Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adventures in Potty Training

I don't mean to brag, but I think it's pretty safe to say that Wife and I are Potty Training Masters.

We potty trained Viva last week. In one day. I know. *exhales on fingernails, then buffs them on shirt* <----Did that make any sense? Wife and I both knew how to do what I'm describing here, but neither of us knew how to describe it, nor what that action is even supposed to mean. (Any insight? Also, this entire paragraph might be totally confusing now, which is why it is awesome.)

So yeah, when it comes to teaching the bum-holes in this household where to deliver the goods, we have a no holds barred stance on rewards. In fact, if we made a mission statement for potty training, it might read something like this: In the quest of potty-training at the The Weed household, no reward is off limits if it means we don't have to open a diaper filled with warm, steaming non-baby feces and then clean the reeking toddler-haunch located in said diaper ever, ever again.

 So let me get this straight. I have to put my peepee and poopoo in this cold, unforgiving pit of death which I'm almost positive will eat me alive if I sit on it, and in return, you will feed me more candy than I've ever eaten in my life? DEAL.

Because of this, on day one of Viva's potty training, we had enough reward systems implemented to successfully train a team of dolphins at Sea World to do a 30 minute ball tossing spectacular.  Seriously. We're a little out of control, but hey, it works, so don't hate.

Viva's showcase included a table covered in all of her favorite candies, arrayed in a display case-style presentation that you might see at your local grocery store at Easter, a progress chart with plenty of empty spaces just waiting to be bedecked in princess stickers, and then, the piece de resistance: the beautiful white princess gown she had been coveting for weeks and the elegant plastic shoes that went with it.

She was very, very excited.

And because she was excited and loves sugar and loves stickers and wanted the dress really, really, really, really, really, badly and was old enough to understand how positive consequences over time can lead to plastic princess shoes, she potty trained very easily. This is not rocket science. It's simply the reason my children will expect to be rewarded anytime they do anything positive like get a good grade or wipe snot off their nose.

(Kinda funny aside: when I was in grad school, we were talking about reward charts for children and how detrimental they are to helping kids find intrinsic rewards for positive behavior, and I started feeling so guilty for the chart I had made Anna for potty-training that I raised my hand and confessed. "I just made a reward chart for my daughter. It involved a prize at the end, prizes along the way, and pieces of candy for every positive step my daughter took." My professor was like "um, that's not good... Oh. Unless it was for potty training. If you're potty training, you get to break every rule. I mean, come on, you're teaching a human to put crap into a cold, uncomfortable bowl.")

I should admit here, though, that we learned the hard way to bring out the big guns early on. With Anna, we did not know this trick. We read a book and naively thought it would guide us to diaper-free bliss. We followed its instructions one arbitrary day when Anna was barely two, and, for good measure, covered every inch of our floor in plastic in case of a "slip up." What that day resulted in was a little two-year-old who got to drink lots and lots of juice and then slide around having a blast on the plastic, totally uncommitted to pooping or peeing in a potty, but really loving all the attention she was getting.

We knew we were done when, for the fourth time that day, Anna walked into the corner right next to the potty, squatted, and then peed on the floor, and instead of being adults, Wife and I got into an argument about it. That's right. We were fighting about a two year old peeing in her underwear in the corner of the living room. Eventually we caught ourselves, and were like "I think Anna has let us know she is not ready." And then we waited until she was ready. A year later.

Yeah, maybe that's the key too.

The The Weed Method of Potty Training Success:

1. Blitz your child's mind with enough candy, treats, stickers, and purchased rewards that he or she literally would be insane NOT to put his or her waste into the toilet.
2. Do not employ the above method until the child is old enough to ask to be potty trained using a full sentence. 
3. If your child is going into Kindergarten and still cannot construct a sentence of this kind, buy him or her a permanent catheter. And then rethink kindergarten.

Wow. I'm pretty sure I just made a million dollars right there. Did you see that?

One final thought. Even though a child is potty-trained successfully, and hasn't had a daytime or nighttime accident for days, moments like the following still might occur from time to time.

As wife is putting Viva into her carseat:

Wife: Viva, why is your dress all wet?

Viva: Because I cleaned it.

Wife: Why were you cleaning your dress?

Viva: Because I went peepee in it!

Wife: Uh oh, sweetie. Did you have an accident? Where were you when you had an accident?

Viva: In your bed.

Wife: (horrified look, runs upstairs)

Wife (After looking for the accident unsuccessfully): I don't see it Viva. Where were you when you went peepee?

Viva: (in a voice filled with glee) I was on your pillow!

Yeah. That really happened.

Hey, wanna see a The Weed home video clip? WARNING: you will see a glimpse of a two-year-old's bum bum.

Things of note in this video:

1. Viva is holding a screwdriver. Don't know how she got it or where it came from. We are the best parents ever.
2. I am wearing a shirt that's older than Anna (who is five).
3. Who doesn't have a little potty in their kitchen?
4. Tessa needs a nose-wipe somethin' fierce.
5. Just be thankful this wasn't the other "Viva on a potty" video we saw on youtube (really? there's another Viva, and she has youtube potty footage as well?) which actually shows a toilet filled with toddler poop.


  1. OMG this post is hilarious. How old is Viva? At first I thought rule #2 was a joke but then I watched your video and realized you were serious. Will definitely consider your method when evaluating potty training methods for my 19 month old this weekend.

  2. You are awesome :) We've been back and forth on the "is she ready?" question with our 2.5 year old, who I know would be all over the pee-on-the-pillow trick just for kicks even as she'd refuse to use the actual potty out of sheer stubbornness... Anyway! I'm going to mull over your advice and think about ways I could incorporate sugar and princess dresses into our next round of tactics.

  3. Where were you when I needed my boys sorted. #1 not too bad but #2 were much more challenging. Somehow, I dont think a princess dress would have done the trick

  4. @Just Another Girl--Thanks! And good question. Viva is 2.97 years old. She'll be three at the end of this month. Both of our girls are strong-willed enough that waiting until they were good and ready was what worked for us.

    @Claire--No, you are awesome. And both of our girls were older than 2.5, so no stress. And yeah, the pillow trick? Not awesome. Nor is the fact that she'll sometimes refuse to put on her panties after poopoo, sans wiping. Yuck.

    @Mynx--Yeah, I tend to think you're probably right about the princess dress. Maybe a toy lawnmower or something?

  5. I should have learned by now that I shouldn't be eating anything when I'm reading your blog...but I guess some lessons are just learned the hard way :-P

    And my parents used to give me candy every day I came home from kindergarten without crying all day (I had some pretty bad anxiety...and didn't understand raising my hand, so was always getting in trouble for interrupting!) I think the candy worked because I only cry like one day a week now!

  6. FYI - the other random Viva poo in the potty video is advertised at the end of your video. I am not watching it.

    Also, your girls are adorable. And another also, feel free to potty train Allie when she is 2.97 years old. Because I'm pretty sure I'm horrible at it. (perhaps it's that I offer one m&m or something. . . )

  7. Our first kid was a breeze to potty train so I got cocky about it too (and we waited until she was a little older than three). So with our second we waited until he was 3 and did everything the same. Turns out he wasn't motivated by rewards or even by the desire to avoid having messy pants. I still don't know what motivates him. He took a lot longer to potty train and still wets the bed at night, so I think part of it was that he just wasn't physically ready. We also went through several months with him where he'd have an accident, change his clothes, and not tell anyone until we discovered wet clothes and random pee puddles in the house. Parenting is so much fun!

  8. I totally got the fingernail reference and loved it.

  9. Argh. Potty training sounds frightening. I'm just going to stick my head in the sand and hope Espen figures it out on his own. That'll work! Right, guys? Guys....?

  10. This may have worked well with a girl, but I'll let you in on a secret--even a toy lawn mower would not work with a boy. They are a totatlly different animal!! Chris Workman

  11. what a cute video your children are adorable and totally love your method if i still had little ones i would totally steal it. as for my little guy he just decided one morning around 18months that he didn't want a wet diaper touching him so he started pulling it off and peing in the potty chair that was sitting in the livingroom. he was really easy to train. neices and nephews not so much

    Everyday Life

  12. I am laughing SO hard right now- because at times not only have I had a toddler toilet in the kitchen, but also in the family room as well! If that doesn't speak to a parent's desperation to no longer clean poop out of a diaper or pull-up again, I don't know what does!

    P.S. your girls totally scored- M&M's, Starbursts, princess dresses.... My kids got a jellybean(hey, I let them choose which one...), or a sticker, and sometimes even, gasp--- a penny!!! Yes, I know, that might just be why it took so long (til ages 4+ and 5+ to get it down)...

    parenting... You're doing it wrong(you, as in ME)

    P.S.S......LOVE your blog!!!!

  13. Ahhhh...you have the most adorable family ever. I stink at potty training. It always involves a ton of crying (let's clarify--I cry, not the kids. The kids are more than happy to cover every inch of my home in pee). Maybe you guys should start a business. I would gladly pay you to potty train Lizzie in a day!

  14. Potty training is one of the hardest to do for little ones but after watching your video.You gave me a brilliant idea.. this is great!

  15. What a great article! And yes, the image of you brushing your freshly-exhaled-upon-fingernails against your shirt was spot-on. Well done!

    There's no doubt that potty-training can be a challenge, and congratulations for finding your own method that seems to have worked like a champ.

    For those who might still struggle with potty-training, though, I wrote this cute little book that discussed the technique(s) I used with my own son when he was two. Like you, we succeeded in one day! We were both so proud...

    Please feel free to check out the book here:

    And again, great (funny!) article!


  16. @Christine--Yeah, the candy totally worked, then! I still cry almost every day, and I'm pretty sure it's because my parents didn't give me candy... ;-) Just kidding of course. And seriously? Being a kindergartener is hard.

    @JJStringham--The funny thing that I didn't very effectively communicate in this post is that the idea that we know what we're doing with this is a joke. Potty training is a hit or miss operation, and a lot depends on the kid. So in other words, ABOSLUTELY bring her over and we'll mess her up by rewarding her profusely. However, results not guaranteed...

    @Jessie--yeah, random unreported accidents is a recipe for some pretty gross moments!

    @Dan--Haha, I'm glad that made sense.

    @Tamsin--Yes. Yes that will work. (Did that sound convincing?)

    @Chris--Whatever. It will completely work with a boy! I'm sure of it. It worked with one of my kids, so I'm pretty sure it will work with every other child on the planet. Because that's how parenting works! (Just kidding, you're probably very, very right ;-) )

    @becca--Wow, now YOU should market your method, because that sounds like a pretty sweet deal! (Did you see that one Tamsin???)

    @beenthere--Hey, thanks! Yeah, I hope this post didn't come off sounding like I *actually* know what I'm doing. Your philosophy (parenting: you're doing it wrong) is so true! It's like, 90% of the time you try stuff and it blows up in your face, and 10% of the time you have this fluke
    luck and the stars align and something appears successful. (Then you brand it and market it and pretend it is a universal truth. Which as a marriage and family therapist I SHOULD TOTALLY DO because that makes me sound even more credible even though I'm as clueless as everyone else, ha)

    @Heather--Haha, thanks! I'm contemplating a business model. There are a few occupational hazards that have me leery though. Like having to touch more poopoo and peepee that I didn't genetically spawn. And the fact that people might want their money back when I totally fail to potty train their child. But, I shouldn't let fear stand in the way, right?! *sets up a new LLC*

    @Vickie--Hey, if that video inspired a great idea than it is already more successful than it was ever intended to be, ha! Glad you got something from it ;-)

    @Kim--This is the most personalized spam I've ever gotten, so, I'm leaving it up ;-) Thanks for actually reading the post! Good luck with your product!

  17. I'm incredibly jealous. This post is amazingly perfecct for my life right now! We are on day #6 of going cold turkey...underwear only (except nighttime and naps)...Day one went great. The following...not so much. We did stickers on a chart (to earn a toy) a few months ago...he wasn't ready (I guess I wasn't either) so we gave up without really trying. This time I decided not to mess around. He gets suckers and hot wheel cars. Only-it's all about me. He's investing nothing. If I don't get him on in 30-45 min intervals...he has accidents and just doesn't care. (My first son wasn't this difficult at all!) ah well. (there's no turning back this time.) christy

  18. Totally adorable! I remember those days like yesterday, I have 4 children between 12 & 5. We were lucky that-we had boy/girl-boy/girl. My oldest boy helped along with the training old my youngest boy and same with my girls. And everyone got presents once they were trained! My husband once....... I can not believe I'm actually putting this out in the world for everyone to know, my Otherhalf demonstrated to each boy & girl when it was time what was expected to be in the potty seat.
    I thank the Lord each time he did that I was at work .....yes, absolutely insane....but it worked-LOL.

  19. @Misha--Ha, thanks!

    @christy--Oh man, that sounds like a pretty rough adventure! I can't imagine anything you could be doing better (as if I actually know anything about anything, ha!). Good luck!

    @Purple Stinky Onion--That's actually a really good idea! I'm glad he was innovative enough to do that. Obviously it worked well. Maybe I'll have to try that next time ;-)

  20. Too funny! You're lucky. Our son didn't train until well after 4 but then he got it in about 10 minutes. As far as nighttime, he was in kindergarten before that happened--almost 6 years old. He didn't understand about the cues in your sleep to indicate the need to go. :(

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