So how long do you think it should take to potty train a child? A month? A year? Approximately for-freaking-ever?
Well you could do it that way. Or you could save yourself some serious time and do it like we did.
We’ve potty trained two kids – in a total of two days.
That’s right, people. Twenty-four hours a tot.
Let that sink in for just a moment…
…Right now, you’re probably either staring at your screen in slack-jawed disbelief, or shouting disgusted, disdainful obscenities at us through it.
Either way, once you’re all finished with that, please allow us to explain.
Potty training your child in one day isn’t some crazy, new-fangled technique we just came up with. It’s a crazy, new-fangled technique that psychologists Nathan Azrin and Richard Foxx came up with way back in the 1970s. They wrote a book about it called Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, which has sold over two million copies. In fact, the Doctor’s own mother used this method on her and her siblings back when they were wee babes, and you’ll be happy to know that they are all experts at using the potty now.
(For our kids, we used a more recently written book about the same basic process – Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day by Teri Crane.)
We should warn you right now that while this method is amazing and really works, it can also be incredibly grueling and filled with grief. And just like the grieving process, in fact, potty training in one day happens in stages. Here they are:
STAGE 1 – THE PRE-TRAINING PREP
Before your little one’s big day, you’ll need to gather the following supplies:
- Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day by Teri Crane: The book does a great job of explaining everything you need to know to make this crazy undertaking a success. We recommend reading the whole thing in advance, and jotting down notes to refer to on the big day!
- A doll that actually pees: For girls, or boys!
- Big kid underwear
- As many books and videos about using the potty as you can find
- Poster board, markers and stickers
- Salty snacks
- Lots of kid-friendly drinks
- A cool gift your child will like
- Fake poop
STAGE 2 – THE DOLL-FOCUSED MORNING
During the first half of the day, your child doesn’t even try to use the potty. Instead, your kiddo teaches a new doll how to use the potty. This technique is pretty powerful, because teaching someone else something is often the best way to learn it yourself.
Most of the morning is spent alternating between taking the doll to the potty and celebrating its successful pees and poops, checking the doll’s underpants every once in a while and celebrating when they’re still dry, and staging doll potty “accidents.” And when you’re not doing that you’re reading and watching every single potty book and video you could possibly get your hands on for the day.
STAGE 3 – THE DIAPER-FREE AFTERNOON
The second half of the day is all about your child. Immediately following lunch and/or nap, your child gets his own “big kid” underwear. Then you spend the afternoon snacking on pee-inducing salty foods and all the beverages your kid can handle, practicing your child’s budding potty skills and celebrating his successes (adding stickers to the poster board is a great way to keep track of them all), and of course reading and watching even more potty books and videos.
The day culminates in a “big kid” party, where he gets a special gift and you ceremoniously throw all of his diapers away!
STAGE 4 – THE DEVASTATING DEPRESSION
While this day will be a fun “potty party” for your child, complete with gifts and special treats, it will be totally energy-sucking for you. By the end of the day you will be sick of hearing yourself talk about peeing and pooping on the potty. And you will probably also be absolutely positive that despite all of your preparation and hard work, the day has been a completely disastrous, soul-crushing failure.
Because guess what? There will be at least as many accidents as there are successful potty fillings. And when your child goes to bed, you will be totally sure that all your effort has all been for naught.
STAGE 5 – THE JOYOUS MIRACLE
But it won’t have been for naught! Because over the next few days you’ll realize that it has actually worked. All of the teaching, practicing and potty propaganda has somehow seeped into your child’s brain (and bladder), and following the one-day training he will be mostly to totally potty trained. Sure, there will be some accidents here and there for a little while, but not very many considering you only spent one day practicing!
Holy crapola, right?
Think you’re brave enough to try the one-day potty training method for your own kids? Here are some insider tips for you:
- Enjoy the fun parts. The day can be really, really tough. So don’t forget to laugh whenever you can. Personally, our favorite part comes after you give the doll to your child and ask him to name it. Our daughter called hers “Dolly” and our son decided on “Huggy Oaks.” (Because he’s crazy, obviously.)
- Tone down the party. Crane’s book suggests that you take the party concept to the nth degree, developing a theme based on your kid’s interests and decorating your house to the max for the occasion. We do a very scaled down, decoration-free version of that – just calling the treat-filled day a “potty party” has always made it feel special enough for us.
- Do not let your kid see you eating poop. For the doll’s simulated poop accidents, we suggest using brownies. But do not let your kid know that they’re brownies, and definitely don’t let him see you snacking on it. What kind of potty training issues would that lead to?
- Buy extra underwear. We suggest buying at least two packages of underwear for your child. You can use one package for the doll’s “accidents” in the morning, and gift the other to your child after naptime. (Face it, you’re going to need the extra package anyway.)
- Visit your local library. When you get there, ask a reference librarian to gather all the potty books and movies she can possibly find. While you may have some in your personal collection, you’ll want as much as you can find to fill your potty day.
- Use towels strategically. For the afternoon, lay towels out on the floor to be your special “potty party” hang out spot when you’re not in the bathroom. The towel will get peed on, so have spares.
- Use Pull-ups strategically too. After the potty day, your child will never wear diapers again, but you may want to use Pull-ups at night and for outings initially. Try to phase out the ones for outings as soon as you can muster the guts to take your kid out in underwear. But use the Pull-ups at night for as long as your child seems to need them. When our daughter kept her Pull-up dry until the morning for five days in a row right after potty training, we switched to underwear. After only two weeks of wearing Pull-ups at night, our son insisted on underwear at night himself, saying, “I big boy. I no wear diapers anymore.”
- Siblings can be an asset. When the Doctor’s mom used the one-day method on her kids, she made sure to be alone with the kid that was being potty trained, sending the siblings away to be with a babysitter for the day. But when our son was being potty trained, we took a chance and let his big sister participate in the “potty party” day – which turned out to be a great move. Motivated by getting to share in the rewards each time he was successful, big sis was an enthusiastic role model and cheerleader for our son.
And good luck!
Like this article?
You'll love our new book, Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple Research Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Child's Developing Mind.
Order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Chicago Review Press!