The $3 Potty Training Secret Weapon

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Potty Training

Potty Training.

Oy. The very mention of the term sends my anxiety through the roof. If you get through the first two years of being a parent thinking, “okay, I’ve got this Mom Thing down,” it’s quite possible that trying to teach a tiny human to properly eliminate their body fluids can send you from Mary Poppins to Mrs. Hannigan in less than three days. Or at least that was the case for me.

My oldest child turned four this summer, and is set to start 4k this fall. His preschool absolutely requires he be potty trained. As of his birthday one month ago, he was still in diapers. Full time. Now, that’s not for lack of trying on my part. In fact, I’ve been trying to potty train him for a solid TWO YEARS. That’s half his life, folks. I’d tried everything. Cute undies. Sticker charts. Cheers and celebrations. Letting him tell me when he thought he would be ready (he told me he’d be ready last Christmas. Yeah, that didn’t happen). Candy bribes. By the time he turned four, this child was promised everything short of a pony if he would just use the toilet. NOTHING WORKED.

And yes, I’ve heard the wisdom, “they’ll do it when they’re ready,” and I do believe there’s a LOT of truth in that. But I also knew my son was ready. He had all the readiness signs and was able to do it. He just didn’t have the right motivation. 

Until we bought a little $3 bell on Amazon

*cue angel choir*
*cue angel choir*

The $3 Potty Training Secret Weapon

The idea is not original to me, by any means. I stumbled upon the idea (thank you, Laura!) while scrolling through Facebook one morning, and quite honestly, I snort-laughed and rolled my eyes at the concept. You buy a clerk bell. You let the kid ring it when they go potty, flush the toilet, and wash their hands. Yeah, totally not gonna work. But I was intrigued. I went on Amazon, found out the bell was priced at less than $3, and clicked “order.” Well, what could it hurt?

Two days later, I pulled a shiny clerk bell out of the box and accidentally “dinged” it. 

Potty Training My four and two year old came running. 

“Mommy! What IS that?!?!”

I ran with it.

“This is your new potty bell!” I explained, feigning all the excitement, “You only get to ring it when you go potty, flush, and wash your hands.”

“Can I ring it now?” the four-year-old asked.

“As soon as you go potty on the toilet!” Before I knew it, he and his sister were fighting over the bathroom.

Say whaaaaaat?!?! 

My genius husband took FULL advantage of the situation and went ahead and made a pictorial chart of the steps needed to be completed in order for one to ring said bell. He hung it in the bathroom and the rest is history. We don’t even have to remind my son to put the toilet seat down. 

I have no idea why it works. But it does. Two days with the potty bell and both the four and two-year-old were in underwear full time. 

And you better grab your “potty bell” now, because apparently, this craze is sweeping the internet. Fellow contributor Kate had similar success: 

“My son will be the youngest member of his class this year, turning 3 a mere 9 days before the first day of school. I was told in no uncertain terms that he needed to be completely potty trained before school starts, so the pressure was on, and I was feeling it. 

I started potty training back in June. At first, we were pretty nonchalant about it. We thought, “Hey, we’ve got three months, surely he will figure it out.”  He didn’t. Or rather, he wouldn’t.

Come July, I searched for advice and was willing to try anything. I tried sitting him on there and reading stories. Nothing. I tried the “let him run around naked” method. Nothing. He would just hold it until nap time and then pee all over his bed or in the diaper that I decided he needed for nap time. I let my mother-in-law try her secret method that she says had both of her kids trained in no time. She gave up. I tried the Cheerio in the toilet. I tried showing him the Daniel Tiger episode where Prince Wednesday learns to use the potty. 

I’d put him on the potty and it was an immediate power struggle. He’d yell, he’d whine, he’d cry, but he would not squeeze a drop. I offered EVERYTHING. All the things I don’t usually give him. Screen Time. Cookies. Candy. McDonald’s. New Toys. NOTHING WORKED.

I was desperate. 

I went online and explained my problem. I begged for a solution. ANY solution.  

Then, Heather suggested the bell.

Honestly, I didn’t think it would really work. 

I mean, the kid turned down chocolate and screen time. No way the chance to ring a stupid little bell was going to do it.

Never have I been happier to be wrong. 

I got the bell out of the box and showed it to him, explaining that it was our special potty bell and that we could only ring it after going potty. I then used the bathroom and rang the bell. I felt ridiculously stupid.

Twenty minutes later, he went in the potty.

Twenty minutes after that, he went again.

Two days later, we were wearing underwear with less than an accident a day.

IT. WORKED. 

My son is potty trained with two weeks to spare.”

So there ya have it. Maybe you’re at the beginning of your potty training journey. Maybe, like me, you’ve been potty training your child for half of his life and are up against a hard deadline and desperate (why do they DO that to parents, anyway? Topic for another day, I guess). In any case, for about $3, it’s worth a shot! 

Now, if they could figure out a $3 magic weapon to help him aim better….


UPDATE — Thanks to the feedback of our readers, we have learned that these bells are available at many local Dollar Stores for just $1! So, if you’re looking to find your secret weapon at an even cheaper price, check there. Can’t wait to hear your success stories!

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A Milwaukee native, Heather married her best friend 10 years ago, and has lived something of a nomadic lifestyle ever since. Schooling, family, disaster relief work, and a sense of adventure have moved them fourteen times (via 5 states) in 10 years. Regardless of her immediate location, Heather has continually heard Milwaukee calling her "home". Now raising a six year old, four year old, and two year old twins, and a newborn, she and her husband finally decided to plant roots, and are thrilled to be calling the Milwaukee area their (maybe) forever home. When she's not chasing around her growing brood or sweeping up cheerios, Heather can be found experimenting with recipes, failing at the Pinterest life, or finding new outlets for her singing and theatrical passions. Heather is currently working on her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and has a special interest in community development and adolescent issues.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Oh. My! THAT is amazing!!

    Where O where potty bell were you when we needed you?!

    Thanks for posting, Heather…and very humorously written!

  2. Heather –

    What do you do when you travel, run errands, or use a potty not at home? At least while you’re still in the learning and reinforcement stage.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Katie!!

      To be honest, we didn’t go out much for the first few days we were doing this. And when we did, I honestly just “talked up” the potties in public places by using intrigue to bribe them – “I wonder what the potty looks like HERE?!? Did you know some potties in stores flush ALL by themselves!?!” etc. My kids LOVE using public toilets (fortunately and unfortunately). I probably would have used a different reward (candy or ice cream or something more traditional) if they struggled with using the public toilet. And again, I can’t emphasize enough, my kids were READY. The bell is not magic, by any means, but it definitely assists in the motivation if that’s what you’re lacking!

      Godspeed, sister! Sending you ALLLLLL the potty training juju. The struggle is REAL.

  3. Save money! Set the timer on either the microwave, stand alone OR stove for 15 minutes. Once the child has success at 15 minutes, move it to 30 minutes. Again after success at 30 minutes move it to 45 minutes. Again after success at 45 minutes, move it to 1 hour.

    When I did this this with my son, (he was oldest of three 3 year olds in daycare), I chose a weekend to do this. At 30 minutes he went without issues, I moved the timer to 45 minutes. He told me to “don’t do that, he had this potty thing.” I reset it for 45 minutes, at about 40 minutes he was running to the toilet. I shut the timer off as he had proven to me he knew his body signs.

    • Hi Faye!

      Great tips! I actually did something similar in conjunction with the bell. 🙂 The bell was more of a reward system for my kiddos. I used the pull-ups potty training app on my phone to help remind them when to try in increasing intervals, just as you suggest. But prior to the bell, I had to fight them onto the potty every time. The bell was what motivated them to do it – no fighting! I guess my kids just like to make noise. Surprise surprise!! 🙂

      Thanks so much for your input!! 🙂

  4. Damnit! I didn’t read to the end because I was so excited! Just bought one at Staples, and just like you said, I explained to my daughter and she ran off, peed and then rang the bell! Fingers crossed! Thank you ?

    • Good luck, Jessica!! I’m glad it started working from the get-go!! Stick with it, and see Faye’s comment above for more potty training tips. 🙂

  5. Is it too much to ask for a pic of the pictorial chart for ideas. I have a 2.5 yr old, who in my opinion is almost ready and 1.5 year old who can start putting one and one together and this sounds perfect! Thank you!

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