The Definitive Dad’s Guide to Potty Training (in 3 days!)

The Definitive Dad’s Guide to Potty Training Like a Person Who Doesn’t Want to Clean Up Poop Forever.

(Because no one wants to clean up poop forever)

Nothing is quite as motivating to potty train your kid as having to clean up your first “grown-ass poop” (Don’t Google that). Shortly after that messy and gag-reflex inducing debacle, we told ourselves that we would stop putting off potty training.

As first-time parents, we asked what I could only assume all newbie parents ask at some point … where do you even start? Google is our best friend in this household, so too is trusting our gut instincts, and, by the beard of Zeus, we have a couple of brilliant friends in the field of child development and behavior.

The Context

“Grown-ass poop” creator: Roman, Male, 2 years (and 3 months) in age; intelligent, fun, handsome, incredibly stubborn and equal parts independent.

The Tools

  • Get a timer your kid can clearly see and hear, we used a kitchen timer.
  • Start on a weekend. We set aside three days — FULL days — to potty train.
  • Potty choices. If you can, grab a standalone potty chair and the potty seat that goes over the real toilet (Pick up step-up stairs to help them reach the big potty).
  • Undies. Preferably ones they will dig, like favorite show characters or one they pick out themselves.
  • Reward goodies: We used M&M’s and jelly beans (Careful for the hot/spicy jelly beans. Instant regret).
  • Flushable wipes.
  • Patience. Because you still have plenty of that, right? (:D)
  • Thor’s blessings.

The Plan

  1. Start by showing your kid that you’re done with the diapers and “throw them away.” Now, present and place undies unto them.
  2. Explain that we want to keep our cool, new undies fresh and dry.
  3. Introduce their new friend(s), the potty.
  4. Explain to them that every 15-20 minutes the timer aka “potty alarm” goes off, we’re going to try to go potty (Be your kid’s hype-man for this).
  5. Show them the reward jar and keep up your pseudo-excited-but-you’re-really-terrified demeanor.
  6. Begin.

The Real Potty Training Guide

Hereinafter, I shall bestow upon you some tips and advice that worked and didn’t work for us, but it might for you.

We phased and tiered our reward system

  • Phase 1: Sat on potty/tried to potty = 1 Reward.
  • Phase 2: Peed = 2 Rewards; Pooped = 3 Rewards.
  • Phase 3: Peed = High-five, but no edible reward; Pooped = 2  Rewards.

Yes, every 20 minutes is real, real annoying. You can start to extend the time by small increments up to an hour as you gauge that your kid is starting to get it.

Pro-tip: During each interval, have them drink as much fluids (water/juice) as you can, so they start to understand what it feels like to have a full bladder. The more often they feel that sensation, the quicker they will know when they need to go.

Mr. Independent

Our kid is incredibly independent, so I knew he would rather have his own potty to start.

The benefit to this is we were able to replace his usual chair in the living room with the potty chair fitted with armrests, he liked that.

A comfortable environment for the introduction was key for us.

However, if you can get your kiddo to use the potty seat that goes over the real toilet — awesome. Now you don’t have to do the whole transfer of unmentionables. Also, I’d recommend the one with the handles on it, it’s easier for them to adjust themselves on the seat.

A naked baby is a happy baby

If it’s not too cold, put on only their underwear or nothing at all.

This way they have a sense that they’re somewhat naked aka slightly aware they do not have a diaper on.

It’s also helpful to quickly get them ready to go potty.


Have them get in the habit of washing their hands after, too. We bought this rubber faucet extender so he could reach the faucet water with ease.

Let us all do our part to keep poop particles at bay. *eye starts to itch*

Strike a pose

It may sound funny, but it’s easier to wipe their butts if you have them do the downward dog yoga pose.

We say, “hands down, booty up!” It also helps to show them what you’re talking about first.

Lord knows I can’t touch my toes.

Image: Flickr, Jimmy Liew

All hands in — go team!

Team up with your significant other. This process is exhausting, so take “shifts” and work together.

You’re a curious fellow

Kids are curious, show and even let them flush the toilet to show them it’s not scary. “Bye bye, poo-poo!”

Celebrate good times, come on!

Get excited each time the timer goes off, pretend like it’s a party just for them each and every time.

Yes, you will hate that sound; Hopefully, they will not.

Goldfish attention span

Try to have them sit on the potty for extended periods of time. Distract them with a song, tablet, book, anything, because they will eventually go in the potty.

Image: Flickr, eren

I am a kind and merciful god

Don’t get mad at them or scold them for an accident. They’re learning. Have patience. Eat an M&M, you deserve a reward too.

You got this

Do NOT give up! It’s tiring and stressful, but it’s short-term pain for the long-term family benefit.

The sleeper move

We discovered that he is very relaxed when he’s asleep, obviously, but that also meant he didn’t always control his bladder when he took his nap or during the night.

Keep the diapers on when they sleep until they’re nailing the day time potty routine.

Use a water-resistance fitted bedsheet under their normal one and have another bed sheet set or two on standby in case of an accident.

Start ’em young

We’ve been told it’s better/easier to train them when they’re younger (1.5 years-ish), but cannot personally confirm. I’ve also heard it helps to have older siblings to show them how it’s done. Pero, yo no se.

Note to self

Always, always try to have them go potty before leaving to go anywhere. Try not to ask them “Do you have to go potty?” Make it more a statement. Don’t be a tyrant about it, though.

Use a clear mason jar to put the reward goodies in so they can keep their eyes on the prize.

You’ll be inside most of the time, perhaps, buy a new movie for everyone to enjoy. Order in, and make your home a bit more toddlerable (dad puns).

Boy, oh boy

For boys, they will likely try to pee standing up. This is endearing except when they don’t have their aim down.

I’m okay letting him try if I’m there to help, otherwise, I ask him to “Please, sit down and potty.” and/or “Push your pee-pee/penis down.”

Potty spotter

When you’re out and about while potty training, quickly locate the restrooms and see if they need to go first thing. Or, at least remain cognizant of where it is because you may have to run for it. Curse you flip-flops.

I believe that we will win!

Believe in your child. Kids have an innate sense of when you’re disappointed or mad at them. Try your very best to remain positive.

If YOU need to go potty, then see if they’ll come with you to try. You know they’re always barging in when you’re in there anyways.


Coordinate with your daycare or sitter/nanny, that way they can help the progress and hopefully not dismantle all your hard work!

They won’t be perfect after 2-3 days of potty training boot camp, so be okay with them having accidents every now and then. They’ll get it eventually, trust me — no one likes to sit in their own piddle.

Full disclaimer:

We’re not completely accident-free ~2-3 months later, nearly though. We still put diapers on him at night if he’s had consecutive mishaps. But, we’re fully confident to take him out with us sans-diapers and he’s been good about letting us know when he has to go potty.

The 3-day potty training was all so worth it. He’s now very proud when he goes potty, “Daddy, I went poo-poo caca!” and so are we.

What pro tips have you tried and lived to tell the tale? Share with us so we can add to the guide!

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