My 7-year-old son seems to have forgotten how to aim and flush

Q: My 7-year-old son seems to have forgotten how to aim and flush when using the toilet! It is so frustrating, and now his younger brother is following in his footsteps. I am sick and tired of cleaning pee. I need some advice!

A: Oh boy. And – oh, boys! It’s a problem parents of little girls usually don’t have to deal with outside of the occasional “Pee Like a Boy” experiment. It’s amazing how many intricate nooks and crannies there are on a basic toilet, isn’t it? You don’t notice them until you have to clean them, and then it takes many precious minutes to clean the whole thing and a mere nanosecond of mis-fire to mess it up a moment later.

Rest assured, you are just one member of a large group of Moms (or Dads) of Boys who lament ever teaching their son to pee standing up. But what’s done is done, and now you’re stuck with it. However, you’re not stuck with being Pee Cleaner (at least not 100% of the time). Have a sit-down with your boys where you calmly explain that pee is making the bathroom dirty and smell bad, and it needs to be cleaner for guests and everyone who lives there. They’ll probably agree that they prefer a clean toilet too! Announce there will be a new rule: every week the boys are in charge of cleaning the bathrooms. They will clean the mirror, counter, sinks, toilet surfaces (not the bowl) and floor around the toilet (and walls, if you have especially poor aimers) with rinsed out baby wipes (no chemicals and no streaks!). Be with them and talk them through it for a few weeks and then let them do it on their own and call you to inspect the results. They re-do it until it passes inspection.

Soon after they start this new chore they’ll probably notice that pee, toothpaste, and soap gets harder to remove the longer it sits, so they might soon start thinking that it behooves them to clean up their bathroom mess immediately – or not make one in the first place! – because it takes very little effort to rinse down fresh toothpaste spit and makes their weekend job much easier.

And that’s where the real benefit comes in. This whole business isn’t about getting Master Pee Cleaner off your resume. That’s a side benefit. The beauty is that natural consequences (rather than parental lectures) teach your child to be more careful about making a mess, to clean up a mess when it’s made, and personal responsibility and mastery of a weekly chore that just comes with being part of the family. It might be a tough sell at first, but it’s a good age for them to learn that everyone pitches in with chores.

Now get some bon-bons, sit back, and watch the cleaning begin!