How can I help my daughter potty train with underwear/pull ups?

My 2.5 year old daughter has been wearing ankle-length maxi dresses for 1 week with no diaper or underwear. When she does this, she goes to the potty on her own. No problem at all. When she wears diapers/underwear, she takes that as an invite to pee/poop on herself. So I know that she’s able to do it. She’s comfortable with a diaper; she even cries and asks for it. I have a 3 month old boy and I am currently on maternity leave. For now I can monitor her to make sure she isn’t sitting on anything dirty. But eventually I’m going to be working from home again and I won’t be as attentive to everything she’s doing.

Some children learn to potty train best by not wearing any under garments. This is normal and common. However, as you stated, it is only feasible to do this at home or under strict observation. The key to successful potty training is not rushing anything and following the lead of the child. If she doesn’t want to wear under garments, then I would go with her lead as long as you’re able to.

Once under garments become necessary, there are several ways to increase their success. Firstly, you can purchase panties or pull-ups with fun designs on them based on what she enjoys (i.e. Disney characters, animals, nature, etc.). Buy books that promote panties/pull-ups in a positive way. Lastly, you can try a reward system for wearing the panties/pull-ups. For example, each day she wears panties/pull-ups she gets a star and after X number of stars she gets a reward (small toy, something she likes to do, piece of candy, etc.).

At first, I would make the reward only about wearing the panties/pull-ups and NOT about actually using the potty. Once she readily wears the panties/pull-ups, then you can add a reward for going on the potty. Of note, reward systems/charts typically work best for ages 3 and up, but you can always try it with her. Good luck!


Lauren Rechtman Lauren Rechtman, MD, is a pediatrician at Children's National. She focuses on preventative healthcare for newborns through adolescents.

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