Potty Training Boot Camp: Not For Us


We really tried. We gave it our all. Up until our son pooped on our carpet while riding his scooter naked in our dining room, we gave the potty training “boot camp” a solid try. It was not for us. 

Our son gave all the signs that he was ready for potty training, even at two years old. He announced when he peed or pooped in his diaper. He was interested in the toilet, flushing it, peering in to see what was inside. During an annual family trip to Florida, my sister-in-law, who takes care of small children for a living, gave us the go-ahead on potty training. I read two books about it, assuming we would nail this thing and he would be the first kid in his class to be potty trained. We were ready, yet so naive.

Our setup…at least we were comfortable.

Day One…

During winter break, we cleared our calendars to potty train, and on day one, everything was going by the book. We said bye bye to his diapers and our son was in “block one” mode where he was only wearing a tee shirt, Winnie the Pooh style. He successfully peed in the potty a handful of times and only had one accident. Everything was pretty great!

Day Two…

Everything turned to poo (get it?) on day two. Our son went from smiling on the potty while we clapped in celebration to smiling while peeing down his legs while we tried shuffling him to his potty seat. The happy and excited feeling in the air quickly became impatience and arguing while cleaning poop off the carpet. I was keeping a log of his bowel movements (grossest sentence ever) and noticed a pattern. Pee in the potty, pee on the floor, pee in the potty, poop on the floor while riding the scooter. When we thought he was ready for “block two,” which is wearing pants without a diaper, he would have an accident while making eye contact, knowing exactly what he was doing. Then it was right back to no pants, back to square one.

We tried everything we could to urge him to go the right way, we even watched the Daniel Tiger potty episode on repeat. So what was going on? He knew how to do it, he was just refusing TO do it. It was infuriating. Also, he was exhausted, and when we even mentioned the word “potty,” he started shrieking like he was terrified of it.

Day Three…

By the third day, we had grown very tired of staring at our son’s penis to make sure he didn’t pee down his legs in defiance. It just wasn’t working. We found ourselves in a power struggle with a toddler, and we were losing. He literally yelled “No way, Jose!” several times. We tried not to laugh when he did it but probably cracked a couple times.

Reasoning and negotiating with a toddler was getting us nowhere, so we talked it out and decided to give the potty training a pause until our son decided he was sick of diapers and wanted to go on the potty full-time. It felt more like a relief than a failure, much like when I decided to stop breastfeeding when it became too stressful. We put the potty away and started having fun again. The pressure was off and the diapers were back on.


We have occasional good days when his diaper is dry and he’ll only go in the potty. But we also have days where the potty is completely ignored. The daycare potty is “scary” so that is a whole new ballgame. Even though we weren’t successful at the potty training boot camp, my husband and I came out on the other side wiser and glad we at least tried. Nothing was really learned, just that he wanted to do the exact opposite of what we wanted him to do. I think that is the definition of a toddler.

We learned there is a difference between being ready and being willing. Our son is ready but he is not willing, and we can’t force it. My biggest piece of advice, if I’m even qualified to give it, is to not hover. You cannot hover over a naturally defiant child to get them to do something. Our plan now is to get him to think it is his idea to go on the potty.

If you have read this and your child was successfully potty trained in three days, I envy you and applaud you. If you are like us and are taking more of a laid-back, he’ll do it when he’s willing to approach after failing the boot camp approach, soldier on my friends.