I Tried It: The 48 Hour Potty Training Method

My daughter, Mary, will be 3 at the end of November. She’s a strong-willed, stubborn-as-her-mama kind of gal who likes to do things on her own timeline.

For example: Mary started crawling at 5 months. I was shocked, and assumed she’d be able to trick-or-treat with her big brother when she’d be 11 months. Nope. She got really good at crawling; deftly maneuvering across the room on her bottom with her legs propelling her forward (think: ninja-gorilla).

She wasn’t walking at her first birthday, or at 13 months (when her older brother started walking). She could stand and cruise, but flat-out refused to walk. Mary didn’t start walking until she was almost 16 months old, when I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my youngest and physically could not carry her around any longer.

Kids walk at all different times, and 16 months is not “too late” by any means. My point is that Mary could have walked well before 16 months; she simply did not want to.

Potty training, at this point, has followed a similar pattern. Around age 2, she started peeing in the potty, which we encouraged but didn’t require. A few months ago, we tried to “start” potty training by simply having her tell us when she’d pooped or peed, so we could immediately change her diaper. It didn’t work. We offered rewards. It didn’t work. So we instead started trying to take her to potty at set times. She flat-out refused to go. She’d wait until her diaper was back on, go, and then not tell us or deny it.

Enough was enough. I texted my husband after one particularly rough morning, and told him we were potty training this weekend. It was time. I’d had enough. 48 hours or bust!

The Method


My husband and I based our approach off of Potty Train in a Weekend by Rebecca Mansfield. We also read articles about two- and three- day methods on Rebecca’s website, plus 48 hour potty training tips from Dr. Sears. After doing our research, we agreed upon the following four guidelines:

  1. Starting Saturday morning, Mary would be in underpants only (no pants). Rebecca’s book advocates for the naked approach, but we decided Mary would be more responsive to wearing exciting “big girl” underpants.
  2. Mary would attempt to go to the potty every 20 minutes on Saturday; every 30 minutes on Sunday.
  3. Mary would get one jellybean for every #1; two jellybeans for every #2.
  4. To encourage independence, Mary would pull down and pull up her own underpants.

That was it — we picked a weekend with nothing on the calendar; I bought candy, underpants and cleaning supplies; and we went for it.

Full disclaimer: this is not a post about how to potty train your toddler. This is just my experience trying a very specific method! If you want to read an informative, helpful and well-written article about potty training, check out Overcoming Potty Training Obstacles.

Day 1


6:30 a.m.

Mary’s been up since 6, but since it’s Saturday we made her hang out in bed until 6:30 so we could “sleep in.” We’d explained everything the night before, and she seemed very excited to wear her big girl underpants. So, off came the overnight diaper and on went pink, polka-dot underpants (after she peed in the potty, of course).

10:30 a.m.

We’ve been going potty every 20 minutes. My husband set his iPhone timer to play the Beatles’ “Polythene Pam,” which we renamed “Potty Pam.” No accidents yet — and lots of jellybeans! Feeling confident, I decide to take Julian out for a quick grocery run.

11:00 a.m.

I get a text from my husband saying we’d had our first accident (wet underpants). I tell him to stay calm, and just use it as a learning opportunity. I feel very Super-momish with my wise advice and calm reaction.

11:30 a.m.

I get another text: we have a #2 situation. Apparently, Mary went to the laundry room to do it. She then walked through the house and took off the offending underpants. So, there was a big mess. I had assumed that if she was going every 20 minutes, she’d naturally just be on the potty when she needed to go. I head home, and when I get there, step in a pee accident on the floor that my husband had missed. This is starting to feel like a huge mistake.

12 – 5 p.m.

We rally after the midday messes, religiously setting the timer to go off every 20 minutes. It works — no more accidents during this time! We read books, build towers, play on the driveway, make pizzas and go to the potty every 20 minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Wisening up to the jelly bean game, Mary begins telling us (on her own initiative) that she has to go potty during the afternoon. And, usually, she does. But, after several false alarms where she was running wildly from the bathroom to the family room, we make her deliver on her word. She’s not happy. But, she eventually pees on the potty.

Day 1: Thoughts

Mary goes potty today more times than she ever has. She was able to pull her underpants on and off, and even started telling us when she needed to go. I’m a little nervous about pooping on the potty — and where we will be tomorrow night. I know there’s no turning back — we are now officially in underpants (during the day) — so if this doesn’t work I am in for a lot of messes this week.

Day 2


5:30 a.m.

We were up early today thanks to a stomach bug that kept big brother Julian up most of the night. As I wash Julian’s sheets (and four pairs of soiled pajamas), I try to stay positive about the day. Mary wakes up excited to put on her underpants, and goes on the potty easily.

8:00 a.m.

Despite being super gassy, Mary is denying having to go potty. However, after yesterday’s mess, I’m not the most confident. I have Mary try to go, and she can’t. She starts crying. I give in, reset the timer, and make sure she tries every 30 minutes.

11:00 a.m.

Still no #2; however, lots of pees. Mary is getting really good at taking her underwear on and off without any assistance. This is a huge relief — I also have a 15 month old to take care of, and I simply can’t run in and out of the bathroom all day helping her with her pants!

1:00 p.m.

I think Mary’s mad that she’s not getting any jellybeans — she hasn’t peed the last few tries, and keeps insisting she needs to “go poop.” She doesn’t. She instead starts messing around in the bathroom, picking up and moving her potty, walking around naked and then whining that she wants “candy.” We quickly shut this down and reset the timer.

2:00 p.m.

Random thought: no accidents so far today! But I won’t be able to relax until we get a poop in the books.

5:00 p.m.

It’s been a mess-free day! After playing inside and going for a walk around the block, we tell Mary that she can have her reward (a portable barn from Melissa and Doug) if she stays dry for dinner. She’s pumped!

5:30 p.m.

Reward time! Mary is very proud of herself. All three kids have a blast playing with the barn.

5:45 p.m.

Well, I guess it was too much excitement — Mary admits to peeing on the floor in the train room. We put her on the potty and she goes — big time. So, at least she showed some control, as well as an awareness that she’d had an accident. That’s major progress! We clean up, read books and then get ready for bath time.

Reflections


Prior to this weekend, we’d had problems:

  • Getting Mary to recognize that she needed to go potty,
  • Having Mary confess that she had a dirty diaper, and
  • Getting Mary excited to start potty training.

I think the 48 Hour Potty Training Method helped tremendously with all of the above issues. Not only did Mary consistently go on the potty, she also told us when she needed to go, admitted when she’d had an accident and gained a pretty solid grasp of the whole process.

I’m sure some kids can complete the weekend fully “trained;” however, we aren’t quite there yet. Potty training is a process.

But — this weekend provided the foundation we had been trying to establish for months! Mary is officially in underpants now — and I think that she will be in great shape by her third birthday.

Potty training is going to be messy — no matter how you do it! So do whatever works for your child’s personality because every kid is different. But once you’ve done it, you and your child will feel like you’ve conquered the world!

Before you start the potty training process, take a deep breath and check out our reflections about Parenting A Toddler with Unrealistic Expectations!

Photo credit: Sarah M.

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Sarah

Sarah is a yoga practicing, mostly vegan, coffee chugging, Jack White-loving, stay-at-home-mom to three kids 4 and under in Cincinnati, Ohio. In her free time, she does freelance work for Cincinnati Parent, Dayton Parent and Indy’s Child, and blogs about her adventures with three kids in the Queen City.

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