how to potty train: wait until they’re way past ready

Stop the presses- my daughter is potty-trained, and I forgot to even tell you, it happened so quickly. Once I totally gave up on it, that is. 


It was three months ago that I reported on my total lack of progress on that front, seventeen weeks or so in, despite charts and DVDs and M&Ms and promises of a new Barbie, and anything else I could think of. Maggie is one stubborn kid. I got all kinds of advice from you all: don’t make such a big deal, make a big deal, buy pretty underwear, use this online method that is guaranteed to work… and after trying all of those methods for about five minutes each, I decided to wait. Walk away. If there’s anything I’ve learned after three kids, it’s this: try to get them to do something before they’re ready (read: at an acceptable age, developmentally), and you’ll battle for months. Wait until they’re way past ready to do something (read: at least a year older than is socially acceptable), and it will take five minutes.


So wait I did. I told myself that the right trigger would appear, and when it did, it would make potty training effortless. Maggie was closing in on three years old- it wasn’t a matter of her being able to do it, it was just a matter of her giving a poop. If you see what I’m saying.

Back when Dr. Phil was a show you could admit to watching, which might have been all the way back when he was on Oprah,  I remember the good doctor talking about “currency,” and how it was a tool for successful parenting. Here’s how he explained it:

You have to determine your child’s currency. Currency is anything that when presented during or immediately after a target behavior will increase the likelihood of that behavior occurring again. 

Every child’s currency is different, Dr. Phil said, and you just have to figure out what your kid’s currency is. Charts worked for Seamus. M&Ms worked for Connor. Maggie was proving far more difficult– not even promises of a Little Mermaid Barbie could sway her. I decided to table all toilet talk until I could figure out what mattered.


It was a week or so later that I sang this song, absentmindedly, while moving the unused Pull Ups to the back of the linen closet. 


I’m a big kid!
Look what I can do!
I can wear big kid pants too!
And I can pull them off and on!
Mommy, wow!
I’m a big kid now!


If you were born before 1995, you know this song from the old Pull Ups commercials- and thanks to me, it will now be in your head for the rest of the day. But Maggie had never heard it. “What dat song Mommy?” Maggie asked, ears pricked up. “You sing dat again.”


I did, then told her that I could probably find the video on YouTube, and quickly did: 

It was only after Maggie had watched it a few times through that I realized: HERE WAS MY CURRENCY. When she asked to watch it a fifth time, I told her she had to make peeps or poops on the potty first, and my God, you have never seen such a cooperative bladder.


This video was all it took to potty train Maggie. Within three days, she was out of diapers entirely, with nary an accident to her name, and all it took was playing this video for her a hundred times.


If you’re potty training, try the YouTube. Maybe it’ll be your kid’s currency, too.


Barring that, you can tell your daughter she can’t go to ballet class with a diaper on because the ballerinas won’t let you wear one under your tutu. That also worked pretty well. 


What’s your kid’s currency?