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Ready to take the plunge and potty train your little man? Congratulations! This is a big step for both of you, but you’re going to rock it.
You may have heard from other parents that training boys is harder than training girls. This isn’t necessarily true. All kids will show different strengths and quirks during the process. So, success is much more about training in a way that speaks to your child than it is following boy-specific advice.
That said, there are some tips and tricks that may help your little guy learn the ropes so you can say hello to big kid undies and say goodbye to diapers forever.
Ahhh, no more diapers. That sounds good, doesn’t it?
The first key step to this process is to identify your child’s readiness signs. If he isn’t ready, potty training can be rife with frustration and setbacks.
Your little boy may be ready for potty training if he:
- can walk to and sit on the toilet
- can pull his pants off and back on again
- can stay dry for an extended period of time, like 2 hours
- can follow basic instructions
- can tell you or otherwise communicate that he needs to use the potty
- seems interested in using the potty and/or in wearing underwear
Boys tend to develop readiness skills slightly later than girls. For example, girls — on average — are able to go the night without having a bowel movement by 22 months, according to American Family Physician.
Boys tend to develop this skill by 25 months. Similarly, girls gain the ability to pull underwear down and back up by 29.5 months on average. Boys tend to develop this skill by 33.5 months.
These are, of course, averages and don’t reflect the development of any one child.
How long it takes to potty train your boy depends less on being a boy and more on his readiness and personality.
Your pediatrician will likely bring the subject up at your child’s 18- or 24-month well visit. Since all kids are different, the length of training will reflect your child’s individuality.
Experts share that no matter when you start, most children — girls and boys — are able to control both their bladder and bowels somewhere between their third and fourth birthdays.
So, if you start a while before this period, training may seem like it’s taking longer. If you wait a while, it may seem to click more quickly.
One study showed that parents who started training their child before the age of 24 months saw a 68 percent success rate by 36 months. Parents who began training after 24 months, on the other hand, saw a 54 percent success rate by 36 months. That’s not a huge difference.
Other studies show that the earlier you start potty training, the earlier you tend to complete it. However, the overall duration of training may be longer the earlier you start.
But there are always exceptions to the rules. You won’t really know until you try. So, here’s how to go about potty training with (hopefully) little frustration.
Before taking away the diapers and going cold turkey, you’ll want to figure out your specific approach. There are many out there, from more of a wait-and-see approach to more intense potty bootcamps.
Some popular examples:
- Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Nathan Azrin
- 3-Day Potty Training Method by Lora Jensen
- No-Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
- Potty Training Boys the Easy Way by Caroline Fertleman
- Oh, Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki
There’s really no right or wrong method to go with. What you choose should fit the needs of your child and your family. If one approach doesn’t seem to work, you can always take a break and try another.
When choosing, consider things like:
- the amount of time you have to devote to training
- the readiness of your child
- how the method fits into your everyday life
While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to decide ahead of time on what words you’ll use for the, uh, waste products. “Poop” and “pee” are fine, but you may have others you prefer. The books you read may have other suggestions. Regardless, it’s important to not use words with negative connotations, like “stinky” or “dirty.”
Supplies for boys might include things like a potty chair that has a splash guard to keep stray streams of urine in the toilet and off your walls. (We’re sorry if we’re the ones to break this to you!)
The Baby Bjorn chair is a popular choice. You can also get a potty seat that nests into your toilet if you’d rather not have a dedicated chair. (But reality check FYI: It may be helpful to place a potty right in the living room if that’s where you spend the most time.)
Other supplies for boys:
- loose, comfortable clothing for your little one — especially pants that are easy to take on and off
- training underwear that help absorb accidents
- Animal Shaped Urinal (with spinning target)
- Tot on the Pot Boy Doll, Book, and Potty Kit
- Toilet Time Targets (for learning how to aim)
- classic books, like Once Upon a Potty or Everyone Poops
- hand soap with favorite cartoon characters to make washing fun
You may also want to get a few extras on hand, like small prizes or treats for added motivation. While you certainly don’t need to give your child a toy every time he successfully goes to the potty, some kids respond well to a magnetic reward chart or sticker chart.
Ready, set, go!
Have everything you need? Great! Decide the day you’ll start potty training and then dive in. Mark it on the calendar. Make it fun. Consider leading up to the day by watching potty-focused episodes of your child’s favorite television show or reading books on the matter. Don’t dwell on it, but be sure to let your little guy know what’s coming so it isn’t a huge surprise.
You may want to stick close to home for a few days to avoid accidents on the go. Consider setting your start date on a weekend or when you have a little time off from work. You may also find that training in the summer months is helpful because your child can go without clothing or pants, which can help with his awareness that he needs to go.
Other tips for starting:
- Try having your child use the potty upon waking, after he eats his meals, and before bedtime. Scheduling potty breaks may help him get into a good rhythm.
- Be sure to watch your child carefully — he may give you clues he needs to go, like crossing his legs or bouncing.
- Instruct your child to sit on the potty and point his penis down to direct the flow of urine into the toilet.
- Alternatively, you can use a practice urinal if you prefer. Focus on having your child aim the urine into the potty to avoid spraying on floors and walls.
- Don’t have your boy sit on the potty for more than 5 minutes at a time. If it’s not happening, take a break and try again later.
- Practice good hygiene. You’ll want to help him wipe well after bowel movements. And have him wash his hands each time he goes.
Related: Potty training must-haves and tips
Once your child is reliably using the potty at home, try taking small outing. This is a big step you’ll both be proud of! You’ll probably want to bring a change of clothing… just in case. And make sure to have him use the toilet immediately before leaving the house and immediately upon arriving at your destination.
It can feel intimidating taking your child out the first few times. Accidents may happen. So if you need to be somewhere particularly inconvenient for training (a wedding, perhaps), put him in a pull-up style diaper, again, just in case.
A boy can sit on the potty to go pee, but you may eventually want to teach him how to stand and aim. There’s no specific age where this needs to happen, and many young boys go sitting down.
Uncircumcised boys may have a harder time directing the flow of urine. Either way, though, it can be tough to get the hang of things. Here are a few tips for teaching your child to pee standing up:
- Have him stand close to the toilet to shorten the range. This makes aiming easier.
- Have him hold the “far end” of his penis while he aims his pee into the toilet.
- Consider making a game of it and practicing with the potty or urinal outside if a mess indoors is freaking you out.
- Practice, practice, practice. Really, the only way he’ll get it is by doing it over and over again.
Related: Circumcised versus uncircumcised
After your child has been successfully going on the potty for a few weeks, you may try switching to underwear full time. Involve your kid in this process. Let him pick out prints or characters that excite him and make him feel like the special big potty trained boy he is.
You may find it helpful to stock a good number of pairs of underwear in the early days so you’re not doing laundry constantly. Consider getting enough so you have several pairs for each day of the week.
And don’t necessarily toss all diapers. You’ll likely still need some around for naps and nighttime — at least for a while.
That’s right! You may be surprised to learn that many kids are trained in two phases — daytime and nighttime. Daytime generally comes first with kids using diapers for naps and overnight sleep.
Most kids should be able to stay dry or use the bathroom at night by the time they reach the age of 5 to 7 years old.
Things you can do to help:
- Limit water and other beverages in the hours before bedtime.
- Encourage your child to use the potty before heading to bed.
- Top your child’s mattress with a protector to guard against leaks and accidents.
- Remind yourself that nighttime training is a whole other ballgame and that eventually your child will get into the groove.
Potty training can be downright maddening at times. And there’s really no way around it. Your child may seem to get it one day only to have countless accidents the next.
Or maybe it’s a breeze. There’s really no way of telling ahead of time what it will be like — and each child is different in timeline and readiness.
Before all else, try your hardest not to compare your child to his siblings or friends. Once you ditch the expectations and accept the process for what it is, you may feel less jolted by bumps in the road.
- Frequent accidents? Try your best not to shame or scold him. Clean up the mess (involve your child, too) and move on. Continue giving him praise whenever his pee or poop ends up in the toilet.
- Rogue accidents? Understand that even after your child is potty trained, you may hit some bumps in the road. A few accidents every now and again aren’t necessarily regressions. When they happen, try to pinpoint if your child was distracted, sick, or otherwise not in his element that day.
- Worried he’ll never stand? Try having him sit facing the back of the toilet seat. This gets him into the mode while still allowing him to relax for bowel movements — and it limits stray sprays.
- Scared to leave the house? Try going to a friend or family member’s place for the first couple outings. Pack a bag in case of accidents, but keep the stakes low. Similarly, you can head to an outdoor space like a park where accidents may not be noticed.
- Soaking pull-ups? For some kids, these diapers meant to bridge the gap during potty training can confuse. Some boys respond better to going commando or switching to underwear full time from the start.
- What about day care? Be sure to communicate your plans and methods with your care provider. The ideal is that you can keep training consistent at home and wherever your little one finds himself during the day. And trust us, day care staff have seen it all.
- Not working out? In general, consistency is key, so be sure to stick to whatever method you’ve chosen for the time period it suggests. If you’re totally consistent and it’s just not clicking, consider your approach. The method you’re trying may not be speaking to your child and his motivations.
- Really not working out? Take the pressure off and see if maybe you should wait a while longer. No, this doesn’t mean your child will graduate high school wearing diapers. Try again in a few weeks or months. He may just need some more time to develop this skill.
Your little guy will be potty trained… eventually. He may take to it quickly and blow you away with his big boy skills. Or he may need a more patient approach.
Whatever the case may be, rest assured that potty training will be something you can check off his development list, likely by the time he’s between three and four years old (if not sooner).
If you’ve been trying consistently for 6 months with no progress — or if you have other concerns with getting there — don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician for advice.