Toilet Training Methods

Toilet training is a rite of passage for child and parent, and how smoothly it goes depends on both parties being ready to do what is necessary. Children aren’t usually ready for toilet training until they are at least 18 months old, and some children might not be ready until they’ve reached their third birthdays. That older age doesn’t mean you won’t be able to toilet train your child, just that it will be more difficult if you are trying to force the issue due to preschool rules, the arrival of a new baby or the desire to stop buying all those diapers. Parents need to be prepared to follow through on the training, as stopping and starting will confuse the process.

Potty Training in One Day

Dr. Phil McGraw and Teri Crane have each published books outlining plans that promise to help you toilet train your child in one day. Both methods have you prepare your child for potty training for at least a week by discussing it and demonstrating what’s going to happen with a potty-training doll, purchasing a potty chair and buying big-kid underwear. Then you spend one day intensively training your child. Crane’s book suggests having potty parties once you complete the training, and she provides ideas for roughly a dozen themes to keep your child motivated. The basic training is completed in a day, but children may still have accidents for a week or so.

Child-Led Training Method

This method is gentle and child focused and can take as long as six months to complete. Introduce your child slowly to the potty itself and then slowly to the idea of using the potty. The point of this plan is to completely follow your child’s readiness signals before getting rid of diapers. If your child is reluctant to move forward in the process, back off and try again in a few weeks. Pediatrician Jim Sears is a proponent of this type of toilet training, explaining that most toilet-training problems come from parents placing too much pressure on the child.

Potty-Training Boot Camp

Potty-training expert Wendy Sweeney teaches “booty camp” classes during which nearly all the children are trained within in the day they attend her camp, some in as few as four hours. Her methods hinge on having a child take responsibility for her own bowel and bladder habits, including cleaning up any accidents. This method differs from other quick-training methods, because Sweeney insists that parents only elongate the process by taking their children to the potty, as is common with other methods. She teaches children what’s expected of using the bathroom and then has the expectation they will follow through without prompting. Sweeney says this helps children learn they need to be responsible for their own toileting, and they train quickly because they aren’t relying on a parent to tell them when they need to use the toilet, so they are more in tune with their own signals.

Reward Method

This method revolves around a partnership between parent and child in which the child’s compliance results in the parent providing a reward. The parent lets the child choose the type of reward he wants (such as stickers, a small toy or a special lunch) and then encourages him to work toward that prize by staying dry. Parents initially offer rewards after each successful potty attempt, even if the child only sits on the potty, and then elongate the time between rewards.

About this Author

Erin Monahan is an author and editor with 25 years experience. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Simmons College. She has written on a variety of topics including celebrity interviews, health reporting and parenting. Her work has appeared in daily newspapers, national magazines, including “Wondertime,” and on websites such as She was recently named one of the top writers in Pennsylvania.