How can I make my child stop peeing on the floor?

Is this the solution to your pee problem? No. But it made you smile. | Photo by  Fikri Rasyid  on  Unsplash

Is this the solution to your pee problem? No. But it made you smile. | Photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash

Although I’m an inexperienced home seller, I do know that people are more inclined to buy a house if the toilets, floors, and walls are not covered in urine. So, as we prepare to move snackdinner HQ one town over, I’ve been making twice-daily sweeps through the bathrooms in the home we share with one preschooler.

Nothing seems to solve this problem. Not a stool. Not toilet Cheerios. Not thoughtful discussions about respecting his body. Not tense discussions about how not selling the house will impact where he goes to school and therefore his entire future. Not making him clean up any messes.

Fortunately, I’m not the first parent baffled at the sheer number of hours spent in urine negotiation. A quick look at parenting message boards offers many possible solutions:

  1. Keep the toilet lid down.

  2. Fine your child each time he leaves pee on the seat.

  3. Make your child clean the bathroom each time he leaves pee on the seat.

  4. Supervise all bathroom visits.

  5. Assign a daily bathroom cleaning schedule so that you’re at least not the only one cleaning the pee.

  6. Post helpful signage.

  7. Tape the toilet seat shut until your child promises to use it correctly.

  8. Engage in camp-style pranks (saran-wrap on the seat, honey on the seat, chili-spiked honey on the seat) to embarrass your child into appropriate behavior.

  9. Toss a ping pong ball into the bowl and encourage target practice.

  10. Gamify your toilet.

  11. Encourage your child to pee outside.

If you’re reading on because you think I’ve got a solution more ingenious than a hot-honey-smeared toilet seat, you’re going to be disappointed. I did consider buying this smiley toilet paper dispenser, naming it Ben and imbuing it with a family, a backstory, and a personality, and then telling my son Ben cries every time he gets peed on, but thought better of it because seeing a face peering back at him might create more bathroom woes than it solves.

Even if any of these tricks worked in the short term, I’d doubt they were completely successful in the long term. The toilet gamers of #10, for example, boast a 44% improvement rate, and that’s after a lot of time invested in cartoon-drawing and greeting-card-hacking. Most parent bloggers don’t update readers about how their genius solutions are working one month out, not because they’re being intentionally deceptive, but because they’re busy dealing with new problems.

When we search for a solution to get kids to stop peeing on the toilet seat, we’re assuming that the child needs modifying. We think he needs to be taught to listen to bodily cues, or develop the responsibility necessary to clean up after himself.

What if it’s the toilet that needs modifying?

Behind all of this wet-seated anger is the assumption that it’s easy to use the toilet, and therefore those that make a mess are doing it out of malice or at least carelessness. But splash back is a problem sufficiently complicated that you can actually earn a PhD to study it.

You don’t need graduate school to get a little experience with fluid dynamics—and maybe even some empathy. Fill both a mixing bowl and an iced tea pitcher with water. Put the mixing bowl on the floor. From a one foot height and a 45 degree angle, pour the water from the pitcher into the bowl and see what happens.

Then again, you don’t even need this experiment to know how distance from the toilet bowl creates myriad splash opportunities. You just need to go to a women’s public restroom, where seat hoverers perform no better than five-year-old boys.

Splash back is nearly inevitable when emptying liquid into another liquid from a relatively long distance. That’s why everybody should just sit down.

If you’ve got sit-resistant family members, you could always try bribes. If the floors and seats stay urine-free for a full month, everybody gets crazy-colored toilet paper. At two months, get your own Ben. Once you make it to six months, get a Toto and then no one will ever want to stop sitting.