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An Overview of the Most Common Toilet Training Methods

A few potty training programs are most commonly cited in the literature. Below I have summarized some of the most popular techniques:

"The Train in a Day" Method

The "Train in a Day" Method was first made popular back in the 1970s by the authors Azrin/Foxx in a book entitled "Toilet Training in Less Than a Day." More recently, Dr. Phil and Narmin Parpia have endorsed this training method. The basic premise of this technique is to go “cold-turkey” with diapers. One morning you announce to your child that they will no longer wear diapers. The next four to eight hours are spent teaching the child how to properly use the toilet. During those four to eight hours, your child is learns how to use the toilet by playing with and teaching a doll how to properly use the potty.

The toddler is given positive reinforcement when successful and negative enforcement when there is an accident. The negative reinforcement is dispensed through "toileting drills." Positive reinforcement consists of rewards, a "potty party" and/or a "super hero" phone call.

"The Timer Method" of Toilet Training

The timer method is a technique considered by many parents to be less stressful for both parent and child than the "train in a day" methods. The timer method also involves keeping the child out of diapers entirely during training. A timer is set for pre-determined intervals. When the timer goes off the child is brought to the toilet for a potty session. If the child is successful, a reward is given. (Sticker, etc.) There is no negative reinforcement for accidents. The length between timer bells is gradually increased as potty skills become more reliable.

Although this method is fairly quick, it is slower than the "train in a day" methods and difficult if you have a particularly stubborn child. Keeping motivational levels high for an extended period of time – enough time for the child to “catch on” – can be challenging.

"The Naked and $75" Method

The Naked and $75 method is the training technique endorsed by Dr. John Rosemond. Dr. Rosemond believes that toilet training should be simple and no-nonsense. The child is empowered to basically train themselves.

Training begins with an explanation of how and what is expected of the child. Parents show by example and explanation, and then tell their children, "Now it's your turn. Mommy and Daddy expect you to use the potty from now on." The child is left naked for three to seven days while they learn how to use the toilet. The premise behind having the child be naked is to help to teach awareness of bodily function. (It is much easier for a child to realize they are pooping and peeing when it is running down their leg rather than having it land in an absorbent diaper.) The parent or caregiver is there to provide assistance if needed, but remains hands-off during the training process.

The $75 is for the inevitable carpet cleaning bill!

"Child-Centered" Toilet Training

Child centered potty training puts the child in charge of when and how to train. It is typically done with older kids (Two and a half or older) who have decided on their own that it is time to get rid of diapers. This is one of the most common trends in potty training children today. Children who have reached this decision on their own are typically very easy to train, however the disadvantage is that for many children the "habit" of using diapers has become so ingrained that convincing them otherwise is very difficult. Late potty training can become an issue with a child’s admittance into preschool or being allowed to participate in various activities. Coincidentally, "Child-centered" potty training was first introduced around the same time as the invention of disposable diapers. Prior to that time, diaper wearing meant diaper washing! Parents had much more incentive to toilet train early rather than leaving timing up to the toddler.

"Potty Training Boot Camp"

Potty Training Boot Camp is a relatively new method that combines a few of the above mentioned techniques. Potty training takes place in phases: Preparatory work, "boot camp", reinforcement and maintenance. Preparatory work involves determining if the child is ready to train and working on toileting familiarity. The "boot camp" day is a modified "train in a day method." The reinforcement phase combines the "Naked and $75" method and the "timer method." Maintenance is handled like any other training program - frequent reminders and positive reinforcement. This method is often successful because if the child isn’t “getting it” with one technique, they will likely catch on as they move to the next phase.

----------Suzanne Riffel is the author of "The Potty Boot Camp: Basic Training for Toddlers." Her potty training method has been successful for hundreds of parents. The Potty Boot Camp can be found at and at the online bookstore
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