laissez-faire potty promoters


Our children are not ready for potty training. Neither are we. I can’t read their "I’m making now" faces yet, and Phil can’t handle any of us going to the bathroom with the door open."But they need to watch us. It helps them learn."

"They can watch you," he grumbles. "Meaning you can take them in there with you, and close the door!"

"Dude, you have issues."

I’m a big believer in letting things take their own natural course, without interfering. Basically, I’m a laissez-faire potty promoter, trusting that business will be taken care of, eventually. It’s why we have no intention of pushing the taters into anything prematurely. However, I receive emails apprising me of the latest and greatest information, age-appropriate toys, that sort of spam. The excrement experts suggest putting the potty out, in clear sight, so the kids get accustomed to seeing it there. Where exactly am I supposed to set this thing? If it were up to Abigail, she’d sit cross-legged on it while reading her baby bear Goodnight Gorilla. Whereas Lucas might prefer adding a secondary meaning to his dump truck. Their bathroom is such that the actual toilet is in its own enclosed room, with nothing more than a toilet and a narrow sink and step-stool. It’s not the kind of place you want to hang out and build Lego towers. Do I set the plastic potty near the bathtub? This strikes me as a terribly contradictory proposition. Oh, this is going to be good fun.

We’ve run into one other snag. Abigail refers to her vagina as "poo poo." So each and every time she says it, I rush over to check her, to administer praise if she actually is communicating something. Dry every time. I feel so deflated each time I’m psyched out. Must align with Norma and get our girl and guy gadgetry lingo in sync.



  1. My son still calls his penis a "birdy" and I wouldnt worry about her calling her bits poo poo, you'll be surprised at the names they're going to come up with things. I read all that about potty training as well and you do know girls learn a lot faster than boys in that area, so Im sure Abigail will pick it up soon. What I did with my kid was created "potty prize" where I got this basket full of basically junk (little bubbles, matchbox cars, suckers, tootsie rolls, etc…)and once he got the idea of going in the jon rather than his pants, I began to give him potty prizes when he'd make a stink in the bowl. Stink being dook. He still calls it stink too. Laugh! :)

    But even through all that, when they're ready you'll know. I have a friend who has a little boy who just turned four and it wasnt until six months ago he was potty trained. They tried the pullups and what not early on but he just wasnt having it. Then one day he decided he was going in the potty, and he had little to no accidents (specifically at night- that's the worst part is them wetting their bed- invest in a plastic mattress cover, a good one b/c you'll be washing it a lot, invest in one for YOUR bed too- they'll have accidents anywhere).

    My kid just learned the whole pee and shake recently from his dad. Cracked me up. Good luck.

  2. I agree, laissez-faire is best. I think the research says that before a certain age it doesn't matter how early you start, they don't get trained any faster – so who wants to spend a longer time doing the "Training?!" We did the rewards too – worked well with my son (first child) – my daughter (second child) was much easier and quicker and didn't need rewards. We didn't use those little potties, we just got an insert for the regular toilet.

    My son definitely picked it up from watching his father – and my daughter tried to pick it up from her brother – she'd initially stand at the toilet to try to pee standing up but could find the necessary apparatus – it was pretty funny! My son also got a huge kick out of peeing outside- that was kind of a "hook" for us – letting him do it in the trees in our backyard- he found that much more interesting.

    Oh, and one more thing – pull-ups can really be counterproductive (at least with boys) – it lets them "go in their pants" – just suck it up and when you are aready, switch them to underwear. There are some accidents initially but they learn much faster!

    Good luck!

  3. I am probably older than your mother. My unsolicited advice is:

    Please do not frustrate you & your children by pushing the potty training. When they are ready they will go on the toilet. Most children do not wear diapers to high school. If you take the (diapered) children along when you shop & run errands you won't have to stop every ten minutes to take them to a dirty public bathroom.

  4. I understand but just so you know – rarely will kids potty train themselves without some serious coaxing. Still it seems you have time yet (are they even two?)

  5. My mom was of the laissez-faire, earth mama route when it came to our upbringing, but my fabulous Aunt Mary Alice came to visit around the time I was learning my potty biznass and with her she brought gorgeous lacy, frilly big girl panties. I got to wear those if I used the potty? F those diapers, I was ALL about those cute panties. They had ruffles. On the butt.

  6. The pressure to push kids ahead is relentless and hard to resist. It starts now with toilet training and ends up with kids cutting themselves in high school because they haven't decided what their life's work will be by the age of 14. Slow everything down, resist the pressure and they'll pretty much figure it out without needing training manuals, prizes, toilets that sing or pee targets. Unless, of course, you and Phil regularly pee and poop in your pants.

  7. My son just turned four and is STILL not trained. We use the porta-potty every morning, but when he's playing, he won't take time to stop and go.

    In a couple of weeks, the plan is for me to take off a Friday and Monday, put him in cotton training pants and bite the bullet.

    I'm sure Xanax will be an active participant in this project.

  8. Goodnight Gorilla–oh, I used to love it when my daughter would read that to me. She was really, really into balloons and when she pointed out to me that there was a ballon on each page, I think it was the first time I truly realized that *she* was going to show *me* a whole new world. Thank you for bringing up that memory!

  9. Oy vay. I have no advice or ideas whatsoever…only my experience as the most laid-back laissez-faire potty trainer EVER:

    I bribed my daughter out of diapers when she was 3 years old with a trip to Sesame Place. She came down the very next morning in underwear.

  10. We are starting extremely early, but in a similar shoulder shrugging way. At each diaper change we put the girl on the little potty. Sometimes she pees, sometimes not. We have noticed that she likes to go after her bath, so we plop her on the big toilet after baths and she'll usually do both. There is no praise or scolding involved. We just offer the toilet or baby potty as a matter of fact alternative place to go. At this age the only thing I'm really hoping for is to desensitize her to the whole toilet thing. That way when we get serious about potty training she doesn't look at me like "You have got to be kidding, right?"

  11. My nephew figured it out in a matter of days – my sister had enough sense to wait it out until he was old enough to figure it out (and yes, he was still very much a toddler). One day he just had the mental capacity to put two and two together – she took this as her que – got him on the throne (the same one everyone else used in the house) and he took care of his own business – and has ever since (even when drunk – note, potty training him was 20 something years ago). I don't have kids but I marvel at how this has become such a big deal for moms today. Heck, my granny got five of us to use a regular toilet with no fanfair – no plastic potties in the living room for us to stare at and ponder – none of that. I think this is where my sister learned the trick. Really, I just don't get what all the fuss is about.

  12. I set out the potty chair around 18 months… she would sit when I sat and now at 2.5 when she was ready she is completely potty trained. I too believe they go at their own time, but setting out a seat like the baby bjorn potty just increases awareness and interest. My theory is that do not buy a potty that makes special noises or has toys…because we are not teaching our children to play on the potty.. just do your buisness, wipe well, flush, wash your hands and off you go. Just a thought.

  13. For me, when my daughter was learning to use the toilet I felt chained to the house. We needed to be within 50 feet of the baby bjorn at all times.If wew were too far from the toilet and she had an accident it would be a major setback and would crush her. Trips to the market involved putting the bjorn in the back of the jeep (outfitted with plastic bages in the center) and pulling over if I heard the majic phrase "gotta go, gotta go". I'd pull over and she would sit on the potty in the car and wave to other cars. Needless to say, I didnt leave the house unless the situation was dire.

  14. Well, my son is 2 and we recently bought him a potty seat. My 1 year old shows more interest in it! Dorian looked at it, said, "Oh, for pee and poo. I no pee there. I want diapers." So we`re taking the same route . . . just waiting and seeing!I have to admit I was hoping he`d be interested a little sooner, but it is what it is.

  15. I was once engaged to a guy who had 2 little toddler nieces. When they came to stay at Grandma's, she had the potty in the DINING ROOM for them. I will never forget having Grandma announce, during dinner, that one of them just made a poo "as big as my fist."

    Oh yeah, broke off THAT engagement!

  16. Yeah, just like with breastfeeding–everybody thinks they know best. I think it's a combination of knowing your child and going with your gut in these kinds of things.

    My Son Is Only 16 Months So What The Hell Do I Know?

  17. Our older son was uncanny. He'd go in the neighbor's backyard and tell me the dog did it!! When I asked him, "When are you going to be toilet trained?" his response was, "In three weeks!" This at the age of almost three, mind you. How he had a time frame I'll never understand. In three weeks he was trained. I should have known from that point that things would always get done on HIS schedule. Our other son was a cinch to deal with. One day I told him he was going to wear "big boy pants" from "now on" and that was that. No accidents. Big boy pants it was.

  18. We were living somewhere where the public toilets were completely unusable for toddlers.

    For my daughter, I used pullups but called them "Big girl outdoor knickers." I put them over her regular knickers when we went out or travelled. That way, she still felt she was wet, but kept her dignity by having a private accident!

    My son, who was 17 months younger, wanted nothing to do with that mentality and refused them. He never had an accident after the first two days, so don't always believe that boys are harder to train!!!!

    Truth is, most of us push our kids to be too independent and too "old" before their internal clock says they are ready for something.

    Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing – they'll see some kid at a park or playgroup or birthday party and decide that that's the next big thing to do. (all the cool kids are doing it)

    Good luck and love your blog

  19. As far as naming the "gadgetry" goes, I'd stick with the classics. For lord knows what reason, my mother allowed us to come up with our own words and stuck with them. And (again, lord knows why) when it came up in my kindergarten class and I referred to the boy gadget as a "wing-wang" my teacher almost died laughing and I was mortified. As an adult, I can appreciate how it would be impossible not to laugh, but as a 5 year old, it was quasi-devastating (clearly, as I still remember it a quarter of a century later).

  20. We have the potty next to the bathtub (near the toilet, too). So, last night baby pooped in the tub. I'm not sure if there is a correlation. I think she was just relaxed… She's only 18 months, but like Chelsea said, having it there is getting her used to it. She points and says Pee Pee and tries to clean it with the toilet brush.

  21. I cant stop laughing about some of these comments. Wing-wang I think is my favorite. Or the one of the child blaming the dog next door.
    I do agree about the pullups. My son was trained fairly easy but he still had accidents when he was playing because he wouldnt want to go to the bathroom and interrupt his activities. The only thing that helped with this was keeping a careful eye on his liquid intake so I would know it was time for him to pee and tell him to go.

    I also began to get up in the middle of the night, collect him and bring hmi to the bathroom (still half asleep), let him pee in the jon then put him back to bed. We did this for about two months and the bed wetting stopped. I think a lot of it is just learning to control their little bladders. And while it sucks having to get up in the middle of the night it's better than washing sheets every morning.

    But definitely…DEFINITELY….beware of the turb in the tub. Vomit! I had that happen to me twice with Kellen, and I was gagging the whole time I was cleaning out that tub with it's specks of poo. Yuck.

  22. My boy/girl twins were trained at exactly four years and two weeks. They surely must have made the decision together, which seems funny now but didn't after splurging on pull-ups for six months. I'd tried laissez-faire, potty boot camp (Wiggles tent, potty and every toy we owned in the backyard with naked kids) and everything in between, but nothing worked until they were truly ready. I will say — they seemed to be insulted by the potty itself and always preferred the real thing.

    We use proper names for private parts, but my niece was taught to call hers "petunia," which always made me laugh.

  23. It's not about us, it's about them. We were so stressed about my 3 yr old son still in pull-ups. Read potty training books, tried potty training bootcamp, bribes…nothing worked. I even put his life-size Elmo on the potty only to leave the room and return to find Elmo(with a pull-up on!!!) lying next to my son on the couch because "Elmo was tired of sitting on the potty".

    …Then he started going to summer day camp with a structured potty time and there, among his peers, he was trained by the end of the first day. It's about them, not us. Once it becomes important to them, consider it done. Until then, good luck.

  24. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I am not to be in this stage of my life anymore! Good luck times two.

  25. Julie, not only did he blame the dog, but he knew EXACTLY what he was doing. He even went so far as to take off his pants before making in the neighbor's yard. God forbid he should dirty those underpants!

  26. I didn't read all of the comments, but agree with the ones I did read. You will save yourself a lot of time and frustration by waiting. My sister *thinks* her kids were potty trained by age two, but in truth my sister was trained to spend a lot of time with them sitting on the potty, and she cleaned up an awful lot of messes. Bad messes. Full-on poops in underwear running down legs in a mall kind of messes.

    I waited until my kids were ready and only had to spend a weekend doing it. I cleared the calendar and stayed home for two whole days, and by the end of that, we were done. No accidents, no messes. Straight to underwear. My daughter was just under three, my son was about 3 1/2.

  27. it seems that at about 2 they are ready and willing. my son just turned 2 and he is starting to announce he has to go so we take off his diaper and put him on the potty. he spent the summer butt naked outside watching his older cousin ( 2 and a few months) pee in the grass and he tried to imitate him – at first he just went through the motions and proudly yelled 'done' when in fact he hadn't done … anything. seriously it is quite magical – when they are ready they will use it without much coaxing. 'our' potty is usually near the bathtub and sometimes he actually brings it in to the living room – really no big deal, you'll just have to clean up a few messes once in a while – nothing you haven't done dozens of times with your dog i imagine …

  28. I second the frilly underpants discovery! Worked like a charm for me too!! And when I was bad, my punishment was taking away my pretty panties. Frilly lace on my butt was downright MAGICAL. Not so sure it will work for Lucas, though…

  29. While I don't remember anything major about potty training, it did remind me of what my sister and I called our girlie bits. For lord knows how many years I thought my vagina was called a 'business'.

    It worked out so that if my sister was ever picking on me and kicking I'd run to my parents screaming "Sister kicked me in my business!" It wasn't until years later that we realized how intelligent my father really was in teaching us that. LOL!

  30. I have potty trained almost three kids. My daughter at two went on the toilet one day and that was the end of diapers. I did not do a thing. My son took forever- he was 4? or in his fourth year before he got it. My granddaughter is turning 4 in a few weeks and she is STILL trying to get the poop thing down. She still has to be reminded to go pee as to avoid an accident. As my friend said, they won't go down the aisle..getting married in diapers.

    My favorite reads with the little ones are:
    Everyone Poops, The Princess and the Potty,and MY favorite: The Truth About Poop-a fascinating reference book all about guide — good enough for an adult potty read.

    From the queen of potty language!

  31. We never had a potty; just put a step in front of the loo. We offered no explanation or talk of using the toilet. They each figured it out at about three and that was the end of diapers.

  32. Just you wait til you have to take them both into the stall with you at Nordstrom and you hear the chilling words 'yay Momma you did a poop!'.

  33. You can always do what we do – we have an outhouse in our living room. Seriously. My daughter moved her potty into her cardboard playhouse.

    I always wonder how that listing might read on curbed.

  34. Hi Stephanie,

    Just an observation, both my girls and all of my friends kids were out of pull-ups by 3 years old. It seems to be the magic number. Once they're at nursery school and they see the other kids going, they'll want to do the same by design. Enjoy their babyishness; my last baby turns 4 years old tomorrow and as cliche as it sounds it just goes too darn fast.


  35. "Abigail refers to her vagina as 'poo poo.' "

    My 2-year-old thinks I have a penis. He points it out to me every time I get undressed. I am the only person in the house without one, of course, so it doesn't make sense to him. Whenever I explain, he then points up and says, "Mommy has boobies." So maybe it's making sense. Boys. :)

  36. I worked with a pediatrician who wrote a book about starting to potty train at 6 months. SIX MONTHS. I lost all respect for her.

    I did the same with my son…let it happen when he was ready. It happened so fast. One day he was wearing a diaper, bathtime came, no diaper, so potty was there, and that was that. I can't even take credit for it.

  37. My 20 month old twins have their diapers off all the time — they love to get into their soiled diapers and have them all over the house. Everybody keeps telling me it’s time to potty train, the problem my darling isn’t talking yet. How can I teach when my baby can’t tell me when its bathroom time? any suggestioms orhelp?

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