The REAL Question You Have All Been Waiting For…


I usually post a yearly preschool warning and and get many a version of this question. Largely, because parents are concerned about total toilet autonomy with the preschool demand of fully potty trained.

The short version of this answer is WHEN YOU ARE READY TO MAKE PEACE WITH THE CRAPPY JOB YOU CHILD WILL DO. For real.

But of course, since this is me, I have lots more to say about it.

First, yes…most preschools demand fully potty trained. But they also know that 3 year olds aren’t going to be completely autonomous around all things potty. I have NEVER met a 3 year old fully capable of doing a great job wiping her butt. It’s really just logistics. Their arms aren’t really long enough to handle the job well.

They also have NO idea of what they are looking for and what they should be doing. So you might want to explain a bit about the anus and what all happens.  The Playdough Trick is a great tool here. So is explaining as you go; “I’m wiping your butt” doesn’t cover it. Butt can mean butt cheeks or whole butt; they may not get that they signed up for a very specific on-site mission: GET THE REMAINING POOP OFF THE ANUS.  In my house, we use the terms “cling-ons” for…you know…the ones that cling on.

To start the wipe-your-own-butt-party-train, you can do a few things.

  1. Take turns. Much like brushing teeth at this age, have your child do the first run and you go in and make sure a proper job was done. You can also see how they are doing it and what might be going wrong.
  2. Be honest and keep your game face on. I literally had to tell Pascal that his anus was WAY more into his butt cheeks than he was supposing.  This is one of the funnest parts of parenting: anatomy, poop, and honesty. Be level and calm when explaining.
  3. If they do a shitty job (the opportunity for puns in this business is flat out ridiculous), remain calm and say, “Hey! You wiped your own butt! Good for you. But see, you left a little behind. You gotta try to get alll the poop.”
  4. Understand that skid marks are a total part of growing up. Undies are washable. Autonomy is not. Encouraging independence is more key than a few skid marks.
  5. DO NOT GET WEIRD. Even if you know you have weirdness around this topic. Don’t be super duper obsessed with absolute clean. You child will follow suit and I promise you…will get weirder.  I once had a kid who had to check his butt with a mirror to make sure it was clean.  Skidmarks are normal and preferable to therapy.
  6. GIRLS: pretty standard information is to wipe front to back. For obvious reasons. WIPING IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH UTIS. And there’s this nugget from Dr. Stanley Hellerstein.  I chose this little piece but it represents a standard I found in researching UTIs.

“Some forms of intervention to prevent recurrent UTIs in children, mainly young girls, appear to be based more on myth than on substance. Perineal hygiene is regularly emphasized. For aesthetic reasons, it seems appropriate to instruct girls to wipe from front to back, but no data indicate that this practice prevents vaginal and vulval colonization with Enterobacteriaceae”.

There you have it. Wiping the butt.

Most kids start regularly doing a decent job around 5 years old. But even then…it’s a good idea to let your child know that if he still needs help that’s cool.

Just this morning, I got a yell from the b-room. “Maaaa! I’m gonna need help with this one!”

It’s all good.