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Early Potty Training

Early Potty Training Problems

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I have two questions about the next step after potty training. My little one is a couple of months younger than Ezra and has recently learned to use the potty, about which I’m super excited. But we have two little problems. First is that she doesn’t like to use anything other than the potty – no toilet or training seat on the toilet. This is fine when we’re home, but when we’re out and about and she needs to pee, she won’t pee in a toilet. Usually she holds it until we get home which is quite remarkable, but I don’t want her to be uncomfortable. We recently got her to pee on the ground when we were at the park which was a bit of a breakthrough since she didn’t want to do that either. But you can’t do that at a restaurant!

Advice Smackdown ArchivesThe other problem is that she thinks she is obliged to use the potty always, even at night, and would rather not pee in diapers when she’s sleeping. So we have a lot of wakeups in the night for trips to the potty. We’re also having wakeups because of the 2 year old molars coming in, I think, so maybe this will pass with time, but…I’d rather she just wear a diaper at night and we’d all have better sleeps.

Do you have any tips for the next stage? I want her to be more comfortable because she’s really reliable and she is proud of her new skill too. And besides, those little underpants are the cutest thing ever (yes, they’re cuter than cloth diapers!).


Both of these concerns will be solved — mostly, anyway — with time. Your daughter is young (not yet two) and has trained at just about the earliest age you can realistically expect, and that IS FANTASTIC, but that doesn’t necessarily mean potty training isn’t still going to be a process. Most kids have a quirk (or two or three) that drag the potty-training process out by AT LEAST a few months. Sometimes it’s more like a year before EVERYTHING — using the potty out and about, pooping in the potty, staying dry overnight, avoiding accidents while at school, etc. — really comes together and becomes something that you (as the parent) can reliably cross off your list of Daily Things To Fret Over.

For the transition from potty chair to toilet, it’s definitely going to take some patience, practice and trial-and-error. Focus on getting her to just SIT on the toilet at home. Try a few different seat adaptors, if you need to. Maybe she’ll be okay if her feet are supported by a higher stool, or she has an adaptor with handles. Start by using the toilet yourself every time she uses her little potty. Then try to encourage her to simply SIT there, using whatever praise/initiative/reward you used with peeing in the potty (stickers, M&Ms, whatever). I wouldn’t even push it when she has to “go” at first, because it’s possibly a fear of being up high or unsupported or anxiety about the flushing. Then, if you can get her to a point where she seems generally okay and calm on the toilet, put her there first when she actually has to pee. Praise her, even if she holds it and refuses to go until she’s on the potty chair. And then, after awhile — consider moving the potty chair out of sight during these big-potty sessions. Use a different bathroom, if you have more than one, to get her used to the idea of toilets = peeing instead of it being All About The Little Seat.

The good news is that she’s not having accidents while you’re out, which is HUGE. I can’t even tell you. My son develop a fear of those auto-flush toilets and was TERRIFIED to go into public restrooms for a couple MONTHS, and let me tell you: there was rarely much “holding it until we got home.” GAH. I understand wanting your daughter to be comfortable, and I think by pressing the big-potty issue where she’s already comfortable (at home) you’ll be able to do that. Get her to use it at home, the restaurant bathrooms will follow — it’s probably not going to happen the other way around.

But in the meantime, your daughter seems to have remarkable control over her body, and trust me, she KNOWS she’s in control. You can’t make a kid poop, sleep or eat, I’ve always been told, and I’d probably add “pee where they really don’t want to pee,” at least up until the point where they CAN’T hold it anymore. If she hits that point and stays so stubborn she has accidents, well…bring her potty with you and keep it in the car? Take away her big-girl pants and put her back in training pants for outings until she understands the whole big-potty thing? Otherwise, when she has to go, let her know where she needs to go. Big toilet. Sorry. This is the only option we have for you.

As for the nighttime thing…yeah. Your daughter is IN CONTROL here. She wants to pee in the potty and I really don’t think you’re going to have much luck “convincing” her to pee in a diaper when she’s obviously bothered by it and “done” with diapers, at least in her mind. That’s trying to put the genie back into the bottle, I’m afraid. This could be, like you said, a symptom of the molars — once they’re in she may start sleeping soundly enough to not wake up every time her bladder twinges. Or it could simply be the novelty of her new skill and the fact that she really likes showing it off and getting your praise and attention. Give it some time and see. If it continues, I’d say it’s simply time to move her into a big-girl bed and teach her some independence about using the potty. Dress her in nightgowns or shirts so she’s only required to pull her underpants down and up, and maybe move the potty right into her room so she’s not up and wandering around the house at night. It’s possible, if you remove the “praise and attention from Mommy” bit to the potty excursions at night, she may lose interest and just let herself sleep.

If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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