The moms I know fall mostly into two categories, when it comes to potty training: the Elimination Communication (EC) moms and the traditional Potty Training (TPT) moms. The EC moms, while tiresome to hang around sometimes (because all they want to talk about is poop) are super happy talk about this stuff. They speak of each poo they caught with such excitement you’d think it was a major league sport. This is clearly an area of parenting which, while challenging, brought them great pride and fascination. The TPT moms I run into, the ones that waited for the ‘signs of readyness’ well… most of those are miserable if you bring up this topic and are mostly looking for misery with whom to share company. One lovely young mother said she was ‘literally banging [her] head against the wall’ with all the set-backs and power-struggles.
Having missed the EC train (well, let it ride on by, really), I was staring at TPT with some dread. That can’t be the only option – bribing with smarties, cajoling, coercing, only to break down in tears (the parents, that is). Eek! Then I heard of the three-day potty training method. It received glowing recommendations from the mommas on the homebrew chat group I belong to – two moms said they successfully potty trained their 18 month olds using this approach. My curiosity was piqued. I read as much as I could about it online… but never did get round to buying a book.
In fairness, I have also heard from natural mommas who went the opposite way, instead of joining the EC and early potty training movement (no pun intended) they let the timing of potty training come from their kids and did it at their pace. This presumably means waiting until they are influenced by their peers and verbally express a desire to use the potty. Still, the point is, even among natural-minded parents there is a spectrum, every thing from starting EC at birth (which some but not all ECers do) to waiting for the child to be ‘ready’ and sometimes still working on potty training at age 4. There are families out there that have done any combination of techniques at any age along this spectrum, and done so gently and respectfully.
I remained intrigued by the three-day method. The fact that it is short and to the point appeals to me. I am that kind of gal. I like to dive in, go for it, get it done, when it comes to challenges. I would rather do it intensively, in three days, than do it slowly and (arguably) more easily, over months and months, if I have the choice, even knowing those three days will be exhausting and demanding for me – but hopefully actually easier for my DD. Indeed, I am also really drawn to the fact that this method is bare-bottomed and super gentle: you essentially just support kiddos to figure it out for themselves, with no rewards or distractions used.
So, here’s the basics of the 3-day method – the prep:
- Ensure kiddy is between 15 and 27 months of age and shows signs of being interested in the potty
- Chose a potty training partner – this method is full-on and it takes two people, committed for the full three days
- Schedule the 3-day starter weekend when you can have 3 days in which you dedicate yourselves entirely to the success of this method
- Get a potty, preferably one for every room or area you will be in for those days. Ideally introduce it to your child a few weeks before the actual long weekend and talk to them and let them see how mommy and daddy go to the loo. Talk them through the steps (pulling down pants, sitting, doing the do, flushing, washing hands) over and over. Make it ‘normal’.
- From day one your baby goes bare bottomed 100% of the time in the house, when awake
- Give them lots of yummy drinks to ensure they have lots of opportunity to recognise the feeling of needing to go
- Each time they are about to pee or poo or as you see them starting quickly sit them on the potty. If you get ANY pee or poo in the potty make a huge deal of it and do your own, family potty dance/song
- Keep it up – consistency is the key. It is important that your actions communicate that there are only two options: going in a diaper or in the potty. Going on the floor or in your clothes is not a valid option. If they pee or poo, act swiftly to get them to the right place. Do not make them feel bad or humiliate them for any (inevitable) accidents. In fact don’t draw attention to them at all. Focus on the positive and on the successes.
- Day one you stay in the house all day. Day two you can go out for one hour in the afternoon after they have peed. Day three you can go out for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon – again only straight after a pee (which helps cement the ‘I need to pee before going out’ thing in their heads as well as giving you maximum time before the next probable ‘event’
- Keep babe bare-bottomed in the house ALWAYS for the next three months (starting from day 1 of the intensive start-up). Wear only loose-fitting trousers (no panties, diapers or pull-ups at all) when out of the house – as any of these can just give the signal to the brain that there is something there to ‘catch’ your poo or pee and can lead to regressions