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Potty Training in Cloth Diapers

How To Potty Train Your Kid (Boot Camp Style)

By Guest Contributor

By Issa of Issas Crazy World

This Boot Camp Style Potty Training course is a four-day process. Be prepared and be scared (not really!).

1. Your child has to be ready.

Yes, I mean your child, not you. I don’t care if your goal is to have your child potty trained by a certain date for whatever reason, school or a new baby…it never works unless he is ready. My rule of thumb is if he tells you when he just pooped and asks you to change him or does all his business in a corner and then comes to hang out right near you, because he knows you’ll change him, then! he is ready. Also, he must be able to communicate with you to a certain degree. Some kids stand in a corner when they poop, but will not come and tell you. When you ask, and he says, “nopes, not poopy.” But then, he starts to giggle, you know he is starting to understand.

2. Make Potty Training an Event.

Potty Training should be done over a week or on a long weekend when you can be at home with your child to monitor the process. Buy little underwear with your kid’s favorite cartoon character on it and buy jellybeans too! If your kid likes something besides jellybeans, go for that instead. (I don’t buy chocolate, just because it seems unfair to only give out one measly M&M. But that’s just me.) If you’re against candy, go with stickers. If you have a an especially willful child, invest in both. Whatever works for you.

3. Go cold turkey. No more diapers. Do not buy Pull-Ups.

This is very important. There is no place for these things in Boot Camp Potty Training. They are a waste of time and they ruin the process. Pull-Ups are still diapers, just ones that leak after a while. Yes, I know this is harsh, but it works wonders. Then there is no confusion. But please for the love of all things sane, warn her for a few days beforehand. Talk about being big and using the potty like mommy and daddy.

Instead, buy a little kid seat that fits over a regular toilet seat cover. It prevents you from cleaning out an itty bitty potty and in my non-professional opinion, it works better and faster. Kids like the idea of doing what we do. Why in the world should we buy a different version of what we already own? The little seat will teach your child to use a real toilet without falling in and not think of it as a toy. This is important since toilets are not toys.

4. Put your child in underwear right away.

The first morning, put her in underwear. Let her help you put a stool in front of the toilet and the little seat thing on it. Be specific and explain to her that she is now bigger and that she needs to use the potty and not pee or poop in her underwear. Tell her to let you know when she needs to pee and if she does she will earn a jellybean. Show her the bag of jellybeans, as she needs to see the prize to really understand that you mean it. Just remember you have to be willing to give her a jellybean every single time, including first thing in the morning. The first day, ask her every 20 minutes if she needs to go potty. Make her try at least once an hour. If she pees even the teeniest bit in the potty, give her two jellybeans. Two is important, because she is probably two years old at this point and understands that the number two is important. When/if she has an accident, stop everything to change her, no matter what. Don’t make a big deal of the mess, but tell her, oh when you don’t pee/poop in the potty, we have to stop everything we are doing. Trust me, your child won’t want that. Continue this for two days. If you have a willful child, you will have a hard time getting her in a diaper for sleeping. Either put the underwear over it or really go cold turkey and put a plastic sheet under her bedsheets.

Over the following two days, you will see improvement. Your child will want those jellybeans, I promise. You will be doing a lot of cleaning up that first day. Sorry, but it has to be done. Kids will quickly learn that they hate being wet and having to be changed so often. After you change your child, make her sit on the potty again, even though you know she won’t do anything. It makes a point.

5. Take your show on the road.

Make that the plan for the third day. Pack one and ONLY ONE pair of extra clothing and underwear. Remind him that if he pees in his clothes, he will have to be changed. Go to the park or the zoo. Do something fun. Kids like to check out new potties. As often as you can stand it, make him try to pee in a regular potty. I know it can be gross. Some people take a little portable seat potty with them. The first time he has an accident (if he does), change him. Afterwards, make him try to use the potty. Warn him a few times next time, you will have to go home, because we have no more clothing with us. Please continue to go about your day. If he doesn’t pee, great; but if he is still having a lot of accidents, you need to wait until he has one again. It makes a point. Kids hate having to leave places when they’re having fun, especially the park.

The fourth day is the most crucial. Take your potty-training son somewhere he LOVES, even if it is Parental Hell** and you hate it. Warn him that you brought no underwear and no extra clothing. Be specific and explain if he does not come to you and tell you when he needs to pee and has an accident, you will need to go home, even if they are not ready to leave. When you get to the location, make sure he uses the bathroom. Ask him frequently, because it will not be fun to make him leave. Remind him nicely about “the leaving policy.” If he has an accident, leave immediately. He will most likely scream and throw a fit. Ignore it. Take the long way home. Whether he is not screaming or not, tell him how sorry you are that you had to leave and remind him why it had to happen. Ask him whether it is uncomfortable to be wet or poopy and to have to sit in it.

At this point, you should have a mostly potty-trained kid. Go about your normal routine. Keep reminding him to use the potty, I mean they are toddlers. But by this point, most kids will come and tell you a lot of the time. Keep up the jellybeans or stickers for a week or two, but start to phase it out. Go down to one jellybean and then start telling her, next time.

Now have a drinking party for you, yourself and um…me. You deserve it. Congratulations. Now make them get a job. Just kidding.

**Parental Hell is what I call places like Chuck-E-Cheese.


Guest Contributor
About the Author

Guest Contributor

We often publish pieces by guest contributors. If you’re interested in being one, please drop us a line at contact[at]alphamom[dot]com.


We often publish pieces by guest contributors. If you’re interested in being one, please drop us a line at contact[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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  • Molly

    January 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Um, awesome. I have been so looking for exactly something like this for my pullup-wearing, potty-training-resistant 3 1/2 year old. I’ve been thinking a boot-camp approach was going to have to be the thing to do, but I had not a clue how to tackle it. Thanks so much for the advice.

  • Jaden

    January 16, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I love this idea! I am so printing this article and trying to do this, because she is definitely ready. Do you have any suggestions for how working parents can do this? We can’t be home four days in a row to monitor her the entire time, but she does go to daycare… The only thing about that is that I’m not sure daycare would follow the same potty training rules as us? Thanks!

  • Issa

    January 16, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    @Molly Girl, good luck. At three, if your kid is resistant, I’d definitely try cold turkey. But um, throw the pull-ups out in from of him/her. Makes a statement.
    @Jaden Try it on a three day weekend? There’s a few coming up. President’s day maybe? Talk to your daycare though, because some of them are really willing to go with whatever you are doing. Mine was, because honestly, they get tired of changing diapers. Or start it on a Friday night and see how much headway you can make by Sunday night.
    It’s all about consistency. You can’t fold when they get irritated with you. I told my kids, this is not a choice. A lot of things are choices in my house. But I’m very firm and consistent on the things that are not a choice. This was just one of them. Good luck.

  • Diaper Cake Becca

    January 16, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    This is PERFECT. I have marked my calendar for next Tuesday as the start date. My almost three year old is so ready but needs encourgement.
    Your tongue in cheek humor truly cracks me up!!!

  • wallaby

    January 17, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Here is a really good book that is similar in some ways to the above, but REALLY detailed on the actual training part (the “how to teach them to actually USE the potty” part).
    I had very good success with it. My oldest (who still is a very willful child) went from no interest to totally potty trained in 2 days when he was two years and eight months old. My middle one(much more easy tempered) was potty trained in a day when he was two years and two months. He was at that stage going off to poo in a corner and then BRINGING me the wipes and diapers to change him. I totally went “If you can do THAT you can go in the potty!”
    The book has tests you can do to see if your child is ready, they say not to do it if your child cannot pass their simple tests.

  • amy

    January 17, 2009 at 11:43 am

    love this!!! I am right there with you on this! Great post! xo

  • Cass

    January 22, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I totally agree with the cold turkey thing. Worked for both my boys. Though one thing that I did different was to get a separate potty. Then I would just let them sit naked on it while coloring at a small table and give them lots of juice. Eventually they would pee and then much praise was given. After that they totally got what “going potty” meant.

  • iMommy

    January 24, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Oooh, if I was going to go boot-camp style this would be a huge help. We’ll be taking it a little more slowly in our house, but thats just our style. Well written!

  • Veedah

    January 30, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I had to learn the hard way. I used pull ups which I think delayed us a few months bc she thought they were just cute diapers LOL so we went to just panties with Dora and the princesses. Worked great, she felt like a big girl and wanted to use the toilet like a big girl. Its been a week now we have had one or two accidents but its working YAYYY!

  • laurellee

    February 4, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I did a similar cold-turkey method, but with no treats. Her only reward was to see how happy I was each time she peed. I was so happy I was crying after the first time she went. She thought I had lost my mind!
    I think the diaper industry invented pull-ups just to keep us buying their crap for a little longer. They are truly worthless.

  • Diana Rael

    March 4, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    HI, Im a preschool teacher, so as you can imagine i run in to every problem possible w toilet training. One of the big issues I have is, I am not allowed to give the children a treat as a reward, the treat thing works great, but they asked me to stop. I have a sticker chart, and have moved to a dry erase board w/ smiley faces they like it they draw it themselves. If any of you moms have any advice I would love to hear it. Thanks

  • Molly

    March 15, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    So, I am all for this, I have been all for this for months now. My son is 3 yr 5 mos now and I cannot even get him to go NEAR the potty. I have tried the little potty and I have tried the potty seat you put on top. I’ve tried every reward, every bribe, refusing to put the diaper back on, making him wear only underwear and I cannot for the life of me even get him to sit on the darn thing, without physically holding him there, and that just doesn’t seem right. I’m at my wit’s end, any suggestions?

  • lalala

    May 5, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Molly – I’m in the same boat. I started serious potty-training with my daughter a year ago (she just turned 3.5) and we were almost there when she decided she was over it after having a poo accident. I, too, have tried everything…except dumping the pull-ups! I’ve picked my d-day and I’m doing it. I know every child is unique, and I certainly don’t want to be controlling by doing this, but I can’t take it anymore! This is a great plan – I’m psyched!

  • Sara

    December 11, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    I love this idea. I have been researching for a little while on how to get down to business right away. And this seems to be the most efficient method out there. I have worked in day cares, preschools and now just watch kids at my house M-F. So on our next four day weekend,this month, Isaiah is loosing his diapers!! I also saw suggestions for covering the carpeting and furniture until the child can make it to the potty on time. I love the idea of ‘making a statement’!

  • 1st time mom

    January 15, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I followed this over about a 5 day period and it worked GREAT! 3 weeks later my 2 1/2 yr old boy is going all by himself and hasnt had a single accident in over a week.

  • Crystal

    March 1, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I did exactly this and it worked on my 2.5 yo son in 2 days! Nobody believed me but all or nothing is awesome! I even did bedtime and naps with undies!

  • Name (Vita)

    January 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    I read this article exactly a week ago and started my 18 months old girl’s potty training the very next day (6 days ago). Ladies and Gentlemen, I CANNOT BELIEVE IT, but she is potty trained!!!  The first day was a disaster: she pooped and peed EVERYWHERE, and I was so exhausted and discouraged that I thought I am waiting until she is 3 years old :-). However, the next day (5 days ago) I woke up all rested and told my husband that I am determined to stick with it and invest into her potty training. My daughter eventually got the hang out of it and has been using all three potties around our house. Today was the first day she did not have a single accident and I am very proud for her. Thank you SO VERY MUCH for this great article!

    • Isabel


      January 8, 2013 at 12:02 am

      Thanks so much for the feedback. So happy to hear that it helped!

    • ashley

      February 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      I am SOO heartened by reading this. I have 2 little kids (1.5yo girl and 2.5yo boy) and my son is definitely ready for potty training. I bought him a potty seat to get used to (i tried the toilet topper but he is the quiet sneaky type and if i left him in the bathroom for more than 10 sec while tending to one of the other kids he was into stuff). Within minutes he and his baby sister were fighting over the potty seat. lol. So last night i went and bought her a potty chair of her own and some underwear but i’ve been afraid to try because she is SO young. She does tell us when she needs a change and she is so excited about pottying she will sit on it for literally 30 min to just be on it. Last night I had to physically hold her down to put a diaper on her because she wanted to use her potty and wear underwear. It seemed really backwards to me that I was forcing her to be a “baby.” Your comment about your child makes me feel better about allowing her to go along with her brother when I start our little boot camp tomorrow! Thanks so much for the courage and cross your fingers for me! It could potentially be an awesome day or a really gross, messy one with two trying at once! lol

  • Christine

    January 10, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I will be potty training my 31 month daughter soon. Do you think it’s better to go naked or put panties on? I came across another boot camp style – 3 day potty training method, which suggests going naked from the tummy down while at home.

    Feedback or comments from all parents welcome!

  • Amber

    January 14, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I was DYING laughing at the *parental hell part of this. I avoid these types of places like the plague. ( I know, I’m a mean mom. ) This is exactly the way I trained my son, almost 11 years ago. I never thought I would have another child, but my little princess turned 2 yesterday and here we are: starting potty training boot camp again. Thank you for the refresher!

  • Sarah

    January 24, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I am going to start tomorrow morning. What do i do about nap time? Should i put him in a diaper for that?

  • Annette

    February 10, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    My daughter is almost 3 and still not potty trained and does not have any interest in it either.  I am going to try this and hope it works because I am extremely frustrated and I think she knows it.  Is it possible she is just not ready yet at 3???

  • Margaret

    March 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    This process worked great! I just did this past weekend with my daughter who is 26 months. The first day until 3pm was very rough. Sunday morning she put up a flight about going potty but she went and after that it was smoothe sailing. She had no accidents the second day and the today she is at daycare and is still doing great. The only thing I did differently was to send her every 30 minutes since I didn’t think she could hold it for 1 hour. Thanks so much!!

  • Erica

    February 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Okay, so…this actually worked! On a 22-mo-old boy! I wish I would’ve known about it with my oldest son; my daughter was a non-event, the boys was not. And I was never told pull ups only prolong the process! All or nothing!
    I was nervous bcs his verbal skills aren’t quite there yet, but they def understand all you’re saying. But he was def already showing signs. Expect accidents and commit to staying the course. No reason to ever lose patience or make a big deal about the accidents. Ya gotta want to help the little dudes!
    Thanks for the simplistic protocol!!

  • Sara

    March 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Cold turkey is the only way to go. This method worked wonders for our three and a half year old. He is super stubborn and we were worried it would take forever. We showed him his remaining diapers each day until they were gone, then it was straight to underpants (even at night). After 1 day he was using the toilet with help. After 3 days he was using it alone. After 6 days there were no more accidents, not even at night. Incredible. Thank you!!!

  • Lisa

    April 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    What’s the overnight plan? just underwear then? my guy will be 3 in 1.5 weeks and i’m pretty sure he’s ready. if I ask if he went poo he’ll tell me, but he doesn’t do any of the other stuff. not sure if that’s considered ready or not??

  • Lisa

    July 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Some people laugh when I recommend your Potty Training Bootcamp method… though I am now on day two with my second child and it is working wonderfully for the second time! Thank you for sharing this!

  • santi

    September 2, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    I love it… sounds great!! Im going to set a date and begin our potty training boot camp style thank you

  • Rachel

    September 5, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I bought my son a cute little seat to go on top of the big toilet but he is TERRIFIED of the big toilet. I have him go in there with his dad all the time which he’s fine with but he freaks out if I try to get him to sit on it (and he’s not quite grasping the standing up concept). He will sit on a little potty but even when he pees in there it usually makes a huge mess because it’s hard for boys to get the pee in there. He turned 3 a month ago and doesn’t really express any desire to use the potty and doesn’t seem to care when he has a wet or messy diaper. He’ll sit on the potty sometimes but not go and then he’ll get up and go play and pee on the floor. It’s very frustrating that he doesn’t seem to be grasping it more and seems to have zero desire. Any suggestions!? And anyone know how to make the big potty seem less scary to him?

  • Megan

    October 7, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Good ideas but one question: what if you don’t have 4 whole days to devote? My child goes to daycare 5 days a week….

  • Tea

    October 8, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Thank you so much for this! This ACTUALLY WORKED!! I got my 2 1/2 year old son potty trained in less than a week with this system. It’s wonderful! I used both candy and stickers for his chart and did a potty dance each time. He was so willing to go potty just to “make mommy proud”. I actually dragged out days 1-2 for a week and rewarded him with parental hell for doing such a great job. He went on errands all week with just underpants and zero accidents. Thank you so much!!!

  • James

    November 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Ya I did this with my 2 year old and she got smarties for pooping in potty. It worked for a few weeks until we ran out of smarties. Now she wont poop in the potty again because she doesnt get smarties. So basically she went on the potty only to get candy. now she prefers to continue to poop her pants and then ask for a diaper change. However she will go pee in the potty but wont even attempt to go poop.

  • Tina H

    January 4, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    I will be potty training my twins soon and want to use this method but what advice do you have for potty training twins? Should I try them at the same time. They are B/G twins…Thanks!

  • Trish

    January 16, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you for this..I have tried toilet training my now 3.5 yo,twice before but we gave up,she didn’t care/I was stressing out..starting again today.Going to head-out and get underwear and m&ms 🙂

  • Maribel

    April 19, 2015 at 3:50 am

    I’m going on my 4th day potty training my 2 year old, and not once has she told me she needs to go. She has told me since she was 18 months when she needs to go poop, because I was training her but gave up by week 3 because she would not tell me she needed to pee, she’ll just pee on herself. This is my 2nd attempt, both times I went cold turkey, but she doesn’t care. My mom told me to leave her in wet underwear but she goes about like she’s not wet. When she pees I won’t know until I see her playing in it! Gross! I have to take her ever 20 minutes but sometimes she won’t go in those 20 minutes, so I start taking her every 10 minutes if at those 20 minutes she didn’t go. She’ll tell me at times she doesn’t need to go and starts trying to get off of the toilet, so at times I let her get off, but she just pees on herself. If she pees in the toilet, I hug her, and say, “yay! Good girl! Let’s get you a candy!” But for her to tell me, she just won’t. I keep telling her, “tell me when you have to go so you can get a candy…or so you won’t be wet..” But nothing works! I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted! I don’t know what to do!!

  • Christina

    July 22, 2015 at 12:55 am

    This worked for my 2 and 9 month old daughter. Remember everyone your child has to be ready. If you see your child has no interest in going to the bathroom. I would wait a few more months and try this method again. Good Luck!!!

  • Danny

    October 12, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I’ll have to try it with my twins, who are 2 and a half. My wife and I will both be on duty. Wish us luck!

  • Ebony

    October 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Finally someone who makes sense! I don’t remember having pull-ups when I was growing up. Besides, Pull-Ups are Pull-Downs for her and it is wasting a lot of money for them to be used as a toy! 

  • Kelly

    November 16, 2015 at 12:30 am

    We are on day 3 of this. We couldn’t avoid going out so she’s been out in panties 1 time each day with no accidents. Today was the first day with zero accidents.

    Having a problem with pooing though. She has always pood standing up (since she has been walking). When I see her poo face I rush her to the potty which she doesn’t want to do and the potty just catches the poo that was already coming. But if there’s more it’s like she can’t push it out. She will sit there and say she has more but it’s like she doesn’t know how to do it?

    The pee is going great though. She tells me each time and even came and told me in the night so she was completely dry this morning!

  • Nata

    February 6, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    My girl is doing very well telling me when she needs to go, but I started with the seat for the toilet, I honestly was going crazy with that, because they always need help and supervision doing it that way. So she was telling me every 5 min she needed to go, even if she dint have to, I guess she was just so exited to know she can Do it.for that reason I couldn t get anything done. So I gave up with it and I decided to buy the little chair, she was so exited and happy with it, and she can go anytime she feels like it. It is safe and give then some kind of independence, I love it.