Potty Training

Potty Training

Potty training. Two words parents often dread.

Adults don’t think much about using the bathroom — until they are their parents of a young child. Then, their days are consumed by diaper bags, diaper pails, potty seats, travel potties, training pants, overnight diapers and more.

The average parent changes at least 2,000 diapers a year. So by a child’s third birthday — 35 to 40 percent of 3-year-olds in the United States aren’t potty trained — that’s more than 6,000 diapers. And if we have twins, or triplets? That is a lot of diapers! And a lot of expense.

So parents should dread potty training. If anything, it is to be celebrated. No more diapers to change. No more diapers to buy.

There are a lot of opinions about the best way to potty train a child. As a person with 31 years of working with children and potty training many of them — even triplets — I will share my thoughts with you.

Potty training in one day

This method relies on a “reward system” catered to your child and his interests (stickers, candy and such), along with a book, special underwear and anatomically correct dolls to help your toddler learn to potty train in one day. This system has the support of many pediatricians and the topic has been featured on “Dr. Phil” at least twice. The concept is that children teach their doll to use the potty and in doing so, with you teaching them, they also learn to use the potty themselves. Many parents find this technique highly successful, but it only works effectively if you plan appropriately and realize you are dedicating an entire day to ONLY this. It won’t work if there are many other distractions.

Modified potty training in one day

This follows many of the same concepts as training in one day, but does it at a slower pace, encouraging a toddler to use the potty at regular intervals and rewarding her with praise or prizes for using the potty correctly. This tends to be the most common with parents and caregivers in my experience.

Using training pants/potty training disposables

This method involves transitioning your toddler from diapers to a training type of underpants that is a cross between diapers and underwear. The theory behind this is that allowing your toddler to be more of a “big kid” will encourage him to try to use the potty, but the training pants aspect of it helps prevent the dreaded accidents. Proponents of this method love it for ease; opponents say it really is much less effective because it doesn’t feel different enough from diapers. The result is that it takes kids longer to learn.

Elimination Communication

In this method, parents and caregivers watch infants from early on — some as early as only a few weeks old — and put them on the potty every time it appears they are going to urinate or poop. Some of these parents never use diapers at all. Sounds great, right? Potty trained, right from the start! Proponents of this method swear by it. But what they don’t tell you is the downside; you can’t ever be far from a potty, so for those 100 percent committed to this, leaving the house, traveling and other activities can be quite a challenge. There is also a fair amount of pushback from doctors about this method who say it can cause issues with the bladder, in particular. This method remains controversial. I have never met a parent who has used this strategy successfully, but I have seen many comments about it on discussion boards.


This involves waiting until the child essentially tells you she is ready to use the potty. Many parents end up here by accident. They don’t recognize that their toddler was ready to potty train or there were no outward signs. Sometimes, if they haven’t made the effort yet, their child will simply tell them: I am done with diapers. And many times she is and it’s the end of diapers. So if potty training is not a pressing issue for you, this might be the right approach.This is what happened with my daughter. I kept putting it off because I did not want to dedicate the time to training. She literally walked up, handed me her diaper and said, “I am done. I use the potty now. That was the end of it.

New Underwear

For some children, the prospect of new, big-kid undies is all it takes to motivate them to use the potty. If this is the method you use, either take the child shopping with you or let him look with you online. Their selection of the underwear — no matter what you think of them — is key to the success of this method. It grants them power over the choice and ultimately helps them understand the concept of power over their bodies.

So all these methods are great, but what really works?

In reality, all of them work. The success or failure is more about knowing what is going to work best for your child and family, then making the commitment and having patience and consistency with enacting your plan. A note to parents of multiples: Your children might look just alike, but their potty-training routines could be completely different.

I have used all of these methods in my years of working with children and used two different methods with my own kids: modified training in one day with my son and simply waiting with my daughter. Take a look at your family dynamics and needs, as well as your child’s personality. Research the specifics of the method you feel is the best fit for each individual child and then when you are ready and you feel your child is ready, commit to it fully.

Like most things, once you give it your all, you will usually find success.

Written by: Tonya Sakowicz (Founder of Newborn Care Solutions)

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