Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Daytime Potty Training: 3 Day Method

Before last weekend, I did not believe that it was possible for a child under two years old to be potty trained in 3 days.  I figured that potty training would be a long process that was unavoidably difficult and stressful.  We knew that it would have to happen eventually, so we thought that maybe if we got started working with Ryan early, we would all feel less pressure about it overall.  The plan was just to start slowly, and then see what happens.

I am delighted to say that we actually had a very successful experience with our first attempt at potty training.  I would like to share some tips on what worked for us:

Introducing the Potty (18 months old)

I bought Ryan his toddler-sized potty when he was about 18 months old because he was showing a lot of curiosity about the potty.  He said "bye bye" whenever I flushed the toilet.  He would tell me when his diaper was "yucky" and then bring me a clean one so that I could change him.  He was very interested in the potty books that I read to him.

Originally, my plan was just to keep the potty in its box for a few weeks.  But after only one day, Ryan practically begged me to open it up.

He was so excited when I set up his potty in the bathroom.  For a couple months, Ryan sat on the potty (with his pants and diaper on) every time that he saw me use the big potty.

He eventually started pulling his own pants down and sitting on the potty at random times throughout the day.  This continued for several more months.

3 Days of Training (23 months old)

At this point, Ryan had never actually used the potty before, although he enjoyed sitting on it and reading his potty books.

We decided to set aside the whole weekend, and I also cleared our social calendar for Monday, so that we would not have any distractions.  I gathered as much information and advice as I could, and shared what I had learned with Barry.  Throughout those 3 days, we stayed home and took turns working with Ryan and reinforcing his behavior.

Ryan wore nothing on his bottom and walked around in only a shirt for those 3 days.  The purpose of that was for him to immediately see when he is going, to associate it with the sensation, and to make the connection of needing to run to the potty.  If he had an accident, we would frown and say "no.... goes in the potty".  If he successfully used the potty, we would smile, cheer, dance, hug, high-five, and give him rewards.

Here is what our bathroom looked like:


Ryan and I colored and decorated a potty chart with things like he likes.  I told him that every time that he uses the potty, he would get to put a sticker on his special chart.  He would only get the sticker if there was actually something inside the potty, and not just for sitting on it.  

After Ryan fills up his entire sticker chart (meaning that he has successfully used the potty 50 times) he will get this Elmo book:

Drinking Juice

For the first 23 months of his life, Ryan had never tasted juice.  Barry and I pretty much only drink water and coffee, except for the occasion when we enjoy an adult beverage, which Ryan has started calling "mommy and daddy juice" (ha!)

Recently, he noticed that his already potty-trained friend also drinks juice from her sippy cup. And so do some of his other playgroup friends.  Naturally, Ryan started requesting juice in his own sippy cup, and I told him that only big kids who use the potty are allowed to drink juice.

Not only was this extremely motivating for Ryan, but drinking the juice also kept him needing to use the bathroom.  The more opportunities to practice, the better! 

(On a side note, we still don't plan to give Ryan juice on a regular basis.  This past weekend was an exception for potty training).


Every time that Ryan used the potty this weekend, he also got a reward.  In order to avoid too much junk food/over-snacking, I simply put three or four cheddar bunnies or goldfish crackers in a little bag with a sticker.  Ryan gets really excited about the crackers and the stickers, so these small rewards definitely served their purpose.

This next special reward was reserved for the first time that Ryan successfully used the potty for #2 (which he ended up doing on the very first day).  Ryan had spotted this yellow car at the store a few weeks ago, but I had told him no.  Then, I went back and bought it when he wasn't looking.  I absolutely treasure the memory of Ryan being so very surprised and proud of himself was when he realized that he had earned the car!  

After these rewards, I do not plan to use anything else as an incentive for Ryan to continue using the potty.  We do not want Ryan to think that he needs a prize to do what is expected of him and go to the potty.  The purpose of these small rewards was mainly to help Ryan to overcome any fear that he had of using the potty, and to establish a positive feeling after he goes.  This should ultimately become routine and habit, like it is for the big kids.

Our Results

Day 1:  4 successful times of using the potty, 4 accidents
Day 2:  5 successful times of using the potty, 3 accidents
Day 3:  5 successful times of using the potty, 1 accident
Day 4:  No accidents!!!!!  (even when we played with friends at the library and then went out to eat, Ryan used his travel potty in the public restrooms and he kept his underwear dry!)

I am sooooooo proud of our big boy! Since we are back to being busy with our activities this week, I will make sure to bring Ryan's travel potty, extra underwear, and extra changes of clothes everywhere that we go.

I am sure that there will be plenty accidents here and there, especially as we start spending more time outside of the home.

Ryan still uses a diaper at nighttime to sleep and during his nap time.  We take it off as soon as he wakes up so that he can practice going to the potty.

But, overall, our three days of nothing but potty training wasn't too stressful (probably because there were two of us, so we could take turns and give each other a break).  It turned out a lot better than we had even hoped for.  Ryan is definitely using the potty consistently now and we are super proud of him!

*DAY 5 UPDATE: During a long car ride today, Ryan fell asleep and had an accident in his carseat. He definitely doesn't have control of his bladder when he is sleeping. He also had an accident at the park, which was probably my fault for not giving him a "potty break" during the few hours that we were there (and plus, he was having too much fun on the playground to remember to tell me). But here at home, we continue to be accident free! Yay!


  1. That is amazing, well done! I can't believe how grown up he is getting already!!!

  2. @Karen- haha, isn't it crazy! I am so proud of him, but find this all hard to believe because I still think of him as that little newborn bundle curled up in my arms. I hope that your thesis writing is going well and I can't wait to chat with you again next week! <3

  3. I still think of him as that tiny infant sometimes too! I am SO excited to catch up next week. I miss you! Thanks for thinking of my during my dissertation work, I need all the motivation I can get :)

  4. Ryan is doing great! You've got to have lots and lots of patience sometimes. Love the look of the Carry Potty. I wonder if I can get one here in Australia? I will have a look on Amazon. Thanks for sharing your journey Dana :) Carly

  5. @Carly- Yes, I got the Carry Potty from Amazon. Believe it or not (almost 2 years later) we still keep that little potty in the car, in case of emergencies. I highly recommend it!

  6. Very amusing :)
    I'm sorry for my poor English, im French. I have 2 kids, Ellene, she's already 9 and loves playing cooking games in and my little one giving me hard times when it comes to "potty"... It's not that he does not understand he has to use it, Just does not like it :(((


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