Ditching the Diapers: Potty Training in 3 (or 4) Days

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Disclaimer: The following is my account of potty training my daughter, using a particular method*. I am not claiming to be an expert on the subject. However, in 30 years, I’ve 20 years experience with working with kids, including two degrees in education. I’ve taught in middle school and elementary schools, and just finished up my first year in preschool. Again, I am NOT an expert in the matter, but I do feel my combined education and experience makes my account worthwhile. :o)
ditching the diapers: potty trainingDuring the third full week in May, I undertook the daunting task of potty training my daughter, who was 26 months at the time. She was ready; she was more than ready, and I knew it. This just happened to be the first block of time where I could set aside to truly devote to the task. School had finished up the week before, and we had nothing critical that needed to be done. (Gym, schmym – we’re ditching diapers!!) So, I began hyping up going on the potty even more, leading up to that week.
She’d been sitting on the potty at night since January. But that’s all she had done: sit. So the potty was already a familiar entity for her. Plus, she frequently saw Mommy go potty, and -hee hee- taught her self how to “wipe”, as well.
I knew what I did and didn’t want to do with PT. For one, I did not want to use the “timer method” – I didn’t feel like that was a way to teach a child how to read their body’s signals. I also did NOT want to make the transition from diapers to training pants (like Pull-Ups) full time. That didn’t seem to make sense for us. I started making Carol work on pulling her pants on and off for over six months prior, so she’d already mastered that task. (This was easily accomplished during diaper changes. After the diaper was put on, I’d stand her up, with pants at her ankles, and have her pull them up. She still needs a little help getting them up in the back.) I knew I wanted to go straight from diapers to panties, with the exception of naps and nighttime. (I’ll touch more upon that later.)
We ceremoniously took a trip to Target and picked out a few packs of Big Girl Panties. She got to pick out one pack , with princesses on them, naturally; while I tossed in a few more packs that were more cost-efficient. All the while, I talked very upbeat but casually, about how big girls wear panties instead of diapers, sit on the potty, AND put their pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty, and NOT in a diaper. Further, we read plenty of “going potty” books in the weeks leading up to Operation: Ditching the Diapers. Finally, I deliberately opened the packs of panties in front of her, and gave her the “princess” cardboard insert that came with the one pack, and made sure she watched me fold the newly-washed panties, talking up how neat it is to have her very own big girl panties.
Day One
So Tuesday -Day One- arrived, and after breakfast, we ceremoniously went back up stairs to take off our jammies, and take off our verylastdiaper. (Yes, my child eats breakfast in her jammies… That’s blog entry for another day.) I pulled out the new panties from her dresser drawer, and told her how, from now on, she was not going to wear diapers, but wear panties like a big girl. I showed her the picture of the princess on the front, to which she cooly remarked, “oooh, nice” while patting the princess. I went on to explain that big girls keep their panties dry, so if she felt “the pee-pees”, to tell mommy and we’d go sit on the potty. (She wore just a t-shirt and panties, no pants, to minimize the time needed to sit on the potty.)
I’m not going to lie, within two hours of this, I was totally exhausted, and halfway convinced this method just wouldn’t work. (I’m going to chalk up most of the exhaustion to pregnancy.) But I knew I had to have faith in what I set out to do, and push forward. The key to this method of potty training is to stay right by your child’s side at all times. This way, you pick up on their cues, and therefore, teach the child their cues to go potty. With frequent reminders to “tell mommy if you feel the pee-pees”, we still had our share of accidents. The key was to rush her to the potty the second I saw her pause (to pee), if the first drop came out, or if those legs started to spread apart, I’d scoop her up and plop her on the potty. All with a casual reminder that “we sit on the potty to go pee pee!”
We had about half a dozen accidents within the first two hours, but only a few that were paper-towel-worthy; mostly, her panties got a little damp, and we simply had to change in to a new pair. I frequently had her feel the new, dry pair, and compare it to the damp pair we just took off. I’d say things like, “see, these panties are dry. Let’s keep our new panties dry. So you tell mommy if you feel the pee-pees.” Also, for intermittent reinforcement, I would “quiz” her to see if the panties were dry; if they were, we would enthusiastically celebrate. Sometimes that entailed doing the “Woo-Hoo! My Panties are STILL Dry” dance.
While I was getting lunch ready, I failed to keep a close of an eye on her, and that’s when her little table and chair in the kitchen got a downpour. She stood in her chair, just letting it gush out – all the while looking over at me, unable to articulate what she needed to do, so she just, well, showed me…
And then it all started to click.
She would not necessarily verbally state that she needed to go potty, but her body language was clear. She would “hold” herself; she’d knowingly pause whatever she was doing, becoming motionless. I cracked her code, and so did she! Before I put her down for her nap, not only did she pee on the potty, while keeping her panties dry, but she even pooped on the potty, too! I really saw the tide starting to turn, and almost hated to have to put her down for a nap. (Naps were necessary – if for no other reason, so I could have a little break during such an exhausting time!) I reluctantly put on her “night-night panties” (Pull-Ups), and she went down for a nap.
Post-nap, we continued to ride the train of potty training success! While she still wasn’t verbally expressing when she needed to go, her body language was loud and clear. She went through only one or two pairs of panties until bedtime, and I could really tell it was starting to sink in with her.
With each successful attempt to sit on the potty, we called a loved one: daddy at work, grandparents, etc. This proved to be enough of a reward for her. She also got to “watch the babies” on my iPhone. (She likes to watch videos of herself on my phone.) Occassionally, I would further supplement a successful trip and dry panties with an animal cracker, but I didn’t want her to become dependent on tangible rewards. Calls to loved ones, and plenty of praise and enthuiasm proved valuable!
Day Two
The next day started off much like the previous. Except for the pooping in the panties… While she was going pee-pee in the potty like a champ, she would not repeat yesterday’s performance of going poo-poo on the potty. The first time this happened, she paused, and I honestly just missed her cue. So, she didn’t get the message that she should also poop in the potty, just the same as she goes pee-pee. The next incident occurred when she hid behind a chair to poop. This told me she knew what she was supposed to do, but wasn’t ready to try it out on the potty.
It’s important to note that, with this method (or any potty-training method, IMHO), you do not scold a child for an accident. With positively stating my expectations, Carol learned what she was supposed to do. When I saw that glaring nugget poking out of the back of her pants, I would swiftly take her to sit on the potty, all the while reminding her that “poo-poo goes in the potty”, and “remember to tell Mommy if you feel the poo-poo or the pee-pee”. My phrases from the day before continued well in to Day Three.
Day Three
Thursday arrived, much like the day before. She kept her panties dry the entire day. But, she still wouldn’t poop in the potty. She didn’t have any accidents, she just didn’t have to go. (Side note: this method encourages a fiber-rich diet, starting a few days prior to starting, as well as encouraging the child to drink, drink, drink. The drinking was not a problem. But when you have a picky child, it’s difficult to get her to eat most meals, let alone a fiber-rich diet!)
Knowing that she was peeing in the potty without incident, I felt good. However, not knowing if she would poop in the potty made me a bit nervous. I was beginning to develop a motivational reward program in my head, involving charts, stickers, and other small tangible rewards. Keeping all this in mind, I reluctantly decided to extend the “method” to a fourth day, just to be cautious. Reluctant, as we were both going stir crazy, being at home for yet another day; but, I was committed to potty-training my daughter!
Day Four
Friday turned out to be a mixed blessing, much like the day before. She continued to excel at peeing in the potty. But she didn’t poop: not in her pants, not in the potty. Argh.
However, I determined that I had to just trust that she would get it, perhaps with the help of a rewards system, which I was fully ready and prepared to implement. As it turned out, she started pooping in the potty the following day. The first time she did so, Daddy was home too, so we just made such a fuss about going poo poo in the potty, I think that was all the motivation she required. For the next two weeks, she would applaud herself for pooping in the potty, usually with a hand clap and a ceremonious “yay, I did it!”
So, I can say now, a month later, that I have a successfully and fully potty-trained child. She truly knows when she has to go, and began verbally stating when she does shortly thereafter the training experience. I’ve learned to take her at her word, whether she says she does have to go, or if she claims she needn’t go at the moment. I do still encourage her to sit on the potty before we leave the house, and as soon as we get home. But, now that I have a really cool foldable potty seat, I’m not afraid to take her to (most) public restrooms. Almost. ;o)
In an upcoming post, I will share a list of items I highly recommend you have on hand before and during potty training. I certainly have learned along the way, and feel much more confident about Pting Baby Number Two; however, I know now how consuming this method is, and will likely need a caretaker for Carol during the duration of PTing the next child. I digress; that’s an obstacle I’ll face and accomplish in a little over two years.
I will leave you with these last words: this method worked for me and for my child. I’ve heard testimonials from several other mothers of their success in using this method for their children as well. However, it is not for everyone, especially if you haven’t the ability to carve out 3-5 days solely to devote to PTing. You cannot “work from home” on these days. Your child needs your full attention. Period. I highly recommend you do your own research, and find a method that will work for your family. :o)
* – I used a slightly modified version of the 3 Day Method. It’s a program that you can purchase online. It is my opinion that you should not have to pay for a method that can help a child learn a basic life skill. However, it is copyrighted material, and I cannot LEGALLY give it away. I suggest if you’d like to learn more about the 3 Day Method, you ask your friends if they’ve used it; perhaps they could loan you their copy (it comes as a PDF, too), so you can see if it might work for you and your child.
Keep on saving!  :o)

**Remember, y'all, this post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I"ll totally blow on waffle fries and sweet tea, y'all!**


  1. Anonymous says:

    at night and naps did you continue to use pull ups for the 4 days?

  2. Yes, we will continue to use Pull-Ups until she is out of the crib. Although mostly she wakes up from her naps dry, I’m just not ready to take that step yet.

    SO, we will be doing nighttime training separately. And I’ll most likely post about it right here. :o)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much! This will be most helpful in potty training my 22 month old twins!!!!!


  1. […] successfully tackled potty training about a year and a half ago, so when my daughter started preschool last year, her teacher taught […]

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