How to Do a 3 Day Potty Training Boot Camp
The last mile of a marathon is always the hardest.
And that’s how it is with potty training, too.
You’ve been changing diapers for as long as you can remember. You’re coming down the home stretch. But there’s still one big task to push through: actually taking off the diapers and getting your kid on the potty.
A 3 day potty training boot camp is the perfect solution. In three days, you’ll teach your kid to pay attention to her body and get to the toilet when she needs to go.
In this article, I’ll share my best tips for getting your child potty trained in 3 days. Let’s do this!
Know when to start
Potty training was revolutionized in the 1960s by pediatrician Terry Brazelton. Brazelton discovered that when parents waited for their children to show interest and readiness to start potty training, nearly 80% were successful on their first attempt. Ever since, the starting point for all potty training wisdom has been one simple idea. Wait until your child is ready.
There’s no one right time to start. It’s normal for children to potty train anywhere between ages two and four. (Just FYI, girls do often start a little earlier than boys.)
So how do you know when your child is ready? The Mayo Clinic recommends that you wait until your child can…
- walk to the toilet and sit on it
- pull his or her pants down and back up
- stay dry for up to two hours at a time
- follow basic directions
- let you know that he or she needs to go
- show interest in using the toilet
These indicators are both physical and psychological. Your little one needs to reach a level of bodily awareness where he can tell that pee or poop is coming. He needs enough control of his body to withhold pee or poop long enough to get to the potty. And most importantly, he needs to want to stay clean.
How a potty training boot camp works
So your little peanut is showing all the signs of readiness. Now is the perfect time to run a potty training boot camp.
Don’t feel that you need to wait until your child is “really ready”. Your child isn’t going to magically start using the potty all on her own. She needs a push — and that’s exactly what a boot camp can deliver.
Grab a calendar. Sit down with your partner, friends, and any other adults you’ve persuaded to take part in this, uh, potty party. Find three days (or at least two) that you can commit to focus only on getting your kid potty-ready.
As the big day approaches, make a big deal about it with your little one.
He’s going to learn to use the potty all by himself. Show him how super excited you are. Casually name-drop friends who recently learned to use the potty just like a big kid.
Introduce the potty gently to help your kid get ready. No big deal… just leave it out wherever he spends time in your house. Invite him to sit on it with his diaper off while he’s playing… if he wants to.
Get your kid familiar with the potty ahead of time, and the whole boot camp will go a lot more smoothly.
The first morning
The big day is here: it’s the first day of boot camp.
Change your kid’s diaper for the last time. Remember: THIS IS A BIG FREAKIN’ DEAL. Toss the diaper, and give him a clean pair of big-kid underpants.
Hammer home what the next few days are all about. “Daddy and I are so pumped that you are learning to use the potty just like a grown up!” Remind him there’s no diaper to catch the pee or poop. Tell him he needs to listen to his body and head to the potty whenever he feels pee or poop coming.
… and from here on in, it’s just a normal weekend at home.
The rest of the boot camp
Remember: this is the first time your child has tried to listen to his body on his own.
Be realistic. He might need some help along the way.
Give your toddler lots of reminders to go to the potty if he needs to. Transitions are a great opportunity to give your little one a nudge. Provide reminders when you get up in the morning, before and after naps and meals, and before bedtime.
Provide reminders at least every two hours. And if he’s having a hard time going when he needs to, kick it up a notch.
What to do when your kid gets it right
GO NUTS. Seriously! Your kid just learned to go to the bathroom all by herself.. and you’ve just notched a huge parenting win. Show her how pumped you are!
Don’t worry about providing rewards like candy or stickers. You want your child to go to the bathroom because she wants to be clean, not because she’s learned to expect extra incentives. Share your child’s excitement, and focus on motivating her to stay clean all on her own.
When it’s all over
When the boot camp is over, take an honest look at how your child is doing.
Most children learn to get to the potty on their own by the end of a 3 day potty training boot camp. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve achieved perfection.
Your kid may still have an occasional accident every now and then. And she may still need diapers at night. But she should be ready to make it through the day. That’s a game-changer.
And if your kid is having a lot of accidents? No worries. It’s not the right time. Put the diapers back on and try again another weekend.
Pro tips for boot camp success
Now that we’ve looked at the big picture, let’s take a look at a few pro tips that will make you a boot camp rock star.
- Be a firehose. Make sure your kid has something to drink at all times. Keep that bladder full. More fluid intake means more opportunities to practice going to the potty… which means a greater chance of success.
- Go commando. Earlier, I suggested that you swap out the diapers for big-kid underpants on the first morning of the bootcamp. But you might opt for a bottomless boot camp. It simplifies the process so your kid can get to the potty fast.
- Keep the potty nearby. Make it easy for your kid to get to the potty. Keep it close by, wherever she usually hangs out in your house. Worried about accidents? Putting a rubber bath mat under the potty is an easy parenting hack to help protect your rug.
It won’t be easy. Running a potty training boot camp can be tough. But when you cross the finish line, you’ll feel like a million bucks.
Remember to give your child all the support and encouragement he needs. Be super clear about what he’s going to learn during the 3 day potty training boot camp. Provide lots of reminders. And when he nails it, get pumped.
Looking for more help? I’ve helped countless families make potty training a success — and I can help yours, too.