Zero Thanks For This Potty Training Advice

by Mary Katherine
Originally Published: 
potty training
Saklakova / iStock

I tried my best to avoid potty training. Partly because I’m lazy, but also because I couldn’t flush away the flashbacks of a childhood with little brothers. Those glorious days of shared bathrooms with sticky, urine-covered floors; the joy of sitting on a toilet seat sprinkled in yellow dew; the constant feeling that my morning routine was taking place in the corner stall of a truck stop bathroom.

But the longer I put it off, the more my News Feed was flooded with proud parenting peers, shouting their kids’ bowel movement victories from the rooftops. I don’t blame them. Hooray for little Sam on Day 2 of Domestic Deucing!

But I remained skeptical. You can’t trust Facebook, right?

I was certain that for every Mom Brag status update, there was a turd sitting in an upstairs closet just waiting to be discovered. So I procrastinated, until one day, the jig was up. My son’s preschool teacher requested that I send him in underwear because he was doing “so well” at school with potty time. My face went white, but she seemed convinced.

“Oh, don’t worry!” she said. “Just put a Cheerio in the toilet. He’ll sink it, and it’ll be just like a game!”

Just. Like. A. Game.

Why those words didn’t replay in my brain with the slow motion voice of Satan, I’ll never know. But as it turned out, using cereal as target for a toddler with terrible aim wasn’t the worst advice I would receive.

I would like to offer zero thanks to the people who gave me horrible potty training tips. And as an act of public service, I will share these ideas with you, in hopes that you won’t accept this, ahem, crappy advice.

“Sink a Cheerio! It’ll be fun!”

You know that carnival game? The one where you swing a water gun from side to side, hoping to hit something — anything — for a chance to win a crappy stuffed duck? So, pretty much that. Plus a 3-year-old wielding a phallic weapon and a Cheerio as a mobile target, whirling around the porcelain pot. Whee! Well, guess what? Nobody wins the duck, and mommy ends up on her hands and knees with a handful of bleach wipes. Take my advice, and keep the cereal in a bowl — the non-porcelain variety.

“Keep a bag of bribery Skittles handy!”

Perhaps this method works for the rule-following kids. You know, the kind who don’t run up the slide backwards. But the sneaky ones? No. Mine learned right off the bat that he could ration his urine into four or five trips, exponentially increasing his candy reward. After noshing through an entire bag of straight sugar, and edging his bladder toward a UTI, we tossed the bribery batch. After the most epic of tantrums, our house decided that the reward for peeing in the potty is — gasp — not sitting in wet pants. Congratulations, kid. You have earned another few hours without stinking, wet britches. Ask any adult — that is way better than a handful of skittles.

“Buy that adorable singing potty!”

I’m not going to lie: For a few days, I thought this was a win. The sweet little congratulatory song, the fake flushing, the quaint mini-potty. It all sounds good, right? Yeah, just wait until the middle of the night when all is quiet and those creepy giggles start up. There is nothing quite as chilling as waking from a deep sleep to the sound of a strange, small child singing in your bathroom. And your kid isn’t in there. And there’s nothing in the toilet. And you find yourself pulling the covers over your head and praying to all that is holy that the demon toy in the other room stops haunting you. I can’t stress this enough: Do not buy the singing toilet. But if you do, maybe have an exorcist on call. (Or I suppose you could just remove the batteries.)

“Tell your child that poop feeds fish!”

Okay, I will concede that while this is terrible advice, it is actually fantastic entertainment. Watching the horror that washes over your child’s face when you casually explain that “Dory and Nemo need a snack, so it’s time to poop in the potty!” — well, that moment is worth this mistake alone. Is it motivating? Not at all. Is it hilarious? Yes. Yes, it is.

While I had no shortage of awful advice when it came to potty training, we finally figured it out. Like everything else in the parenting world, we had to find what worked for our family and roll with it. And now you can count me among the obnoxiously proud parents bragging in your News Feed about Nugget’s elimination exploits. I am practically an expert now. I’ve got all the ideas.

Like, have you tried the sinking Cheerio game? It’s freaking great.

This article was originally published on