5 Shameless Tactics Every Parent Eventually Resorts To While Potty Training

Few terms can either chill a parent’s blood, invoke a cold sweat, evince a shudder, or encourage a wry chuckle (if enough time has passed) quite like “potty training.” For the very lucky, you only have to clean up a small pond’s worth of pee over the course of a few weeks before you're in the clear, but for most people, potty training a kid involves a series of trials and tribulations that can take months (or in some cases years; our thoughts are with you). Like all aspects of child-rearing, there is no silver-bullet approach that works for all kids. Play your cards wrong on this one and you may be one of the unfortunate few whose kid decides to spite-poop. (A "spite-poop" is where, as you might have guessed, a kid poops their pants completely out of spite for you and in spite of their own comfort. It’s the ultimate “You’re not the boss of me.” BECAUSE KIDS ARE ACTUAL MONSTERS SOMETIMES WHO HATE YOUR HAPPINESS, PEOPLE!)

While you do have to choose your approach carefully, I’ve included some admittedly pathetic (but sometimes successful) approaches below along with predicted success rates (as calculated by my highly scientific research of having potty trained one child). We might be without pride at the end of this, but goddamnit, we shall also be without shame. Do what you have to do.


My mom is fond of telling people that I was potty trained in a week via bribery. She had bought some froo-froo “big girl” underwear which I apparently dubbed “fancy panties.” She told me if I used the potty for a whole week I could have them — done. I’ve always been motivated by pretty things (and, apparently, exciting undergarments).

I’ve known some moms to bribe with M&Ms: one for every attempt, successful or not, two for a successful pee, three for a successful poo. (I find that when you have a tiered system like this, poops are always worth the most.) I’ve also heard of sticker charts that culminated into a small treat or gift at the end of an agreed upon period, which is like a double bribe because kids lose their damn minds over stickers.

Success rate: 51%. (Yes, I made up that statistic. The rest are going to be made up too. I stand by them, though.) You’re slightly more likely than not to succeed by buying your child’s compliance than you are if you’d done nothing at all.


Chances are, potty training will destroy a small but irretrievable piece of your soul by the time your kid is finally done crapping their pants. From the fact that they seemingly want absolutely nothing to do with the toilet, to the waking up in the middle of the night with wet sheets, to pooping their pants in public while you’re out with your judgmental auntie who takes your child’s accident as an opportunity to tell you all about how her son was potty trained at 9-months-old after only three hours and when he pooped it came out as glitter and rainbows.

You know all the laundry your child generates under normal circumstances? Throw potty training in the mix and it’s so. much. worse. Your child’s daycare provider will tell you about their oopsie at school… and they’ll say it in a way that you interpret as, “Do something about this. You’re failing.” In short, this is not a task for the feint of heart, but even the strongest among us will at some point just beg our kid to use the toilet like a goddamn human.

Success rate: 0%. Your child sees your pleading tears as weakness and your wails are a beautiful symphony.

Humanizing Turds

Your child’s urine and bowel movements will basically become characters in the daily drama of your lives. You will talk about your child’s poop as though it’s a friendly buddy that wants to go swimming in the potty. You will cheer for pee as though it’s accomplishing something just by being aimed in the toilet. The toilet itself? You will basically talk about Mr. Potty the way you talk about Santa: Mr. Potty loves children and he wants them to sit on his lap, only Mr. Potty wants your child to give him presents, and that present is your kid’s feces. (Mr. Potty obviously has some weird proclivities. Let’s not talk about it.)

Success Rate: 15%. Kids usually think Mr. Potty is kind of weird and not particularly convincing.

Potty Paraphernalia

My husband taught himself Japanese (#proud #shamelessbrag #sorrynotsorry), and as such, he tries to expose our kids to Japanese language and culture through cartoons on YouTube. Usually they’re cute little songs about apples or dogs or whatever. Cool! So one day, while clicking through the next suggested song, we came upon this one: “Is… is that?” “Yes,” replied my husband, “It’s poop. It’s singing, dancing poop.” My son was super into it, and to my mortification, began singing the song everywhere, including once at a Japanese grocery store. But videos like this are par for the course when you’re potty training. We have three Elmo-themed potty training books. That’s just the Elmo ones — we have at least two or three more including the unceremoniously titled Time to Pee. The videos? We watched countless gross videos to try to encourage pooping pride. Capitalism being capitalism, there are no dearth of products you can pick up to try to encourage your kid to ditch diapers.

Success Rate: 25%. Elmo has powers.

Sink The Cheerio

Particularly popular among the little boy set, “sink the Cheerio” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You put a Cheerio in the toilet and tell your kid to aim and try to sink it. This is a way to make bathroom time a game and encourage them to want to go. Sounds like a good idea, right? It kind of is, but just sit back and think, in the grand scheme of the world, how awful that is: Sink the Cheerio is where you throw perfectly edible and nutritious food into the toilet and have a small child piss on it. It sounds like something that would happen in the Capital in Hunger Games, or at the behest of one of the crazier and more hedonistic Roman emperors, right?

Success Rate: 30%. What are children if not miniature Roman emperors?

Images: Todd Morris/Flickr; Giphy(4)