It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The Great Potty Adventure

Rory is 30 months old.
Grace is 30 months old.
Jazz is 28 months old.

You would think that somewhere in that group would be a child showing the slightest inclination to toilet training, wouldn’t you? For a good piece of the past week, Grace’s little butt has been anything from bright fiery red through … well, worse. You really don’t want me to describe what that poor mite has suffered.

“It hurts a little bit,” she says as I dab cautiously amongst the raw spots, trying to clean without causing undue agony. (A certain amount is clearly unavoidable, but we’ll avoid the undue stuff, shall we?) “It hurts a little bit,” she says, wincing.

“A little.” Grace is not one for understatement. A small set-back causes an enormous flood that can go on for quite a while. But when her backside is raw and I go tromping through it with a scrubby cloth… it hurts a “little bit”. The stoicism makes me try even harder to go gentle.

I am, of course, talking up the whole “When you’re not wearing diapers, this won’t happen any more!!!” I’m talking to all three of them when I say these things, because Rory and Jazz invariably gather round when I’m changing Grace these days. It would be nice to believe it’s empathy — they’ve both been there at one point or another, but their interest is more ghoulish than kind. Like gawkers at a particularly grisly car accident.

“When you use the potty, your poo can’t hurt your bum!”

So far, no takers.

These kids need a nudge. And a nudge is what they’re going to get. This week, I’m going All Out With The Potty. It’s my week of trial.

And I anticipate it will be a TRIAL.

Because, really, given their ages, I may as well just do it. All three. At the same time.

(I may be insane.)

However, given my preference for late and short, at least it won’t last long. What I do, see, is arm myself with Smarties. (Smarties, for my American readers, are not pastel discs of mildly tangy sugar. Those are Rockets. Smarties are loooovely chocolate-filled, candy coated slightly flattened beads. Yes, like M&M’s… only much, much better.)

Armed with a large bag of Smarties and not one, but two potties, I will enter the potty-training fray. (I don’t own three, and can’t see that it should really be necessary. Right? Right? That mental picture I have of two seated children watching the third poop on my livingroom floor… that’s just borrowing trouble, right?)

I will show them the potties.
I will show them the Smarties.
I will explain the system. Which is, for the first day or so: “Every time you sit on the potty, you get a Smartie!!!”

They like this system. 🙂

And so, every twenty minutes, they sit on the potty. And they get a Smartie. And then they get a drink. (An ounce or two is plenty; they will, after all, be drinking EVERY TWENTY MINUTES.) If they don’t want to drink that much water, they can have juice!!! And at Mary’s house? Juice just doesn’t happen. You’re thirsty, you drink water. You get milk with your lunch. You want orange or apple juice? You eat an orange or an apple. End of story. But for potty training, they get juice!

Smarties and juice? At Mary’s house?!!? It’s all VERY exciting.

The idea being that, after a day or two of EXTREME DRINKING and every-twenty-minute sitting, they will, inevitably, unavoidably, irresistibly, have PEED IN THE POTTY. A day or two later, when they are 1) sitting without resistance (not that I’m anticipating any with this group, but you never know) and 2) we have managed to catch a few pees, the system changes. “Now you will get one Smartie for a pee, and two for a poo!!!” (No, they’re no longer getting them for just sitting. I don’t point that out, trusting the child’s attention will be diverted by the possibility of TWO AT ONCE!!! It always is, mwah-ha.)

Because now that the connection has been made, I’m after intentional peeing. We almost always get to this point the first week. If, at the end of the first week, they still don’t have THE FAINTEST CLUE what this is all about, I just don’t persist. We drop it and try again in another month or six weeks.

I’m watching for awareness, control, intent. When I see that, I’ll let them go longer between sittings, up to 45 minutes or an hour, and when they can manage that, the system becomes less systematic and more organic. When they know what they need to do, and can stay clean and dry for an hour or more at a stretch, I let them take the reins. They can decide when they need to go. I tell them this, of course. “When you feel a pee or a poo coming, you go to the potty. I won’t be telling you any more.”

Most kids are fine with this, and those kids, we call them trained. If you start late, that can happen on day two, but more often it’s somewhere between two and three weeks. (This is for daytime clean and dry. Night-time can lag, sometimes by a few days, sometimes by a couple of months or more. Depends on the child. And that, happily, is NOT MY PROBLEM.) 🙂

I’ve potty-trained dozens of children. I know what I’m doing. I’ve seen it go like the wind, I’ve seen it start and stop before finally getting it, I’ve seen it drag on and on…

But I’ve never tried training THREE AT ONCE.

Ye gods.

As my grandmother would’ve said, “In for a penny, in for a pound!” (Meaning, in this instance, “if you’re going to go, go big!”)

I may be insane.
I will almost certainly be insane a week from now.
But a week. I’m giving it my all for a week, and then we’ll measure progress and see where we go from there.

Wish me luck.


October 3, 2011 - Posted by | potty tales | , ,


  1. Good luck! I’m impressed that you use Smarties for the potty treat. I have to use something that I don’t love because otherwise I eat all the potty treats. Therefore, no chocolate potty treats in our house!

    It’s a fight, for sure. I figure it builds character. (Either that or it’s building up my ass. Depends on the day.)

    Comment by suzanne | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  2. Good luck!
    Maybe they’ll catch on more quickly because they’ll see the others getting Smarties?

    Peer pressure can be a good thing! We’ll see if I can get it working in my favour.

    Comment by Kimi | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  3. Good luck!

    Thank you!

    Comment by athenamiles | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  4. Good Luck!

    Have you ever noticed a difference in cloth diapered kiddo’s to disposable when it comes to potty training?

    There’s supposed to be a difference, but no, I haven’t noticed anything too remarkable. Maybe a little.

    Comment by Melissa V | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  5. We use Smarties, too. Best. Currency. Ever.

    I’m sort-of training two at once right now (it is a little easier, for me – peer pressure is a wonderful thing!) The 35 month old is getting it slowly… he still needs to be reminded frequently to go pee, and poo in the potty requires constant vigilance and brooking no argument (dude, you smell. POTTY TIME.) The other one is only 23 months and I don’t think physically ready to be trained – but she’s very interested in the potty and when I put her on it, she almost always pees right away. So I’m encouraging her too because hey, fewer diaper changes benefits everyone.

    Good luck this week. I’ll take any suggestions you have about getting someone who is almost three to start telling a grown up when he needs to poo. It’s exhausting watching for his cues, frankly, and I feel like he’s training *me* instead of the other way around.

    If she pees every time, and promptly, she has some control. Can she hold it when necessary is the other question.

    When they’re three, I expect them to be autonomous with the potty, except for help with washing up and tricky fasteners. How long have you been at it with this one?

    Comment by hodgepodge | October 3, 2011 | Reply

    • Let’s see… I first started with him in mid-August and we were doing well; then he went on two weeks’ vacation with very short notice and his parents figured it was too much trouble to always be near a toilet so they put him back in diapers (AAAGGGHH) so when he came back he had to start all over again.

      He needs to be reminded to go every. single. time. He has never pooped in the potty on his own initiative. I’ve only seen him go to the potty without me cajoling him once (and that was just yesterday). You can sit him on the potty for 15 minutes or more without a drop… then he goes to play… and within five minutes he’s standing in a puddle.

      Yesterday he arrived wet because he peed in the car on the way here. Last night apparently he did the same thing on the way home.

      This morning his mom told me he pooped & peed in the potty before they left the house (she admitted that she caught him in the act and whisked him to the potty before the mess was made). He played quietly with Play-Doh for awhile… when he was done I reminded him about the potty… he tinkled a bit and then went to the playroom… where he promptly flooded the floor *and* pooped in his pants.

      I can’t help but think he’s doing it deliberately, because he has the control to sit on that damn potty for freakin’ AGES and not go – and he only ever has ‘accidents’ at my house when he’s in the playroom.

      He backslid so far when he took a break from training the last time that I’m loathe to give up even though I am SO SICK AND TIRED of scraping smushed turds out his underwear I could cry.

      Comment by hodgepodge | October 4, 2011 | Reply

  6. I don’t think you are crazy at all. The “waiting for readiness” is a very, very new thing and it has caused more struggles than is necessary!

    Actually, it’s not new, just being rediscovered. The pendulum has gone back and forth on this subject for as long as there have been babies to train. In my area of the world, thirty and forty years ago people were putting 10-month-olds on the potty. Twenty-five years ago, parents were being encouraged to wait for readiness. Then it was early, then later, and now it’s moving back to early again.

    The hardest ages to potty learn are between 2 and 3 because they are moving away from mimicing adults and want to venture on their own AND they’ve been diapered for 2 – 21/2 years and have forgotten the connection and sensations of going. Fyi, for some they may be unable to go sitting down because diapered babies tend to pee standing up so going diaper free and having accidents on the floor is going to be a big part of the process until they make the connection again.

    In 16 years of training toddlers, I’ve never noticed this. They have accidents, yes, but they’ve all been easily able to pee sitting down. In fact, one of the more common places for accidents is sitting at the table during a meal…

    Three at once may be easier than you think. Once one of them gets it the others will most likely want to mimic the first child. Children like to show off 🙂 Look at me! No, look at ME not that kid. No, No MEEEE.

    Yup. That’s the theory I’m working with here!

    My suggestion. Just go for it. Jump in with both feet. And if you are really brave and ready, just put away the diapers for good and don’t look back.

    That is the plan, yes. However, I won’t be taking the diapers away unilaterally. With rare exceptions, I’ve always let them determine when they’re ready to put the diapers away for good. Usually they’re so proud of their new accomplishment, it’s just a matter of days to weeks. I anticipate we’ll be putting the diapers away, for at least one of them, within a couple of weeks. (Hopefully for two of them, but the third I think will be a bit longer. We’ll see!)

    I have a post on my blog reviewing the 3 day pottying/weekend pottying for older toddlers.

    Comment by eliminationcommunication | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  7. Yay you! I did two at once last year and it was just fine. Since you have more experience than me by far (understatement of the year), I’m sure it’ll be fine. I dunno about the two potties/three kids though. I can’t wait to hear if it’s fine or a strategic error!

    I’ve done two at once before. Three is new… but I’m sure we’ll be fine! Thanks for the encouragement!

    Comment by Samantha | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  8. I’m going to watch this with interest. I appear to be in the midst of potty-training my second, and it’s already going so differently from my first that I feel as if I’m starting from scratch all over again. For starters, I didn’t initiate this at all, HE just decided that he was going to poo in the toilet like his big brother, and three weeks later, it occurred to me that he’d been clean, if not dry, for a while now, and possibly he might need his own underpants…? He’s not even really verbal yet, he just pulls off his trousers and scrambles up on the seat, strains, and then scrambles down to flush and do a victory dance. I’m a bit gobsmacked (grateful, mind you, after the tussles with my elder kid – but also quietly stunned.) I’d always heard from my peers that children just weren’t ready for potty-training before two, and that it was the PARENTS who were trained, not the child, but he was dry all day today with only one accident during lunch.

    Mind you, my grandmother grimly claims that she had all three children trained by two, and ‘my generation didn’t believe in messing about, not when you had to wash those nappies by HAND.’ Quite!

    That’s terrific! You must be thrilled. 🙂 I had one of those, some years back. Totally trained himself, and I do mean, totally. He was also 18 months old — and a boy, and generally boys train later! Not all of them, obviously…

    My former mother-in-law told stories of her youngest sister being strapped to a potty until she’d produced something, starting when she was 10 months old or so. I would guess the same strategy was used on all four children in the family. Sounds pretty barbaric to me, but they were all trained by two, and they all appear to be perfectly normal adults!

    Comment by Tam | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  9. What is this going to do for your fondness for long walks around town? Can’t wait to see how it goes.

    Yes, well. I chose this week because the forecast for at least the first few days is chilly drizzle, but if the sun comes through as it’s supposed to later in the week, I will be pining for the great outdoors, for sure! I’ll have to console myself with a cup of tea on the porch during naptime.

    Comment by jwg | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  10. 1. I had my mother bring me back Canadian Smarties this summer. (Aren’t they YUMMY???)
    2. When my nephew Mordie was training, he had a store of smarties/rockets on the back of the bathroom door for reinforcement. Once his aunt headed upstairs to use the facilities. Cue Mordie “Those smarties are for me when I pee, not for you!”

    Mwah-ha. Don’t be stealing my candies, auntie!!!!

    Comment by Hedy @ Penny for my Thoughts | October 4, 2011 | Reply

  11. […] Mary Poppins over at Daycare Daze lays out her Smartie method, which she has been using with great success for […]

    Pingback by Potty Training: NO MORE EXCUSES « If By Yes | November 11, 2012 | Reply

  12. […] Hodgepodge have both warned me against them, and I know for a fact that Not Mary Poppins over at Daycare Daze puts them in underwear to […]

    Pingback by Potty Training, End of Week 1 « If By Yes | November 19, 2012 | Reply

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