The Fastest Way to Potty Train a Toddler
One of the most stressful parts of parenting so far has been potty training. Not because potty training was particularly hard, but because I felt so rushed to do it to keep up with other kids my sons age and I felt like I was neglecting him by not potty training sooner.
Who knew mommy guilt ran so deep that it even determines when you attempt to potty train?
I’ll explain exactly how we decided to potty train, the two methods I swear by, and how to overcome obstacles to you today.
In the meantime, if you’re dealing with the same mommy guilt that I was, or if you’re really up against a timeline because your son or daughter has to be potty trained to go to preschool, take a deep breath.
It’s going to be okay, we’re going to get there, this isn’t rocket science. It’s just a new skill your child is going to learn and then (almost all of them) want to revert at some point.
We’re going to stick together in the trenches and potty train all the babies!
Let’s get started!
Toddler Refuses to Potty Train
I want to address this before we move any faster because it is easily the number one complaint I hear from moms.
“My toddler refuses to potty train.”
“How to potty train a stubborn toddler.”
Believe me, I get it.
When we potty trained both of our boys, our 3 year old decided to go off the rails.
I was so pregnant that I didn’t care and gave in. Changing diapers was way easier than getting him to use the potty and fighting every day about it.
Finally, I had our little girl and decided enough was enough.
I was frustrated.
Frustrated at all of the time we wasted. At all of the progress he was throwing away.
I felt defensive of the proud little 3 year old potty trained boy he was just a few short weeks ago who was now so ready to go completely back into diapers.
My defiant side showed up and I told him “NO – you’ve worked so hard, you know how to do this, you ARE potty trained. We’re not going back!”
Obviously, not my proudest mom moment.
As ashamed as I was later that night for being so completely unsupportive of my tiny baby boy who didn’t deserve for me to take such a hard stance – IT WORKED.
I definitely don’t recommend you handle situations like these when you’re completely overwhelmed and fed up like I did.
BUT – I do think you can accomplish the same thing in a much more positive way.
If your toddler is stubborn and refusing to potty train, or worse, wanting to revert back to diaper-wearing after being almost completely potty trained – try this.
Explain to your toddler that they’ve worked so hard and have come so far.
Come up with a cutesy way of telling them they can’t wear diapers anymore.
The diaper fairy came and took all of the diapers to the new babies and left these awesome big boy underwear for you!
I really don’t care how you do it, just accept that failure isn’t an option.
My complete unwillingness to let my son go back into diapers is what potty trained him and do you know what?
He hasn’t had a single accident since.
He stepped up to the plate (potty) and completely absorbed the roll of big boy who is now potty trained.
Sometimes I think it just takes really seeing that they have someone who believes in them to flip the switch.
We knew he was potty trained and could control his bathroom urges, but it was easier for him to go back into diapers and not stop playing in order to go to the bathroom.
Seeing that his parents weren’t going to let him get away with that is what finally flipped the switch for our stubborn toddler and I know it can work for you too!
When Should You Start Potty Training?
I’ve been asked this question a million times and the answer is – it depends.
Does your child show an interest in using the potty?
Do they hide when they go to the bathroom in their diaper?
Are you completely tired of changing diapers and desperately need to potty train to save your sanity?
Let’s look at this a different way. Please try to not get offended.
If you got a new puppy, would you start waiting for them to show you signs that they’re ready to go outside to go to the bathroom?
Of course not!
You immediately start toilet training that puppy and failure isn’t an option.
Obviously your child is far different than a puppy, but potty training doesn’t have to be.
I only use this example to show you that you don’t have to wait until a certain age or until your child shows a certain sign to start potty training.
How to Start Potty Training
The easiest way to start potty training is to lead by example.
If your child comes with you to the bathroom all the time, use it as a teaching moment!
Talk about using the potty, explain how you sit down and use the bathroom and then clean yourself up, then we wash our hands.
“Only big people use the potty, do you think you’ll be grown up enough to start potty training soon?”
“Mommy is so proud of herself when she goes potty on the potty.”
I honestly think you can choose when the right time is to start potty training.
Either listen to your child’s cues or start whenever you feel like you have the stamina to stick with it.
How to Prepare for Potty Training
Why is is that we always talk about how to prepare our kids for potty training but no one talks about preparing the parents?
Trust me when I tell you that I wasn’t prepared at all for the stressful side of potty training.
It’s so rewarding to see your child experience success and to watch how proud they are of themselves when they use the potty.
It’s also incredibly frustrating when your child wants to give up and go back to using diapers.
Or when they pee or poop on your floor for the 5th time today.
I think you need to prepare yourself that this may not be a three day success story like you see online (it totally could be!) but you could also encounter a stubborn toddler who just isn’t quite ready to be fully potty trained in 3 days.
Let’s set some realistic expectations and decide that we’ll do our absolute best, we’ll support our kids through it, and we’ll realize that our kids aren’t going to graduate from high school in a diaper.
It will happen.
We’ll get there – together.
I put together this list of my favorite potty training books – for kids AND parents – that I truly think will help you turn the potty training corner.
Gradual Potty Training
We’ll talk in a minute about the three-day method, but first I want to tell you about the gradual potty training method we’re using with our one year old.
Our daughter likes to take off her diaper, flushes the potty, and is so interested in what her brothers are doing in the bathroom as they potty train.
I figured, why not?
Why not introduce her to the potty in the easiest way possible and see where it takes us?
The simplest way to do this is to start changing their diapers in the bathroom.
Show them from a young age that this is where we go potty.
Some parents swear by shaking poop from the diaper into the potty and explaining that this is where the poop goes and helping them to flush it.
Another simple way to introduce going to the potty is to put them on the potty first thing in the morning and encourage their first pee or poo of the day to be on the potty.
Then, you simply watch for signs that they’re going to poop and see if you can get them to go poop on the potty throughout the day.
Do I think a one year old should be potty training?
Not in the sense that we’re going to try to rush it. But if they’re showing an interest in potty training this early, why not encourage that in any way that we can?
If you really want to try gradual potty training instead of more extreme methods, just stick with it.
Let your child decide when they want to go to the potty and when they want to wear a diaper.
Remember – our motto here is they won’t be graduating high school in a diaper.
If you feel the gradual method is more your pace, go for it!
You’ll have to look somewhere else if you’re looking for someone to criticize how you decide to potty train your child. You’ll only get support (and hugs and wine) from me!
The Fastest Way to Potty Train – Three Day Potty Training Method
Buckle up, get your wine and your comfy pants, it’s about to get intense and really freaking messy.
The best way to do the three-day potty training method is to start completely naked.
No baby enjoys the feeling of pee running down their leg, so they quickly learn they need to either put their pee in the potty or deal with feeling icky.
This also means a lot of cleanup for you at first, so brace yourself.
To prep for the 3 day method, I highly recommend you have a bunch of cleaning supplies on hand – this is my absolute favorite cleaner for this purpose. This stuff saved my butt when we were potty training our oldest.
Lots of moms use just vinegar and warm water.
Either way, be ready to scrub!
Then you keep a potty very nearby or stay very close to the bathroom.
A popular potty training book actually recommends keeping underwear on your little potty trainer – but we went through so many so quickly that it wasn’t worth it.
The recommend making a game out of keeping your underwear dry. This was a game my kids were unfortunately not in the mood to play apparently.
I highly recommend making a huge deal out of day 1 to let your toddler know just what a big deal this is and to make it exciting.
“We’re going to learn something new today and there’s going to be candy involved!”
“We’re giving our diapers to the new babies and you get to use these big kid underwear!”
Rally the troops however you have to to make this day seem special and important.
At first, you will have to remind your toddler to try to use the potty.
I hear so many parents shaming other parents for giving candy during potty training, but we would still be in diapers if it weren’t for mini M&Ms.
This training period isn’t going to last forever and nothing motivates like chocolate.
You can also buy small toys at the dollar store (but you’ll be giving out a LOT of toys) or try a sticker chart.
This sticker chart is adorable and can hang on the wall in your bathroom or near your potty while you’re doing the three-day method.
Offer lots of fluids during this time and stay contained in a small area.
We camped out in our living room for a long weekend.
We potty trained both of our boys at once – one was almost 3 and one was just 18 months.
The 18 month old caught on so much faster than his big brother – which leads me to believe the sooner you start, the better.
On the second day, you’ll still have a fully naked little one, but you can start to branch out into your home a little more or even into the yard while still remembering to offer the potty every 15 minutes or so.
This is key throughout the entire 3 day process.
I believe it’s all about training their minds to question whether they have to go to the potty and to start to recognize the urge to use the bathroom BEFORE it happens.
We always offer lots of fluids to make sure we have plenty of opportunities to practice.
If they do have an accident, have them help you clean it up.
We said a lot of “oops, the pee goes in the potty! Let’s clean it up and put it in there together.”
On the 3rd day, your child should be ready for a brief outing to a park or somewhere local.
You can be more brave than me and head out to the grocery store if you want to, but keep the trip short.
We just kept a potty in the car and I asked like a crazy person if either of our potty trainers had to go potty.
We stayed at the park for about 15 minutes and came home – I felt like I narrowly dodged a bullet when we made it back without an accident.
Most parents who try this method say they turn a corner on day 3 and their child starts to ask to use the potty on their own.
This was our experience somewhere between day 2 and day 3.
I didn’t feel we were completely 100% potty trained after those 3 days, but holy crap did it make the biggest difference.
Now we were just asking all the time if they had to go to the potty, not cleaning up messes every few minutes.
We could leave the house again without fear, but always keep extra underwear and clothes on hand just in case!
How to Survive Potty Training – A Word of Warning
This 3 day method was INTENSE!
There were so many times that I wanted to just give up.
It was exhausting to get up and down all day (I was 3rd trimester pregnant at the time) and every single time anyone got a little sprinkle of pee in the potty, they demanded an m&m.
Looking back, this was such a huge sign that it was working.
They were excited to put anything at all in the potty and they were learning WHILE they were trying to manipulate their way into more candy.
This was a win that I failed to recognize at the time.
Nighttime Potty Training
I have a sort of unpopular opinion about this one, so bear with me.
I know tons of parents who claim they have trained their kids to go to the bathroom through the night, but in our house – we don’t bother.
Part of our nighttime routine is putting a diaper on our oldest (he’s 4 now) and going to sleep.
He almost never has an accident in his diaper throughout the night which tells me he’s grown into nighttime potty training naturally.
I can promise you it’s nothing that we did to train him.
One thing we never dealt with was changing sheets all night long.
My Thoughts on Pull Ups
I swear these things are the diaper companies’ way of continuing to make money for years to come.
When you put these on a child, they look and act just like diapers.
In our experience, they completely took away any incentive to potty train.
Why bother when they can just go in these new fancy (expensive) diapers?
We bought one pack, quickly peed through all of them, and never purchased them again.
They were such a hindrance to our progress that I truly can’t believe pull ups are still on the market.
Maybe people use them for nighttime?
I have no idea. If you use them and see success, please let me know!
Are you in the throes of potty training? What is your biggest obstacle so far? What’s working the best? Hop onto Instagra m and start the conversation with me! More moms (and dads!) need all the potty training encouragement they can get!