Potty training by days


It’s happening all over the country. Fortified by the excesses of the waning party season and grabbing the last of summer, many parents are tackling toilet training.

Part and parcel of child rearing, yes, but the messy unknown that is toilet training rattles even the most competent parents.

So it’s not hard to work out why toilet training books, e-books and guides, comfortingly titled the One-Day, Three-Day, Five-Day, Seven-Day or even Ten-Day are hot currency.

Child development guru Robin Barker describes the By-Days methods as a “parent-led approach”.

“They offer a structured method where parents take charge – not control – of toilet training, not leaving it up to the toddler to decide, but giving the child routine and structure to do it,” she says.

It is part tough love – kids are responsible for their mess.

Barker prefers her own “middle of the road” approach but says the By-Days methods “are fine, as long as they are done in the right spirit [where] parents lead the process and keep on the case of toilet training, but don’t drive the child bonkers.”

Do they work? Sure. For some. 

“It might be an off and on again process over a few weeks,” says Barker. “You just have to put up with the mess.”

There are a huge number of versions promoted by both amateurs and experts floating around the blogosphere, in e-books and on bookshelves. Some come from other mums, others, like the childcare teacher in Tampa whose ten-day method using singing, cheering and half-hour visits to the toilet, even made the news.


However if you are looking for something a little more tried and tested (although not guaranteed by us), here are the best known:

One-day method:

With such an attention grabbing title, it’s little surprise the one-day method has remained persistently popular since it was first coined in the 1970’s by the book Toilet Training In Less Than a Day.

Since then, variations have been published by the likes of Dr Phil, Terri Crane and Margaret Saunders.

All are intense all-day training, holing up with your tot and everything you need in the bathroom for eight hours.

A special wetting doll is recommended, so the child learns through play, teaching the doll and themselves to go to the toilet.

It is part tough love – kids are responsible for their mess, even encouraged to clean spillage up off the floor.

However this hard line is tempered with the celebratory aspect of the one-day method: The Potty Party. Dr Phil recommends going all out, with hats, balloons and streamers every time the child gets it in the bowl.

Three-day method:

A more recent development, US woman and anti-nappy campaigner Julie Fellom developed her three-day method in the hope it would encourage parents to toilet train earlier (from 15 months) and therefore reduce toddler-generated disposable waste in landfill.

Despite the method’s name, Fellom states that accidents might continue well after the three days of training, suggests keeping kids pants free when at home for up to three months, and makes no claims about night-training: nappies for sleep are fine.

Not so the other guru of this method, the self-appointed potty training queen Lora Jensen.

Jensen’s three-day method is firm about no nappies, day or night, from the moment the child ceremoniously dumps them in the bin.

Like others, her process requires spending intense time with the child, watching for cues of impending bowel and bladder action and whisking them onto the potty. It’s also about giving the child control – parents must repetitively ask the child to tell them when they need to go. Jensen promises a triumphant toilet flusher – day and night – by the end of the three days.

Seven-Day method:

Gina Ford – she of the Contented Baby - is the go-to woman for the seven-day method.

In her method a rewards chart is essential; part sticker bribe for when the little poppet pops in the right place, part guide and record for parents.

Technically, the method takes more than seven days as there is a pre-stage where you familiarise the child with the potty by putting them on it (with no expectations) a couple of times a day.

Day one, the nappies are ditched and a strict timed regime starts where the child is taken to the potty every 10 to 15 minutes to sit for five to 10 minutes, slowly stretching the time between visits over the day.

It’s intense. One break is scheduled on day one, a play date for around an hour with a potty-trained friend. Not until day three does Ford recommend an outside break.

By day four Ford says you will be 90 per cent there. Which for many would be cause for a Contented Parent.

Need more tips or have your own advice to share? Discuss toilet training with Essential Baby members