Potty training

How to potty train—four methods to try

So your toddler is ready to start toilet training, but you have no clue where to start. From the three-day potty training method to a potty training chart, we break down all the different techniques you can try.

Print out this handy checklist to get your family ready for potty time. Download it here.

1. Three day method
How it works: You devote a long weekend to diaper-free training, with the goal of having your kid day-trained by the end. How to prep: Stock up on fun underwear—and paper towels. There will be accidents. What to expect: Lots of messes, and possibly some frustration, are highly likely. Hang in there! How long will it take?: If all goes according to plan, she’ll be day-trained by the third evening. Pros: You’ll likely be saying goodbye to diapers in no time. Cons: You’re housebound for three days and totally focused on training. Is it right for you?: Easily frustrated or distracted toddlers might not take to this method.


2. Slow and steady How it works: Watch for signs of readiness and follow your child’s lead. How to prep: Set up a potty in the bathroom or living room. Introduce the idea with potty-training books or videos. What to expect: He may love sitting on a potty but not do much more, or he may pee once and then not again for a while. How long will it take?: Some kids will be quick learners, but because this is a casual approach, his interest could come and go. Pros: If your kid is ready, training is often quicker and easier, with less frustration for all. Cons: This method can drag on for quite a while if your kid isn’t fully ready. Is it right for you?: If neither of you is sweating him spending extra time in diapers, you’ll both do well with this approach.

3. Deadline
How it works: You’re focused on an end goal (e.g., first day of school) and use strategies consistently, all day, every day. How to prep: Switch to cotton underwear and let her know she’ll be going to the potty regularly all day. Create a bathroom chart to track her triumphs. What to expect: If your training efforts have been sporadic, she may rebel at first, so keep the tone light but firm and focus on the successes. How long will it take?: A dedicated effort can help reluctant toddlers say goodbye to diapers within about two weeks. Pros: With a target date looming, you’ll be incredibly motivated to help her learn. Cons: If she knows there’s a deadline or you seem stressed, she might freak out. Is it right for you?: Only if you can stay cool as D-day approaches, and ensure the training is a positive experience.

4. Rewards
How it works: This method relies on rewards to entice your little guy into training. How to prep: Stock up on stuff that will motivate him. You may also want to make a reward chart to track his successes. What to expect: You should see steady progress, as long as he’s sufficiently persuaded by his rewards. (Ask him to help you pick them out.) How long will it take?: You should be diaper-free within a few weeks. Pros: Since there’s no pressure for him to learn quickly, this is a low-stress approach. Cons: He may demand a treat after every trip to the loo. You’ll have to wean him off. Is it right for you?: Most kids get the hang of a bribery system; it’s just a matter of whether you’re comfortable with it.


Download and print out this easy-to-read guide: Training day printable

A version of this chart appeared in our Summer 2016 issue, titled "Training day," pg. 63.

This article was originally published on Mar 20, 2017

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