The $3 Potty Training Program

Love it or hate it, every parent eventually has to potty train their kids.  We are currently on attempt #2 with Frugal Boy.  For the first attempt, we read a book written by a professional trainer (parents pay her money to deal with it).  The author encouraged parents to target the 20-30 month old window because the child is old enough to be capable, but young enough not to dig his/her heels in completely and be obstinate.  We thought that Frugal Boy might have been ready at 20 months so we gave it a go.  And the going kept going for two months before we finally admitted defeat.  You can’t say we didn’t try!

Now that we are finished globe trotting for the time being, we decided it was time to give it another go.  This time, we made some changes to our plan of attack.  Mainly, we were going to bribe the heck out of Frugal Boy.  The book author discourages bribing, but we tried her way and it didn’t work for us.  We went to Dollar Tree and picked up $3 worth of incentives.


The first $1 was spent on a two pack of a “Count to 100” poster.  This serves as our progress tracker slash game board.  The next $1 was spent on a booklet of stickers.  The last $1 was spent on prizes in the form of Paw Patrol temporary tattoos.

Each successful use of the potty earns 1 sticker to be placed on the chart/game board.  A #2 is worth 2 stickers (hehehe).  We arbitrarily draw red circles around some of the numbers and when Frugal Boy reaches one of those special numbers he gets a Paw Patrol tattoo.


He LOVES Paw Patrol and can name each one and its tagline.  The pink dog is named Sky (or Skye? I don’t know the spelling).  What matters is that he is motivated.


The tattoos wear off in a day or two, so he has to keep up with the program in order to keep his pals with him.


We are on day 4 and he is already up to 31 stickers (plus a handful at the babysitters).  More importantly, he is self initiating!  Woohoo.  The book talked about the four steps of progress.

  1. The kid is clueless and wets themselves
  2. The child recognizes that they are wet after the fact
  3. The child recognizes that they are wetting themselves right now
  4. The child recognizes that they have to go potty before they wet themselves.

Eight months ago he was mostly at 1 and 2.  Today he is at 3 and 4.  I have yet to meet a kid that takes off their diaper and goes straight to potty trained on their own volition.  It takes practice, nudging from parents, and time.

I like to think that our new program is to credit for his recent success.  We modeled it after video games.  There is a mechanic in games were beginner players are rewarded for doing simple, easy tasks.  These early, ‘low hanging’, payoffs encourage the player to keep going.  The payoffs get farther and farther apart and require more work.  A good write up of all the psychological traps used in a ‘simple’ game such as Candy Crush can be found here.

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