3-day potty training: it IS possible

Despite my reluctance to rid our lives of diapers, we took finally the plunge. Four weeks ago we spent three days training our little girl to go to the potty. And we haven't looked back.

Potty training is one of those things that we parents regard with a healthy amount of fear. And not without reason - at worst, potty training can take weeks, maybe months, of frustration and mess. Such is the lore passed down from parent to parent.

But for us, it was three days of... ok, yes a bit of frustration and mess. But also a lot of bonding and happy memories.

It IS possible. Here's how you make the magic happen.

  • Have a plan.

This is essential. Have a plan, share it with whomever will be training with you, and don’t skip a detail. To get us going, we used Lora Jensen’s 3 Day Potty Training method. As we all know, nothing about parenting is one-size-fits-all. And, in full disclosure, we did modify the method slightly. But if you have not yet thought about how to approach potty training, I highly recommend Ms. Jensen's 3-day method. We loved it.

  • Make it a big deal.

At the recommendation of Ms. Jensen's method, we took Baby out to buy big girl undies a week before training. We made it a REALLY BIG DEAL. She picked them out, she held them in her lap all the way home. We talked about them non-stop for a week - how fun they were, how excited she was to wear them, how she needed to keep them clean. This really was all about her.

  • Have a mentor.

Ms. Jensen offers consultation with the purchase of her book. Use it. We consulted with my neighbor who had used this method with her daughter. I emailed her countless times in the days leading up to, and all throughout, our three day journey. (Never have I written more emails about pee and poop in my life). She helped us prepare, she consoled us in the tough moments, she gave us a preview of what was to come, she lent us supplies, and she celebrated with us on Baby’s first accident-free day. You need a mentor.

  • Have a partner.

My neighbor, God-bless-her, did this on her own. So that is possible. M and I did it together. We planned it together and walked through the weekend together. So, after four accidents in a row on the last day, he took over so I could take a shower and regain a positive attitude.

  • Make it fun.

The focus of the 3-day method is positivity. It requires you to spend all day long literally right next to your child, an idea that might seem tiring if you don’t make it fun. So we spread towels all over our floors (for obvious reasons) and told Baby we were going to have picnics. All weekend long we played, read, and ate sitting on those blankets in a three-day-long indoor picnic. And Baby loved every second.

  • Have some rewards.

We didn’t want to be in the sticker-for-every-tinkle business. So, at first, we planned to do this totally reward-less. In the end, we did break out a sticker chart that Baby could add a sticker to after each successful potty trip. But she frequently forgot about it and we didn’t remind her. It's two weeks later now and she will, on rare occasion, ask to add a sticker as she walks out of the bathroom. When she asks, we let her, but we don't bring it up.

  • Make it special.

On the third and final day of training, I sensed that we all needed a little something. Not exactly a reward for putting something in the potty, but something tangible to represent all of the ‘I'm proud of you!’ we'd been showering her with all weekend. So I brought a big balloon in the shape of Elmo’s face home with me from the grocery store. She lit up when she saw it.  We explained that it was hers because we were so proud of her. It is still floating in our living room and she still feels proud when she looks at it.

  • Remember: everyone you know uses the toilet.

This was the advice my neighbor gave me before we started. “I knew that,” she added, “but it helped me to think more big picture when in the trenches.” Oh the number of times I repeated that to myself throughout those three days. But it’s true. You won’t spend the rest of your life reminding your child to keep their undies clean. This time, as all others, shall pass. (Note: I say this all with a certain amount of faith as we aren’t experts quite yet.)

Of course, I leaned countless other things that weekend too. I learned, truly, what pride, and patience, and love, and accomplishment feel like. I learned that talking about pee pee all day will, in fact, make you have to pee pee all day. I learned that success is not defined in black in white but, rather, in shades of grey. Lovely shades of smile-inducing, happiness-making, big-girl-pride creating grey.

So, if you are headed into training, keep these things in mind. And I wish you luck.

p.s. I am NO expert. But if you have questions about what we did, how we modified the method, or anything else about our plan, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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