Potty Training

Whatever Dude Potty Training

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, then you already know I am the author and developer of the internationally acclaimed “Whatever Dude” potty training program.  It’s only a matter of time before Oprah and Dr. Phil put in a call to feature me on their shows as the “parenting gone awry” example.

The WD program consists mainly of pretending that you do not care one whit if your child is potty trained or not — even in the face of criticism by the world wide web and well-meaning friends and especially in the face of a little boy with big blue eyes who delights in making that vein in your forehead bulge.

The not caring one whit? This is the hardest part of the program, especially when someone has gone to great pains to point out all the other children at the playground who are not  wearing diapers because then I have to point out that those same children are eating their boogers which proves that age of potty training does not correlate to intelligence. So there.

The major component of the WD program is being secure in the knowledge that you know your child best and are doing what is best for your child no matter what the world wide web, your best friend, your mother, Dr. Phil or a doctor by any other name says.  In the WD program, you take in information from all of these sources, give it ten seconds of polite consideration and then say “Thank you very much, but whatever dude, this is my kid and I’m doing what’s best for my child.” 

I decided early on that I was not going to make a big deal out of potty training, that I would wait for his cue.  But as the years wore on and there was no cue, and all the other kids his age seemed to have mastered this skill, I began to get a little nervous.  I began to consider the possibility that there might not be a cue coming and… and then I didn’t allow myself to think too far beyond that because I had no idea what I would do. 

Many of you have been with me on this WD not-potty-training journey from the beginning and have emailed me to ask how it happened so quickly. Really and truly, it happened in one day.  One day in August we got a letter from the preschool saying that 3-year-olds had to be potty trained in order to attend school in the fall.  That was the cue I needed.

Soon thereafter, we put big boy underwear on him. And that was that.  Sure we had to wrestle him down to the ground and put them on him the first time and there were a few tears and a few wet accidents, but that was pretty much it.  After that first day, no more diapers, no more tears.  There was no doll, no special potty chair, no stickers, no M&Ms, no charts and this time no bribes (I had exhausted all my bribes in the previous 18 months) — nothing other than a little gentle force and a lot of praise.

Why did it work?  Perhaps the stars aligned just right that particular day or perhaps it was the confluence of the letter, my eagerness and his own readiness.  Or perhaps God, fully aware of my ineptitude, took pity on me and made it easy.  I don’t know. Probably that last one.

If you are in the throes of potty training, my only advice to you is to do what is best for your child. And then expect to be criticized for it.

For me and for Sean, it was best to wait a little longer, change a few more diapers and avoid a few more battles.

48 thoughts on “Whatever Dude Potty Training

  1. I think you’re exactly right. I’ve had 4 trips down the “whatever” lane. Each child has their own inner time table and will do these developmental milestones at their own pace. Yes, my one boy was the latest one to potty train. The girls were all much easier. I have to say that the boy has had less than a handful of bed wetting incidents in his 8 years. I firmly believe it is because he potty trained in his own time – with a little firm encouragement, of course, as we got closer to that preschool letter that everyone gets!

  2. You mean after all that work you still have people giving your grief over it?? All together now – WHATEVER! Glad little dude got r done!

    You know it’s usually the parents that want to point out every little detail of why they think you’re doing something wrong in the parenting skills department that produce the slightly crazed over-achievers that end up being serial killers. Just saying – that should sort of make you feel warm and fuzzy.

  3. Ack. My daughter is about to turn three, and I’ve tried a few “practice panty” days with her, but apparently it really doesn’t bother her to be sitting around in wet pants. Hopefully it will click with her soon!

  4. My son took awhile also. You are so right about knowing your child and what works best for them. It actually took my son going to preschool to finally get him all the way potty trained. He didn’t like that all the other kids used the big potty but him.:)
    I always say a kid will potty train when they want. It’s not like they’re going to be 20 years old wearing a diaper someday.

  5. Yep. I took the same approach with both of my boys and it worked just fine. Mine were both well past three, but the process was relatively painless and stress free for everybody. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when a kid is old enough to understand why pooping in the potty is a good thing.

  6. Worked for me!!!! Four times. The longest wait was within a month of turning 4 and when he was potty trained he also went through the night!

    My in-laws used to laugh because I said that I’d never seen anyone in college in diapers. It will happen when the time is right.

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I had tried the battle of the wills, simply because of that preschool entrance requirement, but it didn’t work. Finally, on a seven-hour car trip in mid-summer, my son trained himself. We made it a game to see if he could stay dry until the next rest stop. It worked. What’s funny is that even though he’s trained (we’re working on nighttime training), I ended up homeschooling him. Go figure.

  8. I took the WD approach with my oldest, he potty trained at 3 and a half. We discovered he would not have an accident if he was wearing no clothes, so he was a streaker kid for about 3 months until winter came and it was time to cover him up. The streaking time went off without a hitch except the time he greeted the mailman in full glory. I was mortified. At the time this was happening I was still nursing twins who had just turned one and I really was barely holding it all together. The Lord looked down on me in my discombobbled state when my twins were 2 and said let’s give that woman a little help and with no prompting on my part my just turned two year old twins potty trained themselves. No more boxes of diapers, for the first time in 5 years I had not one, not two, but three potty trained children. I still praise God for that act of mercy.

  9. “If you are in the throes of potty training, my only advice to you is to do what is best for your child. And then expect to be criticized for it.”

    Very wise advice from the sage Antique Mommy.

  10. My oldest is 2 years, 8 months, and has zero interest in all things potty. I am trying to be very WD about it – but I gotta admit, it’s hard! Especially when one by one, more of her little friends are showing up to playgroup sans diapers. Thanks for this inspiration. I needed it today!

  11. I am a lifetime member of the WD — not potty training — but potty issues — club. Even though my almost 16 year old son was potty trained way more than a dozen years ago, there are always toilet issues with boys. Heed my warning!!

    $190 to rebuild clogged toilet this very morning. I’m just sayin’.

  12. We used that method with the pacifier.

    One day our son announced that he would give up his pacifier on “Sunday.” For several days he asked what day it was as soon as he got up in the morning.

    On Sunday, he got up, went into the bathroom, and threw the pacifier in the wastebasket. Well, almost. He laid it on the counter near the wastebasket. It sat there most of the day. At some time in the afternoon, he unceremoniously went back and put it in the waste basket. He must’ve needed to do it all by himself.

    Deed done. No tears.

    (unless you count my mother’s and mother in law’s tears of joy. . .)

  13. Potty training – ack.
    My other two were potty trained right before their third birthdays. The Baby – at 2 1/2 – is doing pretty well, but her best friend (who is the same age) is UTTERLY trained and has been so for months. I am BITTER!

  14. I wish you had posted this last week! I tried pt’ing for 1 day and got too frustrated and said “Whatever Dude.” And now, I’ll just wait until she is ready!

  15. Really and truly Jessica? Save yourself the grief, let the PT’ing go and enjoy your little one. They are not little for long and what’s a few more diapers in the grand scheme of things?

  16. I did the same WD with two of my three kids. It was easy, especially with the youngest (because I had the other experience to reinforce the WD way). The middle child? The daughter? Let’s just say when pediatricians say, “Don’t worry, she won’t go to college in diapers,” notice they don’t say kindergarten. She was fine with the “number one” part of it, but refused, refused, refused to poop anywhere but a diaper. Until she was 5!

  17. I can see future branches of WD: riding a bike, chore chart and allowance system…The possibilities are endless. A franchise, with t-shirts and baseball caps sporting the WD. This could be big. I think you should copyright the name at once.

  18. I hope some young moms have the gift of having you in their life; you’d really bless them with your gentle wisdom and life experience! (Not to mention the Fabulous WD Program.) It is amazing how a pull up and other people’s mouths can wreak havoc on a mommy’s confidence in her mothering.

  19. My son and I had an agreement when he went to preschool at age 3, had to be potty trained, didn’t want to be. It was only a 2 1/2 hour day at school. He would wear his big boy undies. If he had to go while he was there, he went on the potty. Otherwise, he would wait until he got home and use the diapers. Most would argue that if you can reason with him on that level that he is ready to just use the potty. For whatever reason, he wasn’t ready to give them up yet. But you know what, eventually he was. You don’t see many teenagers with them. They are going to give them up. Calm down! Like you said, what is a few more diapers in the whole scheme of things.

  20. Julie, in my not-expert opinion, I think a lot of it has to do with emotional readiness. Sean was physically and intellectually ready much earlier in the year, he had demonstrated a number of time he could use the potty, he simply didn’t want to. He seemed to enjoy being a baby and wasn’t ready to let that go, so I didn’t force it.

    Additionally, I didn’t write this in the post, but Sean turns 4 soon. If he had been an “early three” – meaning he had just turned three this school year, I probably would have just kept him out of school this year.

  21. I used the WD approach with my boys, too. I did, however, give them the cue. I told them that such and such date was coming up and that would be the day they were officially old enough to wear underwear. They each had a month to prepare for the day that was coming. Then, on that day, I presented them with their new apparel and told them how to use the potty…then walked away with the WD attitude. We never fought about it and we all lived happily ever after. (My second child had a bit of trouble, but I never got angry or upset about his mistakes, we just had an extra set of clothes on hand. No drama, no trauma.)

  22. AM, this is just the first of many, many “whatever, dude” moments! Wait till he wants to grow his hair long when he’s 15, or wear clothes you hate at 13. But otherwise is the same loving, sweet person he was at 3…whatever dude, it’s my kid and I am not going to fight that battle when the really serious ones (drugs, sex, alcohol) require my attention!

  23. You preach it sister! I’m glad that (possibly) God took pity on you and just made it happen… Or any of that other stuff. You be you and just enjoy the ride of mommyhood.

    Me? I’m going to strive for the WD of pre-teenhood. That and a bottle of really good wine or 20…

  24. The Whatever Dude program (or perhaps Whatever Dude beta) was developed and authored some time ago, as we first participated in it some 8 or 9 years ago. It is a good program!

  25. I should’ve adopted this program with my son. I started training both my children at the same time because hey, they’re twins and that was a huge mistake. My daughter was ready; my son not. But I was too stupid to figure that out. This is yet another example of why I need a third child so I can rectify my parenting mistakes (and possibly make new different ones.)

  26. My kids are now 29 and 24. However – back in the day – I was also a member of the Whatever Dude program – but that saying didn’t exist that long ago! LOL My son was always big for his age and I finally said – well you’ve got to wear underwear because diapers don’t fit anymore – and viola – that was it. It was like he just said to himself – 0.k. – that makes sense — and he was 3 1/2. I didn’t push him – just stated the facts. My daughter was really a girly girl and love ruffles and “pretty” so I told her she could get her big girl daybed with all the frills once she didn’t need diapers and that worked like a charm – she was 2 1/2. I never went through a training period with either one of them and they turned out just fine:) I like your style. There is a lot to be said for being an “antique”.

  27. You took a lot of crap after that first potty training post. I’m glad to see that you didn’t change anything you were doing. Good for you. In the end, all the best advice is not necessarily what is best for your child.

  28. As my pediatrician told us many years ago: Potty training is really all about helping the kid develop 1)awareness of bodily needs in a timely fashion and 2)muscle control (either to hold it until one finds a bathroom…or to…you know…let it go)

    As we know, muscle control is different from person to person. I can’t criticize the person who can’t run a mile when I can because we’re different…mostly. A little kid who is just learning how to make it all work is in the same situation, with the exception that it’s not okay to poop your pants when you’re sitting in algebra class at age 13 and we’re all just trying to get our kids to that point…hopefully BEFORE they start school.

    I’m so with you on the WD school of thought. The first time my kid pooped on the pot (and the big potty was the real selling point) it was like a light went off over his head. He had that “aha” moment and things were pretty much different from that point on.

    You go, girl!

  29. I’m a member! I PT’d my daughter by presenting her with the option, and telling her that mommy didn’t care if she wanted diapers or underwear, but only big girls wear underwear. She wanted to be a big girl so badly, and because there was no pressure from me (and more likely because there wasn’t anything for her to defy) she was keen on the idea. Worked like a charm!

  30. I, too, had the September deadline, and the “whatever dude” philosophy, which resulted in something that I referred to as “Potty Training Boot Camp,” which had more to do with teaching me and my husband not to react than anything to do with our boy. Who got the peeing concept about a week before preschool started, and I swear to you, got the pooping concept THE DAY before school started. With 2 little poop accidents in the first week, he’s regulated himself to poop at night, which works just fine, and is dry all night now.

    I found a diaper in the closet of his room in a drawer of his old changing table (which now contains jammies and socks and big boy underpants in the drawers that used to have the booger sucker and swaddling blankets and diapers) and realized that I will never have to lift him by his feet to navigate his little butt onto a diaper again. In retrospect it happened SO FAST that I can’t believe it’s over.

    But nothing on earth is cuter than that little underpants-clad butt walking around the house. It slays me.

  31. My mom was pushing my daughter, but I didn’t push.. and one day.. she asked me if she could start dance class.. I told her she could when she was potty trained, and that was it!! We’ve had 2 accidents but other than that it’s been fine! They just have to wait until that little switch is thrown. 🙂

  32. I am applying the Whatever Dude method to both dinner time and the paci!

    I promise to update when I see any major progress in either. But for now, I’m much less stressed!

  33. I hear ya. With my son, our big issue is eating. I would argue that he has the worst case of reflux ever. He has some special needs, and I have the WD policy with other people’s advice. He’ll eat foods with texture eventually. I say, until you’ve given birth to a clone of my child, don’t presume to know that you have all the answers! Do I sound bitter? LOL

  34. Well I am with you on that type of potty training. I on the other hand did not ignore my friends, when my child was 20 months old they said you should start now it is easier when then are young. So I have now been potty training my 3 year old for two years and it has been torture for her and me. On my blog I have called it “The Never Ending Story.: We could have just enjoyed the two years. Changing diapers is easier than messy underwear. So with my son I am playing it your way. I am ignoring it all until he is ready and wants to. If you force it kids will take that as control and potty training can become more a control issue than an easy job. I learned my lesson with my daughter kids cannot be forced to go on the potty. It is their body their decision. She is almost four and is still not totally potty trained.

  35. When I had a 4th child at the age of 40, my other three were teens, the dr recommended she skip the 2 AM bottle and I said, Nah, she won’t take one to college. And she didn’t.

  36. AM, been lurking for months after a referral from Everyday Mommy. Thought I should finally say hello. You and Toddled Dredge are the only extra blogs I’ll allow myself to read after the “met you face to face” friends. I know my addictive tendancies. My blog is only a “pictures for the relatives” sort, but I flatter myself to think that someday I could and will write with the wit and insight you possess.

    Love the WD program. It’s hard to hold on to with the glimmer of no diapers so close you can taste it. My oldest is 3 and some months and we didn’t even mention the obvious addition of the little potty in the bathroom. He has been on and off doing his business in the toilet for several weeks now. My husband just reminded my this week of my intention to remain WD after I spend time with a woman who starts training at 17 months. Fine for her, but certainly not WD. If only we could abide in our God-given mothering all the time.

    010101010 (isn’t that hugs and kisses over the computer?)

  37. Well, good for you. I’m doing the WD program with the power-of-suggestion attachment for my 2 year old and the pacifier that she still uses for sleeping. For a very long time now, we’ve been talking very matter of factly about how, when she turns 3, she’ll probably want to stop using a paci: like big s, she’ll say, “no more paci!” She’s totally enthusiastic about it, and talks a great game. (I did a similar thing with my 3rd child and only other paci user. A few days after his birthday I reminded him gently. He balked, but then quietly gave it up on his own about 3 days later.) T minus 5 days until the big 0-3 for my daughter and she is totally back-pedaling! We’ll see…

  38. I’m with ya all the way and glad to see so many others jumping on the bandwagon. In my job I have to convince many parents of this approach to many challenges of raising children.

    Why is it that so many parents/teachers/so-called experts/ think that potty training or reading or writing your name at an early age is so important? No one ever insists on teaching a child (with normal development) to walk. We wait until they are ready and then they walk!!!

  39. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! You just saved my family a TON of grief. I had gotten in my head that my 2 yr old son had to be potty trained, and it had to be right now. It has been miserable, he has been miserable, everyone has been miserable. I searched the web for advice on how damaging it may be to stop the process now and restart it later when he is actually ready, and am so thankful I found your blog.

    And what was I thinking, trying to start potty training a 2 yr old a couple days before thanksgiving, and right at the start of the holiday season? Mommy lesson learned, and defintley filed away for future children! 🙂

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