When Potty Training Doesn’t Work in 3 Days

Note :: If you are have yet to experience the joys of potty training, then this post may gross you out. Consider yourself warned. I’m so sorry to be specific, but I had to share all of this for that mama that is on the edge of Crazy Town.

Let me first state that this is NOT a knock to the 3 Day Potty Training Method. Not even sort of. I’ve had so many friends that it works perfectly for and so many Facebook friends who’s kids seem to get it by the second day. If this is the method you are going to try, I really and truly hope it works for you and believe it probably will.

But for some of us, it doesn’t work. Not day 3. Not day 33. Not even day 133.

When Potty Training Doesn't Work in 3 Days. A photograph of a toilet.

I’ve tried it, like to a T tried it, three times now. And up until a couple of weeks ago, my daughter was still having accidents regularly and had only made a poop in the potty two times. Oh, and did I mention we started potty training 7 months ago?

Really and truly – I was about to lose my mind if I did one more load of urine soaked clothes and sheets. And if I rinsed human feces out of princess panties one more time I might have thrown up.

I tried everything I could think of or had heard from others.

3 day method? Check. Check. And check again.

Sticker chart? Check.

Incentives? M&Ms for pee. Sucker for poop. iPad time if no accidents all day.

Praise and positive reinforcement? Check.

Staying home? Check.

Lots of liquids and even laxatives? Check.

Essential oils? Check.

Then finally, my doctor gave me some sage advice :: Give her a good incentive, then back off and leave it all on her.

She said to act like I don’t care at all. If she has an accident, just have her toss her soiled clothes in the wash and say, “No prob! When you are ready to go pee-pee in the potty, you will.” And then move on.

So I took on this attitude and thought of the biggest incentive I could possible give my very girly girl – pierced ears. If she went ten days with no accidents, including naps {which we’d gone back to pull ups at nap for my sanity’s sake}, she could get her ears pierced.

A drawing of a toilet and a girl with earrings with the text Karis goes potty and she will get earrings. Beside the text are the numbers 1 to 10 with a drawing of a girl next to each number.

So every day Karis drew earrings on herself…and lipstick too because she felt like that was needed.

A young child drawing on the previously described drawing.

At the end of day 1, I was in shock. And the end of day 2, I wanted to cry. At the end of day 3, I was laughing hysterically with joy. She made it 8 full days with not a single accident, including dry panties at nap and poop in potty every, single day! Since then she will go 3 days with no accidents, and then she will have the tiniest dime size drop so we start over. {This mama wasn’t really planning on earrings until she was 7, so I’m dragging this out as long as she will let me.}

Very long story short :: The success stories are always posted on Facebook. The perfectly filled out sticker charts are plastered all over Instagram. But nobody posts pics of the pile of their kids wet undergarments {nor should they for so many reasons}. Or do they share the stories of the childcare worker saying yet again, “We tried to take her potty, but she just couldn’t make it.” {As they hand over that ever familiar plastic baggie.}

If you are having a hard time Mama, hang in there.

One day it will click. My mom always reminds me, “Becky, by kindergarten she won’t still ______.” {I honestly didn’t believe her on this one. But I’m starting to.}

If you are having a hard time Mama, it doesn’t mean you are a bad mom.

It doesn’t even mean you are doing anything wrong. Be open to asking those you trust to give good feedback if there’s anything you could do differently. And ignore all the other unsolicited advice and the “So weird – my kid was fully potty trained by two!” stories. They mean well, but ignore them.

If you are having a hard time Mama, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your kid.

Clearly, if you are ever concerned – bring it up with your pediatrician. {I did!} But more than likely, it just comes down to the fact that your kid is an individual and not the average…which is what we all really want, right?

What was potty training like for you?

Please share your best tips and tricks! And also know that I won’t throw anything at you if you share it worked for you in 2 days. I so hope it did. Really and truly. 

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Becky grew up in Houston, leaving only for college and an internship, but the humidity called her back! And it's a good thing - because shortly after moving home, she met her husband Chris, St. Louis Cardinals fanatic and {wife proclaimed} genius. She stays home with their two (soon-to-be three) girls: Karis, a girly girl and tenacious toddler, and Moriah, smiliest baby alive & Texas Women’s Hospital 10,000th baby in 2012. When she's not in the middle of a tea party, play dates, or potty training, she writes devotions with Sacred Holidays, teaches at prisons and women's ministry events and is a certified MBTI Life Coach {with Orbiting Normal}. She loves hot Houston summers, coffee creamer, dance parties with her family, nail polish, iced tea, reading {although it’s a lot of picture books these days}, and their church family {Bayou City Fellowship}! She would love to connect with you on her personal blog {www.beckykiser.com} or through Twitter {@beckykiser}, Pinterest {@beckyjkiser}, and Facebook.


  1. Thank you very much for posting this article. I have a 3.5 year old boy, that doesn’t care about being wet, going to the potty, or wearing undies. People say let him pick out his undies, did that still pees in them, I told him he can go to school like his friends when he doesn’t wear diapers anymore. Doesn’t care. “One day” he tells me. Why can’t that day be today? I want to say. I’ve tried stickers, M&M’s, Kindle time, and vast other bribes and hopes and all I end up with is doing laundry all day every day and not understanding how a kid can sit in a puddle of pee at 3.5 and play with his toys like he isn’t soaked at all. So thank you for the article. I really appreciate knowing that there are others. 🙂

    • Christi–

      I am in the same boat. Still wears a diaper, a diaper at nap, and an overnight at bed time. He turned 3 in February. Don’t know when it will end!

  2. So glad to read this!!! I have twins – my little girl literally potty trained herself. No bribery, no M&Ms, no nothing – just handed her panties one day and that was it. I can count on my hand the number of accidents she’s had in 9 months. Yet, her brother, now 3.5 years old could care less about the whole thing. Underwear or pull ups, it doesn’t matter – he’ll poop and pee in both and sit in it. I just don’t understand. He knows exactly what I’m saying and just doesn’t care. No amount of M&M’s will do it. So now we have taken a totally granola approach – I’m just letting him figure it out when he’s ready – even if he may be 4 by the time it happens. I’m just too tired to care. And too tired of poo laundry. So glad i’m not alone 🙂

    • I am Nana to 5 grandkids but way back when….I listened to people tell me my first child, a girl, needed to be potty trained by age 2. It was such an awful experience for all of us 42 years ago. She did eventually figure it out.
      When my 2nd, a boy came along, I announced I didn’t care if he wore diapers and took a bottle to kindergarten, I wasn’t messing with it. So…the summer he was 2 1/2, he ran around the house and farm with no pants on. And he did figure it out. Friends laugh about coming out and seeing him run around half naked but it worked. However, the poor kid was a bedwetter until age12 so he got me any way!

  3. Thanks so much for posting this. Seriously, I thought if I had to hear from one more mom about how easy potty training was I was going to scream. My almost 3 year old is not interested at all and no incentive seems to matter to her. She is very much a child who will only do something when she is ready. I’m just hoping she gets ready sooner than later!

  4. I love your sticking to your guns! I might have caved 7 or 8 days in! It’s interesting what works for kids, and this is a great post to keep in mind as we will one day have to potty train #2 and #3! Wyatt was fairly easy. It wasn’t three days, but over time he figured it out fairly quickly.

  5. I love you so much for posting this. I have felt so alone in my potty training woes! It seems like people all around me are potty training their 9 month olds (exaggeration, yes) with ease while I feel like I could promise my near 3 year old child a brand new car and he would still poo in his underwear.

  6. I loved this! I think so many times we try over and over the same thing because it works so well for other kids and other parents, and we feel like we have tried everything and something must be wrong with us or with our child. This example give me hope to take a second look and be a little more creative and a little more patient.

  7. Thank you so.much for this post!!! It is exactly what I needed right now. We started trying to potty train my 2.5 year old about a month ago in preparation of the arrival of our baby girl in September. The first couple of days were great then it became awful. He ended up scared of the toliet and me crying my eyes out to my husband whwn he came home. See for years now I worked as a preschool administrator so I was always the one walking parents through this process and telling them all the tricks of the trade well none of those worked for my son!!! So I stopped. We got a book that we started reading sometimes at night and when he asked to go we will take him (he hasn’t actually used it yet). We stopped making it own main focus and now he is starting to show interest again. I however have decided that he will do this on his own at his own time. And yes this means I will have two in daipers at the same but really ia that such an awful thing!!

  8. Thank you so much for this post! I needed it. We’ve tried EVERYTHING. And first day of preschool today I was handed a bag and they told me they changed him 3 times in 4 hours. Ahhh.

  9. OK your gonna think I’m one of those lucky moms whose child potty trained over night but bear with me. My son did, technically potty train pretty much overnight. After two YEARS of NO progress whatsoever. He was almost four and I was pregnant with number two. I had enough. I knew he was ready because he was already having dry nights. Thank god! You hear about heavy wetters but my boy had to have an INSANE combo of cloth and disposable to have any hope of a dry morning. I was still changing sheets more often than not in the mornings. But I digress. I tried EVERY single method I heard of. NOTHING worked. I even had him checked by a urologist just in case. Once we got the all clear from him I finally had enough and woke a lil early one morning and stuck his butt on the potty and told him “don’t get up until you pee”. It was a long FOUR hours (after twelve hours overnight) before he finally couldn’t hold it anymore. He stood and started peeing on the floor but my husband jumped up and pointed him at the potty just before he finished. Then we partied like it was 1999! Just kidding, we partied like he had pottied on his own. He got one of three new toys that had been sitting in the bathroom waiting for him to potty for ages. The next time he had to go he went on his own and peed by himself on the potty. Again we partied and another toy. After that I told him he had to poop for the next toy. That took a couple days of miralax and half a chocolax to accomplish. That’s it. It was all done after that. We had a little issue with not wanting to potty at preschool. He ended up with a uti because he was holding it too much. I had to go to school and take him to the potty myself to reassure him that it was alright. Now he has been potty trained for two years with only a handful of accidents very early on. Now I’m pregnant again and everyone is asking when I will potty train my second. I keep telling them I’m not until he shows signs of readiness like his brother did. Even if it means that I have two in diapers at once. Most of our diapering is cloth anyway so I’m not too worried.

    • Thank you for your post! We are having trouble potty training our 3.5 year old boy. Nothing works. Tried the 3 day method which didn’t work, m&ms, etc. nothing. About to cry

  10. Thank you for this article. I attempted to potty train my older son for two summers in a row without success. Like other mothers who have commented, I tried EVERYTHING. And just like with any other delayed milestone, other “successful” mothers gave a lot of unsolicited/unhelpful advice. What FINALLY worked was me changing my attitude about it all. I quit pushing and made peace with the idea that throwing away soiled underpants (multiple times a day) was just going to be part of our routine for the indefinite future. And then one day, three weeks later, something just clicked in my son’s brain. He was three months away from turning 4.

  11. I love this. My now 5 year old daughter took FOREVER to potty train. She totally understood the concept but just didn’t want anything do to with it. She was well past 3 when I had reached my limit and really started to believe that she never would learn. But my great-grandma gave me the exact same advice. She said to just stop focusing on it but to promise the thing she wanted the most when she finally got the hang of it. In her case it was an Ariel Barbie. Worked like a charm…she finally just did it on her own and then never looked back. Every kid is different and unique. While I love sharing tips and advice, as mamas we have to remember that every kid is different and there is no formula that works for everyone!

  12. My own mother had a nightmare with me 45 years ago. She tells the story of babysitting my cousin (9 days younger than me) and SHE went potty and she praised her up, down and sideways in front of me. (Evidently, I was not-so-good about it.) My mom happened past the potty chair a while later and low and behold, I had gone – and was potty trained from that moment on. It just takes the right moment of motivation.

  13. Like a lot of mom’s I was done with doing the soaked laurdry. Everyday that went by and I didn’t get him potty trained I felt like a failure I’m a teacher and I can’t even get my own kid to potty train. Jake isn’t really my son he is my nephew and he was premature birth along with being development delayed. Witch means he is behind in most areas of school. The doctor told us he is about 3 to 4 in his skill set and he will be four in 2 months. I heard everything that had being said previously and I know they go potty when their ready I just thought it would be sooner.
    But any way I regress but he finally learned to potty this past weekend I couldn’t be happier. It’s being 5 days I have my fingers crossed it continues. But thanks for the article it gave a wonderful in site to the other side of potty training.

  14. Super grateful to read this post. I am in the beginning of day 3 and I feel like I am trying to force something on my 22 month old baby that she is clearly not ready for. She has pee pee and poo poo in her toilet but far from regularly and 60% is me catching it before she goes outside of the potty. I will follow through with the third day but I too can not handle all the wet areas of the house and frankly it makes her feel bad and thats not what I want for her!! After today, I will proceed with the old fashion way. Pull ups and allowing her to go when she is ready. I have 3 sons all adults now and I potty trained them as they were ready between ages 2-21/2 and it worked out perfectly just as it was meant to be.

  15. If only you could see the smile on my face when I read that you were talking about your DAUGHTER!! I was for certain this would be about an active little boy, as all of these types of struggles seem to be. We’ve had quite a time with potty training our daughter. I probably haven’t worked hard enough at it because I’m pregnant but ahhhhh the comfort to know there is another girl momma out there who knows my story!!

  16. Very happy to have found this! I seriously feel so relieved! I am on I am on day 6 of the “3” day potty training! Definitely not for my son. He is 2 years and 8 months. I have felt like a horrible mom these past few days but reading your post has made me feel a lot better! I know he understands because he will tell me he is peed or pooped after he has done it and when I asked where pee and poop goes he says the potty but he really just doesn’t want too! So back in a diaper he goes tomorrow. I’ll try again when he is ready.

  17. Hi all! I have a 3 year old boy (just turned 3 in late June) and we started that 3 day method. It is day 4 now and I am the one who is still telling him when to use the bathroom. He refuses to go #2 in the potty. Do I need to take this as he is not ready? HELP!

  18. Thanks for posting. But… my question is now, what the heck do I do from this point? We’re on day 3 and I don’t imagine this day is going to end with my daughter magically “getting it.” So, I don’t know what to do after today? Do I go back to diapers? Or use panties and just let the accidents happen and pray they end quickly? We will use pullups for nap and bedtime, but should we use those all the time now? I don’t want to confuse her but I also can’t send her to daycare tomorrow and have her peeing all over the place. I am defeated and have no idea how to proceed. Any advice is welcomed.

    • My goodness Toni Mitchell, thank you! That’s exactly where I am today with my 2year old daughter. Back to daycare full time in two days and have no idea whether I should let her wear pull diapers or persist with the underwear. I can’t imagine her daycare teachers having as much patience as me and my husband with the constant accidents. How did it go? Anyone else have any advice about what to do when the three day method doesn’t work? Going back to diapers doesn’t seem right but persisting doesn’t either. Thank you!

  19. Thank you so much for posting this. I just finished day 3 of the 3 day training and feel like a failure. I actually cried when I read this. It’s what I needed to hear.

  20. Thank you so much for posting this!! I am currently potty training my 3.5 year old twin girls….1 doesn’t give me any issues getting on the potty and the other flips out when I even mention it…lol! For awhile, I felt like a bad mom since they were older for potty training. I just felt that it wasn’t the right time when they were younger. Also, 1 of my twins finished cancer treatment in December of 2018….I didn’t want to push her with everything she had been through. We are going to keep trying and hope for the best!! I am going to follow your advise!! Thanks again!!

  21. I’m trying so hard to train my almost 3 year old. And she just won’t give in. She will hold it until she’s off the toilet and literally say “look mama” as she’s peeing all over the floor. I know it takes patience but I just want to give up.


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