Potty Training

Potty Training in 3 Days or Less

Hello Mama’s! My name is Nancy Hake and  I am a certified Special Education teacher in both Connecticut and North Carolina. I have over 20 years of experience in the education field working with children ranging from 3 years-21+. My most extensive work has been with preschool and elementary aged children with special needs. I also have a background in applied behavior analysis, management and techniques. I am currently a SAHM to my 18 month old son, Charlie.

Aside from sleep training our little ones, one of the next dreaded questions is how do I potty train my toddler? How do I know that they are ready?

There are a few simple questions you should ask yourself before getting started:

  1. Does your child have the motor skills necessary for independent toileting; Can the walk to the toilet, sit independently, pull their pants up and down?

  2. Can your child follow basic 1-2 step directions?

  3. Does your child have a means of communicating the need to go? This does not mean they have to be able to verbalize the need. Other forms of communication can be used such as a picture icon or sign language.

  4. Are there any medical reasons which may inhibit your child to feel the urge to go?

I will encourage you to wait to begin this 3 day process if you can rule out any of the above.

It is important to note that there are many methods to toilet training. I am not going to say that this way is the end all be all version, but I have successfully used these methods with non-verbal children, children with behavioral challenges etc..

Before starting, model to your child the toileting process (when appropriate). Invite them into the bathroom when you have to go. Verbally tell them, “I have to go to the bathroom” and go. Toddlers are sponges, they pick up on our routines. When we make it a part of the day, they will most likely want to make it a part of theirs.

Getting Started:

  1. You will need to set aside 2-3 days to stay at home. Do not begin this procedure if you are heading out of town or have lots of weekend activities planned. Many choose to start in the summer when their child can be free of clothing. With this plan you can begin at any time as long as you can guarantee being home for a majority of the day.

  2. Identify a highly motivating item for your child. For many this may be an “M&M” for others it may be a few minutes of screen time. Regardless of what it is, it is CRITICAL that there is no access to the item at any other time other than toileting. The reinforcer will lose its value if offered at other times.

  3. Create a bin to keep within reach of your child with extra pull ups, wipes, underwear, changes of clothes. This is necessary for your child to become a team member in the toileting process.

  4. Stock up on juices, popsicles, salty foods. Why? Salty foods create thirst, thirst creates the urge to drink which creates the need to go!

  5. Create a busy box for the bathroom (small toys, books, etc.) You want to pair the bathroom as a motivating place to be. Keep the isolated reinforcer in there as well.

*Avoid the use of a kindle or IPad because this can become very distracting and your child may just end up sitting on the toilet all day.

  1. Find a timer to use. You will need this to monitor your last bathroom trip.

Be prepared! Are you sure you are ready to begin? There’s no turning back.

  1. Start by allowing your child access to drinks and popsicles. If they do not appear to be thirsty, allow them to eat some salty foods. Keep the drinks within their reach throughout the day.

  2. Set the timer for 30 minutes (this time will increase when success is met).

  3. When the timer goes off simply state “It’s time for the bathroom”.

  4. Take your child directly to the bathroom. Ask them to notice whether or not they are wet or dry. If they are dry sit them directly on the toilet. Keep them there until they void (pee).

  5. When your child does meet success and pees, make it the biggest celebration!! YAY!! You peed on the potty!! Immediately reinforce them with the item you have chosen. Complete the toileting process of wiping, pants up, flushing, washing hands.

    1. Reset the timer and start the above process again.

  6. When your child has an accident… Immediately state in a disappointed tone (not yelling) “You have wet pants, we pee on the potty”. Take them quickly to the bathroom (allowing them to walk) and have them take off the wet clothes. Sit them directly on the toilet. This is where the busy box comes in handy. Keep them occupied in the bathroom until they are able to pee on the toilet (even if it’s just a little bit). Once they pee on the potty provide tons of praise and reinforce with your pre-determined item right away.

    1. Once they complete the toileting routine, have them go to the basket with the extra clothes to help get dressed. Ask them to give you the pull up or underwear and a clean pair of pants since the old set is now wet from the accident. Have them put the wet clothes in the sink. You want to make having an accident inconvenient for not only you, but them.

If your child is successful with the 30 minute intervals you can increase in 15 minute increments. Increase after 2-3 consecutively successful trips to the bathroom. Toddlers will need reminders at times to use the bathroom, especially if they are busy playing, so don’t expect them to independently request every single time in the beginning.

Once you are successful for a few days at home you can take your training on the road!

  • Take your child to the bathroom right before you leave the house.

  • Keep a portable toilet in the car. Toddlers will need the bathroom at the most inconvenient times and we don’t want to reinforce having accidents because a bathroom isnt nearby.

  • Introduce them to the bathrooms in the public places you visit so they know where they are and that they can ask to go.

  • Keep extra changes of clothes in your diaper bag because we can assume a few accidents will occur on the road.

Key points to remember:

  • Reinforcement is the key! The more motivating the reward, the more likely your child will want to be successful.

  • Remain consistent in your methods, reactions and rewards.

  • Don’t give up. Toileting is a huge milestone for children.

  • Expect that peeing on the toilet will come easier than poop. (That’s a whole other blog post).

  • Most important: Stock up on the wine! It’s going to be a long couple days, but well worth it in the end.

Good luck to you all! I’ll be taking this adventure very soon with my son.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions, comments, successes and failures.

Happy Potty Training!



October 26, 2018