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Oh Crap! The 3 Day Potty Training Method Is Unrealistic

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Are you planing on potty training soon? Are you in the middle of potty training and it's not going as smoothly as you hoped?

You might have heard about the magical 3 Day Potty Training Method. And while that timeline might work for some toddlers, it also sets completely unrealistic expectations for the majority of families. 

potty training graphic

This is not a comprehensive potty training guide (although here is a blog post where I write about how we potty train our strong-willed child... It took us about 3 months, just in case you're curious about it.)

I am not trying to sell you on any book or method for potty training. I am not trying to write a viral blog post about how to potty train your kid in record time.

I just believe that our experience with potty training is a very realistic timeline for many toddlers, and I don't want parents getting worried if they were unable to potty train their toddler in 3 days... or even 3 weeks.

Read this article if you're frustrated with how potty training is going (or rather, not going), getting pressure from your in-laws (or anyone else) about potty training, or just want to be reassured that your potty training experience is normal. 

I also talk about why having a kid in diapers is actually easier than a potty trained toddler... so don't be in a rush to get through this milestone!

let's talk potty training graphic

Major milestone

Potty training is one of the major milestones that parents look forward to as their child grows from a baby into an independent little toddler. Typically after age two, us parents are tired of changing diapers all day every day and spending money on diapers and wipes.

I definitely started counting down months until our son was ready for potty training - long before he showed any signs of readiness.

Pressure from society

In addition to parents themselves desperately wanting to cross over to the land of no diapers, there is also lots of pressure from society around potty training.

You have the moms who are all like, "my daughter is 18 months and she is potty trained!"

Or our parents and in-laws who SWEAR that their kids were out of diapers by age 2.

Or the moms who claim that they "just put their son on the potty and he peed! He was potty trained in 3 days!"

And while this might certainly be true for them, I feel like this sets totally unrealistic expectations for many many parents and their kids. (And I also have a feeling that our parents just forgot what age we were really potty trained.)

There's no need to compete about how early your kid was potty trained. They'll all learn to poop in the toilet eventually. There's no need to brag about it.

toddler reaching into toilet

Unrealistic expectations

All kids develop at a different rate and follow their own timelines.

Think about it - some kids walk by 8 months and some need up to 18 months. Some babies are loving their first introduction to baby food at 4 months and some don't start eating real table foods until over a year old (heck, this whole blog is about overcoming picky eating... some babies LOVE to eat, some babies take a little longer to learn to eat!). Some kids read by the time they turn 5 and some needs a few extra years with phonics exercises to start reading.

You get the idea.

So of course every baby has a different timeline for when they are ready for potty training. And once they are ready, they will have their own timeline for how long it actually takes them to become potty trained. No wonder there is so much variation as to what is "normal" when it comes to potty training.

Reading blogs about how one supermom of 5 managed to potty train all her kids in 3 days before they were two years old sets unrealistic expectations for many parents. 

Sure, it's possible for many kids. But there are SO MANY FAMILIES where this is not the norm. It's just that no one writes blogs or publishes parenting books about those kids who take months.

toddler fell into toilet

Potty training readiness

There are so many different signs of potty training readiness:

  • Showing interest in adults or other kids going to the bathroom
  • Tugging at the diaper or touching the diaper before or after peeing or pooping
  • Taking off a soiled or wet diaper
  • Hating being in a soiled or wet diaper
  • Going somewhere to be alone to pee or poop
  • Squatting to pee or poop
  • Telling parents that they have to pee or poop, or telling us after the fact
  • Or simply being old enough to understand of the concept and give it a try when the parents decide it's time to potty train

But on top of this, toddlers have to actually want to use the potty and learn to tell us or go to the bathroom on their own.

Potty training regressions and taking a break

Don't worry if you've started potty training and it's just not working, or if your child has a regression.

It is totally normal to go one step forward and two steps back with potty training. It is normal to see progress, and even be fully potty trained, and then go into a regression.

Parenting experts always say to think about whether anything has changed in your child's life if they have a regression - is there a new sibling? A new babysitter? A new routine?

But sometimes toddlers simply decide they don't want to do something, and you just have to let them go through that phase and not pressure them too much. Of course it's frustrating. It's a delicate balance to not pressure while still trying to get them to do the right thing and feel independent at the same time. 

We started trying to potty train our son around 2 years and 8 months. We got our son to pee in the potty successfully so we thought we were off to a great start!

But after a few days he simply lost interest. He actually started getting really upset when we suggested going to the potty - he started crying and asking for his diaper instead. 

So we backed off and gave him a couple of weeks before we tried again.

When we re-started, we had a bit more luck! He was excited about using the potty and even started telling us when he had to go.

And then suddenly he started peeing ONLY ON THE FLOOR. ALL THE TIME. He knew he wasn't supposed to do that. He was totally doing it on purpose.

So we backed off again for a few weeks.

toddler playing with toilet paper

Potty training - success!

On our third attempt to potty training our son, we finally saw lots of progress!

And again, it took is wayyy longer than 3 days. It took us about 3 months total - and we still have some accidents. And we haven't even started potty training at night yet.

And that is totally OK. That is sooo within the realm of normal. I've heard lots of parents say it took them weeks, months, up to 6+ months to be potty trained, or up to a year because pooping and nighttime potty training took much longer. 

But as I said before - no one is bragging about that on the internet, so you don't hear about those cases unless you really talk to other moms and ask.

I wrote a separate post about how we potty trained our strong-willed son, if you want to read it! 

I am not trying to write some viral blog post about how to potty train a child in record time. I believe our timeline is pretty realistic for many families, especially if you have any other things going on, such as major changes in your toddler's life or schedule, or a toddler with special needs.

Finally potty trained.... but is life easier???

I am not going to lie, my husband and I feel a sense of accomplishment now that we potty trained our son. That's one less thing that our parents will keep harping on to us about raising our child.

But honestly, life in diapers was a little easier! More expensive, but easier.

With diapers, we could do diaper changes on our time (within reason). If I was in the middle of cooking dinner and my son pooped, I could wait until I put the casserole in the oven before I went to change him. 

But now if he says he has to go to the potty, HE HAS TO GO. RIGHT NOW. We have to drop everything we're doing and immediately find a bathroom.

Are you 1 hour into waiting in a TSA line waiting to go through security to catch your flight with your toddler? Guess what, you gotta grab all your stuff and find a bathroom or risk having poop in your kid's pants. Did you just get on the train (let's say subway in NYC) and have 40 minutes left of your train ride? Guess what, you gotta grab all your stuff,, get off the train, find a disgusting bathroom, yell at your kid to NOT TOUCH ANYTHING BECAUSE IT IS DIRTY, then wait for another train. 

We actually waited until after we went on vacation before we started potty training because I knew I didn't want to deal with that while traveling. (By the way, read my article about traveling with babies and toddlers - it has lots of tips for traveling with picky eaters and for how to navigate airports and security with a baby or toddler without losing your mind... and has a free printable packing list!)

In summary....

Don't stress too much about potty training your toddler.

Don't worry if it takes your child longer than 3 days, 3 weeks, or even 3 months.

Don't worry about your kid being the only one not potty trained kid in daycare - I guarantee the teachers have seen it all. And for the schools that require kids to be potty trained by 3 years old... that really bothers me. They should know better than to expect something like that.. it is NOT realistic for many families!

Forget those people who like to boast about their kid being potty trained.

If your parents pressure you, just calmly repeat "yes, you've said that before."

Read about how we potty trained our strong willed toddler to see actual practical tips for potty training... according to your own timeline.

Feel free to send me a message on Instagram (@highchairchronicles) if you ever want to chat about potty training!

Other toddler parenting articles you might find helpful:

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Leave me a comment below and let me know about your experience with potty training. 

Know someone who need to read this? Share it with them using the share buttons below, and don't forget to save it for later on Pinterest:

potty training pinterest graphic

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Monday 9th of October 2023

Thank you for this! Thank you thank you! I was feeling pretty s***ty (no pun intended) about our potty training experience. My son was literally running away from the potty and I was feeling defeated since I couldn't do this in 3 days. Your article was much needed. We're going to take a break and try again a little later. I so appreciate these real life anecdotes and experiences so I don't feel like a failure of a mom.


Monday 6th of February 2023

THANK 👏 YOU 👏 SO 👏 MUCH 👏 I have twins that are the same age as your son when you started and we got off to a decent start but 3-4 days in it has become a complete disaster with crying at the mention of going, withholding for HOURS, stubborn NOs... etc etc etc. I of course read Oh Crap and thinking about that book just makes me feel like a complete failure as a parent. I needed this blog. So much. Thank you for normalizing the struggle.


Thursday 5th of January 2023

Thank you for some reality! 6 weeks in and struggling! Trying to be patient, you said so many things that ring true for me. Will check out your method for our daughter when the time comes.


Monday 9th of January 2023

Good luck, I hope you see some improvements soon, hang in there!


Saturday 28th of May 2022

Thanks! I always say I’m the worlds worst potty trainer. I have no idea how that oH crap method works for people. On my 3/3 boys right now and the experience is mixed at best!


Wednesday 8th of June 2022

Hahaha you're definitely not the worst! Hang in there!

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