Ohhhhhh, potty training. The joys. Potty training is one of my least favorite parts of parenting… at least out of everything I’ve experienced so far. We followed the 3-day potty training method with our son, Theo. Does it work? That’s not a black and white answer because each child is so completely unique. The 3-day potty training method worked amazingly well for us, and I’ll give you all of the details below so you can figure out if it’s right for your family.
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At What Age Should You Start the 3-Day Potty Training Method?
I am a big believer in potty training on the later side. (Read more about the benefits of potty training late.) I don’t like drawing things out and prefer to get them over with. We waited to potty train late, but then did it cold turkey; no diapers for naps, overnight, leaving the house, etc.
Only you can know what’s truly best. I also have many friends who have potty trained early and it has worked so well for them. This is just proof that potty training is not a one size fits all (as is most of parenting!) If you’re interested in potty training early, you may like to read my friend Katrina’s post on her 10-step potty training method.
Theo’s Birthday is in January and we potty trained him the Thanksgiving weekend before his 3rd Birthday, so he was 2 and 10 months. I chose Thanksgiving weekend because my husband was home and we could tackle it together. We also went out to get our Christmas Tree early Friday morning, so it was fun to stay home and decorate our tree and watch Christmas movies while he was potty training.
A Week Before Potty Training
We Tried On Undies
About a week before we started the official potty training, I made Theo put on a pair of big boy underwear. You guys. HE WAS NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT. I’m telling you, he does NOT like change. This made me a bit nervous about potty training, but he was starting a new preschool in January and had to be potty trained. Plus, I did feel like he was ready. If was a young 2 and had that reaction, I would have held off.
I Let Him Pee On The Floor
You probably won’t read about this in any potty training books, but I totally let him pee on the floor. He got home from preschool and I put on the T.V. for him and pumped him full of juice. The floors in our family room were laminate and I removed the throw rug and all pillows and blankets. I sat him naked on the potty, gave him his juice and let him chill. I didn’t say ANYTHING about peeing in the potty or what we were doing.
(This is our favorite potty training book!)
He eventually stood up and wandered around the room and ended up peeing. I stayed positive and calm and had him help me clean it up and told him that soon he was going to wear big boy undies and would pee in the potty instead of his diaper. I wanted him to realize what would happen if he didn’t have a diaper on well before we actually started potty training.
3-Day Potty Training Method Weekend
This is a must read before you start: mentally prepare yourself for potty training.
Get Them Naked
We went out early that morning to get our Christmas Tree. When we got home, I got Theo naked from the waist down. I explained that we were done with diapers and we were going to teach him how to use the potty and as a reward, he would get m&ms and stickers for going.
Keep Them Hydrated
We are usually a water and (almond) milk only family, so when my kids get juice, they are really excited and chug it. I kept him hydrated with as much juice as he wanted!
Put Them Someplace Where Accidents Can Happen
Do notttt put them in a carpeted room if you can help it. We put Theo and his potty in the family room with laminate floors. I put the potty there instead of the bathroom because I wanted it to be close so he could get there fast. I also wanted him to be able to continue watching his T.V. show or movie while he was peeing. They definitely need to learn to stop what they are doing and use the potty, but I personally thought that was a bit much for day 1.
Put Them On The Potty Every 15 Minutes
Do NOT leave them alone for even a few minutes! It’s important that if they start to have an accident that you intercept and move them to the potty so they realize what they are supposed to do. Every 15-20 minutes, tell them (do not ask, tell!) it’s time to sit on the potty and try to pee.
About 30 minutes into day 1, Theo started jumping up and down and crying that he had to go pee and didn’t want to pee on the floor. I was incredibly positive and shouted happy things such as “You’re going to get m&ms for peeing in the potty like a big boy! You’re doing such a good job! Way to go, Theo!”
I helped him over to the potty, and he peed right into it! This trend continued all day and we didn’t have one single accident. I was ecstatic and I know this is NOT the norm. We have also had plenty of issues down the road with pooping, so it wasn’t all a walk in the park.
I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to reward Theo for using the potty. It’s a natural thing that children need to learn how to do, and doesn’t necessarily require a reward. I didn’t want him going off to college and still expecting an m&m for using the bathroom! I’m kidding, but you get the point. I decided to use rewards because I knew this was something that would be scary for Theo. I also knew I wanted it to work fast because I had 1.5-year-old twins that I had to worry about as well. So why not use rewards as a tool to make potty training easy and fun, and take them away when I felt they were no longer needed.
What About Naptime and Overnight?
When I first started out potty training, my plan was to still use diapers for naps and overnight. I had read somewhere that can be confusing to expect your child to be potty trained during the day and wear a diaper for sleeping, but I was honestly too scared to try it. At naptime on day 1, it just felt weird to me to tell him he was supposed to be peeing in the potty and then put a diaper on him. It felt confusing to explain that to him, so when he got up from his nap, I decided that was going to be the last diaper we used.
At bedtime, I told him that he was done with diapers for sleeping as well and to just yell for mommy and daddy if he had to pee. He was still in his crib at this point. My husband and I woke him up right before we went to bed to pee, and he went, and then went the rest of the night! I was in shock. I thought for sure I would find him soaked in pee in the morning, but he was dry!
Day 2 went pretty much the same as day 1, except we put underwear on Theo. If there had been a lot of accidents on day 1, I probably would have kept him naked for most of day 2 as well. We did have a few accidents on day 2, but I remained positive and told him he would get it next time. I also had him help me clean it up.
I tried to catch him in the act with accidents and rush him over to the potty so he would realize what was happening as he was doing it.
On the 3rd day, Theo was fully clothed and we moved the potty into the bathroom!
What About Pooping?
Pooping can take a while to master and there are several things you can do about it. This post has great tips on how to get over the fear of pooping on the potty. Poop issues can continue on into older children as well as potty training aged children. Theo is now 4.5 and we recently struggled with severe constipation that ended in encopresis. If you’re struggling with poop with an older child (at least 4 and up), that post is a must-read!
We ended up with pretty severe constipation and encopresis issues about a year later. Would we have had this issues with another potty training method? Our pediatrician said that the problems are not a result from a potty training method or anything that we did.
Is 3-Day Potty Training Right For You?
Only you can be the judge of that! I think it worked for us because Theo is so apprehensive to change. It was easier to explain that underwear was our new normal. If your child has a very type A, black and white personality, then it is probably a great choice for them!
other helpful posts on potty training:
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