Bribes, Baking and Potty Training

Cordy is nearly four and half years old, and is still not potty trained. Yes, throw all your tsk-tsks at me, I’ve heard them a hundred times already. We’re not committed enough, we’re not doing it right, we’re letting her control the situation, we’re lazy – those are the primary reasons stated by complete strangers for why our daughter insists on remaining in diapers. As if it really impacts their lives if my kid is wearing a diaper.

But we have been trying, ever since she turned three years old. Many adjectives can be used to describe Cordy, but “compliant” is not one of them. Our long journey through potty training has included several types of potty chairs and seats, pull-ups, plastic pants, training underwear, reward stickers and candy, schedules, potty DVDs and books, potty songs, and many wet spots to clean up. By Christmas I was resigned to the fact that Cordy was likely to be in pull-ups for Pre-K next year.

Part of the problem at first was her fear of the bathroom. It was too noisy, it echoed too much. The toilet and faucet had running water, and she was always scared of getting wet. She didn’t like the feel of her bare bottom on cold plastic, and we’re not wealthy enough for heated toilet seats. Her sensory issues are not nearly as severe now, though – one hurdle down.

However, she also has a hard time knowing when she has to go. Of course, many kids often do this – how often have you seen a kid wet themselves because they were playing too intensely to notice? But she could be doing nothing and still pee without understanding what happened.

They have been working with her at school, and I’m incredibly grateful to her teacher for helping her get over her fear of the bathroom. At first she had to stand by the entrance, then she had to stand inside while other kids were using the bathroom. Then eventually they made her try sitting on the potty. We’d do the same thing at home, and it slowly started to sink in little by little, but she wasn’t consistent enough to try underwear, and she would scream and cry at the mere suggestion of underwear.

Over the past two months, she’s made a lot of progress. And then, a few weeks ago, everything clicked. She suddenly wanted to wear underwear instead of insisting on a pullup, and she made every effort to keep her underwear dry for an entire day.

What’s our secret? We finally found a reward that means enough to her to guarantee her effort in this task:


Turns out, Cordy was switched at birth. Or at least she forgot to pick up the part of my DNA having to do with my lack of domestic skill. While I avoid the kitchen at the request of the Columbus Division of Fire, she wants nothing more than to pour, mix, and stir. She even likes cracking eggs! Given the choice of any reward, she would choose baking over anything else.

All photos are of food half-eaten. Sorry, she’s a pretty good baker.

So our new deal with Cordy is that if she can keep her underwear dry until dinnertime each day, she’s allowed to bake something for dessert. We’ve Daddy and Cordy have made cookies, brownies, muffins and cupcakes in celebration of dry underwear days. Cordy says she’s the “Little Chef” and Aaron is the “Big Chef.”

Mira, when she’s allowed to participate, is the “Littlest Chef of All” but most of the time Mira is serving in the role of “Biggest Pain in the Ass Who Tries to Wreck Everything.” That one is my kid for sure.

I can’t explain why it is suddenly working, but Cordy has more dry days than wet days in just two short weeks. She still needs an overnight diaper for bedtime, she still has to be prompted to go to the bathroom, and any chance of #2 in the potty is still far off, but I’m no longer as concerned that Mira would be out of diapers before Cordy.

Baking – who knew? It’s a good thing Aaron suggested baking cookies, because I never would have thought of it. And then Cordy might have remained in diapers until her first home ec class. Of course, I’d probably be skinnier, too – if she keeps baking, I’ll keep gaining weight.

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  1. I love that she wants to bake, not just get the treat.

    #2 and overnight will come in due time. Who cares??!

  2. My DS just turned 4 this month and he’s #1 trained but not #2. We’ve gone down the list just like you (add in a cold shower when he did #2 in his underwear because we refused to put a diaper on him when he demanded it was “that time”) and I’m at my wits end. Oh and DD, at 28 months, is totally, 100% potty-trained. She beat her brother to the punch- and he could care less!

    Funny enough, my son’s 4th birthday party was a baking party- the kids baked mini-pizzas for lunch and then cupcakes for desserts. My son loves to cook & bake.

    this suggestion will go to the top of my list of things to try! So glad it’s working for you!!

  3. You stuck to your guns, listened to your gut, and ignored morons until Cordy was ready. Good for you — that’s the very best kind of parenting :)

  4. Fun motivation!! Those people telling you that you were doing it wrong need to stuff it. She will do it when she wants to and not a moment sooner. It is actually easier to wait longer because then the kids are more developed and actually able to succeed at potty training.

  5. Congratulations on finding something that really motivates her!

    And ignore those strangers. What do they know?

  6. Amelia Sprout says:

    That has to be the most creative bribe I’ve ever seen.

    To help with the weight gain, you could have her share her treats? Maybe with her teachers/grandparents?

    Oh, and speaking of that, we need to start up Hot by BlogHer.

  7. What a great accomplishment. Maybe Cordy can supply the deserts for LNI this month.

  8. courtneyryan369 says:

    WOW YAY!

    I see it all the time with my swimming kiddos. Some things just click at different times with different kids and the Aspergers throws a moneky wrench into the whole thing.

    They really look yummy. Maybe you could send some my way?

  9. That’s fabulous.

    I was going to suggest giving her a reward.. but alas, you found it!

    The reward thing worked very well with my guy, and it also worked very well with our friend’s little boy, and both our kids seemed perfectly happy to not be potty trained before that.



  10. Yea Cordy!!!

  11. First … to those that give the comments … EFF them! Sorry for my bad mouth but they don’t know you and really don’t listen to a word they say. We have a friend that has a boy who just turned 4 and he JUST was ready to start trying! Each child is different and people need to learn it is NONE of their business …

    with that rant over – CONGRATS to you and Cordy! What a great achievement! WONDEFUL! More dry days are wonderful!

    Good luck and I am sure it will continue to go well!

  12. Chicky Chicky Baby says:

    That’s fantastic! You do what you need to do to get her over these hurdles, right? AND you get to eat brownies. It’s a win/win.

  13. It’s funny how you just have to find the one thing that’s important to a kid, the one thing that works. My friend tried TONS of things, and finally realized a sticker chart with prizes after a certain number of stickers was the thing he needed. Kids are funny!

  14. Wow – congratulations! These are big steps forward. Q-ster is (finally) potty trained for the daytime, but we’re still using diapers for him at night. One step at a time.

  15. Wonderful!! What a special little, or young lady she is!

  16. Misguided Mommy says:

    last night i had to bribe my son to stop crying and come inside by saying he could help me cook.

    I am enjoying this though because it teaches them so many small lessons. For instance, when we make brownies or cookies, it teaches him patience. How to wait. My 3 year old doesn’t understand waiting but now he is learning. Okay while the brownies cook lets take a bath and then they will be done. Or while the cookies bake we can clean your room.

    Also, I let him measure water and tell him to fill it to the 2, teaching him numbers in a different way. It has also helps him learn to taste new foods. We make tacos and he tastes the cheese, the lettuce, the tortilla.

    He hated meatloaf until I let him cook it once, he got to put his fingers in and mush it and pour it all in, that night he ate every damn bite of meat loaf and now he loves it.

    I think aaron had a great idea. Cooking together is such a wonderful bonding experience!

  17. Yay, Cordy! That’s great! She definitely has the knack for baking. She can send me some fudge brownies any day. :)

    Although, I did give up chocolate for lent. Sort of.

  18. No judgement here; I absolutely maintain that each child has a definite point when they are ready, and until then, you will be nothing but frustrated (guilty, shamed, exhausted… fill in the blanks).
    The trick is, not to miss that point, but it sounds like you haven’t.

    Not much I won’t do for a chocolate brownie either.

  19. I think it is so great she is starting to make progress. It can be hard to find the right thing to motivate them and to figure out when is the right time to start. My son who will be five in April has some issues as well and just in the last couple of weeks he has been using the bathroom on his own with only a few accidents. I never worried about what other people thought. I figured I know my kid well enough to know what he should be doing and when.

  20. yay Cordy! Congrats on the great progress.

  21. Congratulations on finding what works! Also, brownies are a total bonus!

  22. Yea for Cordy! Yea for you! I’m glad you found something that works. My daughter was almost 4 before she was potty trained and I thought it would never happen.

    Good luck with everything. No tsk-tsking here.

  23. Meredith@MerchantShips says:

    Kids are quirky, eh? My son would NOT make a bowel movement in the potty after trying every trick in the book.

    One day we watched an old episode of Popular Mechanics For Kids that discussed the sewer system and how it works.

    He went into the bathroom that night, made a poop and never looked back.

  24. So glad you are finding success. I’m sure that makes her feel really good about herself.

    As the parent of very late potty-trained kids — especially my child most similar to Cordy — I offer you a whole lot of empathy and zero condemnation.

  25. Fabulous idea and whatever works, works! Good on you for finding something reinforcing for the potty usage :) Not to mention some nice mommy/child time and baked goodies to boot!

  26. mothergoosemouse says:

    I had to laugh about cracking eggs. CJ does that too, and I swear she’s better at it than I am.

    Cheers to Cordy. We all need to find our motivation in life, and if hers is brownies, so be it!

  27. Awesome! You’ve managed to find a potty reward that rewards YOU! Well done!

    Jack was potty trained late(ish) too. One day it just clicked for him. It’ll happen for Cordy.

    And until then, enjoy your baked goods!

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