Potty Training in 10 Days or Less

That’s my last baby when she had just turned two. She turns three this week. It’s amazing how quickly the time has passed. About six month ago, she kissed diapers goodbye, and I entered a new phase of parenting. Oh my.

Potty training can seem daunting, particularly when you’re in the midst of it. There were days with each child when I thought he or she would never get it.

Yet, lo and behold, after 14 years of diapering, all six of my kids know how to take care of business. Hallelujah!

Ten Days or Less?

I’m not really going to sell you a get-rich quick scheme, the Brooklyn Bridge, or a fail-proof strategy for potty training. But, I am thankful for the moms who went before me and shared their experiences. So, now I’m passing mine on to you.

With our guinea pig first born child, I took the slow road, buying a potty seat when he was just two, and slowly over the following twelve months worked with him until it clicked. It took a year, and he was fine. So was I. But, it was a hard year with lots of “one step forward, two steps back” kind of progress.

potty training

When our second child was two, we had just welcomed our third baby and wanted him to be able to adjust to that change first. He was always a sensitive kid, and while he was advanced in some areas, we didn’t want to rush the emotional stuff. As he approached his third birthday, we moved cross-country. And again, we didn’t want to put him through multiple transitions at once. Plus, I was pregnant with baby #4!

A couple months after our move, a friend mentioned that they had potty trained that weekend.

That weekend?

My ears perked up. She explained that they did potty training in a day. Say what? She shared the book that helped them get their kids potty independent in a short amount of time. I promptly read the book. While I can’t recommend the book based on some of the parenting techniques described, I will say that the idea of intensive potty training has worked.

Our subsequent five kids have all potty trained in ten days or less. One was dry 24/7 by the end of the 2nd day. Another took a full ten days to get the hang of it. The others fell somewhere in between. Just when I was ready to throw up my hands, the child got it.

Is there a magic formula? Is there a trick? Will it work for all kinds? I dunno.

I’m just a mom. I have no degree in child psychology. And I am sure that there will be plenty of people to disagree with my methods. But, I know that this worked for us. As always, your mileage may vary.

Here are the basics that we’ve used to successfully potty train our children:

1. Know your child.

This is probably the most important part of parenting in general, but it specifically applies to potty training and making this step, one of many, from babyhood to big kid. You are the one to know your child and his temperaments. Does he take well to new adventures? Or does he need to be coaxed? Does she have an independent spirit? Or is she willing to go with the flow?

Go with your child’s strengths. Talk up the adventure in such a way that he or she is intrigued and excited. Books help do this. Dora’s Potty Book was a big hit last year. It comes complete with a flushing sound. Oh yes, yes, it does.

2. Make sure he or she is ready.

The internet is rife with potty training readiness quizzes that seem quite complicated. I looked for three basic things: overnight dryness, ability to dress one self, and an awareness of when the diaper was getting filled. Remember, I’m no expert. But, these were the things that I looked for. I think they will vary from kid to kid. Waking up wet does not mean that a kid isn’t ready to be trained. But, in our experience it was a good sign to wait a little longer.

Personally, I didn’t even consider it with my younger boys until they were very close to three, or past it. The girls seemed ready at about 2 1/2. But, age is a misleading factor. Many people have a strict age guideline. I say go to steps 1 and 2 again.

3. Make sure YOU are ready.

You need to be able to move this new experience to priority level which means being willing to adjust your schedule — and maybe your attitude — to be prepared for more frequent potty breaks, accidents, and repeated instruction.

Once you decide to go for it, go for it. Rip off the band-aid. Cut the cord. Don’t hem and haw. Once you know that your child is ready, then proceed. If you’re not sure he’s ready, then wait. Why frustrate both of you with half-hearted efforts? You don’t want to confuse, you want to teach.

4. Demonstrate.

The “potty training in a day” crowd suggests to demonstrate with a doll that wets. We have simply made sure that our toddlers got a chance to see siblings or the parent of the same sex demonstrate how it all works. Once the kid knows the routine, it’s a matter of practice. Often.

5. Offer intense practice over several days time.

Spend the day focused on potty practice. Offer lots of snacks and drinks. Lots. And every twenty minutes check for dryness.

This was the epiphany for me: dryness is the goal. Going in the toilet is a complimentary facet, but dryness is the goal. Reward, praise, and cheer for dryness. Check for dryness often. And then offer more treats.

Help your child make the connection between going in the potty and staying dry.

The more your child can practice, the better he or she will be at listening to body cues and getting to the toilet.

(On a practical level, we preferred to use toilet inserts rather than separate potty chairs. This is less for you to clean and makes a later  transition to the toilet unnecessary.)

6. Praise often.

Make a really big deal about it. Talk it up with friends, neighbors, and relatives. Buy the Dora chones. Make this an occasion to celebrate. It’s perfectly fine to offer small treats, stickers, or toys as encouragement for a job well done.

Just be prepared for your kid to ask for a “poo poo treat” in front of company.

7. Be patient.

Accidents will happen. Your child will try to wipe himself before he’s ready — and use a whole roll of toilet paper. There will be messes.

Be ready to be patient. Be willing to clean things up with a good attitude. Your child is at a tender age and going through a big transition. Make this moment be one of learning and be okay with mistakes.

That’s what life is all about.

What potty training techniques work at your house?

Please use wisdom as you approach potty training. These are things that worked for our family. Every child is different. So be patient and loving.

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Comments

  1. As a pediatric nurse and a mom, I second everything that you said in this post!:) Our son was a month shy of 3 when we potty-trained (and we looked for the same 3 cues that you listed), and he potty-trained in just a couple days. At the end of day 1, he was telling me when he needed to go without prompting! Woohoo!

    Our favorite book for the potty-training phase was “Diapers Are Not Forever.”

  2. Both of our children were a little stubborn about potty training, they knew what was expected of them but they didn’t ‘feel’ like doing it.

    As my son was approaching his third birthday he kept mentioning that he wanted a ‘Barney’ birthday party. Rather than argue and fuss over dirty pants, I simply told him that only big boys who didn’t wear diapers got a Barney birthday, boys who wore diapers didn’t. He kept assuring me that he would be a big boy by his birthday. The day of his birthday he woke up, told me he was a big boy and never used a diaper again. Of course at that point I needed to go out and buy Barney birthday stuff. Ugh!

    With our daughter it was kind of the same thing except she was younger. Since there was no birthday in sight we just told her she was going to wear big girl pants and dealt with the accidents for a few days. She didn’t like the wet clothes or having to change out of her favorite outfits (yes – I planned it that way) so she quickly changed her behavior.

    Either way I didn’t want it to be a power struggle. Potty training is all about them learning to control their bodies and I felt it was important that they felt that it was their decision even though they were led to it.

  3. I got lucky…I never had to potty train. One day about a month after my son’s second birthday he said, “I need to go potty.” So we went and that was it. No going back. He was even dry at night. I can count on one hand the number of accidents that we have had since (he’s going on 5 now) and those were due to illness. Every kid is different though!

  4. Such great info! Thanks for sharing. We waited until my oldest son was really ready, about age 3, and he was trained in 3 days. I’m starting to mentally prepare for my youngest son who is almost 2, but fully prepared that we might be a year (or more) away. Can’t wait for the day if no diapers, though!!!

  5. Oh!! Your post is soooo well timed. My first daughter trained in 10 days. Easy. Yay! I’m just trying to train my second one now and boy is it hard work. She has decided that she doesn’t feel like it, it’s too much effort and she’d rather be in nappies. So we are now nearly into the third month of this saga and while we had a good week the week before last, we now seem to be having a nightmare two weeks as she has taken to peeing everywhere. I’m so at the end of my tether!!

  6. wow, you posted this right in the midst of me training my youngest girl. Our little boy was almost 4 before he got it and she was close behind. 3 1/2 and last monday after my 19 year old headed off to college I pulled out all the little underware and many pairs of shorts for the 3 year old and said… here we go. After a year in pull ups, I had to just go cold turkey and day one we went through 9 pairs of underware and shorts! Day 2 was better and we had some good and bad days… I am on day 8 and she has pooped in the potty today on her own and has gone into the bathroom to pee on her own!!! She is so stubborn, strongwilled that I didnt’ think we would do it. Luckily I had a very slow week and could take her out on short trips with extra undeware and shorts to change into and a little potty inthe back of the van. I am happy that we are doing better each day. I should back story and state that before my 19 year old came home from college this summer my 3 year old was pooping in the potty daily… then it stopped! But so happy we are heading in the right direction. After 15 foster kids and pullups and diapers I hope I am DONE with all that now!!!!!!

  7. I’m jealous of the never-had-to-potty-train Mom! :) That’s great! I think this has a lot of good ideas. One of the things I’ve read is that the potty-training age has doubled in the past 50 years (since the introduction of disposables and more efficient washers). In third world countries, for example, immigrants tell us that potty training occurs around 12 – 20 months of age. Since most of the current literature on potty-training depends quite heavily on the child being much older than 12 months (being able to process language and communicate and imitate), I would be interested in hearing from moms (grandma’s and great-grandmas now) who did it at the younger age, and hear some of their ideas too!

    • I would recommend the book Diaper Free Baby, which describes this method. It actually starts very young. Older kids can benefit too but it can be very difficult when they’ve been in diapers for a long time.

    • Suzanne says:

      I potty trained my three eldest now aged (20, 18, 15) all by the time they were one year to one and a half.

      I now have a toddler that is nearing 3 and just now starting the potty training with him. * I am screaming inside* He doesn’t want to stay on the potty, he “never” needs to go says he, and it is just frustrating. It was much easier with the younger ones than it is with this one. I really wish I would have stuck to my guns and started this road over a year ago rather than listen to all the so called “professionals” saying he was too young. I figured if it was easy with the others it would be easier with a toddler that is older. Not so in my case * sighs* :(

      Right now he only goes about 3-4 times per day and it is never at the same or about the same times. I’m at my wits end. I only have this month off of work to do this and it’s heading no where fast. Tomorrow is another day. No snacks tomorrow………will try a little colouring book instead. May keep his attention span by sitting on the potty longer. *small roar*

    • Anastasia Adams says:

      My son is 20 months. I think i just got really lucky. He was taking diapers off all the time so i got him some pull ups and well…. we’re on day two and hes only wet his pull ups twice other than naps.

      • I think you’re good at reading your son’s cues. I wish I had done that for my third son. He was changing his poopy diapers at that age. I should have helped him instead of freaking out. Good job, mom. :)

  8. I was JUST getting ready to potty train our daughter, who just turned two—and now I am wondering if she is ready, as she wakes up late and very wet every morning. She is definitely interested in the potty, she is jealous of her brothers who “get to” go in the bathroom :) but I really doubt she would make it through the night… So now I am wondering!! But this was all great information, thanks so much for sharing your words of wisdom! :)

    • My second daughter was not quite two when she started showing interest. In fact I was pregnant and not ready to start training. But she wanted to and just did it. However, she couldn’t stay dry at night. She is almost 5 now and still cannot stay dry at night. She will not even wake up if she pees the bed. So that is my concern now. But I would say if your daughter is interested then let her try it.

      • Christine A says:

        I fully agree with Dawn! My daughter was 19 months when she started wanting to go on the potty. I was not ready as I was trying to adapt to being the mother of a 2 month old, as well. I never pushed her and just let her go when she wanted to. At just over 2 years, she was potty trained.

    • If I had waited until my daughter was dry for naps or at night, I’d still be waiting. She was trained between 2 and 2-1/2 (first attempt didn’t work, second only took a few days!), but still wears a diaper every night at almost age 5. If she is interested, give it a try! If your first try doesn’t work, as in she really doesn’t get the idea of control, I don’t think it hurts to let her be interested and use the potty when she wants to, even if she wears a diaper or pull-up most of the time. That part will already be easy when she really is ready.

    • Some children will have trouble staying dry at night until they’re almost into their teens. Being dry at nights may be a great cue for some children, but like another said if you wait for that with others they’ll be quite old before they’re “ready”. I’d say if she seems ready otherwise, give it a go! You can always try again later if it doesn’t seem time. :)

      I’m expecting my fourth and really didn’t want to have two in diapers so decided to try training my 20-month-old. It has taken a bit longer, but we’ve had lots of fun and she’s doing great!

  9. I’m in the midst of training my 3 year old daughter. Physically, she was ready months ago… but last holiday season, she got a UTI and the whole experience scared her enough to stay away from the potty altogether. So, while I talked about the potty from time to time, I backed off and allowed her to show me when she was mentally ready.

    In the last week or so, we’ve had a few accidents but for the most part, we’ve turned a corner. Each day we’re making progress, she wants to wear underwear, and she loves being praised for potty use. I am so glad I followed her lead instead of stressing both of us out too soon!

  10. I have a 3 year old son who is not interested in the slightest. He has gone a couple of times poops in the potty, but that’s it. We were thinking of the cheerios or goldfish in the potty method. I know he knows when he is wet, but he wakes up wet too. I’m not quite sure he is ready. Maybe after he starts twice a week preschool, he will show signs of interest. The girls were easier compared to this little man!!

  11. We did the exact same thing and it worked! http://mamagab.blogspot.com/2011/06/adventures-in-potty-training.html

    It took a little longer to get her to go #2 in the potty, but good old fashioned bribery got the job done. http://mamagab.blogspot.com/2011/06/potty-training-phase-two.html

    She did not exhibit any of the signs of readiness, but I thought she was up for it and I finally was too.

  12. Uggg…how did you know I was thinking about this today? I am so ready for my almost three year old son to be potty trained. He could care less if he is wet or has pooped. I know him well enough that one day it will click with him and he will want to do it. So, in the meantime, it is diapers. Thanks for the information.

  13. I agree that it’s important to start when the child is ready. We trained our 3 sons when they were around 3 years old, and they all learned quickly. I can’t say any one of them WANTED to get trained, but I could tell they were ready to be. Our daughter was trained around 2 1/2 years old. We went cold turkey during the day – no pull ups or diapers, just underwear. At night they we put them in diapers, but that only lasted at most a week for each of them.

    I also agree that you need to make sure you are ready. I was committed each time we potty trained that I would have to stay home as much as possible for a few days to a week and put my full attention into potty training. I think that was a big factor in making it work.

    Just keep in mind that each child will eventually get it!

  14. Such a timely post. My son is nearing 2 1/2 and we’ve been working on it for 3 weeks…he’s gotten #1 down from the first day, now if we could just figure out #2. I keep him in a diaper just for that reason, but it is dry 99% of the time…poop, well…only once have we succeeded in the potty.

    • I saw a few comments regarding boys and difficulty getting the hang of “pooping” in the potty. When my son was 3 he was peeing in the potty consistently but refused to go #2 in the potty. He was wearing underwear full time and would go off to a quiet spot to do his business and return with soiled underwear. After six months of this, I decided to try putting him in just a long tee-shirt. No undies or pants so that there was nothing to “catch” his poo. Lo and behold that very day I actually watched him run off to his bedroom to attempt to do his business in private only to realize this wasn’t going to work like it used to. After giving him a moment where I saw him almost panic in a “oh no now what do I do!?” I walked in and asked him if he needed to go sit on the potty. We went to the bathroom and he FINALLY was able to poop in the potty! After that ONE time he got the hang of it and from that point on he was using the potty for both #1 and #2! I just thought I’d share my experience in case this might benefit some other mothers in that power struggle :) GOOD LUCK! And like the other posters said, it will happen it only seems never ending while you’re going through it. Before you know it your little ones are starting middle school and potty training is a distant memory :)

  15. After 2 days of my son (3yr 4months) sitting on the baby potty screaming “No treat! NO treat!” I decided to pack it in. Every morning at diaper changing time I asked if he’d like to pee in the potty today about 6 weeks later he finally said “yes!” We used the insert on the regular toilet for the reasons you mentioned and that was it. He had 2 overnight accidents total. I plan to just ask my 2 year old if he wants to pee on the potty and wait until he says yes to try potty training him.

  16. We do the “weekend’ method, too! And it’s worked beautifully with all three kids. It was more like 3-10 days, actually, but I am so thankful that it’s been smooth. We go straight to undies (actually, usually totally stripped down on the bottom for the first few days) and stay in diapers at night. I usually switch over to undies at night about a month or two later. Congrats on 14 years of diapering – and 6 months of NOT!

  17. Potty training has honestly been the hardest part of parenting for me so far. It has been so discouraging. Our daughter turned 3 in June. We started a year ago–around 2 months after she turned 2. It has been a long, hard year. She CAN do it–but only when she wants to. She is very stubborn and strong-willed (praying she will surrender her life to Jesus and God will use those characteristics for good later in life!).

    She has gone days with no accidents–only to completely regress. She regressed:

    1. When her daddy went back to work last fall (he is a high school teacher).
    2. When her baby sister was born last October.
    3. When she had her tonsils out in June.
    4. When we took a 2-week trip to see extended family in MS in July (this was the worst–she went from having no accidents–especially in public) to having 4-5 accidents per day.

    After set-back #4, we went back to diapers full-time (I use cloth diapers, so we weren’t out any money). I am at my wit’s end. I feel like she is never going to train.

    It is a complete power struggle. She will go when she wants to. For example, when we are out somewhere (like a kid’s bday party), and she doesn’t want to leave, she will start screaming: “I need to go POTTY!” She does it because she knows I want her to go potty and she wants to stay at whatever location, and she knows that we will be able to stay longer if I have to take her to the bathroom.

    She has never once woken up dry after sleeping. Her diapers are saturated in the mornings.

    She also has gastro issues we are trying to figure out. Her poop always looks like diarrhea, and we are currently in the process of eliminating foods to figure out what’s going on. My husband and I tired of cleaning diarrhea out of her panties every day.

    We are beyond frustrated and have given up.

    Can someone say a prayer for me?

  18. having read the comments, I don’t see anyone mention what worked for us – peer pressure. Our little one is in daycare, and at about 18 months old, because she was so verbal and more advanced, they moved her to the 2-3 year old room. Suddenly, she was surrounded by these other little girls who didn’t have to wear diapers or pullups, and she wanted to be one of the big girls. I bought training pants and was preparing to do it around her 2nd birthday. She informed me she wouldn’t wear a pullup to bed one night because she was a big girl now. I just shook my head and prepared to be woken up in the middle of the night to change her undies and bedding. She woke up dry the next day, and has had exactly 3 accidents in the past 2 years! In our case, peer pressure was a good thing.

    • I wish I could say the same for us. :( My daughter is also very verbal and was moved up from the 2 (her age) to 3-year-old class last year because she interacted better (on a verbal level) with the older kids. She still doesn’t care about potty. :(

  19. My daughter is barely two and yesterday I hade the “bright” idea to start potty training. To be honest, I’m not sure she’s ready and I’m almost sure I’m not ready. She only went on the potty once yesterday and had accidents the rest of the time. Worse yet – she actually enjoys cleaning up after herself! She doesn’t like wet panties so she just strips them off and runs naked. Fine by me, but that just means she more comfortable when she has another accident. I know the key is being consistent but I really just want her to stay in diapers a bit longer.

  20. And don’t eat the poo poo treats too if you’re trying to lose weight! I found myself snacking on the M & M’s while I waited for my son to go.

  21. Christine A says:

    Well, no one goes off to high school in diapers (and probably not kindergarten, either)!!! It eventually all “clicks” for everyone! I know it seems like a lifetime but as it was said best in a recent post….”The days are long, but the years are short!”

    (PS. I love this quote! It is what keeps me living in the ‘now’ and smiling through the day! Thank you, Jessica!)

  22. The idea of focusing on dryness was revelatory for me! I wrote about it and linked to you here: http://anotherdayanothermom.blogspot.com/2011/08/potty-training-ah-ha-moment.html

  23. Demetria says:

    You call them chones, too! My husband had never heard the term, but I grew up with it! Well, I’m looking to get in the potty training game real soon. I started, but then my daughter has been off and on sick for over a month, so I put it on the backburner until she’s feeling well. She’s frustrated with being congested so much right now…so we’ll wait that out and then get to work. She is pretty stinkin’ excited about the underwear, though, and loves her Dora chones :)

    • celina boulanger says:

      i had to google what chones was…lol

      we are just about to start with ds 2.5 , took my older son a few days for #1 and a YEAR for #2, lots of laundry got done,,lol

  24. My son will be 4 the end of April. He wears big boy underwear at school all day and uses the potty. As soon as he gets home he wants a diaper on to poop. He will not use the potty. He did one time at school and that was it. I have tried several different things, but nothing works. He still wets a lot at night but I am hoping/praying he will soon be totally potty trained real soon.

  25. I am potty training my little boy right now. :)

  26. Thanks for posting this again. I’ve been procrastinating getting this done with my last baby. He’ll be 3 in August. It’s time.

  27. Clare K says:

    Was wondering if anyone has any ideas that will help me figure out what I’m doing wrong with my daughter. She is 28 months old and we are on our second attempt at potty training( I don’t think either of us were ready the first time). I have been trying for a few weeks to get her used to using the potty, but keeping it casual- just taking her whenever I thought she’d have to go(as she’d always say no if I asked her- I should add that she is extremely strong willed and independent). I am 8 months pregnant and also have a 13 month old boy. I don’t want to have3 in diapers (UGH), so decided to step things up with my daughter as all indications show that she’s ready. So 2 days ago I took her diaper off, let her go bare bottomed, and after one accident she would run and take herself potty. I thought this is fantastic! But halfway through the second day(yesterday) she started having accidents again and since then hasn’t taken herself or told me that she has to go. She doesn’t seem to mind getting herself or clothes wet anymore. What’s going on??? She is almost always dry in the morning but I have been putting pull-ups on her at night anyway and this morning she was really reluctant to have me take them off for the day, like she wanted the security of a diaper? I am trying to be patient with her when she has accidents but am starting to feel desperate especially as she just doesn’t seem to care. I would really like to get her trained before the baby comes. This is the first child I have tried to potty train and I would be very thankful for any suggestions. Thanks for reading!

  28. Jessica Smith says:

    I am currently trying to train my twin step sons (3 years old), we have been trying for over 6 months. They are stubborn and we spent a lot of time dealing with therapists after we got custody of them at 2 years old. Any tips for double trouble with a side of stubborn and mostly non verbal?

    • I think it’s really important to praise the goal: dry pants. Making it a 3 days-weeklong game of it really helped my kids. They don’t talk at all? Or they talk twin language? (they understand each other, but you don’t understand them?)

      • Jessica Smith says:

        Some twin language, some sign language and just recently started using a few two word phrases. We are currently in day one of an intensive potty training weekend, pull ups only when sleeping, underpants and t-shirts the rest of the time. We have only had a couple accidents today, however I am concerned because they haven’t had a bowel movement at all today.

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