How To Wipe…(and 4 More Tips For Potty Training a Daughter)

By | Bedtime, Daddy, Daughter, Development, education, Growing Up, Health, Parenting, Potty Training, Relationships, Rewards, Tips, Toddlers, Toilet Training | No Comments

potty-trainingIf you are pulling your weight as a Dad, you already know that your little princess can push out some pretty serious poo.

It’s called potty training and it isn’t for the faint of heart. Plus, when you’re teaching a young child with different “plumbing” than your own, you may feel a bit lost at times.

That’s why we spoke to Dr. Heather Wittenberg. She knows her (stuff).

Dr. Wittenberg specializes in the development of babies, toddlers, young children… and their parents. She offers no-hype, practical advice that is rooted in science and road-tested in her own home. She speaks on behalf of the Pull-Ups® brand. The doctor dropped some knowledge so you can point your little one in the right direction the next time she wants to drop a deuce.

1. Normal is what normal is…

“A lot of parents get caught up in thinking that potty training is something to accomplish or to check off of a list,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “They start putting expectations on their kids and think at certain ages they should be at X, Y, or Z.”

“Toddlerhood is when individual differences really make their first major appearance and you start to see a ton of divergences in the ‘normal’ range. There is a huge range of ‘normal’ for potty training. But you typically start seeing interest around 18 months and if your toddler isn’t well on her way to being comfortably toilet trained by four, you’d want to call in expert help.”

Whether your girl is eager to learn or afraid to go near the toilet, just don’t push to the point of resistance. It’s a process and a chance to celebrate each tiny step. Don’t wait until they have mastered it to celebrate with them.

2. Avoid this like the plague…


Some kids have a resistance to bowel movements. “There’s a cycle of withholding in some toddlers and that includes withholding their poops,” she said.

“They’ll do this for a lot of odd and uniquely toddler-ish reasons. They may imagine that poop is a part of their own body and if they get it out they are giving up part of themselves. Others might have had a bout of constipation and it hurt so bad that just the thought of going again scares them. They don’t have the logic to think ‘This may hurt but I have to get it out’ and trying to use that rationale will not work with a toddler.”

If you see any signs of constipation, you need to go full bore on any type of dietary stuff is ok with your child and pediatrician (prunes, fiber, water). “The typical American diet is terrible for this,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “Toddlers are getting to the point where they’ll only eat chicken nuggets and buttered pasta. They aren’t eating nutritionally.”

Keeping an eye on this is important. You don’t want to enter the world of suppositories and enemas. “Toddlers understandably are terrified of those things and feel are invasive. So you need to do everything you can to avoid getting to that point.”

3. What to call her genitalia…

It’s about being natural.

“What’s important to your daughter isn’t the specific language that you choose,” Dr. Wittenberg explained. “What’s important is that you feel comfortable using it. Being natural and comfortable with whatever names and conversation you have developed over the course of your relationship will allow her to feel your comfort.”

“You’ve been changing diapers all this time,” Dr. Wittenberg explained. “You’re involved with her physical body and emotional health. The transition from changing diapers to using the potty is just a natural evolution of what you’re already doing. Her language is evolving. She can obviously understand more and put words to body parts. What it comes down to is your family’s culture, personalities, and what kind of Dad you already are. Some are technical and clinical in their body part naming – others are silly with the names.”

Dr. Wittenberg stressed, “Just because Dads are a different gender than their daughter they do not need to somehow feel inadequate or incapable of having a perfectly comfortable, relaxed conversation about all manners of the potty.”

4. Clean up

(This is a tricky one for many dads who don’t have working knowledge of the parts. So pay attention…)

“I see many Moms make the same mistakes when it comes to wiping,” Wittenberg said. “Young girls are more vulnerable to a urinary tract infection because they are taking the toilet paper, reaching under to wipe their vulva and are going too far back. She’s reaching her bum and she’s pulling forward some bacteria.”

“Just have your daughter blot, in place, a couple of times right where the pee comes out when she’s done,” Wittenberg said. “She doesn’t have to get any more aggressive than that. No vigorous wiping is needed. A couple of blots with a few squares of toilet paper is plenty for pee.”

If you’re worried about seeing “white buildup” in her privates, don’t be.

“Some parents worry about vaginal discharge (white buildup) that is normally present and healthy,” she said. “That is the vagina’s ‘self cleaning’ mode and it is something to just ignore. It isn’t something that has to be cleaned out. In fact there’s a bit of a protective function there. Dads don’t have to help her get in there and try to make it visually clean. Regular bath time helps do that.”

On the back end of things, it’s just like the boys. She should wipe back and up from the rear after poops. Your role? Spot checker to make sure it’s all clear. They didn’t tell you you’d be doing that when you became a father did they?

5. Last call!

So she’s doing great during the day but is still wet at night? You might have read some advice to cut off all liquids for a certain period of time before bed. Obviously it stands to reason that you don’t want to drink a full-sized juice a couple of hours before bed but

“It’s actually a physical maturity issue,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “There is a hormone that is secreted in the brain that shuts off urine production. That hormone sometimes doesn’t develop in a child until 2 or 4 or even 7. It doesn’t matter what you do. Without that hormone, their body is not going to turn down urine production at night and you are going to have a wet bed or diaper. Once your child is ready to stay dry at night, the amount of liquid you give them before bed won’t be the main factor. And putting pressure on a child to stay dry at night doesn’t help.”

There you have it. For my daughter and me, there is an evening ritual of her grabbing her Pull-Ups® out of the drawer and holding it behind her back so I can guess which Disney character is on them. My best streak? 4 in a row. No cheating. It’s all part of the process.

Whatever it takes for you to become more comfortable as your girl’s caregiver, do it. Just make sure to enjoy the ride…even if it stinks from time to time.

Dr. Wittenberg is a Pull-Ups® Potty Training Partner She believes there is no “one size fits all” answer to most challenging parenting questions, and she is committed to help find individualized, workable solutions that help make parenting easier – and more fun! She can be found via her website ( or Twitter (@BabyShrink). She is the author of the “Let’s Get This Potty Started” book.


The Almighty Sticker

By | Bedtime, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Memories, Parenting, Rewards, Tips, Toddlers, Toilet Training | No Comments

HeartStickersRepeat after me… “All hail The Sticker: Wondrous tool of motivation, calmer of sobs, and source of hours of entertainment.”

I don’t know how people were able to parent before the invention of the sticker (maybe they painted rocks?) but I’m fairly sure they would have clamored for them if available.

I was reading a great blog from Ask Your Dad called “How to Put Our Kids to Bed – Part 175”  when I came across yet another testament to the power of the adhesive ally all adults should adore.

Here’s an abbreviated excerpt:

Before we introduced the sticker, there was a point that you could tell how the exit was going to go. It was either going to smoothly transition to hugs-and-kisses, or was going to result in yelling, and crying (by all involved), and everyone is mad and sad and please for the love of God, everyone go to sleep.

Then the sticker idea came to us. One night on a whim, right before bedtime, I ran downstairs and grabbed a piece of black card stock. I drew a crude grid, stole a sheet of stickers from Duchess’s sticker box, and proceeded to present her with the best reward system she’s seen in her three years on this planet. We told her if she went to bed nice and (more importantly), didn’t wake up her brother, she got a sticker. Enough stickers and she gets a new book for bedtime. Duchess’s mind = blown.

We all became bedtime ninjas. She started crawling to her bed like a cat (and insisting we did to). 

We lost track of how many stickers she was getting. The amount of stickers that earned a prize became arbitrary. To her, it was just about the stickers. We go back in her room sometimes and find her on the floor in front of her nightlight, ear to ear grin, staring at all the stickers she’s earned. Sure, she should be in bed. But she’s not waking up her brother. And that’s fine by me. As far as John and I are concerned, we’ve won this battle, armed only with a piece of paper and a pack of heart stickers.”

You should read the full account. It’s hilarious.

If you’re looking for someone to thank, it would be R. Stanton Avery who created the first self adhesive label in 1935. Or Sir Rowland Hill in 1839 with his stamps. Or the “sticker monster who poops them out”. All of these were answers I received when researching the question of who invented the sticker.

Regardless, I’m reminded of a very similar chart above my daughter’s toilet while we were potty training that had special ‘pee’ and ‘poo’ stickers that when accumulated would result in a prize.

Stickers are everywhere – at the doctor, the dentist, the bank, her school, the grocery store… it goes on and on. One of the games on her iPad even rewards her with digital stickers.

Stickers are a reward, a fashion accessory, and an educational tool. They hold a magical power I can only begin to understand. Tip: Put a packet of stickers next to the travel Kleenex and fruit snacks that already have a permanent place in your pocket and you’ll find there’s nothing you can’t handle.


Grace Makes A Splash!

By | Activities, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Independence, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Play Time, Quality Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Summer Time, Swimming, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments

child-kicking-pool-1406951 (1)The metaphors are numerous: “Jumping in with both feet,” “Diving right in,” “Taking the plunge” are just a few off the top of my head.  Normally I’d be using them to talk about first-time fatherhood but this time you can take them all literally.

Grace is a swimmer.

I can’t tell you how happy I was when she finally decided it was time to let go and rely on her own little arms and legs (and floatation vest) to move around the pool “like a big girl.”  For me, it was like watching her first steps when learning to walk.

I can’t tell you how nerve racking it was to see her swallow some water and cough while learning to keep her legs under her and her head above water.

I can’t tell you how proud I was to hear her tell everyone she met for the rest of the day (starting with the Starbucks drive thru barista) that she swam all by herself.

And I can’t tell you how bittersweet it was to add yet another example to the list of things she’ll no longer need me for.  The emotional equivalent of a “death by a thousand paper cuts” is a never ending companion to parenting.

But I take great comfort in the fact that over the next few years, we are going to spend some killer times in the pool together.  Going to the pool every summer was a huge part of my childhood.  I even spent some time on the local swim team.  I cannot wait until I get the chance to launch her as high as she can fly, for her to splash down, and then swim back to me to ask me to “Do it again, Daddy!”

Now if I can just convince her that goggles are cool…



Just One More

By | Activities, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Parenting, Personality, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Time Out, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments


Isn’t it completely bizarre? This dual-world I live in, that is. While I love my daughter more than anything and want her and I to be best friends,  I still have to be the hardass who lays down the law so she doesn’t grow up to be an awful human being. The simultaneous emotions contained within “tough love” can spur quite the conversation inside your head.

To be the best father I can be is going to be the ultimate test of patience – but I really like tough challenges.

I have this routine of communication – not impatient yelling or spanking – but focused communication that I use to explain why Grace is in a Time Out or why we don’t eat food off of the floor, or any other life lesson that it’s my job to do.

That routine is growing rapidly.

How many times have you told your kids to not touch something only to watch them reach out and touch it just one more time? Perfectly normal test of boundaries, right?

Do the words “What did I just say?” ring a bell? They’ve come out of my mouth (immediately followed by the thought that I sound just like my parents).

I’m far from any type of expert. I only have one daughter and I’ve met an incredible girlfriend who completely “gets it” when it comes to parenting so I’ve got an incredible support system. So maybe this is a luxury others can’t afford, but while I can…here’s what I do.

I stop the world.

I’ll pull the car over. I’ll put my grocery bags down. I’ll turn off the TV. In public, in private, the world stops.

Then, I’ll have a talk that explains to my daughter that when I ask her to stop doing something, it means to actually stop and not get “one more in”.

I’m hoping that the act of stopping everything I’m doing, focusing all of my attention on her, and talking with her will make a difference. I have no idea if this works, but it’s what my gut tells me to do.

The most important thing I’ll do on this planet is raise my daughter.

So, when the desire to ignore that little test of what she wants to get away with or the thought that I just don’t have the time to stop what I’m doing and have a talk with her occurs, I remind myself of that fact.

And if she’s anything like her old man when he was a kid, I’m in for a lot of life stoppage.


Bionic Hearing

By | Activities, Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Play Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Summer Time, Technology, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments


So Grace has super bionic hearing.

Ok, maybe not… but over Memorial Day weekend she was sitting in a craft room at the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury MI (which has pony rides, ice cream, and indoor waterpark – The holy trinity of toddler heaven) and blurted out “That’s Rapunzel’s song!”

Sure enough. Faintly playing in the background, behind the squeaks of the girl twisting balloons into animals and the sound of the other kids in the room, a song from the “Tangled” soundtrack was playing. Of course, I immediately swelled up with pride at my daughter’s powers of hearing and memory.

That was immediately followed by my own recollection. This same sweet child getting a yellow and blue butterfly painted on her hand who has the uncanny ability to suss out a Disney song in a busy room is the same child who cannot seem to hear her Daddy when it comes to the simplest of requests…especially around bedtime.

Laser-like hearing…selective hearing.

Just another boundary toddlers are compelled to test. Not the first and most certainly not the last.

But I’m currently studying every melody on that soundtrack. If she doesn’t want to go to bed, maybe I can convince her by asking her by changing the lyrics to the tune of “I’ve Got A Dream”. 😉


Thankfully, I Live in the Future (But There Are Still No Flying Cars)

By | Activities, Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Quality Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Technology, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments


This one is for the single Dads splitting time with their daughters (or the “Road Dad” whose job has him away from home all the time).

Rejoice! We live…in the future! (Insert dramatic echo with swelling music score here).

If you are like me, you’re probably never going to fully get used to not seeing your daughter every day. It took me a solid year to even start to wrap my head around it. While I simply hate being apart, I don’t let a day go by without talking with Grace when she’s with her mother. I want to know what she’s eating, where she’s playing, what she did… y’know…the usual “How was your day?” chat.

But with a 3-year old, some days a phone conversation can be a challenge. Thankfully, Grace has a gargantuan vocabulary. (I use gargantuan because she uses that word, too. Pretty cool, huh?) But Grace being distracted, or if my ex doesn’t want to be particularly helpful with the conversation, can make it difficult to communicate.

Enter Technology.

I don’t know how Dads 10 years ago did it (I’d like to think they wished they could), but whenever I get the chance I Skype, Google Hangout, or FaceTime with Grace. Thank you Steve Jobs.

The conversation doesn’t have to be so pressed and seeing her (and her seeing me), makes the time apart bearable. Google Hangout even has add-ons that let each of us wear silly hats or animal noses with sound effects and the like. There’s even one that lets you read bedtime books together. It’s good video fun.

I’m reminded of the pre-Internet, pre-cell phone (gasp!) days I grew up in  – and thank God that I wasn’t a single Dad back then.

The abundance of affordable technology at our fingertips has removed yet another hurdle (or excuse) for Dads to connect with their kids. If you haven’t tried them yet, they’re just as awesome as any Google television commercial you may have seen. Facetime to Facetime is the next best thing to…actual face to actual face.

Who knows where it will head in only a couple of years from now? By the time Grace is in Kindergarten we might be able to see holograms of each other? At least by then, she’ll be able to reach out and say hello by herself if she wants to. That kid is scary good with an iPad.

The only thing missing would be my flying car. (We were all promised the Jetson XL SUVs by now, weren’t we?) That would at least cut down on the massive mileage I’m piling up (900 miles a month) to drop her off and pick her up. Somebody tell Richard Branson to stop selling tickets to outer space and spend a few billion on that research. Every extra minute I can get with my girl would be worth any jet fuel I’d have to purchase.

Until then, each day is another day into a future where at least being in the presence of those you love can be as easy as a push of a button.