7 Ways to Potty Train: Which is Best for You?

There comes a time in every parent's life when they are ready to get down to business and convince their child that it's time to ditch the diapers.  There is no shortage of opinions on when and how this should be done. Grandma thinks your child should be trained by age one, your friend tells you just to wait until your child shows signs that he is ready, while your daycare may aim for age two.  One person says to take diapers away cold turkey and just tell your child he's using the potty from now on.  Another says offer bribes and toys for using the potty.

It's enough to make your head spin.  The truth is there is no magic bullet, one-size-fits-all approach to potty training that works for every family or every child.   I was traumatized by son's resistance to using the diapers and absolutely nothing worked until he was ready.  On the other hand, I raised the idea of using the potty with his little sister once and a few days later she told me she was done with diapers that was it.  With my younger son, although many experts advise against, it the only thing that motivated him to use the potty was the promise of a much-coveted new truck.  

Here are seven popular methods of potty training.  Before you dive in, take a look at what each entails and decide which approach you will take.  Don't be afraid to mix-and-match approaches as needed or to give up and start again if you need to.  If you have any concerns that your child is not physically ready for potty training or notice unusual resistance, discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.  Otherwise, get ready to dive in!  There will be some messes.  There may be some tears (from you and your child) but at the end of the process your child will be so proud of her accomplishments – and you will be proud of what you accomplished too!

potty train
Image via Pixabay

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Three Day Method

Three days to potty training?  May parents say the method outlined in 3 Day Potty Training works even for children who have shown no interest in potty training or have been really stubborn.  This method is potty-training boot camp and you should be prepared to spend three days focusing solely on getting your child to use the potty, making it a good use of a long weekend. 

Over three days, your child should not wear a diaper and undies are encouraged.  Constantly remind your child to tell you when they have to go and be on constant alert for signs of needing to use the potty and accidents.  Parents are encouraged to get rid of any distractions (even phones) and have meals pre-prepared during these three days in order to pay complete attention to their child's toileting needs.  If it sounds intense, it is, but unlike most other methods after three days your work should be done rather than dragging the process out over weeks or even months.  

Oh Crap:

The Oh Crap! method takes just six steps and many parents swear this method works for their kids in about a week – but only if you follow the steps religiously.  This method discourages bribes and instead uses a system of getting your child excited about ditching the diapers, going bare below the waist for a few days (you will want to stay home for this portion), then going commando before introducing undies.  


Naked Bum:

Some parents elect to go diaper free for potty training.  There is no one right way to do this. Some give it a go for a day or several days at a time.  Others spend the morning letting their child drink as much juice as they want (sometimes with salty snacks thrown in to make them thirsty) and take the diaper off for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Other parents try it for a few days at a time. Still others go diaper-free intermittently when it's convenient to get their child used to the feel of not wearing a diaper and encouraging them to use the potty.   

Some kids start using the potty right away once they no longer have their diapers, whiles others won't care and will go on the floor without a care in the world.  If you are not in a rush to potty train, trying out going diaper free when you can isn't a bad idea and will let you know quickly how open your child is to the idea of potty training.  

Elimination Communication:  

Some parents choose to try a diaper-free method of potty training.  This method does not rely on rewards of any type and discourages allowing kids to run around outside naked.  It also does not rely upon children showing interest to work.  Instead, look for signs of “elimination communication” when your child has to go and encourage her to use the potty. 

This method is actually used from birth in some parts of the world and some proponents never use diapers, but starting earlier than 18 months or so means spending months, possibly over a year, being on alert for subtle signs your baby is about to go nearly every moment of the day – and involves tons of messes.  


While many parents decide when to potty train, others let their child lead the way.  This method isn't all up to the child, however, as parents do need to explain the concept of using the potty to the child, encourage them to try using the potty, teach their child how to do potty-related tasks such as wiping and washing hands, etc. 

That said, parents who use this method teach their children all of the skills they will need to use the potty and then let the child decide for themselves when to use them.  There are some things parents can do to move things along, such as always changing diapers in the bathroom so that the child associates toileting activities with the potty, having them wash their hands along with you after a diaper change, etc.  

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Potty training in a day?  And you don't have to be involved?  Outsourcing potty training exists and many parents claim they get results in just one day when a professional potty-trainer comes to their house.  Sound too good to be true?  It will cost you $2,000 to find out so only a select group of parents knows for sure.  Those with the funds may be glad to opt out of potty training stress altogether!  


Cold Turkey: 

For children who are on the older side whose parents know they are physically capable of using the potty and able to understand that they need to, picking a day to start wearing undies may work.  Some parents give their child a few days notice and make the day special by picking out which undies he will wear on the “big day” and even baking a cake and having a small family celebration to celebrate.  Treating using the potty much the same way as a milestone like a birthday may do the trick for kids older than two and half who are able to fully understand the concept.  

How did you potty train your child? Share in the comments.

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7 Ways to Potty Train: Which is Best for You?

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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