When wondering how to potty train your child, you have likely heard countless anecdotes, opinions, and suggestions on the best approach (both online and from the well-meaning bombardment of ideas from friends and family!).
Among all this, you may have heard of the 2011 bestselling book Oh Crap! Potty Training by parenting expert Jamie Glowacki.
But is the hype justified?
What is the Oh Crap method of potty training? Author Jamie Glowacki’s method involves working through a series of blocks with each focusing on a new potty training skill. This is to help toddlers progress at their own pace from using the potty unclothed to doing so without accidents and (eventually) without being prompted.
A key aspect of Glowacki’s method is noting your child making progress… not using the toilet perfectly in a short space of time.
If you’re interested to learn more about the Oh Crap method, stick with us – we’ll outline each of the main 5 training blocks, the pros and cons, parent FAQs about the process, and more.
Oh Crap Potty Training Method Summary
The Oh Crap! approach to potty training consists of a series of training steps or “blocks” that each focus on a different potty skill.
Throughout these training steps, your toddler is taught to recognize their bodily cues, how to hold the urge to go poop or pee-pee and to go to and use the potty when they need to.
There’s no set time frame for completing the training blocks as every child is different, but it’s advisable to free up your calendar for a few days to get the first few blocks underway as these are often the trickiest to master.
Oh Crap Potty Training Method Block 1
- AKA: Potty Training Naked
In the first block, your child won’t wear any pants or diapers, so they’re naked from the waist down.
Essentially, you’ll be watching them closely throughout the day, and with a portable potty nearby at all times, you’ll pre-empt their natural bowel movements and introduce the potty to them.
It can look something like this:
- Step 1: You notice your child’s urge/signs they need to go.
- Step 2: You vocalize to them “Oh, you’re going pee-pee/poop? Hold on!”
- Step 3: Immediately place them on the potty to finish.
This initial block is inevitably going to involve some accidents, which is totally understandable!
The key thing is consistently reminding them to use the potty to the point that you go from catching a bit of their business in the potty to fully relieving themselves in the potty.
It’s also important to sound calm and encouraging when you vocalize their need to use the potty.
Don’t sound panicked as this may scare your toddler or make them feel they’ve done something wrong, which risks taking things back to square one (or Block “zero” as the case may be here!).
Once they’re regularly doing their whole business in the potty without having any accidents, you’re ready to move on to Block 2.
Oh Crap Potty Training Method Block 2
- AKA: Going Commando on the Potty
Block 2 is similar to the first block, but this time your child will go commando as in wearing pants but no underwear.
Author of the Oh Crap method Jamie Glowacki explains that “underwear feels too much like a diaper when kids are still new to this process,” so to prevent them from regressing, dress them as normal but with no underwear.
You’ll continue reminding your toddler to use the potty, only this time they’ll begin to recognize they have something in the way of them needing to pee or poop.
If they’ve successfully mastered Block 1, then they’ll be holding it until they get to the potty and will remove their clothes before going.
Of course, there will be accidents at this stage too. Keep persevering with the potty prompt and help them undress with vocalization “Oh, pee-pee time? Pants down!”
Once they can use the potty and not have accidents while wearing pants, then it’s time for Block 3.
As fewer and fewer accidents happen, you can also begin helping them sit on the big toilet (with constant supervision and the aid of a potty training seat).
Oh Crap Potty Training Method Block 3
- AKA: Using the Potty in Different Situations (Leaving the House)
At Block 3, you’ll start training your child to go potty in a public place. At this stage, your child will continue going commando (wearing their clothes as normal but still without underwear).
So, armed with a travel potty, you will continue to prompt your child to use the potty when out and about (or help them use a big public toilet if you feel they are ready).
Alas, here is the double-edged sword of Block 3 – now that your toddler is masterful in holding in his/her need to go, they may find the confidence to hold it in even longer and resist your potty prompt if they feel uncomfortable.
With all the sounds and stimuli of going in a public restroom or other location, this resistance is understandable, but it’s important not to lose faith in the method and push through (excuse the pun) when you recognize your child needs to go, even when they’re being stubborn as heck.
Parenting author Valerie Plowman of the Babywise Mom blog advises that:
“Sometimes you really have to physically muscle your way through the resistance, even if it means saying ‘we are not leaving until you pee in the potty!’ We only had to do this a handful of times before my son realized the physical fight was a losing one.”
Once your child can go potty anywhere in public without resisting, it’s on to Block 4.
Oh Crap Potty Training Method Block 4
- AKA: Back To Wearing Pants AND Underwear
This is the stage for your toddler to wear their big kid underwear. You may still need to prompt them to go potty (or not in some cases), and they may need help with undressing all the extra layers before using the toilet.
As before, keep persisting with the reminders, and once they can leave the house fully dressed without having any accidents, then they are ready for the final stages of potty training.
Oh Crap Potty Training Method Block 5
- AKA: Self-Initiation
In Block 5, you will cut back on prompting them to go potty and see if your toddler can initiate using the potty on his/her own.
Again, occasional accidents are completely normal at this stage, but soon they should begin to self-initiate potty time. Once this is mastered, your child qualifies as fully potty trained during the day!
Does the Oh Crap Method Work?
Since it deals with individual skills instead of a set timeframe for learning, many parents have found the Oh Crap! method to be quite successful and reliable.
The key takeaway is that your child should only move on to the next block when they have mastered the previous one.
What Age Is Best for Oh Crap Potty Training?
Author of the Oh Crap! method Jamie Glowacki advises starting the training process between 20 and 30 months old.
Some toddlers may be receptive to training earlier than this recommended window, and it’s not too late to try beyond it either (though it will make things slightly more challenging).
It’s all about looking for signs that they are ready.
Signs Child Is Ready for Potty Training
Author Valerie Plowman shares that signs in her 28-month-old son were things like “going somewhere for ‘privacy’ when he needed to poop and a vague ability to communicate his needs (asking for food/drink, etc.).”
Some other sure-fire signs your toddler is ready to try the potty include:
- They have dry diapers for 2 hours at a time – If your child’s diapers stay dry for at least 2 hours during the day, especially if this is 2 hours after napping, then this can signal a physical readiness.
- They appear uncomfortable in wet/soiled diapers – Once they start becoming conscious that wearing a soiled diaper feels uncomfortable and gross (fidgeting, starting to pull at the diaper, or attempting to take it off altogether), this is a good sign they want to change their toilet habits!
- They start to vocalize what they are doing and when they’re “done” – If you find your toddler telling you they are peeing in their diaper instead of going about their day, they are becoming more conscious of their bodily cues. They may even let you know they’re finished – an equally good sign!
- Showing more independence – Does your toddler appear more excitable and assertive in the way he/she acts? For example, are they eager to feed themselves? Are they running? Able to throw a ball? Are they beginning to dress and undress themselves?
- Curiosity about the toilet – A strong sign your child is emotionally ready to try potty training is a newfound curiosity about the toilet. Maybe they have observed an older sibling on the potty or actual household toilet and want to try it too!
How Long Does It Take To Potty Train With Oh Crap Method?
Author Jamie Glowacki emphasizes that the use of individual training blocks in the Oh Crap! method means there is no strict time frame in which the training has to be accomplished, only that your child has mastered one block before moving on to the next one.
If you need a time frame to go by, Glowacki suggests that between 3 and 7 days is realistic if you can dedicate enough consecutive days to try the training.
Every child will master the steps at different stages, of course, and this method may take longer for toddlers with special needs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers some helpful guidance about general potty training approaches in this case.
When Should I Go to Block 2 Oh Crap Potty Training?
It’s best to move to Block 2 once you start to recognize your child’s typical pee-and-poop schedule and you can spot the signs of them needing to go. You should also wait until they can use the potty naked without any accidents.
What if No Progress Is Made?
If your child regresses, try to assess the situation to determine the root cause. Glowacki explains that:
“A day of accidents is not regression, but accidents over a period of three weeks might be. This is the difference between a bump in the road and a true setback.”
What About Night Training?
Night training is viewed as an optional sixth block, and Glowacki advises that parents can either attempt nighttime potty training simultaneously alongside the daytime training (around Block 4) or else try night training separately once all other daytime blocks are mastered.
It’s important for the parent and child that mom and dad get enough rest during the night.
On the advice of her sleep consultant, mom and parenting writer Elisa Cinelli shared that “it was okay to put off night-training so as not to negatively impact the sleep habits we were still trying to solidify.”
Oh Crap Potty Training Benefits
- Highly flexible for your child, allowing them to achieve this milestone at their own pace
- Proposes a realistic schedule and outcome, not a strict one
- Emphasizes the mastering of specific skills instead of a set time to accomplish everything
- Empowering for the child as it promotes their independence
- Removing diapers/clothes gradually increases bodily awareness, helping toddlers recognize toilet urges in a more natural way
- No need for fancy equipment
- Strengthens trust between parent and child
Oh Crap Potty Training Drawbacks
- Messy (a lot of accidents in the early blocks)
- Takes a lot of commitment
- Requires staying at home for long periods (could conflict with working-parent schedules)
- Hygiene concerns for child sitting down without underwear on during Block 1
- May take a long time (regression and resistance)
Oh Crap Potty Training Troubleshooting
Things may not go as perfectly as you had envisioned, and that is okay. There are some common problems many parents experience, and you may find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone.
Playing With Their Feces
Your toddler’s natural curiosity may see them trying to play with their waste, but you just need to reiterate firmly (not angrily) that “You shouldn’t play with this.”
Upset/Fearful of Their Stools Flushing Away
Some children can become upset or frightened at the sight of their poop being flushed away. Acknowledge their fear, and gently explain that the body needs to get rid of this waste and that it’s a good thing.
Preferring To Go Potty With One Particular Person
If they only feel able to go potty when you’re there and no one else, pediatrician Kristin Hannibal, M.D., suggests “gradually withdrawing yourself from the process. Walk them to the bathroom but wait outside the door. Maybe introduce a rewards system too.”
Oh Crap Potty Training vs. 3 Day Method
The 3 Day method involves staying at home for an intensive boot-camp version of the Oh Crap! method and training your toddler to use the potty without a diaper and pants for 3 consecutive days until he/she is used to using the potty consistently.
Is There a Critical Period for Potty Training?
Children typically enter a sensitive period for potty training between 18 and 24 months of age.
On average in the US, most children are bladder and bowel trained by age 4, but it is not abnormal for the process to take longer.
What Day of Potty Training Is the Hardest?
It’s hard to pinpoint which day will be toughest as potty training shouldn’t rely on a strict time frame.
However, author of the Oh Crap method Glowacki suggests that Block 3 is where you’ll meet the most resistance, and it can feel like “trying to put a cat in a bucket of water” as you encourage your child to be more independent.
Helping your child become potty trained is not an easy task, but many parents have praised Glowacki’s Oh Crap! Potty Training for its easy-to-implement steps and the importance placed on mastering each step before progressing to limit accidents and regression.
Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.