Sometimes, in parenting, an M&M doesn't get the job done. Sometimes you need to go king-sized to get results.


Sometimes, in parenting, an M&M doesn't get the job done. Sometimes you need to go king-sized to get results.

By Julia Arnold 

After several weeks of half-hearted potty training attempts, we figured out that my son preferred peeing standing up and facing the toilet, and he was miraculously potty trained. For peeing, that is. Poop was another story.

He simply couldn’t deal with sitting on the potty and dropping a log. At first, we got out the leftover bag of Halloween candy, full of bite-sized Snickers, Milky Ways, and 3 Musketeers to motivate him. We even left the candy on the bathroom counter as a loud-and-clear incentive.

When that didn’t work, the sugar-filled pile made its way to the kitchen counter to serve as a constant reminder: Poop, little boy! Poop in a toilet and ALL THIS could be yours! While the pile of bite-sized chocolate certainly motivated him to pee every five minutes, it wasn’t pulling muster for a poop.

After soliciting advice from several sources, it was my mom, always ripe with solutions, who sent a treasure box featuring my son’s name prominently across the top; she had lovingly decorated it with glitter and a rainbow of plastic glue-on jewels.

More importantly, the sparkly turquoise box was filled with my son’s favorite things—Hot Wheels, more candy (don’t tell the dentist), and Cars-themed paraphernalia. I could hardly bear his wide-eyed, hopeless look when I told him the treasure chest goodies were for poo-poos only

So I did what any other soft-hearted, well-intentioned mom would do: I caved. He ran off to the bathroom to successfully pee in the toilet [again] and quickly dug through the treasure box for one of the cars he admired. I still remember its name: RD-02. My little guy was very proud of earning this car, even though he had been peeing on the potty for weeks. 

Yet he still insisted on wearing a Pull-Up to poop. My husband and I started to feel desperate. Images of my son in kindergarten (still two years away) sporting a bulky Pull-up under his pants, haunted me at night when I couldn’t fall asleep. 

Then again, truth be told, I wasn’t devoting all my time to this endeavor, even though I’m sure hundreds of potty-training books preach undivided attention to your child’s bowel movements during this crucial period. But how many hours a day can you spend in the bathroom?

One day I escaped the house for a couple of hours, leaving my husband in charge. When I arrived home later, I went into our bathroom to find an impressive assortment of king-sized candy bars lining the bathroom counter. Laugh or cry, laugh or cry?! I wondered, in an amused-and-horrified stupor, staring at the mass of junk food wrappers. Clearly my husband had decided it was time to up the ante.

My husband is always the one who ups the ante. While I had tried to reward my son with one or two M&M’s for a successful nap or pee, my husband would cheerfully offer him a whole fun-sized bag of sugar without thinking twice. He would also happily split a bag of Gummy Bears with him if it meant my son would sit peacefully on his lap for 10 minutes. Come to think of it, maybe he’s onto something…

I am someone, however, who has never bought a king-sized anything in my life. Though I enjoy a peanut butter cup as much as the next person, it rarely occurs to me to grab one of the strategically placed candy bars at the check-out line of the grocery store.

So what did I do with the giant candy line-up on our bathroom counter, featuring all the big money makers—Snickers, Milky Way, a gigantic bag of Skittles? Did I throw them in the trash, announcing To Hell with processed sugar in our house!?

Not exactly.

The monstrous candy bars remained on the bathroom counter until one fateful day when my kid pooped in his tiny blue and white potty. He clearly had his eye on one of those bars as he sat there and followed my last-ditch instructions of “just pretend the potty is a diaper!” because as soon as the poop escaped his body, he grabbed the giant Almond Joy (Really? The Almond Joy?) and ran. 

One thing I’ve learned for sure through all of this is that when it comes to raising our children, sometimes you luck out, and sometimes it takes a king-sized effort to accomplish what appears to be the simplest of feats.


About the Author

Julia is a freelance writer and reading specialist living in Minnesota. She has two two young children who she writes about too much on her blog,