A Step-by-Step Guide to the 3-Day Potty Training Method

You may have heard about various methods for potty training a toddler, one of them being the three-day potty-training method. Although there is no foolproof potty training strategy that works for every child, you may decide that this intensive, boot camp–style training method is the right one for you and your child. Read on to learn how to implement this method and to gather tips about potty training in general.

Choosing Among Potty-Training Methods

Whether you choose to try the three-day potty-training method or prefer a more gradual technique, it's helpful to know that there is no evidence that any one method is better than another. However, it’s best to start toilet training your child when they’re developmentally ready and when you’re able to commit to a positive and consistent approach.

It’s also unnecessary to use to just one method. You could decide to do a combination of different potty-training methods to come up with something that works well for you and your child. Medical experts agree that children benefit when verbal, physical, and social forms of training are combined. These can include reading a book to your little one about potty training, letting them pick out their own potty chair, demonstrating to your child how to use the potty and wipe themselves afterward, and offering praise and hugs for a job well done. Work with your child and their personality to come up with the best combination of potty-training methods for your family. You’ll get to know your child and their unique style a little better, and you’ll appreciate seeing them grow into an individual.

6 Tips to Follow During Potty Training

Whether you’re starting potty training or you're already in the thick of it, here are some potty-training tips and techniques to keep in mind:

  1. Be ready when you notice the signs. If you see your toddler needs to use the potty, be quick to lead the way or grab the potty chair. Toddlers are often unaware of their need to go until the last minute.

  2. Gently remind your toddler to use the potty. Oftentimes when children get busy with an activity, they forget to go to the toilet or potty, which can lead to accidents. Consider reminding your child to use the potty every time you yourself need to use the toilet. This can help reaffirm for your child that everybody uses the toilet. As your child becomes older and more independent, you may need to pull back on reminders, as these can sometimes lead to resistance on your child’s part.

  3. Take notice of your child’s routines. Does your little one need to use the potty right away when they wake up, after meals, or after being in the car? Pay attention to your child's needs and habits and encourage them to follow through with using the potty at these times during the day.

  4. Offer encouragement. Potty training requires mastering different skills and steps, so be sure to notice your child's efforts along the way. For example, give them a high five when they tell you (without prompting by you) that they need to go, and when they’ve successfully used the potty themselves.

  5. Keep your cool when accidents happen. In the early stages, you may need to help your child clean up after an accident and change their clothes. But, as they are able, gently encourage them to help with the cleanup and change their own pants after an accident, not as a form of punishment but as a step toward greater independence.

  6. Be patient and positive. Potty training takes time. There may be setbacks, such as potty-training regression, so keep a positive attitude and always look on the bright side: Your child will eventually be potty trained!

Signs of Potty-Training Readiness

Many parents assume that a child should be potty trained by a certain age, but that’s not the case. Children are unique and they develop at different rates. One child might be ready to start potty training as early as 18 months, whereas another may not be ready until 3 years of age. Contrary to what you may have heard, not every preschool-aged child is fully potty-trained, and that's normal.

Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your child to another or be made to feel ashamed by another parent for not having trained your child to use the potty sooner.

If you're wondering whether it's time to begin the process, look for these signs of potty-training readiness in your toddler:

  • They understand and use words associated with the potty, like pee and poop

  • They associate the urge to go with using the potty

  • They can stay dry for two hours or more

  • They can follow the physical actions required: going to the potty, pulling down their pants, sitting on it, and then standing and pulling up their pants.

You may like to try training pants with your little one during potty training. Among the many benefits of training pants are that they can make potty training easier for your child:

The 3-Day Potty-Training Method

If you’ve decided to give the three-day potty-training method a try, before you begin, you may want to check that your child

  • has shown the signs of readiness mentioned above

  • can control their bladder

  • knows when it’s time to urinate

  • has the motor skills needed to potty-train, including undressing and dressing

  • can follow instructions.

10 Tips to Follow During the 3-Day Potty-Training Method

Ready to try the three-day potty-training method? Some parents like to schedule this for a long weekend, when there may be fewer distractions or time commitments. Whenever you get going, here are some tips and techniques for how to potty train in three days (or less):

  1. The day before you begin, tell your child that they'll get to wear big kid underwear instead of diapers starting tomorrow.

  2. Gather the equipment you'll need: a potty chair that sits on the floor or, if you're using a full size toilet, a footstool to support your child and perhaps a toilet insert, and a big pile of underwear.

  3. Show your child how to use the potty or toilet. A doll that wets itself can be helpful to demonstrate what to do.

  4. Encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids to help them get accustomed to feeling the urge to go.

  5. When your child has the urge to go, tell them to head to the potty, lower their pants, use the potty, wipe, stand up, pull up their pants, and wash their hands. Help them only if needed.

  6. Check your child's pants for dryness frequently, especially on the first day.

  7. If an accident happens, don’t scold or punish your child—just calmly acknowledge it by saying something like “Oh, it looks like you had an accident.” Help your child clean up, and gently remind them to let you know when they have the urge to go.

  8. Make many trips to the potty and use frequent practice sessions throughout the day to help reinforce positive outcomes. These sessions can include using the doll to demonstrate proper toilet procedure, showing your child the difference between wet and dry pants, and sitting on the potty.

  9. Praise your child when they manage to successfully use the potty. Consider having stickers they can put on a potty training chart to show their progress.

  10. Eventually, by day two or three, practice sessions and dryness checks can be reduced as your child gets better and better.

Some proponents of the three-day method recommend what's called the "bare bottom" approach, which is just the way it sounds. You not only skip the diapers but also forego the underwear, letting your child roam around the house (or outside in your backyard if the weather is warm enough) wearing nothing but a long shirt or a shirt and loose-fitting pants. Whether you go for underwear or not, essentially, you'll follow the same strategy.

The Bottom Line

Whether you decide to try the three-day potty-training method or some combination of methods for your child, know that potty training normally takes around six weeks, and having a fully potty-trained child takes years. The best thing to do during this time is approach potty training with an open mind and a flexible, positive attitude.

Potty training isn’t a cut and dried process and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time for your child to learn how to successfully use the potty and eventually the toilet, just as it takes time for them to learn any other new activity. Your child is developing in their own time and in their own way. Support their individuality and cheer on their progress!

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.