My 6 year old granddaughter is a smart child and knows when she needs to go the bathroom. She just does not care if she goes in her undies or pants. We have tried everything with her. Tried to give her rewards and even tried to give her time outs. We are at our ends with trying and do not know what else to do. We tell her big girls do not pee their pants and we stop calling her a baby and call her a big girl.

Her butt is red from her just staying in her wet panties. We have asked her every thirty minutes to an hour if she has to go and she always says no. But she goes when she has to clean or doing a time out. We are just tired of everything smelling like pee. What can we do?

  • Was she successfully potty trained before and at some point stopped using the toilet? I ask because 6 year olds are usually past potty training, by at least a few years.
    – Jax
    Nov 29, 2020 at 4:24

2 Answers 2


It sounds to me like she is exercising the limited control she has. Granted, other things may be going on here. The ability to interrupt play, for instance, is a different skill from the ability to identify that you need to go to the bathroom. It is possible to have acquired one without the other, but you'd need both to avoid accidents, in certain scenarios.

Even so, giving time outs for wetting herself sounds to me like an extremely authoritative approach, and potty training is one of quite few areas in a young child's life where the child is ultimately in control. If cooperation breaks down, the parent cannot just override the child and demand to have their way. I'm not surprised if she's simply not willing to yield to her parents' will in this.

So I would suggest stop the shaming and the punishments. Stop the nagging (it's not working, as you've noticed), and stop the rewards (she needs to desire to be potty trained, not desire a reward). Stop all of that, and even if you don't succeed with anything else, don't pick it up again, because none of it's working and it's annoying and damaging for all involved. You need instead to appeal to her own motivation for the desired behavior.

Ask her, in a non-judgmental manner, how she feels when she's wet herself. The negative consequences she associated with wetting herself shouldn't be anything external - certainly not punishment, but also not shame or belittlement. Because the logical thing to a child would then be to focus on seeking other outcomes. Remove all of that so that the remaining negative consequences are purely natural: the inconvenience, the unpleasant feeling, the red butt, as you mention. She needs to associate wetting herself with consequences that can only be addressed by a change in behavior, and I believe these are now being overshadowed by harsher consequences such as time outs.

Once she has internalized the desire to potty train, and is not just intent (or not intent) on complying with your desires, ask her what kind of help she would need from you. If she requests reminders or rewards, those may again be on the table. She probably knows why she says she doesn't need to go when you ask her, even if she isn't able to verbalize her reasons, but if you ask her when or how she wants to be reminded, she may be able to answer. She may be fully aware that she won't be able to interrupt an exciting activity to go to the bathroom, for instance, but desire help in being reminded to routinely go before or after key activities.

You may be able to get her on board with routine bathroom visits, say every morning, after lunch and before you leave the house. If you explain how preemptive bathroom visits can avoid having to interrupt play, she may accept that these are beneficial, and you could reach an agreement that in these scenarios, she should be reminded, and she should go even if she doesn't feel a need to.

The solution may also be something entirely different. Again, she may know why without being able to verbalize it, but may still be able to come up with solutions on her own that will be better than yours. Just taking a step back and showing that you're not going to force your way on this may be enough, as she'll realize it's also her own desire which she may not have had a chance to consider.

  • 1
    +1, excellent answer. But here's one part in OP's post that bothers me and you haven't covered - "But she goes when she has to clean or doing a time out." I could be wrong, but this seems deliberate, meant to escape unpleasant things like cleaning or doing a time out.
    – learner101
    Nov 26, 2020 at 11:15
  • 1
    @learner101: I think most people tend to hold it in when doing something we don't want to interrupt, but are quicker to go when we're not up to anything we mind interrupting, in which case this could be seen as an inability to hold it in, or unawareness with regards to ho long they can hold before they need to go. It doesn't have to be seen as a "deliberate escape" as much as it is the practical thing to do when you need to go to the bathroom during a time out.
    – dxh
    Nov 26, 2020 at 12:23
  • 1
    I agree that’s it’s a good answer, but it’s basing it on the assumption that this is a potty training problem. If so, then these are all excellent points. However, I don’t think it is a potty training problem. I’ve asked for clarification, because in my experience (and I do have experience with this, unfortunately), soiling or wetting oneself on purpose needs to be addressed in a completely different way than potty training. It is about control, for sure, and the child needs to be convinced (somehow) to relinquish a little back to Mother Nature...before it’s already too late.
    – Jax
    Nov 29, 2020 at 4:33

She just does not care if she goes in her undies or pants.

Do you have her stop and rinse everything when she tinkles herself? She needs to see that the consequences of tinkling in her clothes is that she has to stop playing and deal with her mess. If you want stronger consequences, make her take a bath after she finishes rinsing.

We have asked her every thirty minutes to an hour if she has to go and she always says no.

Stop asking. Start telling her to go whether she wants to or not.

Does she have a favorite outfit that she would not want to ruin? It might be worth it to let her wear a princess dress everyday for a week if it gets her in the habit of using the toilet regularly to protect it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.