Y’all. I can’t even believe it. I almost feel like writing this post is going to make it all backfire in an epic way. But I feel like shouting from the rooftops, so here it goes! MY TODDLER IS POTTY TRAINED!! AND IT ONLY TOOK THREE DAYS!!! I thought this was some crazy myth that only really worked for unicorn children and perfect Pinterest moms, but no… we did it. Here’s how I potty trained my toddler in three days.
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Step One: Get this book.
I don’t even remember who recommended this book to me, but it stuck in my head as THE book to trust. Like many of you, I’m sure, I had a huge number of “Easy Potty Training!” and “Potty Train In 3 Days!” pins saved, but I found the information overwhelming and conflicting. Give rewards! Don’t give rewards! Start at 18 months! Wait til age three! Get a little potty chair! Never use a little potty chair!
I decided, meh, let’s just go old school and buy a nice paperback to have laying around for reference. I am so, so glad I did! I’ve picked this up so many times for reference. Like the moment I realized “oh crap, we’re really doing this, she’s getting it, now how do we leave the house without diapers???” Or the moment I spent my free reading time with my high school English class poring over the chapter on poop. Or tonight, when my kid insists on going to bed with underwear and no diaper, yet I haven’t put the super waterproof cover on the mattress yet…
Step Two: Read that book…and then follow your gut.
Obviously, read the book. It’s written by a potty training expert who knows her stuff and speaks in blunt and sometimes irreverent terms. If the occasional curse word offends you, maybe steer clear of this one. For me, that was an appealing factor.
The thing is, I began reading this book and immediately started with the self doubt:
CRAP! She says to start way earlier than we are – my kid is almost THREE. Glowacki says waiting til after three is like going past the point of no return…OMG WHAT?! She says some kids have potty issues in KINDERGARTEN?!? I thought my husband was just being dramatic about that. That’s it, I’ve ruined my child for life…
Now take a few deep breaths. Channel that parental intuition. Use what makes sense for YOUR kid, pick a plan, and go for it.
Example: Glowacki strongly recommends starting the process around age 2. That wasn’t possible for us since we were spending a year traveling. Having gone through the process, though, I think right now, two months shy of age 3, was perfect for my daughter. I can see how she reasons and makes connections now compared to a year or so ago, and it’s a huge difference. I really can’t imagine doing this as successfully at a younger age.
How we knew she was ready.
Fully personal, non-expert commentary here, but this is how we knew she was ready. Anytime she was naked and had to pee or poop, she demanded a diaper. She knew she had to go, yet she refused and violently protested our prompts to just go on the potty rather than waste a diaper. It was infuriating.
It told us one very important thing though: our kid knew when a pee or poop was coming, and she could hold it until she had a diaper.
The violent protest is what made me sure our efforts would fail spectacularly. Instead, I took the advice of a friend and it worked far better than I expected! *See step five for the magic trick that worked for us.
Step Three: Make sure you have the right potties.
Yes, I said potties. As in plural. As in more than one. Now, I consider myself to be an aspiring minimalist: we spent a year moving our family with no more than an SUV and a 4×8 trailer of belongings, sometimes less. My assumption was that one potty chair or one insert would be fine.
I potty trained my toddler in three days by having a variety of potty chair options available.
What I Have:
- The Baby Bjorn potty chair is my #1 choice. It has a high back and a splash guard in the front. Fun fact: girls can have wild pees just like boys can. This potty’s splash guard minimizes the fallout.
- Potty seat/insert – Paw Patrol themed, because of course it is. But really, the morning of day three, I panicked because I thought our kid was too attached to the little potty chair. It occurred to me “crap! she has to go to school tomorrow, and they have actual toilets, not potty chairs. Have I ruined her?!” No, but be sure to practice on the big toilet too!
- Ladybug potty – this is our backup, and to be honest, I don’t recommend. We’ve had more errant girl pees hitting the floor with this than with the Baby Bjorn. Have a second potty, but probably not this one!
What I Wish I Had (and still might buy):
- 2-in-1 travel potty – Right now, I’m using the ladybug potty as our in-car backup. Not loving it. This options seems much better, and I could actually use it on public toilets instead of dashing outside to the car, which is what the kid currently demands.
- Foldable potty seat – I would LOVE to get one of these for using with public toilets. I’m still kinda freaked out by the concept of placing my toddler on a public toilet, and so far I’ve avoided the necessity. Can’t stay away from it forever, though.
Step Four: Pick a start date and start the hype.
We did the three-day weekend method. After two solid weeks of preschool, which included seeing that other kids use the potty, we knew she was settled into enough of a routine to give this a shot.
We hyped. A lot, but subtly. One of the things Glowacki says in her book is to pick a date at least two weeks in the future, and then put away any potty chairs and back off the verbal prompts or discussion.
We were way guilty of doing a half-assed “hey, let’s try sitting on the potty!” approach. Kids need more consistency than that. So, we put away the potty chair and stopped asking her if she wanted to try it. We did something else instead.
Potty books. Yep. That’s a genre. I requested every potty-related book in the JE (Juvenile Easy) section of our library. We read Even Firefighters Go Potty, Once Upon a Potty, Goldilocks and the Just Right Potty, My Big Girl Potty, and more. The more we read, the more excited she got. The wheels were turning. She was getting it: this is a fun new thing!
Of course, there was a whole lot of Daniel Tiger viewing as well. That one is a must.
Step Five: Bye, bye diapers!
This step was the absolute key for us – I heard about it from a friend, so I have no idea who the original source of this is. I certainly can’t take credit for the idea, but I’m so glad I heard about it.
The morning of day one, I told my daughter that it was time to send all of her diapers to “the babies.” I said “you’re a big girl now, so you don’t need these anymore,” and then she and I gathered all her diapers into a big bag. We bundled them up and put them on the front porch to be *picked up by the mailman. She was so stinking excited!!
*I snuck out later that day and stashed them in the garage. I was terrified she was going to see me and know she’d been scammed. Thankfully she didn’t catch me.
Then I got out the potty chair, showed her where it was, and said “now we don’t have any diapers, so when you have to go, here’s the potty.”
It worked. She didn’t scream and cry for a diaper like she had just days ago. Literally zero resistance.
Just Do It.
Our method, in summary:
The morning of day one, make a show of packaging up all the diapers to send to “the babies.” She’s a big kid now, and the babies need her diapers. Set them on the porch to be picked up by the mailman and delivered to the babies who need them.
Naked kid in the house, potty nearby all the time. The book says to watch for the kid’s “pee dance” or other signal, catch mid-pee if you have to, and set them on the potty. Expect messes and accidents, but keep at it.
Our results: because we waited until she was old enough to recognize her own signals, i.e. asking for a diaper, we were a step ahead. She would tell us “I have to pee” and go do it. No protests. The baby-diaper-delivery thing worked like magic!! She even pooped on day one. WHAT!?
Diaper-less but clothed kid in the house, short outings to the backyard and for a walk around the block. **Key tip: don’t try underwear yet. Glowacki says underwear feels too much like a diaper to a kid, so go commando for the first several days or even weeks. I concur.
Our results: we had a couple of accidents, but they weren’t traumatic. The first was because the kiddo ventured too far away from her potty while playing in the yard. The second was from being too focused on play inside – but she quickly recovered and headed to the potty to finish up.
Unexpected bonus: around 6:00 a.m., she drug her potty into our bedroom, took down her dry! pull-up, and peed in the potty. WHAT. Maybe I do have a unicorn child after all.
Repeat day two, but add in a couple of short trips to a store or other public place. Still going commando, because underwear feels like a diaper.
Our results: We talked up the car-ride-without-a-diaper thing and then headed to Aldi for some groceries. I was super nervous, expecting a soaked car seat and traumatized child, but nope. We did the outing. Halfway through the grocery list, she said she had to pee. I had my potty insert in my giant purse, but she said no to the public bathroom toilet. So, I took her to the parking lot, set her ladybug potty in the back of my SUV, and hung out in the 95-degree Midwestern heat while waiting for my child to pee. She didn’t. But, she tried, and she didn’t have an accident at the store! Plus, she learned that mommy is responsive to her needs and will make a potty opportunity happen, no matter how awkward and hot and uncomfortable that might be.
Day Four and Beyond:
Keep at it! Glowacki recommends no underwear on the kid for the first several weeks. Every day brings a new challenge or opportunity. The first full day of daycare, I was a nervous wreck, assuming there’d be tons of accidents or the teacher would side-eye me for sending my girl commando or the kid would be too scared to speak up when she had to go. Nope. She had it down. No accidents at all!
Today, we’re trying underwear because she asked for it. I think it will be okay, but we’ll see. Soon, we’ll tackle our first car ride of more than thirty minutes. The dreaded public toilet will come soon, I’m sure.
We’ll keep on tackling these new situations as they come, but I’m confident the kiddo will handle it. The pride she has about being a “big kid” is so freaking awesome.
I still can’t believe I potty trained my toddler in three days.
I obviously can’t guarantee that it will go this smoothly for you, but hopefully our story will give you some ideas and confidence to tackle this task. I’d love to hear your stories and tips in the comments!