21 Month Girl - Potty Training?

Updated on August 18, 2010
J.S. asks from Saint Paul, MN
10 answers

I have 3 kids, the first two were boys. The first showed ZERO interest in potty training until right before his third birthday when I decided we were going to just do it... he was willing and a few weeks later we were done.

My second boy was interested around 21 months, but he could totally talk at that point... and we pooped on the potty on and off for a year till his third birthday, when we just went cold turkey on diapers and in a week we were done. He never initiated peeing on the potty until close to his third birthday, but would poop regularly on the potty after age 2.

My third is a girl and at 21 months old she's been interested in using the potty already for a few months. Recently she seems super motivated... she can take off her own clothes, and has peed in the potty lots and even pooped in there twice this week.

The problem is, I'm not used to really working on this with someone so young... and she doesn't have a lot of words yet. She does say pee, but it sounds a lot like her "me" or "wee" (for swing), or bee (for bug)... you get the picture. I have been letting her initiate it, and she seems to prefer just having her diaper off these days (I found 3 tonight while cleaning up around the house - she takes them off and leaves them all over!).

Should I just put her in undies and see what happens? What about when we are out in public, a pullup? The boys (aged 5 and 3 1/2) keep me so busy, I feel like I am missing opportunities to help her get it figured out... and she's kind of trying to do it herself (poor thing!). How can I help her be successful with something that can be so hard to figure out at such a young age?

Thanks for your thoughts on potty training a motivated girl with limited language skills :)


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So What Happened?

Thanks for the word of wisdom! Today we went in a dress naked underneath at home and she did great all day! We even went to a museum for a few hours and for lunch and she peed on the public toilet 3 times and kept her diaper dry!

She did have a pooper in her diaper when we got home, but I think if I had remembered to remove it she would have gone in the potty.

We are going to get new undies this weekend, and start this thing!!!

Thanks again!

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answers from Gainesville on

Teach her sign for bathroom! I started using sign language with my daughter around the age of 9 months and she did really, really well with it. In addition to using a new sign she would start using the word as well!


My daughter started showing an interest at 17 months and we went with it. She is diaper free around the house except for sleep times. We still use a diaper when we are out and about because if she has to go she is so little she can't always hold it.

Forget the pull-ups! Glorified diapers that cost more and don't work nearly as well! I can put a diaper on my daughter while she is standing up (and that's using cloth or sposies) so it's no biggie to take a diaper off or put it on in the restrooms. Most times if I take it off, she goes potty then I'll take her out of the stall to the baby changing table (with her shorts on )to put the diaper back on her.
Also, I never equated diapers with being a baby so my kids never had/have problems switching back and forth to diapers when necessary (sleep times, out and about)

I try to remember to take her to the bathroom when we arrive someplace, before we leave if possible, that type of stuff helps.

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answers from Dallas on

Both of my girls began potty training at 18 months old. Poop first, believe it or not. So we ditched the diaper and went with pull ups during the day (diaper still at night until they get dryer). Beware, it is a lot of work. But my oldest was in panties by 2 1/2 years old! Well worth the effort.


answers from Fresno on

My cousin just potty trained her little girl a few months ago when she was that age. Both of my daughters were born talking (LOL or maybe it just seemed like it), but my cousin's little girl is more active and not as verbal yet. Anyway, she was still able to learn "pee pee" and "poo poo" at that age. In our family we have potty trained all the kids the same way - naked from the waist down, and bring them to the potty every 20 minutes whether they say they need to, or not! If you even *think* she might have to go, take her to the potty. (Her big brothers can help encourage her!) When she goes in the potty, celebrate her success. When she doesn't make it in time, clean it up without making a big deal of it, and just tell her, "Next time you'll make it to the potty." And then be sure she does.

I don't know why, but when they're naked from the waist down, it really accelerates the process. My girls were trained anywhere from a few hours to maybe 3-4 days using this method. My cousin's little girl was potty trained in a few days also. Maybe because it feels so different from a diaper, to be naked. And most little girls don't want to pee on their feet! That helps! =)

Good luck!



answers from Little Rock on

I put my daughter in Gerber padded training pants at 24 months. We had lots of accidents at first, but it helped her realize what she was doing when it went running down her legs. I used pull ups away from home. My daughter is now 2 years and 8 months old and she still does not say " I need to go potty" instead she says "I poo poo" She rarely has accidents anymore during the day. She is not yet bowel trained, but we have had an issue with constipation until about 3 months ago and she is still afraid. I say if she ready, Go For It. I would suggest Gerber padded training pants (Walmart has them) and pull ups for away from home and Nighttime Pullups for at night.



answers from Minneapolis on

I would recommend you go for the underwear. I don't think you need really strong language skills to teach potty-training. She seems bright and willing to go in the potty chair. If she can take off her diaper, I bet she can take off loose fitting underwear. My 21-month-old boy goes diaperless right now and uses the potty chair for #1 and #2 when we are at home and not sleeping. I keep planning to get his older brother's underwear out to try it on him, but I haven't yet (I should practice what I preach!). This seems like a great time because at this age they are willing to please and a little less inhibited. I missed that window with our oldest son who potty trained closer to 2 1/2 - 3 years old. I also suggest never using pull-ups. I think it's confusing and a crutch. If you need diapers, use diapers, but I don't think pull-ups are a good way to go.



answers from Minneapolis on

Isn't it so exciting! We've laughed because our daughter has been the same way- and we are not nearly as motivated to potty train. I was so excited that I did just put her in undies- that wasn't good. We went to pull-ups but she takes everything off. A lot of times she actually takes her diaper or pull up off and pees on the floor when she has to go. We have just taught the words potty and pee and poopy.



answers from Omaha on

Girls mature faster than boys so at this age (21 months) is very appropriate to potty train. Between the two of you a word (even garbled) will be used to let you know that she has to use the "potty". I wouldn't stop working with her because that would only set you back. While yes you are very busy with your other children you need to step back and take the time to do this for your daughter. I would also try and use regular undies during the day and then a pull-up or diaper at night until she is fully trained, which doesn't seem to be far off. She is so ready to be trained.. Good Luck!



answers from Green Bay on

My daughter is a little older, but she was showing some interest in sitting in the potty as early as 18 months. We had a move and the arrival of her little brother since then, so we really didn't push her, just kept the potty out and when she asked to wear underwear, we let her. Now just this week, we really concentrated on it with stickers and underwear whenever we were home and in 3 days, she's trained! (Though still working on the poop part). Our key was picking out underwear she liked, in her case Dora themed. She really wanted to wear it and we certainly had our share of puddles over the last few months, but never made a big deal over accidents and just reminded her to sit on the potty the next time. (The accident though that we still giggle at was when she was sitting on the potty looking at her sticker chart and went... ON the potty instead of IN the potty and underwear still on. She did come out of the bathroom very excited that she went on the potty. We had to clarify a bit after that.)

I'm not crazy about pull-ups, as other posters tended to agree. But we do use them for overnight yet. We just call it the special pink underwear. She makes it through dry fairly often, but for the nights she doesn't quite make it, Pull-ups usually keep the sheets dry.



answers from Boston on

Yay for you! My daughter decided she wanted to be potty trained at 18months and our stories seem similar. We just went with it. We put her in underpants at all waking times and never went to pull-ups as I think that can be confusing for a child, especially at that young of an age. In the beginning I just put her on the potty every hour or so until I learned her timing better. My daughter was very vocal so she could tell me her needs, but if your daughter is not, you could teach her the sign for potty (which is just the sign language letter "t" done while sort of turning the wrist). You could just come up with your own sign, of course.

I would definitely go for it, as you don't want the opportunity to pass. I know that it seems scary to put your small child in a car seat with just underpants, but they will learn. We kept one of those absorbent pads under her seat in the beginning and it worked out great. We also kept a potty in the back of our van for emergencies.

Good luck!



answers from Sioux City on

Signs that your child may be ready to start potty training include:

Staying dry for at least two hours at a time.
Having regular bowel movements.
Being able to follow instructions.
Being uncomfortable with dirty diapers and asking for them to be changed.
Asking to use the potty or saying that they need to urinate or have a bowel movement.
Showing interest in the toilet and/or wearing “big kid” underpants.
When you begin potty training:

Choose a potty seat that your child can easily navigate on their own.
Encourage your child to use the potty at regular intervals - or whenever they show signs that they need to go.
Be supportive and use rewards, such as stickers, when they’re successful on the potty.
Use praise, applause, special songs, reading a special book in the bathroom - whatever resonates with your child.
Let them pick out new ‘big kid” underpants with their favorite characters (Dora, Thomas the Train, etc.) on them.
Use potty-themed books and videos to reinforce key messages.
Avoid pressure - your child will likely have accidents during the process. Don’t punish him for any setbacks.
Don’t begin toilet training during a stressful time (e.g., moving, new baby, starting a new preschool, etc.)
Recognize that your child has control of his bodily functions, and you can’t get him to “go” on the potty until he is ready. Don’t turn this into a power struggle - because it’s one that you won’t win!
Be sure that your nanny understands your approach to potty training and is consistent with rewards, praise, etc.
And, remember, some children potty train very easily, while others require more time and effort. With your patience and encouragement, your child will (eventually) be potty trained.

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