MAKING SENSE OF DIFFERENT POTTY TRAINING METHODS:
A FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING

First, Know That It's Not "All Jazz" 

If you were to read a sampling of popular potty training books, you couldn’t be faulted for coming to the conclusion that potty training is “all jazz” (i.e. anything goes). In fact, many popular books state that no one single approach is correct and that your training system needs to be custom tailored to your child’s unique learning style (i.e. more “jazz”).

The truth is that while some customization around the edges will be necessary (e.g. you know the type of praise that works best with your child), certain foundational building blocks of potty training work for nearly all children. 

Certain foundational building blocks of potty training work for nearly all children and certain training systems are proven to work."

For example, the fast track training system introduced in the 1970’s by the book “Toilet Training in Less Than a Day,” was initially developed for adults with severe cognitive disabilities. After finding that approximately 95% of these adults could be trained within 3 days despite their severe learning disabilities, the system was modified for children. To prove its effectiveness, a study was conducted on a sample of 34 children between 20 and 36 months—all of the children were successfully trained within 30 minutes to 14 hours (the average training time was 3.9 hours). What all this means, is that certain systems are proven to work.

Finally, A Framework To Make Sense Of It All

Categorizing The Potty Training Methods Out There

With so many different potty training approaches out there in books, youtube videos, blogs and the like, we decided to break everything down into easy-to-understand categories. Although a particular book or blog may use an unfamiliar term to describe its “secret” or “award winning” method, you’ll almost certainly find that it falls into one of the categories identified below.

And without further adieu, here are the categories:

Name"AKA"In Short
Bare Bottom MethodThree Day Training; 
Weekend Training
Child wears no pants or underwear during the first two or three days of training at home. After repeatedly placing your child on the toilet as soon as you observe him or her "going" and your explaining what is happening, he or she will begin to "get it."
Fast Track MethodPotty Train in a Day;
One Day Training
Uses practice drills and pretend play with a doll to teach your child the foundations of potty training in as little as a few hours.
Child-Led MethodToilet Leaning; Child-Oriented TrainingChild "leads" the potty training process, which is done on the child's schedule, when the child is "ready."
Gradual Parent-Led MethodGradual Potty Training; Readiness TrainingA mash up of the child-led approach and some combination of the bare bottom and/or fast track methods, but without the highly focused upfront training.  
Infant TrainingElimination Communication
More akin to "conditioning" than training, the caregiver watches for the child's "potty signals" and uses sound prompts (such as a "woosh" sound) when the child goes to the bathroom.  Eventually, the child will begin to associate the sound prompts with his or her bodily functions and responds accordingly.
Old Fashioned MethodTraditional MethodChild is placed on the toilet times of the day we he or she usually urinates. The child is then literally forced to remain on the toilet until he or she actually goes.
NameIn Short
Bare Bottom Method


("AKA" Three Day Training; Weekend Training)
Child wears no pants or underwear during the first two or three days of training at home. After repeatedly placing your child on the toilet as soon as you observe him or her "going" and your explaining what is happening, he or she will begin to "get it."
Fast Track Method


("AKA" Potty Train in a Day; One Day Training)
Uses practice drills and pretend play with a doll to teach your child the foundations of potty training in as little as a few hours.
Child-Led Method


("AKA" Toilet Leaning; Child-Oriented Training)
Child "leads" the potty training process, which is done on the child's schedule, when the child is "ready."
Gradual Parent-Led Method


("AKA" Gradual Potty Training; Readiness Training)
A mash up of the child-led approach and some combination of the bare bottom and/or fast track methods, but without the highly focused upfront training.  
Infant Training


("AKA" Elimination
Comm.)

More akin to "conditioning" than training, the caregiver watches for the child's "potty signals" and uses sound prompts (such as a "woosh" sound) when the child goes to the bathroom. Eventually, the child will begin to associate the sound prompts with his or her bodily functions and responds accordingly.
Old Fashioned Method


("AKA" Traditional Method)
Child is placed on the toilet times of the day we he or she usually urinates. The child is then literally forced to remain on the toilet until he or she actually goes.

When Selecting a Method, Stick to Your Principles!

At One Proud Toddler, we believe you should chose a potty training method by sticking to your principles. Our principles are as follows:

Principle I: EARLY IS BETTER
There is a golden window when children are physically and behaviorally ready for training (i.e. between 20-and-30 months).  You can ready all about this topic in our blog post "Why Early Potty Training is Better Potty Training."

Principle II: YOU ARE THE ADULT 
We don’t rely on our toddlers to tell us when they should going to bed, whether they are ready for school or if they should sit in a car seat—there is no reason potty training should be any different.

Principle III: FOCUS AND CONSISTENCY ARE KEY 
Everyone knows practice makes perfect. We also intuitively know that focused, consistent practice makes perfect faster!

Based on the three principles above, you can likely tell that child-led training and gradual parent-led training are not our cup of tea. Furthermore, infant training is more like conditioning and doesn't translate into potty training success, while old fashioned training is a tad barbaric and drawn out. What that leaves is bare bottom and fast track training. Surprisingly enough, we combine the two!

OUR APPROACH

At One Proud Toddler we use a modified bare bottom approach supplemented, if necessary, by the fast track approach. Specifically, we recommend starting with the "full" bare bottom approach for the first half day of training (we mean 8 or so hours).  If you feel your child isn’t quite “getting it” once the second half of the day comes around, then we recommend putting on very loose fitting pants and using the doll/stuffed animal and drill routines found with the fast track method. This combination method (which we’ve laid out in our step-by-step guide "The Potty Proud Approach") allows for early training, is adult led and focused in duration to allow for consistency—in short, it lets us stick to our principles.

More On The Different Categories Of Potty Training 

1. The Bare Bottom Method

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In a Nut Shell:  This method is largely based on the idea that the diaper is a comfort device and removing it will provide your child with the impetus to learn to use the toilet. It requires the parent to focus intensely on the child during the first day or two at home to observe when the child is going to the bathroom so that he or she can be placed on the toilet (the parent then explains to the child what is going on). One of the most popular books promoting this method is “Oh Crap! Potty Training.” 

The Good: Like Fast Track Training, this method is super quick and works well for child who are two and under. It is also praise, not reward, based—you are teaching your child a new, major life skill which is accomplishment to be proud of.

The Not So Good: This method doesn’t do as good of a job as Fast Track Training to explain to the child exactly what potty training entails. Some parents also aren't entirely comfortable with the whole "naked" thing.

2. The Fast Track Method

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In a Nut Shell:  This method uses practice drills, rewards and pretend play with a doll to teach your child the foundation of potty training in as little as one day. Popularized by the book “Toilet Training in Less Than a Day,” this method of training is only we have found with claims of effectiveness that are supported by scientific study.   

The Good: This method is super quick and works well for child who are two and under.

The Not So Good: This method requires the use of a doll so show your child how to go to the bathroom, which some may find a bit creepy (in our opinion the doll is actually a great learning prop). It also uses a candy/food reward system, which we think is best replaced with a praise-based system.

3. The Child-Led Method

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In a Nut Shell:  This approach lets the children "lead" the potty training process, which is done on their schedule, when they are “ready.” Essentially, the parent waits for the child to demonstrate an interest in potty training. This approach was popularized in the 1960’s by the famous pediatrician (and paid diaper company consultant), Dr. T Berry Brazelton (for more information on this approach and why we find it suspect, read the section titled The Real Reason People Are Starting So Late in our blog "Why Early Potty Training is Better Potty Training").

The Good: Designed to reduce pressure on your child (although we feel the rudderless nature of this training can actually increase confusion—you are the parent after all).

The Not So Good: This method is extremely drawn out, doesn’t capitalize on the “window” when your child is behaviorally open to training and can result in five-or-even-six-year old’s who still request diapers for the "security blanket" effect they provide. In practice, this method often results in the child waiting until he or she realizes other children are using the toilet and then develops a corresponding desire to emulate that behavior. Call us crazy, but we bet the children who are being emulated didn’t learn using the child-led method . . .

4. The Gradual Parent-Led Method

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In a Nut Shell:  This method involves some combination of the bare bottom and/or fast track methods, but without the highly focused upfront training. The parent decides when to initiate training but limits the number of practice runs to just a few every day.

The Good: The parent is in charge and training can start earlier than with the child-led approach.

The Not So Good: This method is drawn out and can lead to parental frustration. It also requires the continued use of pull-ups and training diapers.

5. Infant Training

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In a Nut Shell:  This method is used in China, India, parts of Africa and has been gaining popularity in the U.S. (where it is sometimes known as "elimination communication"). It centers on first identifying and then watching for and responding to your child’s “potty signals.” Sound prompts (such as a “whoosh” sound) are then used to condition your child to associate the prompts with the act of "going."

The Good: Diapers are eliminated at an early age, which is great for the environment and parents' wallets. The parent also becomes highly aware of the child's "potty signals" (e.g. grunting, turning red), which is necessary for all successful training at a later age.

The Not So Good: The child isn’t really being trained. Instead, he or she is learning to respond to a stimulus the parent initiates (e.g. the “whoosh” sound), which means it will still be need to train the child with one of the other methods once he or she is old enough. This method also requires the ability to intensely focus on the child at all times to look for his or her potty signals, a luxury many do not have.

6. The Old Fashioned Method

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In a Nut Shell:  The child is placed on the toilet during those times of the day when he or she usually urinates and is forced to remain there until he or she actually goes, after which praise is offered. Crazy as it sounds today, in the past straps were even used to secure the child over the toilet (NOT RECOMMENDED).  

The Good: Training generally begins early (or at it least it did in the past) and is parent led.

The Not So Good: This method of training feels barbaric, can be drawn out and requires the parent to be close by to both keep the child on the toilet and offer praise when he or she actually urinates. The child can also become dependent on having the parent around to use the toilet and may develop a fear of the toilet if the forced sittings are met with resistance. 

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