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In my parenting career, I’ve had very few unsullied victories – namely, making my daughter believe frozen grapes are a perfectly acceptable dessert, teaching her to love swiffering, and potty her in three days. The latter was my biggest surprise success as I was fully prepared for the protracted downfall.
I’d heard about the mythical three-day potty training method on my Facebook mommy groups, but it sounded too good to be true. 3 days? You’re talking about just 72 hours to switch from a life of bulky diaper bags, dripping accidents and the stressful search for a damn changing table to a life without a diaper? My deliveries from Huggies took longer to arrive. But when my daughter was two and a half years old and totally understood the concept of using the toilet (I would always ask her if she wanted to try and she would always reply, “Not today, Mom”), I decided to give it a try.
Spoiler alert: it worked! On the day we started exercising, my husband went to work that morning, and when he came back about 10 hours later the kid was basically potty training, with just one accident here and there. On Day 4, she pranced confidently to her daycare class wearing Minnie Mouse underwear (and, well, clothes). I could not believe it. Now when parents ask me for details about these three days, I’ll be happy to share the whole story.
How can you potty your child in three days, maybe?
A note here that this is our story, and I don’t think any method will work for every child. You can find a lot of information about potty training on the Internet, in bookshops or – even better – in conversation with your pediatrician. There is a dizzying array of methods, from the popular ones Oh crap! to plan, to the low pressure Wait-and-pee process, up to the gradual transition from training pants to underwear. You have to choose what feels comfortable to you.
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Three day potty training is a cold turkey method, requires you to get rid of all of the diapers in the house and trust the process. In general, I followed Lora Jensen’s plan 3-day potty training ebook, but with 50 pages of guidelines, it’s extremely specific, and I can’t say I did everything exactly that way. Here’s what I did and what advice I would give to those embarking on this messy, grueling, but hopefully effective journey.
Schedule it like the big event it is
Find three consecutive days in the calendar – at least one week after you have chosen the 3-day method (Jensen recommends a whole month) – that you can devote 100 percent to your child’s bladder and bowel. (This can be tricky for parents who work full time, I know. If you can’t take a day off, you may have to do it while on vacation, which literally sucks, but keep an eye on the price: Diaper-Free Release!) Mark these days as potty training days and cut out everything else you do, including routine things like grocery shopping. Somehow you have to imagine being holed up in a bunker.
Say goodbye to diapers – forever
About a week before Big 3 Days, I told my daughter that we were all going to give her diapers to baby Jeremiah, a one-year-old friend we knew. She was on board. I reminded her of this every day before training started. When it finally started, I had her help gathering all the diapers in our house and packing them into a large bag with Jeremiah’s name on it. We said goodbye to them. Nobody was sad about it.
Prepare and equip your house for the a-poo-calpyse
What you need for the training:
- A children’s potty chair if you want to use one. We liked that Baby Björn. You can go without a toilet and have the child sit on the side of the seat.
- Children’s underwear (20-30 pairs). Check out the dollar shop.
- Liquids and high fiber snacks to feed your child. (You want the child to drink more than usual during potty training, but don’t force it.)
- Small incentives and rewards like stickers or small treats.
- Additional sheets in the event of accidents at night.
- Ready meals which you can easily heat up in the microwave (or have a partner or helper cook for you).
- Towels or paper towels for the inevitable mess.
- Things to do with your child indoors. (At least for the first day or so, you should stay near the bathroom.)
If you have beautiful vintage rugs lying around (which, why should you? You have a toddler), you probably want to tuck them away. Potty training is best on hard, wipeable floors, but of course that’s not always possible.
How to start the three day potty training method
On day 1, you should be rested and fed. Your child should only wear a t-shirt and underwear. (Some parents prefer the kids to run around naked, but I think new underwear makes them feel big and special. Plus, they can feel the drenching of accidents as they happen. Plus, I don’t like commanding buttocks on the Sofa. )
With the 3-day potty training method, there are essentially two things you need to do: 1) tell your child, “Tell me if you need to use the potty” throughout the day, about 100 times a day, and 2) watch the child like a hawk.
Apart from that, you and your child can go about their regular activities. Paint, solve puzzles, watch a TV show. But as you do this, keep saying, “Tell me if you need to use the potty.” Say it every five or ten minutes. “Tell me when you need to use the potty. Tell me if you need to use the potty Tell me when you need to use the potty. ”You will be fed up with your own voice. Keep going. Don’t ask, “Do you have to use the potty?” – they will mostly say no.
See it and run
Then as soon as you see pee or poop, pick up your child and run (safely) to the bathroom. Take off your underwear and drop it on the potty chair or toilet. If they can get a drop in, you’ll go insane. Cheer like crazy. Jump up and down. Tell them they are a big kid. Call grandma. Give them a little reward. You will be really proud of yourself.
Repeat this every time. On the first day, my daughter had four or five accidents before it finally clicked. If I said afterwards, “Tell me if you need to use the potty,” she could say yes or no.
After those three days there were a handful of accidents, but all in all the method was a complete success. I was so amazed that all I had to do was get rid of the diapers to potty my child that I had a philosophical moment and after Day 2 wrote on Facebook: “I keep wondering what the diapers of our lives are that Safety nets? do we use this to keep us from experiencing naked freedom? “
For more details on the method, including troubleshooting tips, see Jensen’s book and here Article from the parents’ magazine. Remember, every child is different – be patient with the procedure you choose. And be sure to keep some of these goodies to yourself.
This story was originally published in 2017 and updated to reflect the current Lifehacker style on June 15, 2021.