The Four-Step Program

This sign is hanging in my bathroom.

Sometimes things happen at just the right (or wrong) moment for me, and I take action without giving it a second thought.  A couple weeks ago, I walked into the bathroom to find a ridiculously common occurrence at my house.  (Spoiler Alert: this is about poop.)

I see a large amount of poop in the toilet.  No toilet paper.  I do further investigating.  Not a single drop of water in the sink.  My skills as a detective are masterful.  Thus, I have come to the following conclusion based on the evidence: My 7 year-old just took a huge dump, didn’t wipe, didn’t flush, and didn’t wash his hands.

I can’t even count the number of times I have found this, then made my son some back to the bathroom, tell me what he “forgot” (that’s his word, not mine) to do, and remind him that this is unacceptable and gross and he’s full of germs and if he wants friends, he needs to have better hygiene.

This time, it caught me at just the right moment.  This time, I didn’t say a word.  I went straight over to my son’s supply of paper and markers.  I wrote the above sign, taped it above the toilet paper roll, and asked him to come read it out loud to me.

He read it, smiling the whole time (yep…SMILING).

His only question: “What does ‘if it’s a #2’ mean?”

It’s in this moment that I feel like I have failed as a parent.  “It means if you went poop, WIPE YOUR BOTTOM.”

Shortly after I hung this up, my parents came over.  The first thing Keegan says when they walk in the door: “Grandma! Come look at our new sign in the bathroom!”

Me: “It’s not a cool new piece of art, Keegan.  You should NOT be proud of that sign.”

He proudly showed it to his Grandma.

Has it gotten better?  A little bit.  He still has a long way to go, but he has made a tremendous amount of progress.  We are hopeful for the future.

I’m actually thinking of implementing the four-step program in other areas for Keegan.  Some examples:

  1. Go upstairs and get ready for your shower.
  2. Take off your clothes.
  3. Put them in the laundry basket WITHOUT putting your underwear on your head.
  4. Go straight to the bathroom without jumping, skipping, or dancing naked and follow steps 1-4 above the toilet paper roll.


  1. Squeeze the toothpaste onto the toothbrush.
  2. Put the lid back on the toothpaste without getting it on the wall, the toilet, your sock, your butt, or anywhere else except the actual bristles of the toothbrush.
  3. Brush your teeth for longer than 5 seconds.


And to go along with my new Four-Step Program, I am going to keep saying the following prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to realize my child will still not wipe his butt every time he poops because he might be in a hurry to get back to playing, and there will ALWAYS be toothpaste stuck to something in my house.  Amen.


5 thoughts on “The Four-Step Program

  1. Anne, I so enjoy reading your humorous posts regarding motherhood. When your child reaches middle school age, hygiene will become even more of an issue. Yes, deodorant everyday is a necessity, not merely an option when you think about wearing it. No, you may not wear the same shorts, jeans, shirt, underwear, socks to school all week, even if that article of clothing is your favorite.

    I do not want to know how or why your friend’s underwear is flying from the flagpole in our yard, and no, it is not acceptable to use a Mountain Dew bottle as a urinal in your room so that you do not have to get out of bed to use the bathroom on weekends.

  2. So, as a parent in the “potty training” stage, I’m wondering if there is a way to ingrain these very important steps earlier in the process, or am I doomed to years of checking my son’s butt? There was poop in my bathtub tonight. Awesome.

  3. Anne – I thought that I was alone. I love your posts and would like to officially adopt the 4-step program for Jake because I am tired of replacing disgusting underwear (and the surprises awaiting me daily when I lift the toilet lid). Your work is genius. Thank you.

  4. several times over the last few weeks i’ve noticed i’ve been getting toothpaste ALL over my sink! i must need to work on my fine motor skills 🙂 every time i find toothpaste in excess in my sink….or on my shirt…..i think of you and keegan and smile 🙂

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