48 Tips from the World’s Worst Potty Trainer (A Cautionary Tale)


Did you know I am the Worst Potty Trainer In The World? With an average toilet training time of 22 months/child, I dare you to challenge my title. I’m a firm believer of learning from others’ mistakes, so as someone who has made every possible mistake in potty training, I thought I’d share them with you as a cautionary tale.

Follow closely. Each step is important.

  1. Read widely before you begin. Create a Pinterest board and title it “Potty Training Tips”. Knowledge of the options is crucial for success.  
  2. Start when they are infants – practice ‘elimination communication’, whereby you learn to read (and anticipate) your kid’s body cues. (I was dead in the water on this one, since I never even managed to tell the difference between a tired cry or a hungry cry. It all just sounded like crying to me.)
  3. Start with they are 18 months: walking, communicating, and showing an interest in imitating you. Do not wait: it will be harder later.
  4. Start with they are 2 1/2, when they have better language and body awareness. Do not start before this: you will stress them out.
  5. Start with they are 3 1/2, when they can remove their own shorts and the threat of never being able to go to preschool forces you into panic. Do not start before this: you will stress them out.
  6. Take your cue from your child. They will tell you when they are ready.
  7. Post your decision on when to potty train on Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions.
  8. You can potty train in one day if you do it right (notice: it’s all on you.) Prepare for the day with books, training DVDs and lots of exaggerated facial movements about the thrills of going potty. Have them train their teddy bear first. Then, on one day: banish the underwear and hold potty boot camp. Be persistent. They’ll get it by the end of the day…. if you did it right.
  9. Potty train in three days. Choose a weekend when you are not distracted and have your kiddo be nakey nakey all weekend. Involve all the stuffed animals and siblings in the Great Weekend of Potty Training. Be persistent. They’ll get it by the end of the weekend… if you did it right.
  10. Potty train when they’re ready. You’ll know when they’re ready because it will work. This makes complete sense… if you read the literature right.
  11. Let them run wild and free while training.
  12. Have them wear pull-ups while training.
  13. Let the diapers continue while training.
  14. Big-kid underwear from the get-go! The pride of getting it right as a “big kid” is a powerful motivator!
  15. Don’t be afraid to let them go back into diapers: what’s another couple hundred of trees in the landfill?
  16. Be persistent! Once you’re doing this, you’re doing this! If you communicate that regression is an option, your kid will turn it into power play.
  17. Be flexible! If your kid isn’t ready, listen and try again later.
  18. Bribery is brilliant: offer a treat for each successful tinkle. If you’re feeling extra motivated, offer two treats for number twos. The logic is lost on kids, but makes total sense to the one who has to wash out soiled underwear.
  19. Avoid bribery: it will be hard to undo the sugar-reward habit later.
  20. Use stickers instead.
  21. Don’t use stickers – they stick them on furniture.
  22. Star charts are awesome motivators.
  23. Except when they aren’t. For us, this is about day 3.
  24. Do whatever it takes: read books or sing songs or let them play with the iPad to keep them on there long enough for a “win” while they’re busy.
  25. Beware: kids are smart. All of mine figured out how to turn “I need to go potty” into a gratuitous story-reading time, without ever producing the “deliverables”.
  26. Let them watch potty training DVD’s. This does not count as ‘screen time’ because #educational.
  27. Make up a potty cheer. “Happy pee on the potty to you” (to the tone of ‘Happy Birthday’) is good in a pinch.
  28. Be prepared to have to sing your cheer of choice, at volume, in public places. Prepare to have to sing it more than once.
  29. Post your decisions on how to potty train to Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions. As an Imgurian over 30 this is how I feel when I read
  30. Start potty training in the summer, so they can practice outside.
  31. Start potty training in the winter, when you’re cooped up anyway.
  32. Important: start potty training when YOU are ready to tackle it.
  33. MOST important: start potty training when your CHILD is ready to tackle it.
  34. Invest in a potty chair, and think carefully about what kind of ceremonial ritual you will devise to celebrate its arrival in1B5548278-tdy-130116-ipotty-1.blocks_desktop_smallto your house. If the literature is to be believed, the success of potty training is causally related to how much hoopla you can raise about a kid getting their VERY OWN mini-throne. If you get one with a built in DVD, all the more power to you (see #26).
  35. Don’t bother with a potty chair: invest in a step stool and have them sit on the main throne. They will feel more grown-up and it will make it easier to transition to public restrooms.
  36. Teach boys to pee sitting down: so much less mess.
  37. Teach boys to pee standing up: aiming for cheerios is such a great incentive.
  38. Figure out as a couple whether you are going for sitting-down or standing-up before you engage in Operation Potty Train. In my experience, those who have to clean the bathroom usually opt for #36. Dads usually opt for #37. (Because it’s so much fun to demo. And apparently some things never get old.)
  39. Make potty training fun! Hype it up as a coming of age thing!
  40. Make potty training just “one of the things you learn to do” – the less hype there is, the less pressure there is on the kid to perform, and the less power play leverage you give them.
  41. If things aren’t going well: keep reading widely and pinning madly to research other best methods. Pin this. You may need it if all the other advice from those who succeeded doesnt pan out and you need to know that you weren’t the worst potty trainer in the world.
  42. If someone says their method worked for them, it must have some merit to it. Keep a tally of how guilty you feel each time there’s an accident: that accident probably means you were doing it wrong.
  43. Try not to feel guilty, though. It’s not about you.
  44. If your plan isn’t working: try something new, or try some other time.
  45. But WHATEVER YOU DO: be consistent!
  46. No matter what kind of diapers you chose, for potty training make sure you invest in 3-fold cloth diapers: they are by FAR the most absorbent cloths for cleaning up spills. There is no paper towel which is worthy for this trial. None. Bounty, be gone.
  47. Ask for hugs. For you, not your kid. Potty training is hard and demoralizing and sometimes makes you feel you have an angry, panicked, crazy person living in your head.
  48. Ignore all this advice, except for #46 and #47.

Trust me.

And now, I’m going to print out my list and study it closely (see tip #1), because it seems to me my third kid is about ready to jump onto the potty training wagon, which means I’m bracing myself for another 22 months of insanity…

Pick of the Clicks 3/23/14

I have (literally) laughed and cried over these links this week. This is a rather eclectic and diverse selection: there’s something for everybody… so if you don’t find something that floats your boat – I”ll eat my hat. Enjoy!

There were some awesome articles and tributes in honor of Downs Syndrome Awareness day this week. I wanted to give  a standing ovation to the Wet Seal Fashion family for making  Karrie Brown’s dreams of being a fashion model come true. Yes!

I also loved this: Warning to women: this is not advisable to watch unless you are prepared to ruin your mascara.

I thought this little video of watching Europe’s borders change over the last 1000 years was fascinating. The music was a little dramatic for my taste (I imagined a Jaws-like-shark about to come and take a bite out of Poland), but the history tidbit was awesome. Totally worth a few minutes of your time.

Also, I discovered you can get these beauties from firebox.com for $7/piece. Perfect for bathroom tiles above the tub. Nice.


Then, for things more substantial: I loved Lois Tverberg’s article Does God want us to Fear Him? We have been talking about the phrase “the fear of the Lord” in our home group, and this was incredible helpful in understanding what that means. The link to the quote by Abraham Heschel is amazing and worth a click too.

Karen Yates wrote a fabulous piece on the times when we just feel spiritually empty in when I talk of spiritual dryness. Loved this quote from her: “It’s not about getting back to where we once were.  It’s about growing toward where He’s taking us next.”

I agree with the hundreds of thousands of people who linked to Kristen Howerton’s article Let’s bring the holidays down a notch . Oh golly yes and amen. I’ve expressed my disdain about gift bags before, but that’s just a small part of a much bigger problem. Howerton’s article made me want to stand up and cheer (after I’ve stopped laughing!)

I loved this insight on parenting from Jen Wilkin in Our Children, Our Neighbors . If you have ever lamented that parenting is so tough and complex, and that there seems to be relatively little in the Bible about it – READ THIS.

I also appreciated this by Marta Oti Sears on #banbossy:  Would Jesus Use the B- Word?  She writes: I’m grateful to LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts for challenging us to recognize that leadership is not bound by gender. I’d like to add that it’s not bound by temperament either.” If you’ve been following the discussion on banning bossy, this is an important voice to consider.

As someone who is trying to write, keep up with family and friends and do online errands on the computer, I so appreciated this from Sarah Bessey: In which I don’t mind if the tinies see me in front of the computer. Yes!!

I loved Addie Zierman’s guest post as part of Cara Strickland’s (De)tales series. My house is filled with clutter and color and stuff all around, and Addie’s piece house gave me a lens of fondness with which to view it all. Beautiful, true, honest words.

Suzanne Burden wrote a beautiful piece over at The Well called When I Opposed Women in Ministry. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m still thinking this topic over, and Suzanne’s article gave me more food for thought. She has a book coming out entitled “Reclaiming Eve” – and I’m curious to read it.

Then, on to matters of news and interest and hilarity:

Then, if you are a lover of word games, here’s a website for Lexicomaniacs. Alastair writes that it is “a site for people who take words too seriously.” It is formidable and fun… and even has scrabble pillows and a boggle birthday cake.

Chris Goodfellow’s article on A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet made all the sense in the world to me. What a tragedy.

I am usually reluctant to click on anything that comes from Buzzfeed, much less post it, but this little ditty of 77 Facts that Sound Like Huge Lies But Are Actually Completely True was awesome.  Except for the last one.

Then, a little bit of fabulous, brought to you by the 1980’s. I LOVED this (and given that I am a church lady, who did aerobics and had big hair and wore legwarmers in the 1980’s, you need to know that I am owning my identification with this set and laughing at myself too…) “Now, let’s engage in some cardiovascular fitness until the Lord!”

Also great was this, from the Onion, on Expectant Parents Throwing Some Values Together At The Last Minute. The Onion at its satirical best!

And finally, two most fabulous little clips riding the wave of the Frozen movie fame.

This is Voiceover artist Brian Hull’s version of Let It Go. It is FANTASTIC. Listen out for Mike Wazowski, Jack Sparrow and (my favorite), Winnie the Pooh:

And then this truly fabulous little trailer of Frozen from Honest trailers. Hilarious! (It includes a nod to Adele Dazeem!)

On my blog this week: most read post was When you can’t give it up, give it away (observations on Lent and generosity). I had the honor of writing a guest post for Modern Mrs Darcy on why I’m giving the literature classics a second chance, and I was delighted to host Briana Meade share her beautiful words in the Words that Changed My World series with Running in the Rain.

Lots to feast on this week. Enjoy!

A very polite, completely reasonable, utterly exhausted DST appeal

Dear People-In-Charge-Of-The-Clocks,

Please, please, please: can we do away with Daylight Savings Time?

This past weekend we were all supposed to “spring forward”, but it’s 5 days later and there is still a lot more lagging than springing going on.


I wasn’t a big fan of changing the clocks to begin with. Before we had children, it was simply a nuisance. Twice a year we would do the rounds in the house and try and find every single time piece which needed adjusting. We always failed to find one, which almost always ended up with panic and palpitations when we were late to church/missed a meeting/arrived at work an hour before everyone else/called overseas an hour after everyone had gone to sleep. It was a nuisance then.

It’s a nightmare, now. With three small kids in the house, this bi-annual event inflicts all the horrors of jet lag on our family, without one single happy vacation-in-a-distant-land photo to make up for it. They are hungry at the wrong time. They wake up at the wrong time. And worst of all (this only makes sense in that awful logic of tiny people) – they are not just going to sleep an hour later than usual… it’s two hours. Three hours. And come morning when it’s school-a-go-go time, it is as if they are stapled to their mattresses. This week after the time-change is a brutal one. Today my four year old lay sobbing in a heap because his brother ate the only banana he wanted (there were still 6 left). Later, sobbing on the floor of the garage because he had “no energy to get into the car”. Don’t even get me started on the herculean task it was to put on shoes. Over tired children are maddening, miserable little things.

My vote is that we make this last time change the last one. We just stay in this time zone forever. Hawaii and Arizona are on to something. When Fall comes around, let’s not steal that last bit of daylight at the end of the day and tuck it into the 6am zone when most everyone (sane) is indoors and in their pajamas. Let’s keep the time zone where it is now – just shift California over from GMT-8 and park us permanently in GMT-7… leaving us that extra bit of sunshine at the end of the day to walk in our yard after work, to run an errand after the office closes down without it being pitch dark, to savor a sunset even in the bleak midwinter.

Please, oh please. Let’s do away with this madness and leave the clocks where they are. Please?


One very-polite, completely-reasonable and utterly-exhausted Mom.

Photo credit: Goodstuff1852/Photobucket

Jesus and the Goldfish

Here are the things my children know for sure about Sunday School:

1. When in doubt, the answer is Jesus, and
2. There will be goldfish.

Now Rule #1 is for sure a good bedrock principle for life (although less so in High School Science class). But it’s Rule #2 that has me scratching my head today: why is it that snacks are an unquestioned necessity in every children’s church program?


Our church service, being very western and organized, runs for exactly one hour. In the main sanctuary, the minutes of singing, greeting, announcements (always with the announcements… But I get it, they are central to our community life), the sermon… All carefully timed to fit into sixty minutes. The children’s programs have a schedule too: minutes of free play, clean up, circle time, bible story, craft and SNACK.

Now don’t get me wrong: my kids LOVE the snack! But I’m still wondering: Why? Why the snack? We can all last for 60 minutes without needing to eat. Children’s church is not a public school program where we know that for some kids, the calories they get on the campus are sometimes the only calories they get in a day. Rather, I would venture that for almost all the kids in our church, the goldfish consumed during Sunday school programs are competing for space with the lunch their parents will attempt to feed them within two hours of leaving church.

So why the snack?

I can think of three reasons:
1. The kids like eating.
2. It is something to do, and easily takes up 10 minutes of a program. When I occasionally sub teaching classes, I am always grateful for the 10 minute hiatus for munching…. But I could easily fill those minutes with play or singing too, if that were the norm. We’re just USED to making snack one of the non-negotiables of our kids program.
3. We are modeling and nurturing the idea of table fellowship: eating and talking together is something believers have done for centuries, and even young ‘uns get to participate in that aspect of Christian community.

Now that I think about it, #3 is a fairly persuasive argument in favor of keeping those horrible little goldfish crackers as a central part of our kids program. It can be a vehicle for conversation and community around a table, and it is also training for the horrible little crackers most of us will gratefully receive for communion for the remainder of our adult lives.

Community-building and communion-training could be great arguments in favor of keeping snack time. But if we’re serving snacks just because it’s always been done, because it’s expected, because it fills the time… Then I vote we ditch the goldfish, and cast our nets a little wider for inspiration.

When you feel like you don’t have it all together…

On Sunday morning, we attempted to make it to the 9am church service.

We had a promising start: everyone awake on time, and enough milk left over for every one’s cereal. So far, so good. After that, things got a little dicey. An hour later we had found a second pair of shorts for the 3-year old, after the first was sacrificed to the aforementioned cereal. I forfeited my shower, and put my daughter’s hair in a pony tail rather than fight the battle to get it brushed.

We were heading out towards the car when my husband let out a barbaric yawp: there were plops of poop on the hallway. Our toddler had crafted an award-winning blow-out and was dropping bombs (literally) as he tooled around the house. I abandoned my make-up bag: “you take the baby! I’ll get the floor! Go! Go! Go!” One has to move fast on these things or else little feet are irresistibly drawn to test the squelchiness of the deposits.

My fervent cleaning was interspersed with cries of “don’t stand in it!” and concurrent “put your shoes on” instructions. Five minutes later, the cleaning was done and with a backwards glance at the clock, I gave up on the shoes for the boy. We piled into the car. I passed out pretzels to the kids as we snapped their buckles shut: partly to supplement their breakfast and also to give their mouths some thing else to do other than whine.

Five minutes later I looked at my reflection in the car mirror. “I am not wearing mascara,” I declared to my husband. “I don’t think I can go to church.” He kept driving. Oh well, I thought. Perhaps God has ordained that I will cry this morning and it will turn out for the best that I didn’t look like a raccoon all day with tear-smudged face paint.

Minutes later we pulled up into church. The kids shuttled off to their various classes, we waved hello at friends, we got settled. We drank in the warmth of friendship and the spiritual richness of the morning, and I had all but forgotten about the harried hurriedness of our morning until I got home and came across this clip:

I watched it twice and laughed until tears streamed down my mascara-free face. Apart from the celebrity-walk-of-fame music announcing our arrival, it was us in that video, down to the barefoot boy.

What a great reminder: I don’t need to have it all together before I go to church. Church is the togetherness of the un-put-together, and it is warm, wonderful and real. Jesus loves us as is. Sweat pants and barefoot boys happen, as do tears and stresses and sadness. It’s good and it is welcome. We can go as is.

But I might still put a back up mascara in the car. Just in case.

Oh autocorrect. Tsk, tsk.

What I meant to say to my newly-moved friend was “I’ll surprise you with some unpacking assistance.”

What appeared on my iPad screen was “I’ll surprise you with some napa king ass.”


It’s not the first time the iPhone/iPad autocorrect function has blitzed my intentions. In my experience, about 20% of the time, the autocorrect guesses the word I was aiming for correctly. About half the time, it comes up with something annoying and nonsensical (‘a radium’ instead of paradigm, ‘go goth’ instead of ‘going to’), and the rest of the time it comes up with something hilarious. I present ‘napa king ass’ as exhibit A.

It’s this latter category that fuels comedy websites devoted to autocorrect fails. I confess that reading autocorrect sites is a guilty pleasure – a little like watching the TV Series “Friends”. Some of it is hilariously funny, but I’m also aware that much of it is ribald and distasteful humor. Above-the-belt gems such as this one are rare:


To be honest, I don’t spend much time on the sites anymore, because the jokes have become offensive, and the theme of the autocorrects is too often sexual and distasteful.

And yet it’s not just that those websites are collecting the “worst” of the autocorrects. In my own typing, I notice that rude words often appear because I was typing too fast. Body parts and swear words seem to be very quick and easy replacements for regular words. It has almost seemed at times like my iPad really has a mind of its own, and its a very dirty mind at that.

Recently I’ve been thinking though that the default settings on an iPhone are not that different from our default settings as people. Given a slight mistake in communication, a slight error in judgment – I know my default setting is to take advantage of the mistake. I cringe when I think of my college years and how many jokes I made at others’ expenses, at how quick I was to point out others’ weakness and how much I wanted to have the last word. My own internal “autocorrect” was is as faulty as my iPad’s.

Caught in a tricky situation? My instinctive response is to cover my tracks.

Embarassed? My quick draw response is anger or seeking to embarrass another.

In fact, we are a lot like our iDevices. We are iPeople. I am an iPerson. And my autocorrect is horrible.

But the good news is that autocorrects can be trained.

My iPad’s default settings may have sexual innuendo at the ready, but with time the software is “teachable”. After typing a few memos, I can teach it that my misspelled “lasagne” should not be autocorrected to name a woman’s body part, but should in fact autocorrect to describe an Italian dinner dish. It now knows how to spell my children’s (somewhat unusual) names – I’ve “trained” it. It now recognizes (and will autocorrect correctly) to spell South African classic words like “lekker” and “howzit”. It has even learned some Christianese (it no longer corrects “shepherding” to “sherpa ding”.)

And the good news too is that, thanks to the Holy Spirit, my own faulty autocorrects are slowly being trained too. I lose my temper less quickly these days. I can’t say I don’t say mean things anymore, but I do thank God that I can see I say them less frequently than I used to. I swear less (I aim for never, but sometimes when you drop a trampoline on your foot, shoot happens.) My soul is even learning some Christianese – learning to say “thank you” instead of whining. Learning to pray instead of prattle.

It’s a slow process, but it’s hop panning.

Oops: I meant happening.


You might also like these posts: Thoughts on growth… and There’s nothing quite like inadequacy…

A mixed bag

“Just a minute. I know I have it somewhere in here,” I muttered, and plunged my hand into my handbag.little_miss_messy1

The cashier smiled. Blinked.

Bag Braille Round 1 ensued: my fingers reading the contents of my carry-all, feeling for the familiar soft leather of my purse, the harder leather of my sunglasses case, the jingle of my keys. Finally, a slip of paper! David Copperfield like, I whipped that rabbit out of the proverbial hat. But alas: an expired yogurt coupon.

“Just a second. Sorry.”

More smiling. More blinking.

Bag Braille Round 2: feeling cloth, feeling plastic, feeling something wet. Another dry crinkle: voila!

Nope. That would be the parking garage ticket from my visit to see my friend in hospital two weeks ago.

Uh-Oh. This was going to require the Shameful Unpack. Out came the presentable top layer – purse, glasses, keys, cellphone.

Then the clutch diaper bag. Then lip balm. Then the lip balm lid.

Then the keep-my-kids-busy-in-the-restaurant crayons. The crayons smell like strawberries. They are King Tut-meets-Madame-Tussads: eerie embalmed wax figures.

A $10 bill (score!). Lollipop wrappers. One lollipop (“Mom can I have that?” -No.) A Q-tip: condition no-longer-serviceable. Ibuprofen. A blunt pencil. A pair of earrings (so THAT’s where I put those!) A tampon (“Mom what’s that? – a barbie pillow. “Can I have it?” -No.) A church bulletin. Sticks of gum (preemptive strike from the mama: No, you may not have any. Don’t even ask). A toy helicopter. A comb. The bottom layer of items is coated in a thin veneer of cheerio dust. a post-it with an address (dang it! I was supposed to write!) A handful of old raisins and cheerios, which must have valiantly escaped a confiscated snack trap. A bobby pin.

But no receipt. “Sorry,” I mutter. “I’ll have to return this another day.”

Move aside Forrest Gump. Life is like a woman’s handbag: you never know what you’re gonna get.