Excerpt: 'Potty Train Your Child In Just One Day'

Can you really potty train your child in just one day? Speaker-author-consultant Teri Crane says it's possible.

In her book, "Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day," Crane, known as the Potty Pro, provides tools to help parents and their children reach one of the most important milestones in their lives.

Crane has tips for themed potty parties -- such as a seriously silly circus, a cartoon character carnival and a magic carpet express -- and supplies parents with everything they will need. Teri says that a potty party day engages a child in potty training in a way that no other method has before -- by speaking a toddler's language. She says it will motivate your child to want to go to the bathroom, and to keep on going.

You can read an excerpt from "Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day" below.

The Secret's Out -- Potty Parties Are In!

To every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.

-- Mary Poppins

Every day I'm besieged by telephone calls from moms who are confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Mostly they're at wit's end. They beg me for the secrets to potty training their children. And no matter what their particular potty woes might be, how long they've been trying to train their child, or how harrowing their bathroom battles, I invariably recommend a single, one-size-fits-all solution: Have a One-Day Potty-Training Party!

Kids love parties. In Toddler-Speak, a party means fun, games, cake, candy, presents, and prizes. For a two- or three-year-old, it doesn't get much better than that.

In Mom-Speak, a party can mean a fun way to motivate your child to learn a new behavior -- in this case using the toilet. Giving your toddler motivation is critical to your success because when it comes to becoming toilet trained, most kids have absolutely no incentive. None. And when you look at it from their perspective, why would they? Life experience has proven that it's fast, easy, and convenient to go in their diapers.

No matter how much you want your child to trade in her Huggies for big-girl underpants, chances are she will remain blissfully unmotivated by your desire or concern. Plus, if a child has had a negative experience with the potty, it can be even more challenging to entice him to try it again.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, helping the 11 million children under the age of four through the potty-training process can be one of the toughest challenges for parents. Learning to use the potty is a key milestone in a child's development. Unlike other milestones associated with walking or talking, however, this developmental hurdle tends to be a source of considerable concern for both parent and child. A stressful potty-training period can damage a parent/child relationship and injure a child's self-esteem. But when this hurdle is successfully negotiated with a minimum of contention, it fosters a child's sense of independence and accomplishment.

The One-Day Potty-Training Party is a fun, time-tested method for achieving potty-training victory. In the fast-paced, overscheduled, multitasking society in which we live, parents need a training tool that will teach them how to potty train their child in one day. The cost savings alone are enough incentive for most parents. And U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate that American women are increasingly having more than two children. Even with our frantic schedules, we can attack this parenting challenge in an organized, structured fashion, with help from a tested routine. And as this book will demonstrate, that means a well-planned and exciting potty party!

There are a number of driving forces behind the push for quick and effective potty-training programs:

Most preschools in the United States mandate that children cannot be promoted to the next level unless they are potty trained.

Today, a mere 13 percent of America's families fit the 1950s model of husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 60 percent of all marriages, 45 percent of the working population, are dual-career marriages. And nearly two-thirds of America's children attend some sort of out-of-home care on a regular basis.

According to the Children's Hospital Guide to Your Child's Health and Development, 40 percent of three-year-olds still use diapers.

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia spend a total of more than $1.9 billion a year on some sort of prekindergarten.

The National Center for Health Statistics has reported that the number of women of childbearing age giving birth to three or more children rose 7 percent to 18.4 percent.

A National Catalyst research survey found that more than 80 percent of new mothers return to the labor force within six months of childbirth.

I came up with the idea for a one-day potty-training party when I was desperate to toilet train my son Spencer so that he could be enrolled in preschool. Although at the time I felt like I was the only mother facing this challenge, I've since discovered that there are millions of moms in the same tight spot as I was in three years ago. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Report, there are approximately 20 million parents with 11 million children under the age of four, and more than 4 million of those are currently enrolled in a nursery or preschool program where children often are not permitted to move up to the next level until they have been successfully potty trained. So even though the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that there is no set age to begin potty training, the majority of preschool programs won't accept a three-year-old who isn't potty proficient.

In a nutshell, the One-Day Potty-Training Party is based on solid toilet-training information and advice. But instead of a drawn out battle between parent and child, it's a one-day theme party where your child is the center of attention. Whatever theme you choose, the potty party is designed to be fast-paced, fun, and rewarding. Best of all, it works!

The Potty Party Has One Primary Goal

Make learning to use the potty fun by making the potty party one of the most exciting and rewarding days in your child's life.

The Potty Party Is Divided into Three Parts


Give your child a new doll (preferably one that "wets") and the three of you have a party. While playing games, reading books, and watching potty-training videos, you teach the doll how to use the potty. Your child learns about the potty and how to use it by helping you teach his or her doll.


The theme party continues, but now the focus shifts to your child using the potty. Plenty of fun and rewards are built into this part of the party so that your child wants to use the potty and feels good about his or her success.


To celebrate your child's success, the party expands to include Dad, brothers and sisters, grandparents, and other close relations. Everyone congratulates your child for potty training his or her doll and for using the potty.

Since emerging from my own potty wars, I have gathered lots of knowledge and experience about potty training and throwing potty parties. By talking with child psychologists, parents, caregivers, professional party planners, and graduates of my Potty-Training Boot Camp, I have pulled together all the essential steps and vital ingredients to make a potty-training party a wonderful success. I include all the details and guidelines for planning and throwing the potty party in chapters five and six. But before you can begin planning the party and preparing your child for the big day, you need to determine whether he is physically and mentally ready for toilet training. And just as important, you need to determine whether you are ready! Don't even think about taking away your child's diapers before you take the readiness quiz in chapter two!

What Does It Mean to Be Potty Trained?

Everyone seems to have a different answer to this question. Rather than getting caught in the debate of who's right and who's wrong, I measure a child's potty-training success on a range from "not potty trained" to "totally potty trained."

When I launched my mission to toilet train my son, I asked (okay, begged) other moms to divulge their secrets to potty-training success. After a little probing, I often discovered that their child really wasn't potty trained at all, at least not by my understanding of the term. Basically, the child would go potty only if the mom undressed her, told her to sit on the potty, and waited, waited, waited, and waited a little more. Sometimes the child would go and sometimes she wouldn't. And as you might guess, accidents were part of the daily routine.

Well, call me crazy, but this version of toilet trained sounds more like a work in progress. Even so, it's important to remember that just getting a toddler to sit on the toilet and try can be a milestone on his path to being totally toilet trained.

Your toddler is totally potty trained when he can get in and out of the bathroom himself, get his pants down and back up again, clean his backside adequately, and wash his hands -- all with minimal assistance. I have to tell you that when I first read this definition, it just increased my sense of frustration. I couldn't even get my son to sit on the potty. Getting him totally toilet trained seemed like an impossible dream. That's why it's important to celebrate every successful step. If your child can recognize that she has to use the bathroom -- and tell you she needs to go in enough time for you to get her on the potty -- that's a very successful step!

Waging the Potty War

Frankly, I was desperate. I'm not too proud to admit it. I was stressed out of my mind. The fact that toilet training is supposed to happen when our children are toddlers -- at the height or on the heels of the Terrible Twos -- seems like a cruel irony. At this age, getting a child to do anything she doesn't want to do can rapidly turn into a drama. So toilet training can be nothing short of traumatic. In our house, the potty battles escalated until we were engaged in what could only be called an all-out potty war! The fact that our son was winning made our efforts seem even more futile.

Here's what happened. When Spencer was about two and a half years old my husband, Kyle, and I bought him a potty-chair, set it in the bathroom, and told him (with enthusiasm) that he was a big boy now and it was time for him to learn to use the potty. And so began the first chapter of our potty-training saga. Nearly every day one of us would suggest to Spencer that he sit on the potty. Spencer's response was consistently "No!"

As his third birthday drew closer, he still adamantly refused to sit on his potty-chair and threw fits if we said the word "potty." But I persisted. When I picked him up from nursery school, I'd ask if he went on the potty "like a big boy." With a gleeful expression, he would inevitably tell me he went on the potty every time. His teachers, however, had an entirely different story: they said Spencer refused to even walk near the toilet. Worse, he'd frequently go off in a corner and poop in his big-boy underwear. His antipotty attitude was threatening to land him on the dreaded "Do Not Promote" list barring him graduation from nursery school to preschool.

Like most preschools in the United States, Spencer's had a rule that children could not enroll until they were potty trained. In other words: No potty, no preschool!

All of Spencer's successfully potty-trained friends were going to be promoted to preschool and he was about to be left behind -- all because he couldn't go to the bathroom by himself. That's when I went from being frustrated to being paranoid.

I started thinking everyone was in on the joke but me. I mean, why couldn't I figure this thing out? Was the secret of potty training only revealed to those who knew a special password or handshake? Was that why some moms boasted that their children practically potty trained themselves, while the rest of us struggled to solve the mystery? I became obsessed and utterly desperate to enter the inner sanctum of potty-training success.

Meanwhile, the battle persisted and my son and I were both miserable. I no longer wanted to keep teaching him and he no longer wanted to try to learn. Resigned and feeling like a failure, I decided to put the whole project on hold for a while. My husband and I made a pact that we would do absolutely nothing to encourage Spencer to use the toilet -- no more discussions, no more pleading or bribing, and, God help us, no more tears!

The potty-chair went into the closet; the big-boy underwear and training pants went back in the drawer from which they came. I told myself that surely Spencer would decide on his own -- at some point -- that he didn't want to wear diapers anymore, and I bit my tongue waiting for that day to arrive. (At the very least, I consoled myself, he'd definitely be motivated by the time he started dating.)

Each day I eagerly watched my son for signs that he no longer wanted to wear a diaper. But not another word about using the potty was mentioned.

Until, that is, I turned the calendar page and was reminded that Spencer's preschool deadline was just around the bend. With a renewed determination to beat the clock, I devoured all the toilet-training material I could find. I read books, watched videos, and perused websites. I picked the brain of every mother I encountered who had something valuable to share about the fastest route to potty-training victory. I also talked to scores of moms who were feeling just as confused and frustrated about potty training as I was.

As the deadline for preschool enrollment loomed, I became more and more desperate. My husband had great intentions, but he was actually hindering the process. Like a lot of dads, he was taking an authoritarian tone with our son, subtly demanding that he begin going to the potty by himself, like a big boy. I knew enough about potty training by then to realize that the authoritarian approach was doomed to backfire. According to everything I learned from experts and other moms, kids typically dig in their heels when adults make demands about potty training, and pressure makes them actively hostile.

To make matters worse, Spencer was now just one week away from his third birthday. I silently concluded that if I could teach him before he turned three, I could truthfully tell anyone who asked that he was potty trained when he was "only" two. I needed a shortcut. The time for drastic action was at hand!

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

I had read that one of the ways parents could teach a toddler to use the potty was to first guide the toddler to teach a doll to use the potty. The question was, how could I get my son to do this in a way that would be fun for both of us? I had already tried giving him candy and other bribes, so I knew I had to come up with an incentive that he would think was awesome. And then it occurred to me like a flash of lightning: a party! All I had to do was say the word "party" and Spencer's eyes would light up. I would plan an all day party for the specific purpose of potty training my son!

Our potty party began at 9 A.M. Saturday morning when I handed Spencer a wrapped present. Spencer thought it was fantastic that he got a present on a day that wasn't his birthday or a holiday. The present was a doll that he and I would potty train together. He quickly bonded with the doll and named him "Dolly," and he happily bought into the plan that he and I were going to teach Dolly to use the potty. All morning, in between reading books and playing games, I taught Dolly how a big boy goes to the potty by himself and Spencer watched closely. By lunchtime, Spencer had grasped the most important aspects of potty training and was teaching Dolly by himself.

After lunch, for added incentive, I told Spencer that if he showed me that he could use the potty like a big boy -- just like Dolly -- we would call up Grandma and Granddad and all go to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate. Chuck E. Cheese was the most enticing carrot I could dangle in front of Spencer. He was crazy for the place! I used to have to drive several miles out of my way to the grocery store to dodge the Chuck E. Cheese landmarks my son recognized, or he would pitch a royal fit!

As it turned out, playing the Chuck E. Cheese card worked like a charm. By 5 P.M. Spencer could tell when he needed to go potty, go into the bathroom, pull down his pants, sit on the potty-chair, and go.

And guess what? When we went to Chuck E. Cheese, Spencer used the toilet there with no problem at all. We even made a potty pit stop on the way home.

When my husband came home that night I couldn't wait to tell him what happened. Kyle was happy, but thought it sounded too good to be true. Considering what the past six months had been like, I couldn't blame him for doubting. Spencer had used the potty six or seven times throughout the day, but I silently worried that the magic might wear off. And so it was with mixed emotions that I left Spencer with Kyle that evening and headed out for a friend's baby shower.

Much to my relief and delight, around 8 P.M. Kyle called my cell phone and exclaimed, "Spencer went to the bathroom by himself!" Success -- you are sweet, indeed!

It's Not a Shortcut If You Get Lost

The One-Day Potty-Training Party is a fun and very effective process if you properly prepare for the big day and follow all of the steps in the correct order.

If you attempt to do this program without following the steps in the order they are presented, your child will not be potty trained in one day. It's as simple as that.

I have tested all the steps and worked with hundreds of parents to determine which ones are critical to success and which are helpful but not necessary. If you follow the steps in the sequence I have outlined you'll be amazed at the wonderful results. I promise.

For those of you who are already contemplating ways to make this shortcut even shorter, I beg you to slow down and take a few deep breaths. The more desperately you want your child potty trained now, the more you need to back off and adopt a less urgent approach. The One-Day Potty-Training Party won't be a shortcut if you get lost along the way or hit a roadblock because you didn't properly prepare your child or yourself.

Please don't flip through this book and think you have it mastered. Parents who have tried an à la carte version of this method -- choosing to do some steps and skipping or racing through others -- invariably hit a dead end. And nobody wants that.

Like learning to walk, your child needs to take one step at a time. Do not encourage your child to jump to the next step until he masters the one he is on. Each step builds on the previous one -- and the order is very important.

Some of the steps may seem obvious or overly simplistic. But when they are used in combination with the rest of the program, they create a profound physical and emotional change while making learning fun. By allowing your child enough time to practice and become comfortable and proficient with each step, you help build her self-confidence. Each step can be celebrated as a milestone in your child's progress toward potty proficiency.

The majority of parents I work with potty train their child within a twenty-four-hour period, and the average time for complete training is around four to six hours. Some children were trained in one hour and others took up to two days. Even the fastest learners will need consistent reinforcement in the days and weeks following the potty party until it becomes a natural part of their day.

That's not to say there aren't special cases that need special tactics. Later in the book, we'll discuss how to potty train children with special needs, including children who have limited verbal skills and those who are prone to tantrums. We'll also cover how to help children who have continuous accidents and how to motivate toddlers who simply prefer diapers to big-kid underwear. Some of these challenges are more daunting than others, but they are all solvable with the right knowledge, preparation, and mindset.

Excerpted from POTTY TRAIN YOUR CHILD IN JUST ONE DAY by Teri Crane. Copyright © 2006 Teri Crane. All rights reserved.