Potty Training Made Easy: The 1 Day Method, 3 Day Method, and Montessori Methods Explained


We all have that friend. That annoying bitch/asshole whose kid used the potty at like 6 months.

And worse, these bitch/assholes usually remind you of their greatness/their child’s prodigy after you tell them you spent your Saturday from 11:02-12:15 cleaning up shit from your carpet. Before you can ask if they think it’ll ever smell normal in your living room again–boom, check out how awesome my kid is, he never does that.

Fuck them.

But if you think about it, wouldn’t it be more fun to be that parent rather than just hate that parent? Then you could stand off to the side on play dates and talk shit with that parent. Rather than just be another sad case of schadenfreude that those parents snicker about when you’re out of earshot. Sound better than throwing things at grownups? Read on, padawan, and learn to master the Potty.

The 3 Best Methods of Potty Training

There are 3 methods we know of to train your kid to use the potty that we know, as a witness, work. They are, in order of speed:

  1. The 1 day method. How many 18 year olds do you know that don’t use the potty? Yep. You can just wait. They will use the potty one day.
  2. The Montessori Method. If you child is in a Montessori preschool for younger children (under 3s), Dr. Montessori had a very clever way of teaching kids to use the potty: by inviting them to use it, and surrounding them with slightly older kids who already know how to use it. The peer pressure (in a good way) is irresistible. In my own personal experience, our kids used the potty at school pretty much a year before they did at home. We had no idea. It works. It’s painless. More on this below.
  3. The 3-day method. This method has been proven to work. It’s a commitment for you and your child, in that it will consume your entire weekend and at times you will lose your shit (and so will he or she). But, it works. Many of the principles applied are similar to Montessori–except, that is, for the urgency.

Your Child’s Development Matters

While some people disagree, we believe that a child has to be developmentally ready to use the potty. While we have heard of 6 month olds regularly using the potty, it’s generally thought that this happens at age 2-3. There is no specific age. A good way to tell is to simply ask your child if he or she wants to use the potty. It helps to have slightly older, potty-trained children around so they see the example set by someone they look up to that’s more their size.

If you try too early, be prepared to be let down. The first review (as of this writing) of the 3-day potty training book over on Amazon is by an angry mother whose 22 month old daughter didn’t get the results she expected. Shocking. If your child isn’t ready, she’s not ready, and just because you read somewhere that 22 months is “old enough” doesn’t mean it’s right for your child. Those BabyCenter emails are alarmingly accurate in utero, but once out in the world babies don’t live on the same developmental schedule.

The Montessori Method of Potty Training

Dr. Maria Montessori has a simple yet profound way of helping children grow and mature.  It’s well beyond the scope of this blog post, but with respect to potty training there are a few specific things that are helpful, and you could say are a “method” but I’m sure she would not have accepted that.

  1. Wait til the child is ready. Invite your child to use the potty. When they start using it, encourage them. Maybe have a story they only get to read on the potty. But it’s their choice. If they choose to go in their diaper, that’s fine too. Eventually, they’ll want to use the potty (see 1 above)
  2. Use cloth diapers. These are much less comfortable when a child is wet, they’re more aware of it, and has a stronger desire not to get his or her diaper wet. Some Montessori preschools actually switch children into cloth diapers when they arrive for exactly this reason.
  3. When your child says he or she is ready, invite them to use the potty frequently. Not (in the 3 day method) every 15 minutes, but more frequently than they need to.
  4. There are no accidents. They will have wet or dirty underpants. But, because “accident” implies something bad, like a car accident, and toddlers take language literally, and that’s not really what you mean, use the words “wet” or “dirty”. Emphasize that your child doesn’t want to be wet or dirty, and next time should go to the potty.
  5. No pull up diapers. These confuse children because they’re like underpants; they think they’re a “big kid” but they’re not yet. Stay with the old fashioned diapers until they change over.
  6. Have patience. It may take time. Leaving them in diapers overnight is fine; perfectly normal actually (and will save you headaches). Eventually they will outgrow this, especially if they know their peers don’t sleep in a diaper.

 The Three Day Method of Potty Training

While I personally haven’t done this, many have. This is what you do when you are up against a preschool deadline or a huge family vacation. It works. Your child will probably be fine, not scarred for life. But, there are other much less painful ways.

How to potty train in 3 days:

  1. Set aside 3 days where you will be at your home, constantly, and not leave and not take a break from potty training. For serious. No quick lunches. No cooking dinner (except maybe Annie’s mac and cheese).
  2. After waking up on the first day, throw away your child’s diaper and have your child say “bye bye”.
  3. Starting with breakfast, make sure your child drinks lots of fluids, and either wear underpants or wear nothing (a long T-shirt can be a good idea).
  4. Do activities but stay close to a potty.
  5. Invite your child to use the potty every 15 minutes. When they go on the floor, or in their underpants, remind them about the potty in a positive way (“Are you wet now? Would you rather be dry next time? If you use the potty, would you still be dry?”)
  6. Rewards work, like every time they use the potty give them something amazing–like candy.
  7. No drinks after dinner, and be sure to have them potty before bed
  8. Wake them up in the middle of the night to pee. (This is a must).
  9. Repeat steps 2-7 for 3 days.

From what I’ve observed, children get it towards the end of the first day–then regress! It’s painful! Lots of pee to clean up. But, they figure it out by the end of day 3, and you can get on with your life, sans diapers.

The Best Potty Training Method

We’re not sure what the best method is. The 3-day method is effective, but also intense. The  Montessori method works. But then again–doing nothing also works. Your child will figure this out.

We learned long ago at Smallnest not to judge. That said, we also learned as parents that there’s a lot to be said for easy and the Montessori method–while it involves more dirty underpants, wet carpets, and wet sheets than the 3-day method probably does, and spread over a longer time period–is by far the least painful for everyone involved. Especially when the Montessorians at school do it for you.




Photo: Flickr.

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