Weekend potty training--can it be done?


Is there such a thing as Toilet Training in a day?  Or three days? I’d love to get my daughter Tess out of diapers, and I’d like to do it quickly. She’s been sitting on the potty for a few months now, but she hardly ever goes, and I think she thinks it’s a game.   

Despite the boasts of a few parents, most children accomplish toilet training over months, not days. Just as babies practice pulling themselves up and cruising around tables for weeks and months before they take a first step, toddlers need time and practice to learn to use a potty or toilet.  For example, once she started walking, Tess probably tumbled and fell many times before she developed a smooth stride, right? That’s how it goes with toilet training--progress takes time and accidents are part of the process.

If you are willing to devote a three day weekend to BOOST the toilet training process and are then able to follow though with consistent and supportive practice at home and at child care, a weekend plan can work for some children. There’s no guarantee but you could wind up saving a lot of money on diapers!

This plan works well for children who are relatively adaptable and cooperative and whose parents who are relaxed and easy going in general.  It is not a good plan for children who like to do things their own way in their own time or for perfectionist parents who might object to lots of puddles and accidents for several months! 

Before you start, I recommend choosing (or buying) a big Teddy Bear who will be Tess’s companion with potty training.  Children learn much faster when you engage their imaginations.

Since Tess has had some practice sitting on the potty with a bare bottom and is showing interest in the process, the next step is to tell her that she (and Teddy) are going to have a “Potty Weekend”.  

Here’s how it works:

•  Choose a weekend when you can be at home for three full days giving Tess your full attention (if you have more than one child, you’ll need more than one adult at home). Tell Tess that on the Potty Weekend she and Teddy are going to be bare bottomed all day (if it’s summer, they can even be naked).  Depending on the size of your home and the type of floor covering you have, you may want to restrict the area in which you spend the weekend to a few rooms.

•  The night before, remind Tess that beginning the next morning you are going to have a bare bottom weekend and that she will be home with you learning how to use the potty. Tell her that all day she will get to play, spend time with you and go to the potty whenever it’s time to let her pee and poop out.

•  The next morning, remove Tess’s overnight diaper (you’ll be using diapers at night and for naps for months after daytime training is complete) and get started.  Remind her that it’s Potty Day and that she gets to be bare bottomed.  Take her to the potty (many people like to have potties in several rooms--especially if your home is large).  Have her sit. (Have Teddy sit on a potty next to her) If Tess pees within 3-4 minutes, say “Great” and go on to breakfast.  If Tess doesn’t pee, say, “O.K., the pee will come later!”

If you can’t do this in a comfortable way, stop now--you aren’t ready.  If she pees on the floor five minutes later and you feel annoyed or upset, stop now--you aren’t ready.  This plan assumes that puddles will occur, and that has to be O.K. with you!

•  For breakfast, serve Tess liquids she likes, especially dilute fruit juice.  You want her to drink a lot, without getting too filled up.  For food, go for lots of salty and crunchy foods.  That’s the meal plan for the weekend. Think of this as a three day party, not a healthy eating weekend--you want her to make a lot of urine so that she has lots of opportunities to practice.

•  For the rest of the day, take Tess and Teddy to the potty about every hour.  Have her sit again.  Act happy if she goes, matter of fact if she doesn’t.  At naptime, put her in a diaper or pull up and tell her the Potty Day will continue after nap.

•  In between trips to the potty, give Tess lots of attention. Play with her, watch her play, read stories, go outside.  I don’t recommend watching TV--it’s too absorbing.  You want Tess to be aware of her body, not zoning out.

•  Anytime Tess pees on the floor, say, “Oh look, the pee is coming out!  Let’s finish in the potty!” and take her in for a brief sit--there may be more, but the reason to do this is to help her make the connection between peeing and sitting.

•  If you notice (by her expression or positioning) that Tess is about to go, quickly say, “Great, the pee is soming!  Let’s go to the potty!” If she makes it, “Great”, if she doesn’t, “That’s O.K., next time you’ll get there faster!”

If you are lucky, Tess will go in the potty at least once on Day One.  Of course, you will tell her and Teddy that they’ve done a great job. Once she has gone in the potty a couple of times, on Day One, Two, or Three, you can start using a bell or timer to remind her to go.

That’s the plan.  It can really work for some children--by day Three, they are “getting it” and happily peeing, maybe pooping, on the potty. If you aren’t seeing that result--or if Tess is rebelling at all--then STOP.  Go back to diapers, and tell Tess that you’ll have another Potty Weekend again soon.  You can try again in 4-6 weeks.

This plan works best when a child has had some practice and is ready to make a leap forward.  If it doesn’t “Click” you haven’t lost anything--unless you consider a weekend at home playing with your child a loss.

If you do have success, think of this as the beginning of being trained.  When Tess is at home, she can be barebottomed or in underwear.  Away from home, regular underwear of some thick cotton “training” pants are fine.  But no more diapers except for naps and at night. As much as possible, keep excursions to the minimum--no long stretches in the car, hours at the playground, birthday parties or big events--you can't expect Tess to master using the potty in a variety of settings before she's mastered the basics.

After the first week, reevaluate.  If the plan is working, Tess will be having very few accidents and will be getting to the potty on her own at least some of the time.  If she’s just making puddles--then she’s probably not ready.  This is why you have to know yourself and your child well--it has to be O.K. to say, “Gee, you did great on the Potty Weekend, but we probably have to practice more before you’re ready for underwear all the time!”  Take a break, then try again in a month.

During this time, it’s important that Tess have daily, soft poops.  For most children, scheduling sitting time after meals will help--wait about 15-20 minutes after Tess eats.  A few children will master peeing but not pooping and may start holding in their BM for a day or two,  If that happens with Tess, that is another sign that she’s not ready.  A child who is withholding can become constipated quickly--and you don’t want to solve one problem and create another!

There are lots of variations on this plan--all can work.  What is important is that you and Tess believe that she is going to be able to use the potty when she’s ready.  You will help her practice, and you’ll enjoy each other’s company while she’s learning.  But she’s the one who will do it!