Toilet Training Field Notes

Toilet Training – Field Notes

I’m no toilet training master, and this isn’t a tutorial. But I’m now a veteran of one potty training tour of duty and if I tell you how it went down, maybe it will make your battle a bit easier. At minimum you’ll enter the danger zone with open eyes and can honestly claim to your partner that you’ve been ‘reading online’. Check out my field notes below.

Easter was the perfect time for executing our potty training strategy. A neat four day window. We’d go out hard on Good Friday and by the time Jesus busted out of that cave we should have a restrained and trained pee-master toddler. Failure was not an option and it would be easy right? Nah, not so much.

Toilet Training Method

We went for the ‘so hot right now’ three day toilet training method which was pioneered by some child behavioral psychologists back the 70s. Modernised versions of the method aren’t quite as hardcore as how they rolled in the decade of moustaches and full bush. That said, it’s still damn intensive for all involved. Not to over simplify, but in brief it requires letting your kid run around naked or without pants all day, making sure they drink a lot of fluids and then rushing them to the toilet either periodically or whenever they show the slightest hint of needing to go.

Does this really mean you spend three days straight watching a pants-less toddler? Yes.

For a far superior description of the method check out this popular mom blog post.


Subject: Male, 2 years 4 months old
Strategy: Three day pants-free piss festCarpet Film
Key Equipment: Toddler toilet seat (Baby Bjorn), Rewards sticker chart, carpet protection film, drinks and straws, step stool, loads of love and patience    

We prepped with a protection film covering all carpeted areas of our living area and painter’s plastic sheeting on sofas.

Day 1 – AM

Day one started with massive optimism and enthusiasm. We brought our little pants-less wonder downstairs and released him on the newly protected area. Things went exactly as you’d expect with his new found freedom, within the hour we were already cleaning up our first wee straight on to the floor. Once he started we’d be watching and rush him off to sit on the toilet and then praise him for doing so. He did exhibit some impressive mid-stream control, once he started he could stop, it was a promising sign considering no man likes hitting the piss pause button. After a few hours, and many drinks of water, he became reluctant to finish his weeing on the toilet. We told him each time that he must tell us when he had to go. An hour later we had our first occasions where he began his piss on the floor and then completed on the toilet. Reward stickers,
lots of praise and high fives followed. Then in a moment of awesomeness, I asked him if he needed to go, he said “yes”, and we had our first wee that was performed entirely on the toilet. Fantastic, it would surely all be easy from here. It would not, and that moment was the high point of day one.

toilet training reward chartDay 1 – PM

Disadvantaged by a minimal midday nap, the afternoon was always going to be a struggle. It started with a full wee load unleashed on the floor, it was on my watch as well, but I was distracted. I cleaned up and resumed observation. We had a couple of occasions when a wee was started on the floor and finished on the toilet. But nothing more. I had him seated bare-ass in his high-chair for dinner thinking it safe as most animals won’t piss where they eat. Turns out toddlers aren’t most animals. They’re much nastier.

In the afternoon we began introducing the concept of ‘accidents’ and began showing little man his puddles on the ground. No noticeable immediate effect.

Yellow and Brown Breakdown

Wees on floor – 3
Wees on floor finished in toilet – 6
Wees all toilet – 1
Poos 0 (thank god)

Day 2 – AM

The day began with a good energy in the piss pit our lounge had become. But it wasn’t long before that was shattered with three wees, one after the other, splashing the floor. Little man was giving off less physical indication of when he was about to go. It was a frustrating time and I really found my patience stretched. We repeated our message again and again, to tell us when he needed to go. He’d agree and then moments later unleash a splash of yellow peril wherever he was standing. We had one wee that started on the floor and ended in the loo. Then, in a massive reversal of fortune, we cracked it with our first all toilet wee of the day. High fives and a sticker on the chart followed. We then had a second wee all on the toilet and we went into the nap time break feeling good. It was hard to know however, if little man was getting better at communicating that he needed to go through non-verbal mime methods or we were just getting more intuitive about when he was about to piss it up.

Day 2 – PM

We became a bit trigger happy in the afternoon about taking wee boy to the toilet, he was showing some signs of needing to go but would then get angry when taken to the toilet again. It was tricky because he was clearly crotch-clutching but then would object to us taking him away from what he was doing. However, things were definitely looking up and we had three wees all on the toilet in a row. He still wasn’t telling us when he needed to go. In fact the only time he said that he needed to go was when we put him into bed, nappy back on, for the night. It was just bullshit delay tactics, but definitely a crafty move that, after all our talk, left us no choice but to try him on the toilet. He didn’t have anything to contribute. No poos for the second day straight which was beginning to become a major concern. 

Yellow and Brown Breakdown

Wees on floor – 3
Wees floor then toilet – 2
Wees all toilet – 5
Poos – 0

Day 3 – AM

The morning started with a small poo on the toilet which was both exciting and a sad reminder of where our life was at. Then normal transmission resumed and he did some wees on the floor before finishing on the toilet. I took him out for a ride on his trike and he left a wee patch on the driveway before being rushed back in. His physical communication was a little better today, but he still wasn’t verbally telling us when he needed to go. I felt a bit down because I’d hoped we’d be further along than this after 5 of our 6 sessions with this method. 

Day 3 – PM

Wrestling with a pants-less toilet-training toddler is misguided at best and I totally got tea-Tea baggingbagged. It could have been worse, I guess. Following that unfortunate incident, it was more of the same in the PM. Little man had bombed a load of poo into his nappy during his nap, reliving some of that pressure. He did a few wees all in the toilet after lunch which was good. I bravely took him to the local playground in some light grey track pants and immediately regretted it when I saw a gang of super cool younger parents there. But he managed a half hour play session without incident. I finished the three days deflated in the feeling that we’d only made minimal ground so far. But there was hope for the future. 

Yellow and Brown Breakdown

Wees on floor – 3
Wees floor then toilet – 2
Wees all toilet – 5
Poos – 1 (thank god)

Key Learnings

  • Positivity is huge. Your kid can do no wrong, especially on day one. If they pull out your new Air Jordans and take a slash in them while smiling at you – that’s ok, go for a high five. It’s all gotta stay positive.
  • Staying attentive to what’s happening, or about to happen, is one of the most challenging aspects. It’s like watching a firework that’s run out of fuse but hasn’t exploded. Boring, but the chance of sudden danger keeps you on it.
  • You need to keep morale high for everyone involved. Especially when you’re all stuck indoors for days on end. It’s easy for doubts to creep in, maybe you’re toilet training too soon? Maybe you should postpone or outsource? Stay strong, if you’ve started, then this is when its happening.
  • It’s a good idea to return your kid to exactly what they were doing before they needed to be taken to the toilet, so they don’t feel in any was disadvantaged by the visit.
  • The ultimate goal to potty training isn’t really about where the wees and poos get splattered, its about communication. If you can establish a clear line of comms around when a wee is required you’re winning. If you achieve that on day one, you’re killing it.
  • After the three days were up we never got our Eureka! moment, but do I trust him more now without a nappy than I did three years ago – absolutely.
  • Like a lot of parenting toilet training is about persistence and a dash of faith. 
  • Don’t tickle, or wrestle a toilet training toddler.
  • It’s the beginning of a behavioural change that will last the rest of his life, so there is no way to rush it really. It’s about steady progress, not sudden perfection.
  • I’d love to tell you fellas that toilet training is no big deal, and three days is all it takes, but  the reality is that this is a this is a tough process, and they’re three long and gruelling parenting days.

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About Instant Dad

Instant Dad is every Kiwi dad – except better looking and more bloggy. He’s a faceless representation of all fresh dads in Aotearoa out there having a crack at parenting. Instant Dad likes to clown around, but the intent of this site is genuine - to help dads navigate the pitfalls of early-stage parenting.