Confession Time: I Quit Potty Training My Kids

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About Jerry Mahoney

Jerry Mahoney is a stay-home gay dad, writer, sporadic tweeter and a frequent Bowser in Mario Kart. This piece probably appeared originally on his blog, Mommy Man. Jerry is also the author of Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad, which will be available in May from Taylor Trade Publishing.


  1. Let me just say that this is in many ways exactly my experience, and giving up is exactly where I am feeling myself rapidly headed. I don’t have twins, but I have a 3 year old who turns 4 in a couple of weeks and still isn’t fully potty trained. I mean, he knows what to do, and does it happily much of the time… y’know, except for any time he doesn’t feel like it or is too busy playing or having fun to bother stopping to go to the potty.

    I’ve done the partying, I’ve switched to underwear at all times except at night, I’ve done the star charts. But I still can’t leave the house without two extra changes of clothes for him.

  2. Joanna Schroeder says:

    My son, who is now 7, was just like your son, Chris and your twins, Jerry. He just physically couldn’t get it. We had a billion messes, and I just kept trying and then going back into dipes. I think it took a huge emotional toll on both (or all) of us. Finally, we gave up after a trip to a pediatric urologist. Our pediatrician suggested we go because Izz was wetting every 30 minutes or so – a little or a lot. The urologist did ultrasounds, interviews, urinalysis, etc. Izz was fine, and the urologist said to come back when he was turning 6 (!!!) if he was still struggling.

    The week before he turned 4 (yes, 4) he said, “Mom, I’m going put on some underpants and we’re going to the mall. You’re going to buy me a toy and some dino undies. I won’t have any accidents.” And for the first time he didn’t. He has had possibly 3 or 4 accidents in the three years since then.

    My younger son potty trained himself starting around 20 months, fully trained at 24 months. Each kid is ready in a different time. If they turn 4 and aren’t close, you can go to the doctor. Until then, Jerry and Chris, I’m sure you’re doing amazing.

  3. Lynn Beisner says:

    Let me let you in on the potty training secret: there are no potty training secrets. My daughter was dry at 2 on the dot, and it worked great. My son took forever. What finally worked for him was when I finally insisted that he wipe his own butt after he had pooed in his pull-ups. That was an epic battle of me patiently insisting and him noisily protesting. After he finally cleaned up his poo, he was a big fan of the potty, which made a lot less work for him. But that was one kid, who was already 4. Your chill attitude is better in the long run. Trust me.

  4. Yes to every word of this. My feeling is that if they didn’t train by 2, you can just forget it because 3 is such a defiant age. My child got it a week after turning 4. We used a night diaper for a short while afterwards, but once she made the connection she was done. Her Helen Keller moment was a 3-day weekend when I just decided, let’s go no diaper and see what happens. I pumped her full of juice while we stayed out in the back yard, she knew she had to go and pleaded very articulately for a diaper. I said no diaper, BUT…would you like take those pants off and pee on the grass? Yes and yes. She was thrilled to actually see the stream, we repeated the juice, and then she wanted to go in the house. Later that day she said she had to poop but she insisted she could do it on the potty. Done and done. For night time we did have to really insist that she pee before bed even if she wasn’t bursting like she somehow thought she needed to be to go. Kids, man. They have a different worldview.

  5. I’m a little late to this discussion, but I relate to every word of the article. My twin daughters are almost 3 1/2 and we’ve been trying to potty train them for what feels like at least two months now, with many of the same methods and approaches the author mentioned. It has been nothing like those “they just got it!” kinds of stories that make you want to slap other parents.

    Introducing a reward system of Jelly Bellys (one for trying, two for pee-pee, and three for poop) has had some positive effect, but we still typically have several accidents a day and very few 3-bean rewards. Sometimes in the quest to get those three beans, they’re basically done pooping their pull-ups/panties and then go to the potty where they proceed to get it all over the floor and seat by pulling down what they’re wearing to let the poop fall out, then sitting down on their poop-covered butts to show they “pooped in the potty”.

    I think some people get lucky, because it strikes me as having more to do with the kid than expert parenting skills. I love being a father for many reasons, but potty training is not one of them.

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