We Tried Potty Training in 3 Days: Here’s What Happened

I put off potty training for as long as possible. There were two reasons for this.

I’m pretty sure my hidden underlying reason was that diapers were the last “baby” thing I had to hold on to. We’ve long since said goodbye to bottles, baby carriers, strollers, even the crib. Diapers were the last piece of evidence remaining in Trevor’s nursery, suggesting that he might still have a little “baby” left in him.

The main reason, though, was that diapers were just so convenient and easy. I knew they’d be 100% easier than the early phases of potty training. A big part of me just didn’t want to face the challenge.

But I bought the book Potty Training in 3 Days , and the author said that children past the age of 3 1/2 are more likely to resist potty training. So, since Tru was nearly 3 1/2, I knew it was time.

The author of the book claims to have potty trained hundreds of toddlers (she turned potty training into a career). Up until now, I’ve potty trained a grand total of zero toddlers. Knowing this, I thought it would be smart to read the book thoroughly and then follow the instructions as closely as possible.

So Chris and I followed Potty Training in 3 Days nearly to the letter, and here’s what happened:

The Bad News: The Three Days Feel Sort of Like Being Jailed In Your Own Home

The author explains that during the first three days, kids are going to have a lot of accidents. Of course. This is the learning phase. So she suggests remaining inside of your house. No errands. No playground visits. No going outside (on the first day). Also: no TV or devices because they cause kids to zone out and miss the cues that they need to use the potty. Three days inside the house, focused on potty training, sounds simple enough. But when you’re actually a parent in the trenches, when you’re cooped up with a very high energy three-year-old for three days straight, when you’re spending every waking second focused on trying to avoid an accident, when you hear yourself recite “tell me when you need to use the potty” for the 800th time, well … it’s draining. It’s tough on the morale. Chris and I turned on the TV a few hours into day one. A few hours after that, Tru received our Kindle to play some games. What else could we do? We were all going stir crazy!

The Good News: The Process Turns Potty Training Into a Celebration

At the very start of day one, the author suggests walking around the house, collecting every last diaper to be donated. So that’s what we did. Trevor helped throw all of his diapers into a box. He understood that they would be gone forever and that he would be moving into the big boy underwear phase. He put on his new underwear, which he was actually excited about because they had some of his favorite characters: Thomas the Tank Engine and Lightning McQueen. What I liked about the process was that it turned the start of potty training into something that felt like a ceremony. There was a clear, straight line drawn: from here on, Trevor uses the potty only. Also, instead of introducing shame and punishment around potty training, this little ceremony turned it all into a celebration of growing older. Tru seemed genuinely excited and proud to wear underwear and learn a new skill. So that was rewarding. I felt as though we were doing something right.

What We Learned: Star Charts Work Wonders

My advice to every parent is this: don’t begin potty training until your child is old enough to count, understand cause and effect, and otherwise fully grasp the concept of the star chart. I’m convinced that the star chart is what made the potty training process a positive experience for Tru. Before our three-day training, Tru visited the toy store and chose a special toy: Mack, a large truck from the movie Cars. He also chose several mini Cars vehicles that were made to fit inside of Mack. We set these toys – still packaged – on the kitchen counter where Tru could see him. He knew he’d earn a sticker each time he successfully used the potty. And he knew after five stickers, he’d earn a new toy. Since these were toys he loved and really wanted to get his hands on, he was highly motivated to earn those stickers!

After Potty Training: Yes, You’re Free From Diapers. But No, You’re Not Free

Please don’t assume that you can just float out of the house, worry free, once your child is potty trained. I’ve found the opposite to be true. Sure, I no longer have to pack diapers in my bag when we go out. But here’s what I pack instead: wet wipes (because no, toddlers don’t master wiping when they first master potty training), antibacterial wipes (because Trevor tries to touch everything in public bathrooms), toilet seat covers (the difficultly of dealing with tiny people who are way too small for public toilets is a whole other story!), plus a change of underwear and shorts (just in case). In addition that that, I need to always remember to sit him on the potty before we leave the house. And I must be prepared that he will need to use the potty exactly when we don’t have easy access to a toilet (while we’re walking around downtown, for example). When I thought that the diaper phase would be far easier than the early phase of potty training … I was completely correct!

The Most Important Thing I Learned From the Book

I think the one piece of advice that really helped Tru master potty training was this: once you begin, always keep your child in underwear at all times. We’ve stuck with that rule, and I think it makes a huge difference. We literally got rid of all of our diapers on Day One of potty training, and we now have Pull-Ups for sleeping only. Trevor knows the Pull-Ups are “sleeping underwear” (not diapers!) and he only puts them on when he gets into bed. As soon as he’s up in the morning, the Pull-Up comes off. At the beginning, I was seriously tempted to throw on a Pull-Up when we went out to a playground or shopping, for example. But, of course, that just drags out the process.

Yes,  Potty Training in 3 Days Works!

Tru had about four accidents in the two weeks after the Three Day Training. In the past couple of weeks, he hasn’t had any accidents (of course, I’m knocking on wood as I type these words!) I think one key to success is: wait until you’re absolutely sure your child is ready. 3 1/2 was a good age for Trevor because he fully understood what the potty was for, and how to earn stickers on his chart. He was also physically strong and coordinated and able to make it quickly to the bathroom and onto the potty. One other key to success: follow the instructions in the book as closely as you can. It’s tough to stick through those initial three days of training (and then the first couple of weeks of accidents here and there). And the process sometimes feels defeating and overwhelming in the midst of it. But, yes, the book does work!


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