There’s a dirty little secret in the potty training world.
One of the most popular training methods out there – the 3-day potty training method — is actually a potty training method that creates stress, anxiety, and fear in children.
It’s true. So many of the important aspects of brain development that we are hard-wired to protect during one of the most volatile times of childhood can be completely sabotaged during the traditional 3 day potty training method.
What is the 3 Day Potty Training Method
The 3 day potty training method is essentially where adults abruptly remove diapers from the child and switch to underwear while spending several days together in the bathroom.
Parents are encouraged to fill children up on salty snacks and to give children all the juice they could ever want. The point is to fill their bladders to the point of eruption and to praise the child when the urine goes into the potty. The praise is necessary for two reasons:
1) To reinforce the “good” and desired behavior and
2) Because most children don’t even know that they went to the bathroom.
Yes, that’s right. Children don’t even realize they have gone potty.
This continues (in theory), day after day, until the child can stay dry enough to keep wearing underwear while there are several accidents for days afterward. Accidents continue and are even considered “normal” for weeks or months. Sometimes, they even last for years.
Children will continue to do this method (because they are forced to) even though they had no say in the timing or the method.
And then the allurement of picking out their own underwear or choosing their favorite snacks and drinks will keep them going – through the tears, the shame of wetting themselves, and the exhaustion and stress and of not being allowed to leave a tiny bathroom for reasons that they could never comprehend.
This is a slippery slope that can lead to a deeply distressing experience.
Do you know the term that actually means “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience”?
That’s the definition of the word trauma (straight from the Oxford Dictionary).
Does the 3 Day Potty Training Method Actually Work?
I guess it depends on what your definition of “work” is. The truth is that some children will remain in underwear after the three days. If a child is in child care or preschool, parents will send a week’s worth of clothes each day. 7 outfits for one day at school.
Many parents at home will either continue in the bathroom or let their child roam around naked at home, wiping up pee and poop from the couch, the floor, the bed, and everywhere in between.
Many other parents stop this method, feeling like they were a failure or that there was something wrong with their child. They feel shame for not being able to figure out the radical claims of the 3 day potty training method.
Or they’re like me, and they see that an intense and high-stress method isn’t actually worth the trauma and the long-lasting effects. Not for your child and not even for you.
High levels of stress negatively affect a child’s brain, specifically in their ability to learn and their emotional development.
The Truth about the 3 Day Potty Training Method
I’ve spent 15 years helping thousands of children learn to potty train as a preschool teacher. Some years I had 10 or more children learning to potty train at once. I’ve dabbled in all the potty training methods prevalent in the Western World, and I’ve seen lasting emotional and physical problems as a result from the intense and high anxiety methods such as the 3 day potty training method.
When children are forced into potty training before their brain, their body, and their emotions are able to put together all the pieces of the puzzle, we start to see problems pop up. Some of the most common problems are things we’ve been led to believe are “normal” such as potty accidents, regression, and constipation.
Problems with Potty Training
As children associate stress with the potty training process, they hold their bowels for longer than they should. This is because they are afraid of soiling their pants. In some children, their body hasn’t learned the proper way to eliminate waste due to an interruption in that process. The problem snowballs into much bigger issues.
One of most common and dangerous issues is chronic holding. Dr. Steve Hodges, a pediatric urologist who helps children daily as they work through these struggles, says it clearly in this article,
In toilet-trained children, chronic holding is the root cause of virtually all toileting problems, including daytime pee and poop accidents, bedwetting, urinary frequency and urinary tract infections.
We need to move away from these popular potty training methods that are outdated, harmful, and easily lead children to associate their own natural body functions with fear and anxiety.
A Better Way to Potty Train
Children are hands-on learners who thrive with play and curiosity. Young children need to move, run, jump, and play. You don’t even need a child development degree like I have to see this.
They have more energy than endurance athletes, so confining them to a bathroom or forcing them to sit for long periods on a toilet goes against everything we know about how children learn.
And children are smart. They don’t have to be forced into learning. There are more synapses happening in a child’s brain from birth until three-years-old than any other time in their life. So in other words, two and three-year-olds are learning double what we learn as adults.
Supporting children in their potty training journey is all about studying them:
- Are they holding their bladder for 2-3 hours?
- Are they curious and interested in the toilet and the bathroom or are they timid and reluctant?
- Do they notice when their diaper suddenly becomes wet?
- Can they dress and undress?
Teaching children to potty train or toilet train can actually be a an exciting process where you both enjoy this milestone. Sing potty training songs together, read potty training picture books, use a potty training seat with supportive handles and a footrest, and wait on the underwear.
That’s one of the last steps, not the first.
If you feel like you’ve started a stressful potty training experience, it’s not too late. You can still turn the process around and become your child’s advocate, creating a better path that brings you both together.
First, take some time to reset. Stop thinking about potty training completely. Play with your child and bring back the fun to your days. Then, after a week or two, you can start over again with a new approach.You can even use the exact methods that I created and have taught to hundreds of parents in my online potty training course called Peaceful Potty Training.
Peaceful Potty Training
Peaceful Potty Training is just what it sounds like it is. It is a positive and peaceful way to help children go from diapers to underwear.
I walk parents and caregivers through the step-by-step process of figuring out the best way to potty train your child based on:
- Where they are at in the Potty Training Skills Path (included in the course),
- Each child’s unique personality,
- And what science tells us about children’s developing bodies, brains, and emotions.
These are the techniques and tools that worked the very best for my students and my own children. Not only does Peaceful Potty Training prevent stressful scenarios, power struggles, and nagging, but children who learn have much lower rates of accidents and regression. This is because children learn to feel, understand, and act on their own body signals. We’re helping them learn to be independent instead of relying on timers or an adult to constantly tell them to go to the bathroom.
Children with special needs will need extra support and patience, and I have an entire section about helping them too.
There is also something very special for your child in Peaceful Potty Training. It is my printable potty training book and visual schedule with pictures that show children when to go to the bathroom to make it exciting and inviting. This is what I made for my own daughter when she was potty training, and I’ve heard from so many parents, teachers, caregivers, and even therapists who love it just as much as we have.
If you’ve ever wished that you could have a potty training expert help guide and tell you the exact phrases to use and what do next, that’s exactly why I made this program. To help caring parents and caregivers just like you.
Here are all of the lessons included in Peaceful Potty Training:
- The Scientific Formula of Potty Training
- How to Get from Diapers to Underwear, Step by Step
- Discover Your Child’s Potty Training Personality Type
- When and How to Make a Potty Training Schedule
- Potty Training Essentials and Tips
- Helpful Phrases to Say to a Child Who is Potty Training
- The Art of Potty Training Boys or Girls
- All About Going #2
- The Enemy of Potty Training – Constipation
- Helping Children with Special Needs or Developmental Delays
- Nighttime Potty Training
- Handling Resistance
- Traveling Tips
For a limited-time special, you can start your journey to Peaceful Potty Training.
And here are some other potty training resources:
- Rainbow Sensory Bottle - March 3, 2024
- Teaching Neurodivergent Children in Early Childhood Education - January 8, 2024
- Creating Musical Memories: Teaching Music in Preschool - October 6, 2023