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Child looking up from the potty

Potty Training Wars: Reassessing Readiness

By Amalah


I have read many of your responses to parents talking about potty training. However, I have not come across my situation. I have a 2-year-old child who is capable to be potty trained. We have tried to do so without success.

Our issue is that she thinks it is funny to pee her pants. We have tried to “Boot Camp,” but every time she pees her pants she thinks its funny. At night when she pees, it does not even bother her and she just sleeps in it.

Please help.

She may be “capable” of potty training, but she’s not actually “ready” for potty training. Back off for now.

How do you know your toddler is potty ready?

Potty training readiness requires levels of both physical AND emotional maturity. And it’s very, very common for the physical maturity and physical signs of readiness to happen first — but for the child to still be nowhere near being ready to potty train from the emotional maturity standpoint.

A two-year-old who thinks peeing in her pants is a laugh riot and is completely unbothered by accidents and wet clothes or bedding probably needs a little more time.

What to do now?

1. Step back and wait for her to show some level of interest in using the potty (or at the very least, an interest in the incentives you offer for using the potty). By waiting for a spark of interest/motivation on her part, potty training is likely be an easier and more successful process. You’ll avoid turning the potty into a protracted battle of wills with your two-year-old, and you’ll likely not feel the urge to slam your face against the floor tile quite as frequently as you do now when she’s giggling her head off in a puddle of urine for the fourth time this morning.

And again, her interest or motivation doesn’t actually have to necessarily be about using the toilet itself, or wanting to get out of diapers. (Although that’s the best-case scenario, if that ever happens.) She just has to seem somewhat willing to try and be somewhat motivated by some external factor — either not liking wet/soiled pants, a desire to be seen as a “big kid,” an interest in a particular underwear design, an understanding that oh, if I use the potty and stay dry I get a piece of candy/a toy/a special treat/etc. Right now, she’s finding it fun and hilarious to wet herself, which — while a little weird, but hey, she’s TWO — is basically a reward for her right there, and is not working in your favor to get her to focus on the bigger picture and/or a bigger reward.

2. Put her back in diapers so the humor of the situation is less…uh…noticeable or dramatic, and

3. Make sure you give zero Big Reactions to wet/soiled diapers for awhile.

4. Try talking up being and praising her for being a “big kid” or “big girl” in other areas — like dressing herself, putting on her own shoes, cleaning up toys, etc. — so the concept becomes something she views as a positive. I don’t know where exactly she lands in the range of two (just turned two? two and a half? almost three?) but you could try to revisit introducing the potty in a few months, or maybe a little longer if she’s further away from three and there’s no school/daycare deadline to worry about.

5. Also! When you DO start potty-training again, keep her in diapers or pull-ups overnight. Boot camp is a daytime-only process, as most toddlers and even preschoolers are NOT physically ready or even capable of staying dry overnight. It’s perfectly normal and expected that her bladder isn’t waking up her brain at this age — she shouldn’t be lying in wet bedding all night. Nighttime training is a Whole Other Thing, and isn’t even really technically “training.” Once her diaper or pull-up is consistently dry in the morning, you can switch to underwear (and a waterproof mattress cover) and make sure she’s able to access the bathroom on her own at night. (No more crib, no complicated footie pajamas, etc.) But don’t change anything about her nighttime diaper arrangement until she’s made real and meaningful strides towards daytime potty training.

Don’t force the issue

I know it’s hard to be patient with a kid who really seems ready (and when you’re SO ready to be done with diapers), but who refuses to make any progress no matter what you do. But believe me, trying to force potty training too soon, before the emotional component is there, is an exercise in frustration and futility.

(And pee. So, so much cleaning up of pee.)

More on potty readiness at Alpha Mom:


1. When to Surrender & Give Up the Potty Training Fight
2. Motivating the Unmotivated Kid
3. The 4-Year-Old Potty Training Holdout

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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