Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why 3-Day Potty Training Didn't Work for Us

Updated:  I've got good news for you!  It's been 7 years since I first wrote this blog post, and guess what?  My 3 kids are all fully potty-trained now.  Good thing, too - Einstein is 9.  

So if 3-Day Potty training didn't work for you either, check out: Why We Chose to Potty Train Early or How to Start Potty Training for the First Time (Without Tears) - coming soon.  

Our household is currently in the throes of potty-training for the first time!

Einstein will be two and a half on Valentine's Day, which is pretty young by many potty training standards, but he's been interested in the process for several months, and he meets most of the "milestones" described by experts like Dr. Sears.  So the idea of potty training has been circling in my brain for a while.  But the idea of 3-day potty training never really caught my attention.  Until...

My awesome sister-in-law started her little girl on a 3-Day Training Crusade.  Said cousin is only 2 weeks older than Einstein, and though the kids are as different as night and day, they are similar enough developmentally that comparisons naturally arise between them.  So when my SIL graciously emailed me the training method e-book she had been using, trying it out seemed the sporting thing to do.

To give credit where it is due, the method did have a ton of ideas in it that I loved.  For example,

  • No Pull-ups allowed - underwear only.  (Excellent - we can't afford to put a kiddo in Pull-ups all day, everyday!)
  • Kids as young as 22 months are able to follow the method.  (This eased my fears about Einstein being too young)
  • There is no forcing, bribing, scolding, or punishing involved, but...
  • Small rewards are allowed.  (Hooray!  Sticker sheets are just so appealing.)
  • The quick success promised is based on being with your kid every moment of the the 3 days so you can catch every accident.  (Makes sense based on what I've learned about conditioning, as well as my limited experience with puppy housebreaking.)
Many of these ideas had been extolled by other moms I had talked to, so the method seemed pretty legit.

We tried it.  

Day one - Einstein started out super excited and ready to "play the potty game."  Two accidents, one partial-accident on the way to the potty, and then 3 successes!!  Hooray! He was brilliant!  He totally got it!

 And then I got lazy.  Somehow, I found other things that needed to be done around the house.  Accidents began to be missed here and there.  The day culminated with a lovely big accident in Daddy's desk chair.  Welp, I vowed to try harder tomorrow.  Side note: Einstein started coughing like crazy at bedtime.

Day two - Einstein's cough morphed into an all-out runny-nosed, hacking, exhausting cold.  The house was looking worse and worse due to neglect.  Laundry was piling up, dishes were lining the counter.  But in spite of letting the house go to the dogs, I couldn't manage to keep my eye on Einstein enough to catch every accident.  No successes.  Frustration began to creep in.  Due to the worsening cold, Daddy and I decided to give Einstein as much to drink as he wanted at bedtime (against the rules), and just put him in a Pull-up for the night.

Day three - The cold continued.  The house worsened.  The baby started feeling neglected (and rightly so, poor little thing).  A million accidents (give or take a few).  No successes.  The carpet was starting to have big damp spots on it from cleaned-up (but not dried yet) accidents.  The couch was starting to smell from an accident that I forgot to clean up in time.  Daddy started a new healthy-eating plan, so I was in the kitchen chopping lettuce and radishes while a peeing toddler ravaged the house.

And then...

I gave up.

That was the highlight of the three days.  

I felt like a total failure, of course.  But all of a sudden, I started thinking about things besides potty training.  Like how cute Einstein is in his big-kid undies, how proud he made me by painting "dinosaurs" with his watercolors, how sweet he can be with his little sister.  I realized how much I'd been pressuring him, and also what a good sport he'd been in spite of it!  

Of course, I didn't just have these epiphanies and feel better.  My frazzled, failed, stressed-out brain required a bit more than that.  I may possibly have cried off and on for the better part of four hours.  Oh well.  

And that is how we (I) failed at 3-Day Potty-Training.  But guess what?  Today is day four.  We used a Pull-up in bed last night with no guilt.  We used a pull-up at church this morning with no guilt.  And Einstein successfully went potty twice!!  Throwing out the rule-book seems to be working.  


  1. With my oldest Geneva we tried a similar method and it worked for her. It was an intensive first day and less intense the following days. With Caleb, he showed an interest early but it was right before Magdalena was born so I was not invested. His training took a lot longer but was very relaxed. We just tried to put him on the potty often and kept him in a fitted cloth diaper with no cover (or pants) so we could see when he was wet and change him right away so he'd be used to feeling dry and at the same time preventing the huge mess of an undie accident. I also bought some cloth training pants that had a semi-waterproof outer layer. They still leaked a little though. It was the Kushies brand but I'm sure there are better ones out there. And for cleaning up carpet and couch accidents -have you heard of Natures's Miracle? It's marketed as a pet product and available at pet stores or in pet departments. It's mostly rubbing alcohol with some special enzymes.
    (Yes, I am catching up on your entire blog :)

  2. I have a friend that raised 5 children. Her method was as follows.
    Mom: Come here, Sweetheart
    3.5 year old child: Ok, Mom.
    Mom: I want you to use the potty to go pee and poopy from now on.
    3.5 year old child: Where's my panties?

    That was about it. I never waited quite that long, but didn't follow a book either. One of my boys trained himself all in one day. The others were more of a struggle. But they are all grown up now and not one of them wears diapers. :)

  3. Lisa, that's such a great idea to use the fitted cloth diaper with no cover. We are past the 12-accidents-a-day stage, but it was pretty messy for a while there! I will try that idea with the next kiddo, I think!

    Yolanda, wow, 3 1/2! I don't know if I could wait quite that long to work on potty training! Sounds like it was easy when it happened, though. We are through the worst of the process, I think, and having about 80% success. Thanks for your encouragement!

  4. wow. today is day three for us and your post just about sums it up for us... of course add in daddy being gone on day 3 and mom being in the middle of a fibromyalgia flare... and we can't afford pull ups so I'm not really sure where we go from here... I'd love to hear about day 5 and 6 and 10 and how things are going for you with the pull up method. :)

    1. Hi, Erica. It sounds like you have your work cut out for you - so sorry about the fibromyalgia adding pain to the mix. We are now at like year 2 post-potty training and haven't had an accident in over a year. :) But days 5, 6, and 10 showed gradual improvement! We didn't start using Pull-ups all the time, only at night and when we were somewhere where other people were watching him and wouldn't like to change poopy undies! At home, it was still strictly undies. Unfortunately, it took us quite a few more months to master #2 in the potty, which was frustrating. But we are SO through that, and I plan to start with a three-day-potty-training crash course again with my third kid, because it is just such a great focused primer for them! Don't give up, Erica!


Reading your comments makes my day brighter! Please leave a comment to tell me what you loved and/or hated about this post.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...