The Currency of Potty Training

Kate Fox,

Anyone who has potty trained a toddler knows you need a few things to be successful. First, you need a willing and ready toddler. Second, and almost equally as important, you need an equally willing and ready parent. Some idealist would stop right there and feel ready — but this combination alone leaves out a major player in American potty training. Do you see what’s missing? That’s right…. candy!

Now, most of the time I’d vilify candy just as much as the next person for being the empty calorie, cavity-promoting, dinner-spoiler that it is. But in the realm of potty training, candy is king. Think about it, we’re talking about convincing a toddler to excrete on a giant, flushing bowl of water rather than in a soft, absorbent diaper! Do you really know of a vegetable with the motivation power needed to accomplish this? I don’t.

Just because it works for you, doesn’t mean we endorse it for your children until they have that paper route when they’re 10.

The trick with using candy is to know exactly how to use it. You give too much candy and your toddler isn’t left wanting more. You don’t give enough and your toddler feels the reward is not worth the effort.  You have to find that perfect balance. Maybe it’s two Skittles for going #1, three Skittles for going #2. Maybe each bodily function deserves its own type of candy: M&Ms for pee, a Starburst for poop.  And then you’ve gotta figure out the reward for going on strange toilets. How much is going on the self-flushing toilet at the library worth? Or the spider infested one at the park? Wait… scratch that last one. How much to get the kid to pee behind the tree instead?

It’s a delicate balance, but somewhere in the midst of the successes and the failures, a “big kid” emerges looking pretty similar to that little munchkin you still like to call your baby. And you can’t help but think how much more painful of a process it would have been without the sugar!

Kate Fox is a contributing author at and, as you can tell from her post, the master of child-rearing-slight-of-hand. You can reach her at