Potty training is an expected undertaking when you're the mom of a toddler. But you might not have given much thought to how to teach your child another toilet task — how to wipe her own bum. "Wiping butts is hard to do," laments POPSUGAR Moms reader Melissa S. To avoid winding up like the apocryphal mom who still wipes her 21-year-old's bum, try these five suggestions for real moms for perfecting poop cleanup.
1. Explain Why We Wipe
Besides understanding that you — and your toddler's teachers — won't always be there to wipe his bum, there are other reasons your child needs to know how to take care of his own business. Stinky bums are not fun, warns Phyllis H. The cost of not getting clean is "an itchy bum."
Cheryl Q. even made her son Ashton wash his own dirty drawers so he understands that not getting clean leads to a bad smell.
But more importantly, your child should know that if he makes a mess while wiping and doesn't wash his hands well afterward, he could get sick.
2. Demonstrate Correct Technique
To get your toddler on the right track to helping himself, explain what needs to be done, including measuring the right amount of toilet paper, wiping from front to back to avoid infections, flushing, and washing hands.
Rose M. uses herself as a model to show her daughter what to do. "Every time I would go to the bathroom, she would follow me. She [has] watched me wipe so many times that she thinks she has to even if she has a diaper on."
Roberta says you can teach your toddler on a teddy bear, too, "so he'll get the right motion and areas . . . and he'll be able to see it."
3. Talk About How to Use Toilet Paper
Wiping well, or course, requires using the right amount of toilet paper.
"Just tell him to count off however many squares of TP (toilet paper) you think is enough and wipe. Tell him to do this over and over until there is no more poopy on the TP. Then, follow up with a wipe to make sure he got it all," says Tisha P. "Just make sure that he is really getting between his little butt cheeks because if he doesn't, there won't be any poopy on the TP and he'll think he did a good job when he really didn't even get it."
A good way to measure the right amount of toilet paper is to use a length measuring from your toddler's fingers to their elbows, Phyllis H says. She then shows her sons how to fold the paper to the size they need, to wipe, check the paper, and if it's not clean, to wipe again. "If it's done three times and still isn't clean, flush the toilet so it does not plug, then start again."
"I personally wouldn't have them wipe more than once with the same piece of toilet paper," Jenn M. adds. "One of the kids I babysit was doing this and he was just smearing the poop all over his bum!"
4. A Word About Wipes
Until your toddler gets the hang of toilet paper, many moms recommend flushable wet wipes. "I noticed that my son was uncomfortable with using tissue so I started putting baby wipes in the bathroom and showed him how to wipe himself. It a lot easier because they are moist so it helps them to completely wipe themselves," says Latisha H.
Ana Luisa C. even uses flushable wipes to give her daughter extra encouragement. "I take her to the supermarket and make her choose some wet wipes she likes, usually showing her the character ones. After that I tell her she needs to make sure she cleans herself every time, 'cause otherwise (any name of the character you bought) is going to see she didn't clean herself and will get sad!"
5. Offer Incentives and Praise
If you believe, like Ana Luisa does, that good behavior needs encouragement, then by all means offer a reward for good wiping behavior.
Paulette M. puts stickers on a chart each time her son wipes, and when he gets ten stickers she gives him a prize. "If he can see his progress, he is more likely to wipe and flush," she says.
Lar R. used "bulletin board accents" with her kids rather than charts, which she describes as "the stuff teachers use in grade school classrooms." She and her husband let their kids pick out their own flower, bug, airplane and funny face accents. Then, "When our child did what he/she was supposed to (wipe his own bum), they chose the sticker to stick on the accent. . . . If they only did it partially or at least tried to, they would get half of a sticker. If they didn't even try or refused to do it they got no sticker." She reports that after just a few days "my kids were doing great on their own."
Ultimately, "you want to nudge [your children] to start using their reasoning skills and to learn to do things on their own," says Marlena B. This mom leaves wipes by the toilet so her son can easily reach them. She makes sure there's always a stool near the sink so he can reach the towel, soap and sanitizer. And she reminds her son that he's such a big boy and that she's proud of him.
Providing these words of encouragement might sound like a small thing, but they really can get your child to the point where he can take care of himself faster. As Marlena shares, "it's a big headache relief not to have your child scream a million times that he's done and needs you to wipe his butt."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.