Only Uses Potty When Pants Are Off

Archived Q&A and Reviews

2-year-old potty trained but only when not wearing pants

Aug 2008

Our almost 2 year old decided to start using the potty about two weeks ago and is basically fully potty trained - we have never had to prompt him to go - as long as he is naked from the waist down. However once we put pants on him (or underwear) he treats it like a diaper. I read a prior post on the archives and the suggestions were either loose pants or buy some favorite underwear but neither worked.

We talk about it and he talks about pulling down his pants before he pees and not peeing or pooing on his doggies (his favorite pants) but he still always goes in them so maybe he's too young to put in practice what he's actually saying.

Any other suggestions? I realize that he is pretty young for potty training by today's standards so maybe he is just too young to comprehend this part and we just need to give it time. We realize that we are lucky that he is doing so well so young - we'd just love to be able to get him trained in clothes when he's doing so well without pants on! hopeful momma

Your post made me laugh- my son was exactly the same way. At around two he was completely potty trained as long as he was naked. He virtually never had accidents. But it took us another year to get him fully potty trained.

In his case he was completely uninterested in underwear. He was thrilled with them at first until I suggested that he actually wear them. He refused to, except occasionally on his head.

So when he wore pants we didn't put him in underwear. We put him in a pull-up diaper. And he would never do number two in it- he would go to the potty to do his business. But he didn't think it was a big deal to do number one in his diaper and wouldn't take them off to go potty if it was just number one.

We took a very hands off approach for a long time, no pressure. It was fine with us if he was naked around the house and clothed in public, with a diaper.

At around three I finally pulled out the bribe-slash-motivator- I told him that he could have a Hotwheel if he went in the potty (he hates stickers for some reason and I didn't want to use food as a reward.) I should have specified a Hotwheel if he did number one, so I ended up giving him TWO Hotwheels any time he did number one in the potty. I know, they're evil and made in China by little kids but we were really ready for him to be potty trained at this point. We sensed his readiness. I hit a sale on Hotwheels at Longs and loaded up.

My kid was fully potty trained in no time flat. I'm glad that we waited a year before we started really working on it though. I don't think he was ready to understand a reward system before three and we were totally against putting pressure on him. When he finally started wearing underwear he never had an accident in them. It took a lot of patience but we did it with no tears and we managed not to lose our minds. Sometimes children will show their first signs of readiness LONG before the actually potty training happens. We need to be patient.

It sounds like you have a good attitude. Stay loose! It will happen! Good Luck!

I recommend practice! Tell him you're going to pretend he needs to go, and practice running to the potty, pulling down his pants and underwear and sitting on the potty. Tell to see how fast he can do it. Get him to practice from different area of the house or yard or wherever he hangs out. If he has trouble with particular pieces of clothing, you can either avoid those or teach him how to get them down quickly. This will give him a sense of what to do when he needs to go, and has clothes on, and give him mastery over dong it. Did this and it helped

3-y-o uses the potty if no pants on, otherwise wets pants

May 2006

Hi! Joshua just turned three. If I leave him in the house dressed in a shirt, socks & nothing else he will run into the bathroom to go pee & poo all by himself in the toilet. When I put on training pants/underwear and explain that he should still go to the potty he doesn't. It seems we are so close, how do we get over the next hurdle? Bobbie

My son was just over 2 when he was potty trained, but we also went through a similar phase. What worked for us with just putting his pants on without underwear. I think there was something about the close fit of underwear that made him keep thinking it would hold it in, or he was just too busy to stop and think that what he was wearing was not a diaper. I also took him to Target and took him to the section with the cheap underwear that has Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train, etc. on it. He immediately wanted them but first I went over with him how these were big boy underwear and were not for pee pee or poo poo and if he was willing to do that I'd buy them for him. I guess wanting them so much the message sunk in. Throughout the day I'd remind him that he had his big boy Bob the Builder underwear on. You also have to be pretty regular about taking him to the potty, even if he says he doesn't have to go. They just get too busy sometimes to want to stop and pee. anon

2.75-year-old won't poop in potty unless he's wearing nothing

My 2yr 8month old boy is basically pottytrained for urination, as long as I remember to take him to the toilet every few hours. However, he refuses to poop in the potty unless he is wearing nothing and has to go- under those circumstances he has used the potty a handful of times in the last month. But if he has anything on- underwear/diapers/pants, he just poops there, even if he just used the potty. I'm getting frustrated with changing poopy training pants and having the disposable diapers fall off from being put on and off so many times to pee (of course they fall off when he poops, so it then gets all over his pants, socks and legs). Any suggestions for encouraging use of the potty for pooping? So far, rewards have not really worked unless he has no other place to go.
Two years & 8 months may be too young to expect a boy to be poop-trained. There's a great variation; my son was over a year older than that. I think if he's resisting, or if it seems hard for him, it's better to wait.

Logistically, the best way to deal with it is to use disposable training pants so that he gets used to taking care of his needs when he pees. Then, when he poops, cut those suckers off with a snip at each hip -- there's no reason to drag them down the legs to get them off under those circumstances.

(My sister uses the cut-off method even with cloth underpants. She decided to cut them off rather than deal so directly with the mess. Her son has a mild disability and they're still working on it at age 5 1/2.)

Once of the ways of how we trained our 2.5 year old at the time was to sit on the potty for both urinating and bm's. This worked out great because he would have to do the same procedure for both which cut down on some of the confusion. Not until he was a little older, around 3 to 3.5, did he stand for urination and sit for bm's.
I want to reply to the issue of potty training for the boy who is 2 years 8 months who, as I understood it, poops in the potty only if he is left without pants. Unfortunately I have no great suggestions. My son did the same thing for what seemed like forever. We tried just about everything - rewards, leaving him without pants as much as possible, returning to Pull-Ups, etc. He finally changed when he was embarrassed at preschool at the age of 3 1/2. (No one made fun of him; but the circumstances proved to be awkward and messy.) What do I wish I had done? I think I should have pushed the potty training harder at a younger age, eg between 2 - 2 1/2; then, if it didn't work just sat back and waited, with just encouragement. I think that with my son I missed a window of opportunity. -- The other interesting thing to me is that when I posted this same question last year in this column, the only response came from a mother who told me her daughter's experience. She had finally become potty trained after being embarrassed at school. I appreciated the support and encouragement that came with this response - but was I ever surprised that, in the end, embarrassment worked for my son too.