Three-Day Potty Training Boot Camp :: The Pull-Ups Version

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When I found out I was pregnant with our very unexpected third child, my mind took a moment to celebrate and daydream about this crazy next step in our journey. But, as any multiple-kid household can attest, your mind starts to list all the things you KNOW come next: the nursing, the long nights, the teething, the baby-proofing, the sleep training, and duh-duh-DUHHH: the potty training. With each child, that was the one thing that tried to take me down and steal my joy from parenting. But this task is the one universal mom rite of passage we HAVE to go through, no matter our parenting philosophy or method: kids gotta learn to “go”.

Three years later,  I’m happy to say I’m the proud owner of 3 successfully pooping and peeing kids. The road here wasn’t easy, but it was relatively quick with the 3-Day Potty Training Bootcamp method. I don’t really “bootcamp” anything. But, anything that gets me out of diapers FAST? That’s something I’m willing to try. 

What I’ve found is that to survive this kind of Bootcamp, you HAVE to go with what your child is capable of and find the level that works for them. Here’s how it went down with each trainee:

Three-Day Bootcamp (First Child)

This was our first, and maybe that’s why we did it exactly by the book (and as such why it worked almost perfectly). The method is relatively simple:

  • Wait until your child is the age of three, or as close as possible.
  • When they’re about two-and-a-half, start talking about potty-training, show them what it looks like and get them excited that one day they’ll get to go potty just like you. 
  • Show them “The Poop Song” on You Tube. You won’t find this in any manual, but do it. I promise it will help as they’ll not only be able to relate to the kids in the video, but they’ll also have a song to sing and inject a little fun into the process.
  • Purchase inexpensive white or solid colored underwear. I find my kids got distracted by the ones with fun patterns. Instead, make those part of the reward.
  • Come up with a reward system. No need to recreate the wheel here – Pinterest is FULL of reward charts. For our kids, we themed the reward chart based on their favorite favorite thing. 
  • Set aside three days where your life is nothing but potty-training. 
  • Start day one with only underwear, a liner for sitting areas, and toilet-friendly kid wipes near the toilet. Then give them whatever they’ll drink, over and over, and stick to them LIKE GLUE. Ask them if they need to go pee, over and over. The MOMENT they act like they need to go, or say they need to, walk them to the bathroom, sit them on the toilet and let them go.
  • If they go: CELEBRATE! We whooped and hollered and told them how proud we were. If they don’t go (or have an accident on the way): clean it up and try again. 
  • Do this for three days. 
  • Bedtime: we went into potty training with the intent of never using pull-ups. And our first kid spoiled us. She had one accident at night and never had another accident again. 
  • A week later she was using public bathrooms, fully trained, and we felt like bootcamp champs.

One-Day Bootcamp (Second Child)

  • Go through a major-life change that keeps you from potty-training at the magical 3-year mark.
  • Start to panic about where you’re going to find size 7 diapers. 
  • Eventually suck it up, go through all the steps, and then be pleasantly surprised and ready to give ALL the prizes within 24 hours. Because THEY were ready. Even though YOU weren’t. 
  • Secretly judge everyone who says their child is potty-trained but still uses pull-ups at night. And then see below.

Three-Week Bootcamp (Third Child)

  • Brag about how you’ve mastered the 3-Day Potty Training Bootcamp. Remind everyone who asks that you DON’T use the god-foresaken seven-letter word “pull-ups”, schedule a vacation right after potty-training because you just know they’ll be potty-trained by the time you leave. 
  • Watch as your child laughs at your naïveté and pick your ego up off the floor, along with all the poop they’re unloading on the same floor.
  • Buy the dang bedtime pull-ups for nighttime, and applaud your efforts and their successes. Then buy stock in pull-ups.
  • Get over yourself and confidently tell everyone your child is potty-trained AND yes they wear pull-ups at night.
  • Remind yourself that grace is the foundation of all parenting, not only for your child, but for yourself and for other moms.

Rock that seven-letter word, mama. No judging here.

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Jessica lives in Glendale, Missouri, with her husband Josh, and three kids Stella (2010), Graham (2012), and Mia (2015). She currently works from home as the Business Director for City Mom Collective. She is originally from Louisville, Kentucky but was raised mostly in Irmo, South Carolina. After earning a BS Degree in Sociology at The University of Kansas she moved to Phoenix, Arizona and during her 15 years there she met her husband and started their family. In 2014, they moved back to her husband’s hometown of St. Louis and have loved exploring all the city has to offer for families. A perfect Midwest day for Jessica is checking out the live music and Walk Away Waffles at the Kirkwood Farmer’s Market, heading to Forest Park to check out the St. Louis Zoo or Art Museum, grabbing dinner and ice cream in the Central West End, and heading back home to watch her kids play in the backyard and chase fireflies.