moms

3-day potty training for kids: does it work?

June 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM ET

One dad attempts 3 day potty training on his 2.5-year-old daughter. Read his story here:

After dozens of diaper rashes, hundreds of kicks to the face and precisely four poop stains on the carpet, my wife and I were more than ready to potty train our 2.5-year-old. We friend-sourced suggestions for strategy, and an overwhelming number of confidantes suggested "3 Day Potty Training," by Lora Jensen. We bought the e-book. We made it our Bible. We checked our calendars.

Finally, this past weekend, we were ready to give it a whirl.

And so, what follows is a (significantly edited) play-by-play of 72 hours in hell. The lowlights? Puddles in the kitchen, poop on the floor and lots and lots of screaming. The highlights? Read on to find out.


Day 1

Friday, 12:30 p.m. Training begins promptly when my wife, Nikki, and my toddler (we'll call her "L") return from the kid's weekly play group. The three of us gather in L's room, where (per instructions in the book) we have L throw all of her diapers into a big garbage bag. The last diaper in is the one around L's waist. She pulls on Dora (the Explorer) undies and heads to the family room.

Friday, 1 p.m. Accident No. 1, all over the family room floor. I'm upstairs writing in my office when this occurs, but can decipher what's happening from the screams.

Friday, 1:30 p.m. Accident No. 2, this time in the downstairs bathroom. More screaming. Nikki breaks into the reward stickers to calm the kid down.

Friday, 2 p.m. Accident No. 3 leaves a veritable puddle in the kitchen. Screams are so loud this time, it surprises me none of our neighbors call the police. I relieve my wife for the afternoon so she can have some time to herself. No way I'm getting work done in this madhouse.

Friday, 3 p.m. L and I sprawl out on the floor of my bedroom closet, rolling quarters. I feel guilty she has to endure the weekend in nothing but underpants and a T-shirt, so I take off my shorts to don the same "uniform." Her reaction: "Daddy, you don’t have Dora on your undies." Thankfully, she is correct.

Friday, 4:30 p.m. Minor squirming, followed by major temper tantrum. By reading The Cat in the Hat aloud, I convince her to sit on potty in upstairs bathroom. After 20 seconds, she gets up and smiles at a tiny drop of pee in potty. She screams, "I did it. I made pee-pee in the potty!" Nikki and I are so happy we reward her with a package of glow-in-the-dark bracelets. Two minutes later, she has Accident No. 4 all over the kitchen floor.

Friday, 5 p.m. Guilt sets in about not spending enough time with our 4-month-old daughter. She has spent more time than usual in her bassinette today. Am I a terrible parent? Friday, 525 pm Out of the blue during dinner, L declares she has pee. I follow her into the bathroom, reading The Cat in the Hat again. After about a minute on the potty, she stands up to reveal a veritable gallon of urine. She starts jumping up and down, yelling, "I did it! I did it! I did it!" We spend the next 20 minutes calling family members to share the good news.

Friday, 6:45 p.m. With the baby asleep, Nikki takes over L's pre-bed ritual so I can run to the gym. Before I go, I set out an emergency preparedness kit for the night: two sheets, two waterproof mattress pads, two pairs of pajamas and two pairs of undies. Too much? Perhaps. But I'm expecting a long night filled with torrents of urine. I have to be prepared.


Day 2

Saturday, 2 a.m. L wakes up and comes to get me. I check her for wet undies. She's dry as a bone.

Saturday, 3 a.m. Another wake-up. Still dry. Perhaps holding in the pee keeps waking her up?

Saturday, 5:30 a.m. Much earlier than usual, L decides it's time to get up for the day. I'm so tired, I can't even think. How the hell am I supposed to clean up excrement?

Saturday, 9:30 a.m. No sign of pee. It’s been 16 hours since the last one. I google "Urinary Tract Infection." Then I do a search for the world record in pee-holding (and can't find an answer). My concern over the state of L's bladder is on the rise.

Saturday, 11:30 a.m. Finally, a deluge. Thankfully, most (but definitely not all) of it ends up in the potty. I'm so relieved excited that I burn one of her most coveted prizes: a Winnie the Pooh puzzle. L is so jazzed that she repeats, "I made pee-pee," at least once a minute while she works. 

Saturday, 1 p.m. Random thought: If Jensen, the author of this potty program, had $1 for every time my wife and I said, "Remember, if you have to go pee-pee or poopy, you tell Mommy and Daddy," she would have cleared $100 by now.

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Five minutes of dancing and wriggling in the kitchen leads to another successful pee in the potty. I don't want to jinx anything, but it truly seems like she's starting to get the hang of this.

Saturday, 2 p.m. It's so nice outside. Cloudless. 70 degrees. During any other weekend, L and I would be running around in the park near our house. Instead, we're sitting on the floor of my office, playing with binder clips, just waiting. I'm not trying to be negative. But this is becoming torturous.

Saturday, 3 p.m. More dancing. More wriggling. With The Cat in the Hat I coax L back onto the potty. She squirms through most of the book. Finally, right before Thing 1 and Thing 2 take off, a turd arrives. Who cares if the thing is the size of a shumai? I'm stoked. Nikki is stoked. L is literally jumping for joy. Her reward: A Dora puzzle.

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Another turd. Clearly this was a fraternal twin to its predecessor. Outwardly, I'm cheering for L. Inside, however, I'm longing for her to make a tremendous poop so I can photograph it and text the picture to my guy friends.

Saturday, 6:15 p.m. In the middle of dinner, L declares she has to pee and dashes for the bathroom. Within seconds of sitting, we hear a trickle. Buoyed by her ability to time it right, L leans over to marvel at the urine coming out of her vagina. This, of course, sends pee shooting all over my new sneakers, and all over the bathroom floor.

Saturday, 7:15 p.m. In bed, after storytime, I tell L how proud of her I am. Her response: "Daddy, I love potties."


Day 3

Sunday, 4:45 a.m. L wakes me with a poke to the face. I lead her back to her bed, only to discover that the sheets and comforter are soaked. Quickly, I debate my options: Get her back to sleep or strip her, strip the bed and risk exhaustion later in the day. I go with the former.

Sunday, 5:15 a.m. Clearly, I should have opted for the latter.

Sunday, 8 a.m. After 20 trips to the potty in 24 minutes, I teach L the phrase, "false alarm."

Sunday, 8:10 a.m. Turd No. 3 makes an appearance -- in her undies. Crying ensues. Lots of crying. Once everything is clean, once everyone is calm, L and I talk about how "icky" it felt to have poop in her undies. The lesson: Next time, be more patient.

Sunday, 8:45 a.m. It hits me that I haven't left the house in 37 hours, so I head into town for a coffee. I end up walking the aisles of Safeway, just because. A neighbor stops me to say hello. She says I look lost. I tell her I feel like I've just been released from prison.

Sunday, 11:15 a.m. Without warning, in the middle of an episode of "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" on TV, L pops off the couch and runs to the bathroom. She pulls down her undies, sits down and immediately starts peeing. Two drops hit the floor; the rest -- and trust me, there is a lot -- lands safely in the potty. Nikki and I are so proud, we're almost speechless. L, on the other hand, is ecstatic, jumping around the room screaming, "Potty Power! Potty Power!"

Sunday, 3 p.m. Another pee without incident.

Sunday, 5:15 p.m. Yet another pee, sans drama. If this were a video game, an omniscient voice would utter something like, "She's on fire!" or "She's unstoppable!" L is "feeling it" herself; between the way she yanks off those undies and angles her body to keep her pee in the bowl, her confidence is clearly growing.

Sunday, 7 p.m. One last pee before bedtime. Neither Nikki nor I can believe our eyes.


Day 4

Monday, 5:30 a.m. L wakes with a start and runs to wake up Nikki. As I come to, I hear them cheering. Apparently the day has started with another success. I am relieved, especially since Nikki heads back to work today and I'll be watching L and her baby sister solo for most of the morning.

Monday, 830 a.m. Poop dance begins, triggering another spate of false alarms. I grow increasingly nervous with each dash into the bathroom, since I know I've got to feed the baby at 9 am. I suggest a lengthy session on the potty so L can just wait for the turds to come. She rejects this plan. Loudly. So I leave it alone.

Monday, 9:10 a.m. I'm feeding the baby when L starts crying uncontrollably. I smell poop. I encourage migration into the bathroom. But L won't budge. Finally, somehow, we relocate. L yanks down her undies. A giant turd falls out on the floor. L is so focused on getting to the potty at this point that she doesn't even see the poop in front of her. This, of course, explains why she steps in it, and gets it all over her feet. I wait patiently until the baby finishes her bottle, set her in the bassinette, and return to the bathroom to tend to L. Never in my life have I cleaned so much crap.

Monday, 9:30 a.m. Still cleaning. Without question, this ranks as the toughest hour in three years of fatherhood.

Monday, 10 a.m. Finally, all is calm. L and I have another chat about icky poop in the pants. Unprovoked, she vows not to do it again. Oddly, I believe her. And I pray she follows through.

Tuesday, 11:30 p.m. So far, she has. Sure, the subsequent poop was a struggle, but in the end, she waited it out on the potty for 20 minutes, then unleashed an effort worthy of that text message to friends. And the peeing? I'm not an expert on female urination, but my wife tells me it looks like the kid has been doing it for years. In the book, Jensen boasts that most kids are potty-trained after 72 hours. In reality, give or take a few hours, our L miraculously has proved her right. We know we're not out of the woods yet -- I wouldn't be surprised if we had four or five accidents before the week is out. But with great pride and incredible gratitude, I can assert confidently that the worst appears to be behind us.


Epilogue

Our daughter had a (typical) relapse with both pee and poop about two weeks in -- a series of late-night bed-wettings and mid-day poops in the pants. Then she went through a phase where it took her 20 minutes of grunting and groaning to poop. Finally, one day, it all just clicked. Since then, she's nixed the groaning and the long waits on the poops, and has managed to figure out how to do the whole pee thing entirely by herself (climbing up on step-stool for potty and everything). She also has established a routine: Regular pees throughout the day (about 3 hours apart) and a poop between dinner and bedtime. (Every now and again, she wakes up between 1 and 2 am to pee as well, but afterward goes immediately back to sleep.) Because I expressed pride the first time she clogged the toilet with poop, her ongoing goal is to do it again. Since that first time, the kid has achieved it twice (seriously). Never a dull moment.

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