Can communicate using simple words.”  Simple communication?  We passed simple communication two years ago.  This is what I said to Levi a few minutes ago:

“Hey Levi….go get the scissors and take them to Grace, ask her to cut off the tag on the back of your shirt then bring it to me.”

To which he replied:

“Should I get the orange scissors or the red scissors from the kitchen?”

In my defense, it never says, “able to handle the kitchen scissors” in the readiness booklet.  It does say he should be able to pull his pants up and down, a feat he still has yet to accomplish.  Coordination is not a trait we passed down to our children.  Why you ask?  Because James and I together have less coordination than a newborn colt.

I’ve decided to give myself the gift of potty training for Mother’s Day.  I am ready to get this show on the road.  I’ve been gathering supplies….little underwear (is there anything cuter?), potty books, candy treats and fruit juice and the most important tool, a tiny toilet that goes everywhere with us.

I know it sounds crazy since I have successfully potty trained 8 other children (well, one of them hasn’t been a complete success), but I would love any tips, tricks or advice you have for me.


  1. Love it! I must admit that I think we ‘conquered’ with one of the boys around 3.83 or so, when he (also very articulate) announced one Sunday morning, “I don’t want to wear diapers anymore. I want underwear.” O.K. Enough said. Other son got the ‘potty training’ part down nice and early, but his dilemma was that he never learned to step back from the bowl before pulling up the cute underwear. I was so glad that those teeth that hit the porcelain more times than I could count were only baby teeth, and would eventually fall out anyhow… You can do it (again)! Happy Mother’s Day to YOU!

  2. all mine PT later…but i had the most success was using the tools/tips in the book Potty Training in Less Than a Day. The book was written based on how the authors had trained life-long UN-toilet trained adult retarded men in less than 24 hours. I took the basic principles and had the most with my youngest than with training any of the other 3. And training the 2nd and 3rd ’bout killed me; I was dreading even THINKING about training Lauren, but using that book made me fervently wish i had used it with the others!

  3. Well, if training depended on those signs, I was too impatient. I started mine really young. My son, who has autism, couldn’t even talk and was trained by two years old . I put him on schedule of when he could/couldn’t drink and then I knew just when he’d go {well, sort of}. Plus, boys “fiddle” when they have to go potty so I’d grab him up and put him on there. My daughter was 19 months when I trained her. Honestly, I’m just a super ambitious, motivated to not have any more diapers kind of a mom! I HATE changing diapers. Bleh! The bigger they get the grosser it got for me. That’s it! Oh, and I never, ever gave up! I never gave in…I stuck with it even when it seemed like they’d never get it – they got it eventually!

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

  4. My hatred of potty training has only recently been surpassed by the fact that I discovered I hate teaching children to drive even more.

  5. Thanks Laurie! I haven’t had any hit the floor yet, so maybe I’m doing better than I thought. LOL!

    Shannon, I do have that book and will look at it again.

    Becky, you and I are VERY different. 🙂

    Peterson, that’s another thing I am avoiding. LOL!


  6. I guess you never know what’s going to work. With my first, we had a “Big Boy Day” with a cake and special new underwear, etc. and we had a couple of other kids over in the morning. We all talked about wanting to see him go in the potty, and with the extra hoopla and audience he actually did it and it was a turning point. With my second, I asked him “did you know you have a gun in your underwear? It’s a pee-pee gun! Daddy has a pee-pee gun too! You can shoot pee-pee in the potty! Daddy will show you how!” and I guess because boys love guns that did the trick. There’s always the old shoot the pee-pee at the Cherrios trick too.

  7. Make sure the potty can become “a friend” we had it be a chair for a while before we even tried to start really using it. It was the “chair” we used for story time for a while. Ela still doesn’t stay dry at night but, we are down to one pull-up a night now. You can do it!!!! or Levi can that is 🙂

    🙂 Heather

  8. Best tip I know of …. once you start, DO NOT go back. No pull-ups (except at bedtime, when we call them “sleeping underwear”) and definitely no diapers. We also do it during summer break or Christmas break when co-op is out and we can just stay home for a week straight. I tried to do it gradually with my first three and each time it took months. Starting with number four, I finally decided to follow this advice of doing it all the way or not at all. She was completely trained within a week. Numbers Five and six took a little longer, but it was still pretty stress-free. They were all about two and a half years old. They all cried to have their diapers back, but I firmly told them no. But, as I still tell everyone I know, potty training is my least favorite part of child-rearing.

  9. Celia Cawthon :

    Well, now MY pants are wet after reading this!!! The only tip I have for a little boy is: treats equal one M&M for going number one on the potty, and 3 M&M for going number 2. (Our son G just turned 30-something and got lots of gifts, after which our 3 + year old grandson asked about his getting a present, “Did Uncle G go poopy in the potty?) Once they are using the potty try food coloring in the ice cube tray to give him some targets to keep it in the potty.

  10. You’re a hoot! 🙂
    Potty training is definitely at the bottom of my favorite mom jobs. What a huge milestone, though to have them all in big undies! I remember it feeling like we got a raise without having to buy diapers. Hope it goes well!

  11. I think Daddy should train boys, and Mom’s the girls….The boys love to be like Dad, and once they get the hang of it, I think they are easier than girls….easy division of labor, and besides all your girls are already trained 🙂

  12. Haven’t read all the other wonderful tips yet (will do that after I put my foot in my mouth), but the most important potty training tip of all time is the kitchen timer. Every 30 minutes we’re going potty. End of discussion. That’s what I used for two 2 year olds and two dogs. Same difference. Well, the kids didn’t potty outside.

  13. It’s not the potty training that’s the problem, it’s getting them to flush the toilet when finished and lifting the lid so it doesn’t go all over the seat and then putting it down again!

  14. New little boy underwear is adorable!!!! If we could just keep them looking that cute, sigh..

    My James was not trained until he was 4.2 years old. And my mother did it in three days. After I had tried off and on for six months. Seriously. Mark and I had the flu and my mom took James to her house. He has had one accident since then. One.

    And he is my fourth. I thought I knew what I was doing. Oh well.

  15. I was outside the other day and suddenly a pair of dirty swim trunks came flying out the laundry room door onto the grass, followed by a naked 3 year old grandson… Funniest thing I’ d ever seen.

    Apparently grandpa speaks 3 year old, because when I saw that child’s mother this week, she was clearly amazed that her son had suddenly figured out how to use the potty.

  16. Well, I’m the wrong person to ask…I didn’t potty train any of mine…my best friend did. I sent them to her for a weekend and she did it. I can’t even potty train a dog to go outside…GOOD LUCK! 🙂

  17. Lots of thrift store underwear. Lots and lots. Then you can throw them away guilt free when you just can’t rinse out another pair. K

  18. Y’all have given me lots of good ideas….thanks! Lisa~

  19. I have no tips. I’ve been blessed with very motivated, independent children. Haven was my most difficult and I still shudder at those days. Praise the Lord that small children forget most things from their childhood. (he was well over 3 before he was “trained”..I use the term loosely).

  20. Ahhh, we’re in the same boat. My little guy turns 3 on Sunday (yep, Mama’s Day this year), and we’ve been hyping him up that “once you turn 3, no more diapers!” I’m realllly skeptical about the success of this venture because: 1) he hates the toilet, 2) he’s showing zero signs of readiness other than his age, and 3) I doubt my commitment to spending my mother’s day cleaning carpet stains and pleading/bribing with Skittles after the eleventh hour into it. We’ll see, I guess. Best of luck to you and tell me if you have any amazing breakthroughs and wish to share your wisdom. I’ve managed to potty train my other two without incident but that was several years ago and now I’m dreading this terribly.

  21. I’ve only done this 3 times, but it’s been a roaring success each time.
    Wait until they’re ready (meaning you create privileges in life that cannot be enjoyed by one in diapers… They’ll get ready quick. Oh… honey… I’m sorry. Only people that use the potty get to eat dessert and go to Disney World…)
    Get the cute underpants. Check.
    Buy the mattress protection. I used a pad that went over the top of the sheets and tucked in on both sides. If there’s an accident mid-sleep just pull the topper off and you’re good to go (or put on another dry topper if that’s your need…) Honestly – we’ve never had trouble with bed-wetting. Which is amazing if you knew their real mother… Hush now.
    Stock up on chocolate. You’ll need some snacks while you sit there waiting for them to tinkle. Only people who don’t wear diapers eat snacks.
    RAISE A SITTER! My boys are sitters. Just like dad. Too much info? Sorry… It’s just an easier life with sitters. (Dad agrees with me on this – it was his idea.) Less to clean up with sitters. They can stand all they want in public bathrooms. But just ask a man to describe the sensation on his legs when he’s wearing shorts at a urinal… or look at the front of his khakis after… GROSS.

    Best of luck to you. Better hurry up – You should have your last child out of diapers before you start needing them again yourself. If you want – you can send Levi here and I’ll train him. But then I get to keep him.

  22. Send them to the neighbors! My son went to a friend’s house for the afternoon and came back potty trained! Best thing ever, lol! The friend’s father was home that day and was “showing” the boys how it works. My kid came home and never needed another diaper. Loved it! In my defense, I had started down the “no diaper – potty” route, we just hadn’t connected yet I guess….

  23. Hi,Lisa, thanks for stopping by & for the sweet comments. I was right in the middle of the muck at Blissdom, but tried to put on a happy face. God has brought me so far since then & the support & prayers I’ve received have been so overwhelming. I am going to be fine and I look forward to a hopeful future following wherever God wants to take me. Hopefully we’ll meet again at some point and I’ll take that hug! 🙂

  24. Honestly if they can’t pull their pants up and down, you aren’t gaining much, except of course the money spent on dipes. I prefer late potty training, having ruined one of my kids by starting way too young. I figured 18 mos was plenty old to potty train. Let’s just say she couldn’t consistently keep the undies clean until she was almost 7. Dumb me.
    My last trainee was 3.5 when she started and it was a breeze. And frankly her siblings did more potty trips than I did. It’s great having big kids when you have littles!

  25. I have twins that just turned four. My son *just* passed the “potty trained” marker. His twin sister is getting there, but she still changes HERSELF into a diaper so she can poop in it. Grrr.
    I agree, though – tiny underwear are adorable.