Toilet-training children gets easier with a little help from a sibling

Jun 19 2013 - 6:18pm


I'm sure that at some point during the last 10 years, I potty-trained my three older children. I know this because aside from the occasional puddle or really horrifying smudge on the bathroom tiles, all three of them are relatively good at using the toilet.

But ask me to tell you how or when I potty-trained them, and I will probably lay down on the floor and put myself into a coma. Yes, it was that painful.

I've heard hundreds of women claim that their 2-year-old was "potty-trained in three days." Really? You're telling me that you didn't spend the three months post-training pulling spare undies from your purse because you threw their dirty predecessors in some public trash can? You never retrieved your toddler from the playground with wet socks? Never watched a 3-year-old pee his pants while he was watching Dora because he was too lazy to use the toilet? Really??

I decided shortly after the birth of our fourth child that I would never, ever potty-train another child. I don't mind diapers. Diapers are convenient and disposable even on a 4-year-old. I can remember one of my sisters-in-law putting off training her fourth child. We would watch him bring her a diaper and wipes, lay it down on the ground for her, carefully climb on top, and then ask her politely if she would change his pants.

Forgive me for ever falsely judging her; she was obviously a far more brilliant parent than I will ever hope to be. If that's not training I don't know what is. I made up my mind that until Georgia (2) was ready to say, "Mother dearest, I am feeling the urge to vacate my bladder. Might there be a water closet at our disposal?" I wasn't going to do a darn thing about potty-training her.

I started noticing the first few signs of interest about two months ago. You know, practicing her flushing skills with squares of toilet paper and small toys. I did my best to keep the bathrooms closed and told her detailed stories of the toilet monster that lives in the hole.

And then she started taking her diaper off and forcing me to change it the moment it was wet.

Enter June, my 5-year-old.

"Mommy!" she said a few weeks ago, running into the kitchen, "You won't believe this, look!" I looked and there she stood holding the small, removable toilet bowl from the dusty old potty chair.

"Where did you get that?" I asked.

"I got it out of the basement so I could help Georgia learn to use the potty today!"

I stared at her. Was it really possible? Could it actually ... No. No, it was too good to be true. It's like a rainbow. Don't chase it because you won't find anything but a puddle of pee at the end of it. "Hmph. Interesting," I said and promptly walked away.

Five times. Five times that morning June carried Georgia's piddly offering down four flights of stairs to show me and then sloshed it back up to the sixth floor toilet for prompt disposal. I'd see her coming and look the other direction, giving neither daughter the slightest bit of attention on any spectrum for any of it.

At the end of the dry day I was sure it was a hoax. I put Georgia to bed in a diaper and kissed both girls, making no mention of their successful day. The next morning Georgia's diaper was dry and her sister had her on the toilet and back in undies before I had time to wipe my ... eyes.

I managed to invent a good reason to keep June home from school for three days in a row, and what do you think I had on my hands? A fully-functioning, toilet-using 2-year-old. It's been over a month since that miraculous training and I have to admit, I've had the same pair of dry undies in my purse for four weeks now.

Miracles, you know.

Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Contact her at, or vist her blog at

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