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Real Mom Talk: Potty Learning – Ready or Not?
April 4, 2012 1:30 pm | by

It appears to be that time… my little guy is about 2.5 years old, and already more than half of his playgroup since birth is fully potty trained. Not just the girls, but the boys too. I’m starting to feel a little weird having to take diapers to Mother’s Day Out. With two kids in (cloth) diapers, I’d definitely welcome at least one of them moving to underwear.

We’ve had the supplies for a while: we have two potty chairs, and a special potty seat for the “big potty”. We got him some ridiculously cute Flip training pants, which he wore for a day very happily until he learned they were related to the potty. Now he will not wear them. We’ve watched the Potty Power DVD over and over.

I am afraid we missed the boat when it comes to enthusiasm for big boy underwear, too. He picked some with robots that he was very excited about for a while. He held them up to some of his daddy’s underpants to compare how similar they were. But it was night time, the underwear needed to go in the laundry before wearing, and by morning the enthusiasm was gone. Huge fail!

I have read and re-read the supposed “signs for potty readiness”, which are essentially:

  • able to pull pants up and down (yes)
  • can identify when diaper is soiled (yes, although he often lies about it so he can play longer)
  • does not poop at night (for about 6 months or more)
  • can go long periods of time dry (even naps, yes)
  • expresses a desire to do things independently (“I got it!”, yes)
According to all the wise people on the internet who made these lists, he is ready. But he tells me that he is not.

He has told me lately, completely unbidden, “Mommy, poop and pee go in the potty”. But he has also told me, “No potty. Diaper change!”. One toddler, two contradictory messages.

So how do I know which voice to listen to? Is it time for potty learning or not?

I know The Potty Boot Camp is an option. But I also don’t want to make the potty into a battleground by forcing him too early. I want this to be a fun step toward being a big boy. My gut feeling is that he probably isn’t ready. I’ve had a few more experienced moms tell me to wait, that it’s OK wait until he is ready.

The hardest, as usual in parenthood, is the waiting and the comparing. Waiting for my child to take the next step and trying very hard not to compare him to his peers who have already taken that step. Trusting his instincts and my own. Knowing that what works for others might not work for him, or even for his sister when she is older.

I’m looking forward to sharing our journey with you all over the next months (years?). I’ll keep you updated on the steps we take through this blog. And I’d love to hear your advice and encouragement along the way!

Jenny Bradford is a mom to two cotton babies, Little Sir born Oct. 2009, and Little Lady, born Feb. 2011. She lives in the Dallas, TX area with her husband, Christian, and can be found at Conscientious Confusion – a blog about living consciously, which often encompasses: green living, natural health, conscientious consumerism, cloth diapering, and living frugally.

About the Author

Jenny Bradford lives in the Dallas, TX area and blogs at Living (formerly Conscientious Confusion). This includes everything from green living, natural health, conscientious consumerism, cloth diapering, and living frugally. She is a wife to Christian and mom to Little Sir born Oct. 2009, and Little Lady, born Feb. 2011.



  • Leigh said...
    April 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Have you heard of Potty Time? It’s from Signing Time. My toddler loves the video (and app). They have a Potty Time watch too. It helps to remind them to potty.

  • Carie said...
    April 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    My oldest daughter is 3. She still won’t potty train. I’ve tried and tried. I encourage her, but she tells me, “No Mommy! I like my diaper!” She’s gone on the potty before. Numerous times… she just refuses most days. One thing I am glad about is the fact that we are using cloth diapers. We just switched over about 2 months ago (I have three kids wearing them currently). I was hoping that feeling wet and dirty with the cloth diapers would be the final push towards my oldest FINALLY going on the potty… but no. I am literally out of ideas. Everyone around me tells me to just let her figure it out without pushing. I’ve got no other options left… I’m just glad I’m not buying disposable diapers for a child who refuses to use the potty!

  • Laurie said...
    April 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Both of my kids were different in the approach, but got it eventually. My oldest (the boy) at 2 I tried showing the potty, he had all the “yes’s” that he was ready but he wasn’t. At a little over 2 1/2 I told him no more diapers and he said ok. Then we sat on the potty every 15 minutes when he went he got a sticker and got to wait longer. We did that for 2 days and he was good to go. He had some accidents but picked it up pretty easy. He hated having accidents so the potty was the happy alternative. My daughter I tried at 2 and she wasn’t ready, again all the yes’s were there. I tried again at 2 1/2 and she was a little more receptive to it, we kept trying and she finally got it after 3 months. My stepson didn’t want to go potty at all. His daddy taught him to go outside and that worked great. He was going outside all the time and then he was transitioned to the toilet

  • Anonymous said...
    April 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    My son is 2.5 and has been peeing in the potty since 20 months…..but he doesn’t tell you when he has to go. He just pees on command. He would rather use his pullup and doesn’t want to attempt to poop in the potty. He will sit there and then say no and jump up. Within minutes he will use his pullup. UGH! I feel like he’s ready, but like others have said, he just doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing to go. I just take him to the potty often and we can manage to keep a dry pullup until it’s time to poop.
    I have two in cloth also…and Im just tired of cleaning up poop! LOL

  • Katie said...
    April 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    We started working with my son at 2.5. At first it was just wearing underwear around the house, which he enjoyed. We had him sit on the toilet clothed and the lid down for a week and he loved it. Then we took off his pants and tried to get him to sit on the toilet open. Big mistake. I hadn’t thought about getting the special potty seat and he almost fell in the big hole. Five months later and he is still frightened of it.

    Wearing the underwear full time at home helped him quickly figuring out his urges and he was going on the little potty seat in no time. We then transitioned to wearing pants with the underwear once accidents stopped happening. We never had to use stickers or treats to motivate him, so we were very lucky that he was at least ready to do this. He would have been fully trained a month or two ago if he would go on the big potty. But we can’t go out in public or over to friends homes, because he won’t use their bathrooms since they don’t have the little potty. It seems he does not like the terminology “big.” He is soon going to be a big brother, but he denies it unless you just say that he is going to be a brother or little brother. Then he is excited about it. He won’t use the big potty, because he “won’t fit!” Not sure how to move pass this hump. I have a little more than a month to go until his new sibling gets here, and I had wanted everything to be well established at that point since I am sure there will be some regression. And school starts in the fall, so I’m feeling a bit of a push.

  • Jennifer said...
    April 4, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I think every child is different. My son just potty trained himself in the past 3 weeks. We had a potty, and we talked to him about it, but we weren’t pushing. He just turned 27 months old.

    A couple weeks ago, out of the blue, he told me to take his diaper off so he could go pee. And that was pretty much it. He’s not 100% perfect on it, and he has had a couple accidents in the house and 1 in public. But I think the important thing is that we’re respecting his decisions and we’re trying to encourage him.

    I wouldn’t have forced the issue if he hadn’t made the first move. But we definitely continue to keep up on it.

    • Jenny Bradford said...
      April 4, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      I am really hoping this is what happens! He is so strong-natured that I am wary to force him, if he “decides” on his own, I bet his stubbornness would make it happen super fast!

  • Natalie said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    My daughter is just over 2 and had all the readiness signs, but didn’t really want to take time to sit on a potty. I put the potty away and abandoned all discussion for a few months. I spent a lot of time preparing for our big potty training day and assembling all the supplies. I have to say that I love the Flip trainers and am so pleased that they do not leak overnight. I planned our potty party, wrapped up her new panties, and put out her potty chair. I was pleasantly surprised that she has not resisted the potty anymore. We are day five of no diapers and progress is slow, but she is willing so we are sticking with it.

  • Danieska said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I’m so excited I found your blog! well I am going through exactly the same thing… my son is 27 months and shows all the signs that he is ready, he will go pee in the potty when we ask him to but he refuses to go #2 in the potty! At his day care I am noticing too that half of the kids are already pt.. He has to be completely potty trained by december before he turns 3 or they will not take him! I am concerned about it..

    We used gDiapers until he turned 2, then about 3 months ago we have been using 7th generation training pants… It is not helping :-/

  • Anonymous said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Seriously, I don’t get the push to get them potty-trained by a certain age. We bought my 5 yr old a potty and underwear when she was 2. I let her explore the potty seat and sit on it when she wanted. The same month she turned 3 she was fully trained. No power struggles, no bribing…she just did it when she was ready.
    Now my 4 year old was different. She was day trained with pee by 2.5, but she has sensory issues and had battled constipation since an infant. She was not fully trained until 3.5. Oh well. So she was later than the norm. She is fully trained now and has had one accident at night. My 5 year old never has had an accident. We let them go at their own pace. Maybe I’m lazy, but it seemed easier than battling over it!

  • Raz said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    My son is very similar. He is very independent and wants to do everything himself but hardly ever *wants* to sit on the potty. He will sit on it if I put him there and he can even stay dry most of the day if I take him in every so often but I would like him to be trained, not me. Fortunately, I am a WAHM and we use cloth so there is no rush. Its easy for me to say, “don’t worry about what others think and don’t compare him to ther children,” but I know if we were around many other children his age on a regular basis I would start to feel the pressure, too. He will eventually want to do it, either because he reaches a certain maturity level or a good friend does it or he wants a special pair of underpants and then all of this wondering and fret will be a distant memory.

  • Anonymous said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    My daughter is coming upon her 3rd birthday in July. My daughter shows all the signs of being ready to go to the potty but isn’t ready. She screams when we try to take her to the potty and will actually hold her pee or poo until a diaper is put back on. We have tried everything and the only way she will go to the potty is if we keep diapers off and let her go commando. Of course Ill do that when we are home but not very often. She s very independent and knows what she wants. We are still trying to break her of her pacifier. I know at some point I will have a little lady free of her mouth friend and going to the potty on her own, but for now its an uphill battle. Good luck to you.

    • Jenny Bradford said...
      April 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks, good luck to you too! They can’t still be in diapers in college, right?! 😉

  • Karen said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Right there with you! My just-turned-3-year-old son says all the same things. I’m starting to suspect that his little sister will potty train first. Maybe the cloth diapers are just too comfy!?

    • Jenny Bradford said...
      April 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      He does love the cloth diapers colors! He will tell me what color to put on him 🙂 I told him the Flip “big boy pants” are the prettiest color, but he doesn’t seem convinced!

  • Lacosta Lykowski said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I did a potty boot camp to introduce the idea when I was ready to get serious. My little guy was just shy of 2.5. He totally got the concept but the excitment only lasted 2 weeks then back to diapers. We never forced him if he didn’t want to so it remained a positive expereince. I kept the potty around and just recently (4 months later), he initiated potty training. It’s not a perfect system and he has accidents but it’s on his terms, which has been the key to keeping everyone in my house happy. Many of my friends thought I was pushing him into it and criticized me but I know my kid best and what works for him. Please don’t let others dictate when and how your kid grows up.

  • Ayrielle said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I tried to “force” my son to potty learn, but he just wasn’t ready. A week before he turned 3 he just said “no more diapers” and he sat on the potty and went and that was that. I have now decided that with potty learning we will have potties, tell them about potties, have big kid undies, etc all on hand but we will let them lead the way.

  • Jennifer said...
    April 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for this! I’m in the same boat, almost EXACTLY, with our 2 1/2 yr old daughter. Sigh…

    • Jenny Bradford said...
      April 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      It is good to know I’m not alone 🙂