Adventures in Potty Training: Our Experience with the 3 Day Method


Potty Training 3 Day Method

When David and I first started to discuss potty training, I knew that I wanted to try the 3 day potty training method that I had seen all over Pinterest and read so much about. I wasn’t entirely convinced that it would work, but I wanted to try it before we attempted a more traditional method. My goal was for Porter to be potty trained (or at least mostly potty trained) before I went back to school/work. I really did not want to use pull-ups (except for nap and bedtime) because I felt like they would be too similar to diapers, so the 3 day method seemed like something that would work for us. 

First of all, I’d like to say that I truly do not think there is one perfect, fool proof way to potty train a child. I think a lot of things will affect a child’s potty training (timing, the child’s personality, method, etc.) 

Read on if you’d like to hear about how the 3 day potty training method worked for us. I took notes on my phone throughout the process so that I could share anything helpful (or not) with anyone who is interested, but let me be the first to admit that I really had no idea what I was doing when we started this shenanigans. We definitely made some mistakes along the way, but we also had many successes.

We started on a weekend, and I convinced David to take an extra day off of work so that he could help me. If you’re wanting to go this route, I would definitely enlist your spouse or someone to help you, especially if you have a younger baby or child to take care of as well. 

Prior to starting this process, we had been reading a few books about going to the potty for a few weeks. The two that we read and that Porter enjoyed were P is for Potty (Elmo) book and Potty. I would recommend both! 

Day 1: 

After Porter woke up in the morning, we told him that he was going to learn to go potty on the big boy potty today. We told him that he wasn’t going to wear diapers anymore and tried to make a big deal of it. We collected all his cloth diapers and the few disposables we had and had him help us carry them into Cayia’s room. We took off his diaper and said “bye bye, diapers” and let him go naked (we kept a t-shirt on him.) 

We decided to go with the advice we had read and set the timer on our phones for 15-20 minutes. Each time the timer went off, we would encourage him to sit on the potty. 

We started to make breakfast and Porter of course wanted to help. David’s mom had recently bought Porter this step up kitchen stool (which Porter totally loves by the way) so Porter climbed up on it, and we began to make our pancakes. Within a minute or two, Porter peed, and he immediately was concerned and said “uh-oh.” We told him “Oh, no. Pee pee and poo poo goes in the potty” and brought him over to the little frog potty that we had brought out into the living room. He did not want to sit on the potty and refused to sit down. We said “Okay, let’s go clean up your pee pee” and we had him help us clean it up.

During breakfast he peed all over his high chair (and from then on, we had him sit on a towel when he was in his high chair.) Again, he seemed upset that he went, but he didn’t want to sit on the potty. Porter loves playing games on our phones (this Puzzingo game is his favorite) so we offered one of our phones to try to get him to sit on the potty. This was probably not the best idea, but I wanted him to feel okay about sitting on the potty. 

Throughout the rest of the morning, we were offering snacks and encouraging him to drink by giving him juice boxes (which is not something we normally have.) We were able to get him to pee on the potty a few times, but only if we gave him our phones.  At some point I downloaded this Potty Time with Elmo app, and he loved it (Beware, though. If you download it, the songs will likely get stuck in your head for hours.) If we was allowed to play Potty Time with Elmo, he would sit for several minutes (usually about 10) before he would finally go. We made a big deal about it and sang and danced, and started giving him Skittles if he successfully went on the potty. We tried to get him to go on the big potty a few times (with this potty seat) but he always threw a fit, so we let him stick with the little potty. 

During lunch he started to pee while sitting in his high chair, and I immediately said, “Uh oh! Pee pee goes in the potty.” I lifted him up and he finished peeing on the potty. He was so proud of himself; the look on his face was priceless! We let him choose who he wanted to call to share the news with. Throughout this whole process, he really liked calling family members to tell them that he went pee pee on the potty. 

When it was time for nap, we put him in a pull-up and explained that these were special undies that you only wear while you sleep.  After his nap, we let him go naked again, and he was more resistant to sitting on the potty. He’s usually pretty grumpy after his naps, so this probably had something to do with it.  Between nap and bedtime we had a few more successes and a few more accidents. We were able to get him to pee on the potty a total of 5 times that day (he always needed entertainment to do so.) We also had a total of 5 accidents. He did not poop at all on Day 1. All in all, we felt exhausted at the end of the day, but we felt like the day went pretty well and we were feeling pretty optimistic. 

Day 2:

Since the first day went pretty well, we decided to start the day with big boy undies. Looking back, this was a mistake. We should have continued with the way we originally started (naked). My worry was that he wouldn’t get used to going to the potty by pulling up and down his undies/pants, so I wanted him to learn that skill early on. He was excited to wear his big boy undies (we had purchased two packages about a week prior) and he loved picking out the undies he was going to wear. He chose to wear his Paw Patrol undies and we explained that he had to keep them dry. We said, “Don’t get Chase wet! He’ll be so upset if you get him wet. Keep him dry” and this was something we repeated throughout the day.  

We also started with the potty seat instead of the little potty on Day 2 because I was also worried that he would never go on the big potty if he relied too much on the little potty. This was a BIG mistake. Looking back, I think we tried to change too much on Day 2. He would not sit on the potty seat and would scream and throw a fit. We set the timer for 15-20 minutes just like we had on Day 1.   Every time the timer went off, we tried to get him to sit on the potty. He refused most of the time, even if we bribed him with our phones and Skittles. We tried to make him sit a few times, and he hated this, and it was never successful. We started to get frustrated and so did he. He kept asking for little potty, but we kept trying to get him to sit on the big potty (with the potty seat.)  

Mid morning we heard him grunting like he needed to poop, so we hurried and sat him on the potty seat. He finished and went poop and we screamed and hollered.  He was pretty proud of himself and called my dad to let him know that he pooped on the potty. Before lunch, I think we had one successful pee on the potty and one accident in undies. The biggest difference we noticed was that he was not concerned when he went pee in his undies, whereas he was concerned on Day 1 when he had an accident on the floor. In my opinion, the undies felt too much like a diaper, so he was not understanding that he couldn’t go in them. 

He took a nap (with a pull-up) and after his nap, everything went from bad to worse. He absolutely refused to sit on the potty (and often cried about pulling up and down his undies.)  He would not tell us when he wet his undies. When I first discovered they were wet, I tried to get him to sit on the potty, and he screamed.  I tried to remain calm and would clean him up and changed his undies. He wet his undies multiple times in a two hour time period. I think he would start to go and knew he wasn’t supposed to go in his undies so he would hold it. Then I would put a new pair on, and he would go again a bit later (because he didn’t get all of it out before.) David had to run into work for a bit, so I was on my own for these few hours while also taking care of Cayia. It was a tough few hours. Each time he wet his undies, he would not tell me (he wasn’t concerned and it didn’t seem to bother him.)  This kept happening even after David got home, and each time we tried to get him to sit on the potty, he would scream and throw a fit (including throwing himself on the ground.) 

After dinner, we finally brought his little potty back out because he had had so much success with it the first day. We were able to get him to sit on the potty while he played Potty Time with Elmo. He sat on the potty for awhile (probably about 10 minutes) and successfully peed.  Shortly before bed, he had a messy poop in his undies.

Day 2 was frustrating and we were both feeling like all the progress he made Day 1 had gone out the window. I was starting to worry that we were doing this all wrong. I didn’t like that he needed entertainment (our phones) to sit on the potty. We were feeling frustrated and so was Porter. 

Day 3:

I woke up feeling determined to make some progress today. Before Porter woke up, I quickly made a potty chart on a big piece of paper from one of Porter’s art pads. I numbered from 1-10 and drew smiley faces next to each number. I also wrote down (and in some cases drew pictures) of what he would receive as a reward next to each smiley face. The idea was that he would get to color in the smiley faces if he went on the potty. Most of the rewards were Skittles, but after going 10 times, he would finally get to play with his Nabi Jr. tablet. We had had this for awhile, but we were waiting to introduce him to it.  I know some potty training methods discourage the use of rewards, but Porter is definitely not intrinsically motivated (what toddler is?!), so I thought this was our best shot at making some progress. 

After Porter woke up, I put him in a pair of undies (again I let him choose which ones) and showed him the potty chart. I showed him the Nabi and told him he had to go 10 times to be able to play with it.

Well, Day 3 was pretty much like Day 2. We stuck with the little potty, and set the timer every 15-20 minutes and encouraged him to go. He had very little interest in sitting on the potty. When we would try to get him to sit, he would only sit if he was able to play on one of our phones (again, this was one of our mistakes and we shouldn’t have started this to begin with).  We had one success all morning, but it was like he was holding it so he wouldn’t have to sit on the potty (that or he just truly didn’t have to go.) He did like coloring in the potty chart, though (a small victory!) 

I felt determined, so out of desperation I went to Target and took Cayia along. Porter and David stayed home. Since Porter enjoyed the Potty Time with Elmo app so much, I bought this Elmo Potty (despite having the other little potty and potty seats at home.) I also bought more undies (this time I bought Thomas the Train. He had wanted these when we first bought his undies, but they didn’t have his size. They did now, so I threw those in the cart as well.) I am embarrassed to admit that I also bought 3 different kinds of fruit snacks, more juice boxes, and more yummy snacks that we don’t normally have in the house. I was desperate to make him have some more success (even if it meant bribing him.)

When I got home, David said Porter had peed and pooped in his undies while I was gone. He didn’t tell David when it happened, and he wasn’t concerned or bothered by it. We showed him the Elmo potty and he was immediately intrigued. For the rest of the day, he was excited to sit on the Elmo potty and would sit on it when the timer went off (we tried spacing it apart a bit longer so we weren’t bugging him as much) but he would still only sit if he had entertainment. 

After lunch, Porter went down for a nap. After his nap, he was grumpy (as usual) and had no interest in going to the potty. We asked him several times and even when the timer would go off, he would refuse to go. He held his pee for several hours after his nap (again, it was like he was holding it just so he wouldn’t have to sit on the potty) and he had an accident right before dinner.  Before bedtime he had another messy poop in his undies. 

At the end of Day 3, we were feeling defeated and like this 3 day method was a bunch of crap; however, we didn’t want to give up and put him in pull-ups or back in diapers, so we agreed to keep going. 

Day 4:

David went back to work today, so I was on my own. I decided to back off and I was determined to not ask him as much. I tried to act like I wasn’t that concerned whether he went to the potty or not. I also went back to letting him go naked because he seemed to have more success Day 1 when he was naked.  We continued the potty chart that we had started the day before. 

I set the timer for every 45 minutes and I would occasionally remind him or ask if he needed to go potty.  I left the bathroom light on, and told him that if he needed to go that he could go all by himself.  I tried to make him think that he was in control. I think this helped. 

When the timer would go off, he would sit on the potty, and I was able to get him to sit on the potty without entertainment a few times. I would distract him by sitting down and I would start asking him questions or we would sing our ABC’s.  There were a few times when he needed entertainment to sit, but we were making progress. We had two successful pees in the morning and didn’t have any accidents. He continued coloring his potty chart, and I would only give him Skittles if he asked for one after going. 

Between nap and bedtime, he was successful two more times, but there were times when I felt like he was just holding it (I couldn’t tell if he was holding it on purpose or if his bladder strength was increasing and he was able to go longer without going.) He didn’t poop, but he also didn’t have any accidents all day! 

Day 5:

I still let him roam around naked and for the most part, I let him do his own thing. I still set the timer for about every 45 minutes, and when it went off, he would usually sit on the potty without too much effort on my part. Sometimes he would sit and not go, but sometimes he would successfully pee! When he would go, he was going much sooner. He wouldn’t have to sit for several minutes just to go. Again, I was trying to distract him because I didn’t want him to rely on my phone to sit on the potty. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t. 

Since he hadn’t pooped the day before, I asked him a few times throughout the morning if he had to go poo poo. He kept saying no, but at one point (without me prompting or asking him) he ran to the potty and pooped all on his own. I was so proud of him! I told him, “Porter, I’m so proud of you! You went poo poo on the potty!” and he said, “Proud of you, Mommy. Proud of you.” My heart melted. He clearly wasn’t understanding what I meant, but it felt good for him to say that he was proud of me, even if he didn’t know what he was saying. 

After his nap, he was grumpy (can you tell this is a pattern in our house?) and he had a few accidents throughout the afternoon because he didn’t feel like sitting on the potty. I remained calm, reminded him that pee pee went in the potty, and had him help me clean them up each time.  He was successful a few times in the afternoon, too, and had finally met the 10 successful trips that I had started on day 3, so he earned his Nabi.  I let him play with it for 10 minutes, and he loved it (it features all of his favorite Nick Jr. characters). I’m not sure if he really understood that he earned it because he went potty 10 times, but I tried to remind him that that was why. We started a new potty chart. This time I started over at 1. I numbered 1-10 and drew smiley faces, but I did not include rewards this time. It was nothing fancy, but he liked coloring in the smiley faces.

Overall, he had 9 successful trips on Day 5, and many of those times he was able to go without entertainment and he went within a minute or two of sitting on the potty. I finally felt like we were making real progress! 

Day 6:

After he woke up, I asked him a few times if he needed to go. He kept saying no. He had been awake for about two hours at this point, so I knew that he probably needed to go. I reminded him about his Nabi, and told him that if he went that he would get to play with his Nabi (Again, I’m not saying that I recommend bribing your child, but he had only played with his Nabi for a total of 10 minutes after earning it the day before, so I didn’t feel like I was abusing it.) He immediately ran over to the potty and went, so I let him play with the Nabi for about 5 minutes as a reward. 

I was still setting the timer, but I was setting it for about an hour. Before the timer would go off, I would occasionally ask him if he needed to go. I also would remind him that if he needed to go, he could just walk over to the potty to go. Just like I had the previous days, I kept the bathroom light on for him. 

At one point I asked him if he needed to go, and he said “no,” which was his typical response, but about a minute after I asked him, he walked over to the potty and went all by himself.  

We didn’t have any accidents all morning! We continued coloring in our chart (and at some point throughout the day we filled up one chart and I started a new one) and I continued to only give him Skittles when he remembered/asked. 

After his nap, his pull up was dry, so I knew that he needed to go. I was worried that he was going to have an accident any minute, but I tried not to bug him too much. About an hour after his nap, he asked to play with the Nabi. I didn’t really want to let him, but he hadn’t peed for about 4 hours so I knew that he was probably bursting. I told him that he needed to go potty first. He walked over to the potty and went just like that, so I let him play his Nabi for about 10 minutes. 

It was near the end of Day 6 when we had a real breakthrough moment. 

While we were eating dinner, Porter said, “Mommy. Go potty.” I let him down from his high chair and he ran to the potty to go. I was SO proud of him that I honestly felt like crying. I made a really big deal about it, and he was so excited. The smile on his face was of pure joy. 

After dinner, we went upstairs to play in the playroom. My sister had just gotten into town. She was holding Cayia and we were talking. She looked over at Porter, and he was squatting. She asked if he needed to go potty and he said yes, so I ran him downstairs and he successfully pooped and peed in the potty. 

Now that we were having some success, I encouraged Porter to go potty as we were getting him ready for bed. He has the frog potty in his bathroom, but he kept saying “No, Elmo potty!” so finally I decided to pick my battles, and let him run out to use the Elmo potty. After he went potty, we went back to his room and continued to get ready for bed. We brushed teeth, read books, and gave hugs and kisses. Right before I was going to leave the room, Porter said he had to go potty again. I doubted that he really had to go and instead suspected that he had figured out that he could add going potty to his bedtime antics as an attempt to extend his bedtime (he’s a pro at stretching his bedtime and does this by asking for 1 million things.) Even though I knew he was just playing the game, I didn’t want to not let him go. I told him he could go but that he had to go in the frog potty that was in his bathroom. He agreed and pushed out three measly drops. What a little stinker. (My sister found this hilarious, by the way.)  

Overall, Porter had 7 successful trips and no accidents! 

Day 7:

Porter was pretty motivated this morning, that or he just wanted to show off his peeing skills. He went 3 times all before 9 am. One of those times he asked for a Skittle. I told him he had to go potty to get a Skittle. He ran to the potty and pushed a little pee out. I know he didn’t really need to go and that he just pushed some out, but I gave him a Skittle anyway. I actually see this as a good thing, though, because it makes me think that he could make himself go pee before we leave the house to run errands. 

I set the timer for every 45 minutes and when it would go off, I would ask him if he needed to go. He kept saying no, and I just tried to trust him. I reminded him a few times that he could go on his own if he needed to. 

Once lunch time came around, I was starting to worry a bit because he hadn’t gone for about 3 hours. I asked him if he needed to go and he said no. He got in his high chair and we began eating.  Near the end of the meal, he told me he had to go. I let him get down from his high chair, but he asked to play Elmo Potty Time. I told him no and that my phone was charging (which wasn’t a lie!). He had a mini tantrum and flopped to the ground and buried his head in his hands and kept saying “Elmo Potty Time!” I told him to go ahead and go potty when he was ready. I just tried to ignore him. He stayed on the floor for a minute or two longer but eventually got up and walked into the bathroom to pee. 

Later in the day he had a small accident, but once he recognized that he was going, he told me and he finished in the potty. 

I stopped taking notes on my phone and tracking his progress after 7 days. It has now been about three and a half weeks, and I’m still really happy with his progress! I wouldn’t say that he is 100% potty trained. He still has some accidents every now and then (mostly poop, as I think that’s harder for him) but there have also been many days when he’s been accident free! He’s still wearing pull-ups at nap and bedtime, but there have been a few times when he’s woken up with a dry pull-up, so I feel like these are all good signs. 

He still loves his Elmo potty and prefers to use it at home.  He won’t use the big potty at home (even with the potty seat) but he has used the big potty while out and about a few times.  On the day that Cayia received her two month shots, we went out to breakfast afterwards. After our meal, David asked Porter if he needed to go potty, and he said yes, so they went. After coming out of the men’s room, Porter ran towards me and announced to the whole restaurant that he went potty. It was pretty darn cute. 

So there you have it.  Do I think that any child can be fully potty trained in 3 days? I’m not sure. I read that many people had success with the 3 day method, and even though Porter wasn’t trained in 3 days, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure for us. It was nice to have 3 solid days to “hit it hard” and we definitely made a lot of progress in his first week.  In fact, when the time comes to potty train Cayia, I’m sure we’ll try the 3 day method again. 


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