My wife and I have been trying to potty train my son for a few months now to no avail. He did a lot better when we first started training him, and now it seems his progress has gone backwards. Let me explain...he has had a plastic training potty since he was two, and around that time he pretended to go while wearing his normal attire - just for play. We thought he was too young for us to seriously try to train him, but nonetheless, he had the concept. Fast forward to when he turned 3. We bought an adapter seat to use in our bathroom. We explained what it was for and he seemed to understand. Whether it was pure chance, or by habit of having to go when he wakes up in the morning, he was able to pee using the adapter seat and also the plastic potty a half dozen times. Then, my wife was able to get him to poo. This was within a few weeks after he turned 3. We decided to get serious and try underwear. That did not work so well. He was not able to tell us before he had to pee or poo, just immediately after when it was too late. He does not seem to know how to tell us before he has to go. Now were trying to predict when he has to go and taking him to the potty. This hasn't worked that well because he doesn't seem to have to go and ends up playing with the water in the sink or unraveling the toilet paper. Every-time we take him (upon suspicion of having to go), it ends up being playtime. How can we get our son to tell us before he has to go?

  • Kids are awesome. Everyone should experience raising them!
    – Adam Heeg
    Nov 13, 2019 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: There are several signs of toilet readiness, and multiple methods of toilet training, supported by research, that may be useful for your child. See the book and the links below on Azrin and Foxx’s method.

In my experience, if the child can recognize full bladder and can follow simple directions, then the child is ready for potty training. From your description it sounds like your child should be ready. I recommend starting from scratch using the method described in the book below.

This book describes how to quickly potty train kids, by the original researchers who developed the technique. The technique, with minor variations, is still used today. We used another approach with our older child, and it took a while. Then we used this method with our younger child, and it worked well.

Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, by Nathan Azrin, Richard M. Foxx: https://www.amazon.com/Toilet-Training-Less-Than-Day/dp/0671217011/


Parenting Science blog ( https://www.parentingscience.com/ ) has useful discussion of many parenting related topics, including different techniques of toilet training. For example, see the quote below from this post: https://www.parentingscience.com/toilet-training-techniques.html

[Azrin and Foxx’s] toilet training techniques [...] include:

  • teaching through pretend play
  • positive reinforcement (food rewards)
  • practice drills, and
  • overcorrecting for accidents.


Azrin and Foxx also emphasize the importance of timing. Not all kids are ready for their approach. In their book, Azrin and Foxx specify that kids should be 20 months or older, and they should meet several developmental criteria. In particular, kids should be able to

  • sit up by themselves
  • walk
  • stay dry for a couple of hours at a time
  • imitate
  • recognize a full bladder
  • point to body parts that you name
  • retrieve objects for you, and
  • follow simple instructions like “put the doll on the potty.”

Kids should also be able to pull a pair of loose-fitting underpants up and down by themselves. (For tips on how to help your child learn these skills, see my article on potty training preparation.)

There are medical and emotional criteria, too. Parents should also avoid these toilet training techniques if children are ill, constipated, or uncooperative.

Last but not least, Azrin and Foxx warn that their toilet training techniques require a lot of preparation. The title of their book (“Toilet training in less than a day”) is a bit misleading. To be successful, a parent must do his homework.

So—as you read my brief summary below—-keep in mind that this is not a substitute for reading their book. If you want to try fast-track toilet training techniques, the Devil is in the details. Without adequate preparation, you risk failure. And even worse—you risk making your child resistant to other attempts at potty training.

Bottom line? No parent should attempt this method without first studying Azrin and Foxx’s book.

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