Breaking Down the Oh Crap! Potty Training Method & Other Sanity Savers

Michelle Mildenberg
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There is much ado about poo when you’re the parent of a toddler. Between your mom’s advice, your friends’ experiences and the thousands of books on the subject, it’s easy to develop a potty mouth when you’re standing on the cusp of ditching the diaper.

But don’t panic. Odds are—whichever method you choose—you’re not going to eventually have a teenager who poops his pants. You’ll get there. We’ve broken down one of the newest strategies for winning the war on wipes below. And be sure to keep reading to the end for our tried-and-true tips for making your life easier during this phase, regardless of which potty training method you choose.

The Oh Crap! Potty Training Method

Probably the newest potty training method on the scene, the book Oh Crap! Potty Training outlines a five-block—not a five-day—mastery of the toilet. Every child will progress through the blocks at a unique pace, but this method usually takes around three weeks to complete. Here’s what to expect in each block.

Block 1: Naked Noodles

You’ll have a diaper sendoff with your kiddo as you take them to a donation center together. Save a couple for naps and bedtime, but don’t let them know that’s what you’ve done.

Ditch the clothes and watch your toddler like a hawk. For real. Put away your phone so you’re not tempted to scroll, leave books in your room, and settle in for all-day surveillance. When you see signs that your child needs to potty, calmly take her to the bathroom and say (in your best Glenda the Good Witch voice), “Pee (or poo) goes in the potty.” If you pop your tot on the pot and nothing comes out, don’t make a stink. Just calmly say, “Ok, we’ll try again another time.”

From the Trenches: Don’t freak out. This is going to be messy and kind of weird. If you’re stressed, your kiddo will be stressed. This is a great time to throw down a plastic drop cloth and finger paint.

Block 2: Commando

Once your tot’s gotten comfortable using the potty—and you feel like you’ve got a handle on his cues that it’s time to go—put him back in normal, loose-fitting clothes, but no underwear. The idea is that kids who are used to going in a diaper will be triggered by the pressure of their underwear to go in their pants. You can take short outings during Block 2, but don’t plan a marathon Target run.

From the Trenches: Active outings, as opposed to seated outings, will work best here. Any pressure on the privates can trigger elimination, so let your child take a scooter and leave the stroller behind.

Block 3: Keep Rolling

Stay commando, but if you’ve made it through shorter outings and your child is letting you know when it’s time to go, you can try longer outings.

From the Trenches: This phase of training is tricky because you are so close to declaring victory. But remember that you’re not there yet, and you can set them up for success by making sure they go before leaving the house. Pack plenty of changes of clothing and a couple of wet bags in your diaper bag. And don’t freak out when accidents happen. They’re going to happen.

Block 4: Skivvy Time

When your child gets good at holding it during longer outings, you’re ready to progress to underwear! And, we’ve found that the bigger deal you make this new phase, the better.

From the Trenches: Buy ALL the character underwear. No one wants to pee on Sophia or Ryder, after all.

Block 5: Toddler, Take the Wheel

When your child consistently self-initiates, you’ve got yourself a potty-trained child. You can tap the breaks on prompting them, but be sure to still do it before you leave the house, go to sleep or whenever it seems like they’re getting a little late in tackling it by themselves.

From the Trenches: If you’ve only used diapers during sleep hours, this might be a good time to introduce your nearly potty-trained toddler to Pull-Ups. They’re different enough from diapers that your little one likely won’t question sleeping in them instead of the underwear they’re getting used to wearing, and you’ll appreciate the extra assurance (and sleep) they bring until your child is consistently waking up dry.

Sanity Savers for Any Method of Potty Training

  1. Keep Post-Its in your pocket to stick over the auto-flush sensor in public restrooms.
  2. Don’t leave home without a couple of large Ziploc bags for storing wet clothes when accidents happen.
  3. Mini M&Ms work wonders for rewarding successful trips to the potty. This isn’t a part of the Oh Crap! method, but chocolate has been foundational in my potty training success. They’re tiny, and if you give one each time, you’re not flooding them with that much sugar. I realize not everyone will agree with this move, but it worked for me.
  4. Peeing in nature is one of life’s great pleasures, especially for toddlers. If you find yourself at the park or can’t get to a potty but are in view of some trees, go for it.
  5. If peeing in nature isn’t your jam (or if you’d be breaking a law in your neck of the woods), keeping a portable potty in your trunk is a solid alternative. Remember that an accident is a pain in your rear because it means extra laundry, mopping, canceling plans, etc., but it’s an epic fail in your child’s book. Be gentle with them while you’re getting through the accident phase. Pretending to be dying a slow death (in a funny way to make her laugh) is one way to handle the inevitable fails, and coining a victory dance—to be performed in front of them on the toilet during a successful trip to the potty—will ensure giggles instead of tantrums every time.


Potty Training Guide from a Mom Who Just Had Success

5 Top Books on Potty Training

19 No-Fail Potty Training Hacks Parents Swear By

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