After spending much of the past year obsessing over which two-year-olds in my social circle were toilet trained…and wrestling my own son into size six diapers while cursing the gods who invented juice boxes, I decided to bite the bullet and try the three-day potty training method (made popular by parenting coaches like Lora Jensen and books like Oh Crap! Potty Training). My husband and I needed 72 straight hours that we could devote to this, so we opted for a long holiday weekend, which was also right on the cusp of our son’s third birthday. Here’s what happened…and where it happened.
I Tried the 3-Day Potty Training Method and Now I’m Completely Inured to the Feeling of Pee on My Hands
So, How Does It Work?
This is potty training by fire. You basically toss out the diapers and set aside a three-day period where you focus exclusively on teaching your kid how to use the toilet. To do this effectively, you’ll need to quarantine yourself in your home so that you’re always close to the potty. (What a great way to spend the weekend, right?) After three days, you should (in theory) have a potty trained kid. Which is basically the equivalent of winning the toddler lottery.
What Do I Need?
Firstly, plan ahead. That means getting all your shopping and other errands done beforehand (see note above about being quarantined). You may want to arrange playdates or sleepovers for your other (potty-trained) children. Second, get a couple of oversize T-shirts for your kid to wear that will cover up his private area—get more than you think you’ll need. Your tot can wear underwear or go commando but no diapers or pants—the idea is that you want your child to see what happens when he has an accident. (And there will be accidents.) Ready? Let's do this.
First, The Ground Rules
Depending on how hard-core you want to go, there are a number of approaches, ranging from literally throwing away all the diapers in your house to letting your kid poop all over the carpet to using pull-ups outside the home. Here were our guiding principles:
1. On the morning of day one, we said bye-bye to diapers, except for naps, overnights and car rides longer than an hour.
2. We pumped him full of liquids, then forcibly put him on the potty every 20 to 30 minutes.
3. If he successfully peed or pooped, he got an M&M's. (So did his one-year-old sister, which worked out well for her.)
4. If he had an accident, we didn’t say, “That’s OK.” We said, “Oops! Pee and poop go in the potty.”
My husband and I had talked about Operation Potty a lot in advance, so our son was well aware that we would be saying bye-bye to diapers. It’s also worth noting that in the two months leading up to P-Day, he was consistently peeing in his Baby Bjorn potty most nights before bath.
All the books had said that on the first day, your kid should walk around entirely bottomless. But a) my kid is basically a never-nude and b) it was 15 degrees out, so we let him go straight to wearing underwear (Thomas the Tank Engine, in case you were wondering). He was remarkably cool with this.
We gave him a ton of juice and milk, put the Baby Bjorn in the middle of our living room, and brought him to pee on it every 20 minutes. We noticed that when we asked, “Do you have to pee?” he always said no. (UNRELIABLE!) But when we plunked him there, he usually did something. He had a total of four pee accidents over the course of the day, and the low point was definitely when I found myself scrubbing our upholstered kitchen chairs with fabric cleaner. (Pro tip: Put down a towel.) Oh, and he waited until his nap-time diaper was on to poop. But all in all, not awful.
He woke up, immediately asked to use the potty and picked out his own underpants, so naturally I was lulled into a false sense of accomplishment…which was quickly dashed when he (again) peed all over the kitchen chair. BUT, the rest of the morning was accident-free, and we even left the house and went for a half-hour walk with no incident. My husband noticed that 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. seemed to be the witching hour the day before, so we watched him like hawks at this time…and were able to thwart one #1 related mishap but were too slow for #2. Post-nap, he was a golden child, asking to the use the potty, ruining his dinner with nine million M&Ms and not soiling the towel I was finally smart enough to put down on his chair.
Guys. We had a no-pee-accident day! We even brought him to Home Depot, where he successfully used this handy little portable seat to pee in a public restroom. (Bless.) We stopped being quite so draconian with the every-20-minutes rule, and relied more on monitoring his liquid intake to see when he’d have to go. Poop remained less successful…he had one underpants-related mishap, and then again in his diaper. But baby steps…right?
Conclusion, In Brief(s)
The method definitely works, but it’s ambitious to call it three days, and I can’t say we’re too close on the poop front. (And we're aware that most kids still end up using diapers at night for a while even after being potty trained.) But well worth it, and we’ll certainly continue with this plan on days four, five and beyond. And as they say, “sh*t happens.”