Introduction: How to Potty Train a Child

Picture of How to Potty Train a Child

I have successfully potty-trained eight of my children, as well as three of my siblings, while they were between the ages of 22 and 28 months, in the course of a week. In the next few minutes, I will share my secret method, and hopefully, you too can say good-bye to diaper doody, err, duty, once and for all!

Step 1: Readiness

Around the age of 22-24 months, a toddler will exhibit signs of readiness. Conscious pause in play to poop, whining to be changed when wet or poopy are some of these signs. Also, having the verbal ability to communicate the act (a simple "pee-pee and poo-poo will suffice) is important. Make an effort to determine how long the toddler stays dry on any given day. This means checking every hour for wetness. When the toddler can "hold it" for at least an hour, preferably two, he or she is ready for the next phase.

Step 2: Doo As I Doo

Picture of Doo As I Doo

It may sound strange, but kids learn from example! About a week or two before starting the final phase, make a scene when you go potty. Don't worry, the child will not know you look foolish. Standing outside the bathroom door, grab the front of your pants and put an apprehensive look on your face, and say something along the lines of "oh, no! pee-pee!" and dash into the bathroom. I guarantee the toddler will follow out of sheer curiosity and to see what the heck your problem is. If you aren't comfortable doing the deed in front of the child, pretend. Perform that act once or twice a day. Within a week or two, you are ready to proceed.
Hint: If there are older, potty-trained children around, the toddler will almost likely want to know what on earth is going on in the bathroom, and often will pick up clues by watching them instead.
Pick up a potty chair with the child. A simple potty chair is best. No fancy gadgets with bells, lights and sound effects. No toilet paper holder. No book rack. Just. A. Potty. Chair.

Step 3: Seven Step Program, Part One

Picture of Seven Step Program, Part One

As in, seven days. Pick one week where you can give the child your completely undivided attention! In the days before the week commences, take the child shopping, and pick out "big boy" or "big girl" underwear. These should be the 100% cloth training pants that are basically underwear, with an extra thick padding in the middle. Not pull-ups, not plastic-lining-on-the-outside underwear. If the kid feels like he or she is wearing a diaper, guess what? They will treat it like a diaper.
At bedtime the night before the week-long training begins, remind the child that tomorrow he or she will be a big kid and will wear undies! YAY!

Step 4: The Hard Part

When the child wakes in the morning, make a big deal about how they are such a big kid! Remove the diaper, clean as usual, and then put the new training pants on the child. And that is all the child should have from the waist down! This gives the kids a chance to feel when they have wet or pooped. (I have done this method in EVERY season, they never freeze to death, I promise)
Throughout the day, offer the child dry snacks (to increase thirst just a little) and follow up with plenty of drinks, milk, juices, water, whatever the child will drink. This helps the child actually feel the bladder fill, and eventually correlate the act of drinking and peeing. Every hour, take the child to the potty chair, help them pull the underwear down, and help them sit. Encourage them to pee, using extremely simple language. "Time for pee-pee"! etc, using facial expressions of effort (yes, the grunt face). Wait a few minutes. It won't happen immediately, and most likely, it won't happen at all in the potty the first two days. After about five minutes, consider it a good effort no matter what happens. Offer praise (good try!).
The first two days, the child will wet themselves every single time. It's just how it is.
You aren't doing anything wrong. It has to "click" for the kid. You will be very frustrated, but persevere. Backtracking to diapers during the day is confusing. When an accident happens, feel free to look disappointed. Phrases I have used: "aw man! an accident!" and even "ew, stinky poo!" It's not making a child "feel ashamed of bodily functions". It's making the child aware that big people don't walk around pooping and peeing on ourselves and sitting in it.
At nap time, place a folded old towel under the child, or have some other absorbent but unobtrusive padding under the lower half of the toddler.As soon as he or she wakes, excitedly take them to the potty if they are dry. If they are wet, it's ok to be disappointed and say "aw, you had an accident!" in a sad voice. They can "help" clean up, and when all is right again, say "good job!" and give great big hugs.
At night, continue the bedtime routine, but insert a potty chair trip just before the last bedtime diaper is put on.

Step 5: Figuring It Out

The third and fourth days, continue the same steps as the first days, offering snacks, and fluids, but you will notice that the child will pee about 50% of the time in the potty and most likely will have a poop on the potty. Continue to watch clues! When you see the child grunting or pausing in play, especially if he or she is fairly regular like most kids are, say "poo-poo?!?!" and hold their hand, and dash to the potty. Even if they don't make it, they form the opinion that this poo-making business is serious, and therefore must be paid attention to. When they have a poo-accident, make sure they watch you dump the poop into the toilet, have them wave bye-bye to it, and holding their hand for reassurance, flush it. Some kids get nervous with the flush. But most kids have seen/heard it plenty by now, just from following you into the bathroom oh so many times.

Step 6: Fine Tuning

Picture of Fine Tuning

The fifth, sixth and seventh days are the fine tuning days. The child now gets the concept, and is working to perfect this new skill. You can now return to the regularly scheduled snacks and drinks. Do continue to ask the child every hour if the potty is needed, just as a reminder, especially when the child is concentrating hard at building a tower or some other fun task.
On the seventh day, take the brave step of a trip outside the house. Pack a change of bottoms. Pee before you leave, if possible. Ask every hour if the potty is needed. And don't take more than an hour and a half before going back home. This is almost like a test. The child sees that "Wow! People leave the house like this?!"
As for giving up the night-time diaper, wait until the child goes for at least 2 weeks without a single night-time accident before you let them sleep in their undies.
Don't forget to do the happy dance when there is success in the potty, no matter how minute. The child will make a grand effort just to see you do that again.
Good luck, and happy trails...


MariaOlson (author)2016-11-03

My Husband and I had been trying for nearly a year to potty train our boy to no avail. One day after a long search My Husband told me about this method We tried it, and it worked. While there were some accidents thereafter, that day was the major turning point in our potty training saga. I plan to use the same method with our other children. It works!

Rose Davis (author)MariaOlson2017-04-18

That was very Helpful. Thank you.

LindaP209 (author)2017-02-27

We did the 3 Day Potty Training Method ( It worked great for both of my kids. It was a lot of work for 3 days but after the 3 days - my kids were both trained day and night (the poop took a little longer than the 3 days).

Thanks. That was very useful.

bugmenot90 (author)LindaP2092017-04-11

thanks a lot

Abraz21 (author)2017-04-10


Abraz21 (author)2017-04-10

That was very useful

samirakaka (author)2016-10-28

I am actually potty training my 22 months old boy and for the moment we
re in the middle of day 3 but nothing goes into the potty so far. He
can hold his pee though for a long while and askes me to go to the potty
but nothing is going into the potty. Its like he hasnt have the click
yet to manage to let the pee get out when he wants. shall I give him one
more day? when is it clear that they are just not ready yet? With my
first son we did the training at 25 months and it worked exaclty as you

MariaG100 (author)2016-05-22

HELP !! lol So I've got 2 girls age 9 and 5 and a boy who is almost 21 months old. Both my girls were potty trained at 17 months old and in 10 days. Reading about the 6 steps I can say that I did that with my girls and it worked great, never had to google potty training before. So I started potty training with my son 6 days ago...and had NO success argh...loosing my mind :( He is refusing to sit on the potty when I ask him, but when I catch him in the act of peeing I always place him on the potty and he never rejects. I have to say that today though when he did a poop on the floor he came and told me. That is the only positive thing that has happened the whole week ahahha shall I maybe stop...or try for another week. I have another week off work so I can stay home. I took 2 weeks off for potty training, but I honestly thought he would have got it by now. Well at least tell me that he needs a pee, I ask him if he needs a pee he shakes his head and after a few minutes he does a pee on the floor...Never ever had this much difficulties with potty training before. They say boys are harder,,,Please help...anyone...thanks xx

SommerKyra (author)2016-05-10


I also found this to be very useful that I also saved about Mom mistakes which are scarily easy tomake that will set potty progress back. I've been reading blogs like crazy. My little boy asked me to potty train him just last night!

GwenJ3 (author)2016-05-01

I'm currently doing this method for second child. Works v well

Nicbev (author)2016-03-01

My son poo's on his potty at 20 months, is this rare for him to be doing it so young?

MarcyR1 (author)2015-06-19

I don't know if I just missed the best window or something, but my girl is 31 months and we've been working on step 1 for a while now. I keep checking, but her diaper is always at least a little bit wet. The one time recently that I found a dry diaper, I checked it about 45 minutes after the last diaper change. Any time we go a whole hour though, no luck. :-/ Any tips? Should I just go ahead with this and be resigned that either way there will be lots of accidents before it clicks?

hardar (author)2015-01-31

My son is 2 1/2 this month and we are on week two of trying this method. He is very strong-willed and it has become a power struggle to get him to sit on the potty every hour. He says he is "too busy". He still does not tell me when he needs to pee or is wet. He will sit in wet training pants and not request to be changed. When he does sit on the potty he usually does pee, but I've noticed at times that he will pee in his training pants when I tell him it is time to sit on the potty or hold it while on the potty and pee immediately after. Should I put him back in diapers and try again later or continue with this routine?

BrendaT3 (author)2014-11-13

Potty training my daughter was easy easy easy! I changed her diapers until she knew how to do so herself. Voila! When she was old enough, around 2 years, she started to use the potty on her own too. Well, I encouraged her to do this whenever she was ready, however gently. We are a pretty strict - haha - non-violent home. Just that simple! No trauma, no tears, no fussing and NO GET EVEN - not for that anyway. When will life be easier….. mom, can you help me fix my dust ruffles please….

tonimrios22 (author)2014-09-28

Hello My son sits on the potty and he says potty when we needs to go but he wont go he will sit there forever and then as soon as I put his pull up back on he pees! he is 24 months and he shows all the signs of being ready and when he does go in the potty he gets so excited and dances but he only goes right after nap when I rush him to the potty the rest of the day he will just hold I left him on longer then usual and he just holds it I dont know what to do.

astadler2 (author)2014-03-03

hi! Your
approach sounds convincing to me. I just have a little question: my son
is ready in terms of holding back pee and pooh and the other
preconditions. But he refuses to sit on the potty. Do I first have to
work on that and if yes, do you have any good advice how to do that?
Thank you so much!

tetheredcat (author)astadler22014-03-03

Hi! Congrats on getting to the "ready" point!
One of my daughters refused to sit on the little potty, and insisted on the grown up toilet from the get-go. It was "annoying" from my perspective, since I had to help her a LOT in the beginning to balance, etc. We got a little foot stool, and she'd climb on up. But that was the trick and once I let her do that, it got so much easier. Once she was pretty much at the end of that Week, she wanted to then use the little potty all by herself. Go figure! :)
Wishing you tons of patience and luck!

mrsmubaiwa (author)2013-04-28

I am going to begin potty training my daughter soon and will try it exactly this way, wish me luck :)

leenaochani (author)2012-07-21

Hi everyone, I have just started toilet training with my 3 year old son yesterday and I must say he is not interested. He did sit twice yesterday and I thought that was good. I have bought him cars and trains to reward him when he goes and the first time he sat for more than 2 minutes I gave him a car but now he feels like I dont want the car if it means going to the toilet!! What am I doing wrong? This is the advice I got from parents all around me and so I used a reward system. He didn't poop all day yesterday because he didn't have a nappy. Today I asked him if we wanted the nappy to poo and he did so I let him have a pull up for half hour so he could poo!!! I am very confused, my husband wants to take him out all day but how can we when we are trying to achieve something the next week, on the other hand being at home is very boring for him!!

ldangles (author)2012-03-12

It's the one drop rule that works. When you know your baby needs to go (after eating or drinking or before you leave the house) tell him/her that all it has to go is one drop. I still can't stop at one drop and I'm over 60. Actually I'm lucky if I can stop that first drop now.

hchasey (author)2012-02-23

Day 5 seems like we've backtracked! My 25 month old is just not telling me at all when she has to go. The only times she doesn't have an accident is when I say it's time to try to go. If I catch her at the right time, she cries and cries until pee comes out. If she doesn't have to go, it's no big deal for her to sit there. She's just not communicating with me when she has to go and that seems to be key with this method being a success in the end. I'm afraid we'll be trying something else unless someone has some advice given that we're so far into this method already. I would hate to feel like the past 5 days have been a waste of time...and energy!

hchasey (author)2012-02-22

We are Day 4 of "the hard part". The first three days are just as you outlined. Some successes, but many accidents. We've noticed a few "trends" now and I wondered if you would be willing to provide some feedback:

1. She's holding her poop to do it at night in her diapers.

2. She refers to pee as "poop" and says she has to go all the time, but then doesn't do anything on the potty and is ready to get up after sitting for 5 seconds.

3. When she does have to go and we make it to the potty in time, she cries and cries while she does it. ?? It's possible that she's only behaving this emotional with me, her Mama. When Daddy did it with her a few times last night it wasn't a big deal at all.

4. She was up at 7:30 this morning and didn't go at all until 12. I think she's starting to hold her pee too.

Any thoughts or suggestions on any of these points?

ACDNMOM (author)2012-02-10

I have tried to potty train my 34 month old daughter and feel completely lost. She changes her mind constantly about whether or not she wants to use the toilet and even whether or not she has to go so I am SUPER frustrated. She tells me she likes diapers and doesn't tell me when she has to go unless it's a poop. I feel like I'm nagging and badgering her. I would like to try your strategy but was wondering how long I should wait to start trying again.

teresa1121 (author)2012-01-21

looking forward to using these ideas with my son, who is almost 22 months and is almost ready to start potty training. i just need a free week. wish us luck

tetheredcat (author)teresa11212012-01-22

Good luck, and plenty of patience!

mwebster7 (author)2011-12-12

Thank you so much for this brilliant, step by step guide to potty training! This is my first time as the potty trainer, and I was so nervous! We started today with my 28 mo little girl and we had a great, great day! She had a total of 6 accidents and 4 successful #1's! Probably TMI, but we're just so thrilled we had to share the great news. :) We have to venture out for several hours on Thursday, and I'm already a little anxious about that, but all in all it went better today than I ever thought it could. Thank you again!

pfeiferh (author)2011-12-09

This is the method that we used with our first daughter and have just used with our second daughter. The only problem is that both of them did great for a few months but then went through a phase of not wanting to poop on the potty so they hold it in as long as they can and then it hurts like heck coming out, which makes them cry. And also my 2yr old is waking up with stomach pains because of this. Recommendations?

Methelas (author)2010-08-01

My brothers are toilet trained, however they still pee all over there room. On purpose most of the time because they are too lazy to walk to the bathroom, they pee on walls, blankets, plates, toys, tote boxes... You name what ever is in there room it probably had urine on it at some point.

agarner3 (author)Methelas2011-12-07

my son did the same thing when he was younger, it was very frustrating because i would always find urine in the most random places in his room....i would just always make it a point to remind him to go to the bathroom even if he didn't think he needed to go and make him try-almost always when i did this he would actually go potty-and eventually after some time he stopped doing it.
every kid is different but thats all that i did for my son and he stopped doing it.
i have also heard of other young boys from friends that have done it as well, i only have 1 boy so i do not have anything to compare to but to me it does not seem to be something that is too much out of the ordinary.
good luck!

tetheredcat (author)Methelas2010-08-06

I strongly recommend therapy.

tchrapliwy (author)2011-12-07

This sounds great! We are starting tomorrow :)

tetheredcat (author)tchrapliwy2011-12-07

Lots of luck and patience to you! :)

tchrapliwy (author)2011-12-07

So use the training pants all day but use the diaper at night?

tetheredcat (author)tchrapliwy2011-12-07

Yes. I use the training pants all day, and just before bed, as part of getting jammies on, etc. we will put a diaper on. I keep doing that, and encouraging them to remember to "hold it" when they're sleeping, and if they have to go potty, to wake up and go, and go as soon as they wake up. I play it by ear when the overnight diaper is done away with, since each kid is different.

momof2girls (author)2011-11-07

I am on day 4 potty training my 21 mth old girl, this is working great!! She also will only tell me when she has to poop and I am noticing fewer accidents every day as long as I stick to the schedule. Every time she goes in the potty we do the "pee pee" dance, she loves it.

I am on maternity leave right now and am keeping my older one home to potty train but I am nervous about sending her back before she can tell me she has to pee??

I will totally be recommending this method to others!

kgillman (author)2011-11-01

today is the dreaded day for me wit 10 days off from work it has to be done now. Ive noticed my little girl would tell me she needs go toilet but when i sit her on it she imitates and makes the peeing ( ssssss ) noise herself then hopes off, flushes the toilet washes her hands but doesnt actually go in the toilet she goes in her big girls pants and says its okay wat harm , so she does know when to go she jus waits till she's off the toilet . I am very patient wit her and i do explain but I also find this frustrating . HELP !!!!!!!

mirandaindrigo (author)2011-08-09

This is SO helpful. My only problem is that my daughter is in daycare and we won't have a full week off together until Christmas. I can find a three-day stretch coming up, but is this long enough...?

iheartblank (author)2011-05-04

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
I've gotten tips from other mom's i know, but I needed was a step by step.
I can't wait to try this out with little man!

craftyv (author)2011-04-20

I enjoyed this Ible very much, and have read with interest all the comments attatched. Funnily I can't recall any problems with kids in my era, perhaps we were less focused on training and saw it as just something that occurs naturally. Certainly I think the age that things should or should not be achieved was less important than it appears today. I know I sound like an oldie saying "in my day" but it's just my reflection on the past. NOTE: We also used cloth nappies.

BGLYNCH (author)2010-02-25

I just want to thank you so much.  I followed all of your tips with my 21 mo. old.  He is doing fabulous.  In fact, most days he has no accidents.  But the thing is, he only tells us he has to go when it is poop.  Otherwise, he goes because I take him for a "potty break."  I tell him, "You have to say "potty" when you have to go," but if I wait to see if he actually does tell me... he always has an accident.  Do you think he will just catch on after awhile and start telling me or going to the chair on his own.  Does that part just take time?  I'm hoping yes!

tetheredcat (author)BGLYNCH2010-02-25

Congrats! That is awesome! It sounds like he's doing great and is on the right track. I would just give him some time to build this skill, and I would bet that in another month or so, he will be letting you know. 21 months is great! Boys are known for taking a little longer-and I think most of that is because they are just so darn busy. So reminding him and having him take a break is a good way to keep him on track and keep his confidence high!

lerningideas (author)2010-02-07

i really hope it works well it did for you hoping the same for me my twins are 3yrs and do not want to go Thanks for you tip!!!!

domino88 (author)2010-01-19

This is the first Instructables I've actually "made".  It worked great!!  My daughter's kindergarden teacher was so impressed with the results that she asked for a copy of the method.   I've recomended it to my friends too!
Thank you for sharing your experience!

tetheredcat (author)domino882010-01-19

Im so glad it helped you! Congrats!

kelllbelll (author)2009-09-20

Thank you so much for the great info. I am anxious for our 7 days to begin, and will post our progress ASAP.

Happy2be (author)2009-09-11

Thanks so much for this "instructable" and the timeline for potty training.....I believe one should not rush but that patience and example are paramount.

HuntingWabbits (author)2009-08-31

Also a telltale sign your little one is ready: They hide when they make poop and sometimes deny the offending act.

RichardBronosky (author)2009-06-04

A few things to add:
1. You have to let your kids follow you in the bathroom. I don't care how you feel about "I'm a private person". Get over yourself (not directed at any specific person here)
2. Leading up to potty training (I would think long before) you will have the opportunity to explain why you sit on the potty. (Yes men. If you have daughters, and probably even if you have boys, you need to be sitting for everything.)
3. Here is where I differ: I like the hinged middle seat thingy on a real toilet. I don't want to clean a bowl of poop. I don't want to have to retrain on a real toilet later. To do this you will likely need a step stool. (My girl quickly decided that she was big enough to climb up by herself, but we started with the stool.)
3. Tell them that sitting on the potty is for big people and they aren't big yet so they can't sit on the potty. But, they can use the stool and climb on with the lid closed. Make a big deal about how some day they'll get to climb on with the lid open.
4. When it's time to train, have a hinged training seat on every potty in the house. (Ha, I just said potty. Warning: you will find your self saying potty to adults in situations that make you feel silly. Again, get over yourself.) We put training seats on 2 of the toilets in our house, but not on the one in our master bathroom. Guess which toilet our "big girl" insists on using.

Everything else in this 'ible is spot on. I really like the idea of doing the potty dance in preparation of training. I will have to do that for our second girl in a few months.

I agree on the seeing your parents use the restroom. My parents were very open about that, and it was very easy to train me. Plus, if you don't, it kind of treats private parts like "bad" things. It makes puberty easier to talk about in later years to just be open.

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