Oh geez, I wish I felt like more of an expert on this!
I’ve successfully potty trained one boy, but my second three year old is still resisting.
Toddlers are funny little people, and what works for one kid, or even for one week, might not work the next week or on the next kid!
All the same, I do have some tips and tricks that have proven helpful to me and to friends potty training their boys.
First, I’d like to answer some common questions about potty training in general, and for boys in particular.
- What age should I start potty training?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard is potty training your boy(s)?
- How long did it take you to potty train your boy(s)?
- What didn’t work when you potty train your boy(s)?
- Did you buy any products to help or prepare your boy(s) for potty training?
- How and when did you start night time potty training your boy(s)?
- Can improper potty training cause bed wetting?
- Is it possible to successfully potty train a child before he is 2 years old?
- My child is 30 months old however he has not speak yet, should I start potty training?
- When did you consider your boy(s) to be completely potty trained?
1. What age should I start potty training?
There are two schools of thought on this.
The first is the most common – wait until they’re ready.
That can mean until they’re able to initiate a potty visit, pull down their own pants, and go on their own, or it could mean as soon as they can tell mom “gotta go!”.
There’s no real harm in starting earlier rather than later, it can just be a lot of work.
The other school of thought is a bit more unusual in Western culture, and that’s potty-ing the baby any time you notice that they’re about to go.
Called either elimination communication or natural infant hygiene, the idea is to get the baby accustomed from a very early age to pee or poop in a potty rather than in a diaper, and this can start as early as shortly after birth.
I’ve tried elimination communication, and while it saved having to change quite as many diapers, unfortunately it flopped as soon as the little guy became mobile and could run away from the potty. So we’re still working on that.
2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard is potty training your boy(s)?
Compared to birth? Or trying to drive 5 hours with a baby?
About a 4.
Compared to a girl? Not all that different, at least with mine.
It’s just… individual.
Some boys (like my husband as a child) essentially train themselves and decide they don’t want to wear diapers anymore.
Others (like my boys) couldn’t really care less, and need external motivation.
It’s the same with my daughter and most of the little girls I’ve known, too.
In some ways, boys can be easier to train!
After all, if you’re out on a nature walk when nature calls, it’s a lot easier for a boy to “water a tree” than it is for a little girl to squat and pee.
And then there’s the sheer joy of peeing on Cheerios in the toilet to improve their aim – girls don’t get to play that game!
3. How long did it take you to potty train your boy(s)?
Ugh. My older son, Daniel, was almost 4 before we finally got him daytime trained.
Tristan is going on 3 ½ and it’s a battle to get him to use the potty even once a day.
What finally did the trick for Daniel was taking away all screen time, making frequent trips to the potty, and occasional treats like two M&Ms per trip.
Within a week or two of that no-distraction approach, he was day trained.
I think if I took a concentrated approach, I could have had them trained earlier, but I got lazy and kept using diapers.
(This article is certainly motivating me to take the plunge with my little guy!)
4. What didn’t work when you potty train your boy(s)?
Well, so far, things that haven’t worked for us include elimination communication (at least as a step toward potty independence), training pants, suggesting that they visit the potty, and saying that they need to keep their new/special/fancy pants or undies dry.
My boys frankly don’t/didn’t care.
Going commando or naked is MUCH more effective in getting them to remember to use the potty!
Think about it – since they were born, they had that snug diaper wrapped around their rear end.
Going commando or naked is such a different sensation that they’re forced to pay attention.
5. Did you buy any products to help or prepare your boy(s) for potty training?
Let me introduce you to my obsession.
I have bought 5 or 6 potties, 3 toilet reducer seats (in different squishyness levels for comfort), waterproof training pants, non-waterproof training pants, nylon waterproof shorts that go over cloth training pants, tighty-whities in every print other than white, boxer briefs, boxers, and just extra pairs of sweatpants.
And most of them haven’t really helped.
But what kept driving me is “maybe the next thing will make the difference!”.
Hah. Though if I decide to just buckle down and do the 3 day potty training regimen, I have enough undies in various styles to see us through the whole 3 days before washing!
6. How and when did you start night time potty training your boy(s)?
Night training always grew out of day training naturally.
My older boy had trouble with bedwetting for a very long time, so we just worked with him by getting a high quality cloth pull-up (Super Undies Bedwetting Pants – I’m so impressed with them, and can’t recommend them enough) with disposables as a back-up if I didn’t wash and dry the cloth ones fast enough.
Bedwetting can be frustrating, but eventually most kids outgrow it naturally.
Just encourage potty trips before bed, and maybe set up a small potty in their room for night and early morning visits.
I often found that if I got my guy up early and got him to the potty, he would still be dry – his bladder just couldn’t outlast sleeping in.
If you’re concerned, check with your pediatrician and see what steps you can take to help your child stay dry overnight, but be aware that occasional bedwetting is considered medically “normal” until they’re about 10.
7. Can improper potty training cause bed wetting?
My knee jerk reaction is to say that’s absurd, but I figured I’d better back up my opinion.
In general, there seems to be a small possibility that LATE potty training may lead to prolonged bedwetting.
Which makes sense if you think about it – the longer you go without needing to get up to “go”, the more it becomes a habit that needs to be broken.
But early potty training, no matter the actual method used, seems to have no effect in potential bedwetting, and may actually reduce the occurrence of bedwetting.
8. Is it possible to successfully potty train a child before he is 2 years old?
Most countries that haven’t adopted disposable diapers actually have their children trained to go potty by age 2.
That doesn’t mean they can undress, get there on their own, and wipe themselves.
It means they can let their parents know they need to go, hold it until they get there (most of the time) and go once on the potty.
My husband, according to family lore, got stubborn one day at the age of 2 and refused to wear diapers anymore.
His mother told him that was fine, but he needed to pee in the potty and not in his pants – and he did it.
May you all be so blessed as to get a kid like that!
9. My child is 30 months old however he has not speak yet, should I start potty training?
First of all, that’s a considerable delay, and I’d hope you’ve contacted your doctor and early intervention services to see what other delays may be present and how to help your child.
If your child can communicate their needs in SOME form (picture books, sign language), it should be fine to start teaching them to go potty.
It’s much easier to teach a small child and carry them to the potty if they need to rush, than a non-verbal 4 or 5 year old who’s upset that they may have an accident and will start thrashing and fussing.
Don’t stress potty independence or staying dry just yet – just celebrate when they do make it and go in the potty.
I’d discuss it further with any physical and occupational therapists that your child may be seeing, too – their advice and cooperation will be invaluable.
10. When did you consider your boy(s) to be completely potty trained?
When they stayed dry a full day, or had an accident every so often but stayed dry most of the time.
Maybe they needed help getting there and doing everything, but when the pants stay dry (and clean), they’re potty trained!
So, here are 12 tips to help you on your way to potty independence!
1. Get Ready
Really, this is more about preparing you than your toddler, but let them know that soon the diapers will go away, and it will be time to use the potty.
Get whatever potty or potty seat that looks promising – I’m a fan of potties that are only one piece, so there are no cracks and crevices for pee to gather, but a removable bowl can be convenient too.
Also, decide what you want to try – pull-ups, plain cotton training pants, underwear, just pants – and stock up.
For the first few days, you will go through quite a few changes of pants and undies, so make sure you have enough to get you until bedtime.
2. Model The Behavior You Want To See
This is code-speak for letting your kid watch you in the bathroom.
(Like you’ve ever been able to keep them out, right?)
Tell them what you’re doing as you’re doing it.
Sing the Daniel Tiger potty song if that catches their interest.
Let them flush if it doesn’t scare them.
Let little boys see how Daddy pees – sometimes that’s the most exciting part for them, and they want to pee standing up too!
3. Choose The Method
Decide what method you want to use – 3 day potty training, a gradual approach or early potty training.
Just be aware that 3 day potty training is intended almost as a boot camp for children who already have the skills needed to potty independently, not for the under-2 crowd.
If your child can speak in 2 – 3 word sentences, pull off some of their clothes, and know what a potty is, feel free to try the 3 day method.
If they’re a little younger developmentally, try putting them on the potty a few times a day, but don’t give up on the diapers yet.
Oh, and the 3 day method doesn’t mean that it will take 3 days for everyone.
It might work that fast, but it’s more common that it will take a week or two.
Just think though – a week in the scheme of things isn’t that long.
Stay focused, you’ll get through this.
My kids have been very tough to poop-train, so anything that helps them relax and understand the process is helpful.
Another good thing to do is to reserve a few books just for potty time – pick out some fun books and keep them in a box near the potty, and potty time becomes story time.
5. D-Day – Ditch The Diapers!
When Cortez arrived in the New World, he burned his ships so his men would be motivated to make a life in their new land.
If you have diapers around, you might find yourself resorting to using them rather than making a full effort with potty training.
Get some good nighttime training pants and use those just at bedtime, and the rest of the day stick to the underwear or training pants.
Add plastic pants if you’re going out and are worried about the car seat, but in general just use what you usually do and keep a close eye on the little one for potty signals.
6. Go Distraction-Free
This is what finally did it for Daniel – we shut off all the TVs in the house, and told him they wouldn’t go back on until he was using the potty like a big boy.
Books and toys were fine, but screen time was just too hypnotic and stimulating, and he would trance out too easily while forgetting about the potty.
I know some parents use a tablet or smart phone to keep the kid busy while they go, but for us it was too distracting.
It was actually hilarious – he came down from his room the second day and asked for his cartoons, and I said “Remember? No TV until you use the potty all the time”.
The look on his face was priceless as he realized Mom meant business!
Within about a week or two, he was day trained.
7. Lots Of Drinks, Salty Snacks And High Fiber Goodies
You want to make it easy to go and make sure they NEED to go, so your toddler can go frequently in those first days.
The more practice they get, the faster they’ll pick up the skill.
Offer lots of drinks – this is a great time to allow some juice, if you usually don’t – it’s a treat for right now, and will keep them more interested in drinking all that liquid.
Salty snacks will also encourage drinking more, and eating high fiber snacks will keep those bowel movements nice and soft.
8. Sit! Start Helping Your Child To Sit On The Potty
By the way, there’s no need to get the potty out days or weeks in advance to get them used to it – the novelty factor can be big in getting them interested.
About once every half hour to an hour, say “potty time!” and help them with their pants as they sit (a timer on your phone will help staying on track).
If they go, make a BIG deal about it! If they don’t, or if they have an accident, don’t fuss at them.
Just either let them get up or help them change, and say “next time!”.
Don’t nag, don’t check constantly, but at potty time, just matter-of-factly inform your child that it’s time to sit for a moment.
9. Stick With It
Yes, even if you have appointments that week.
Yes, even if things are weird right now and life is crazy.
Now, if you’re about to go through a major, short term upheaval like moving to a new home, a short term hospitalization for anyone in the family, or something else that will last less than a week or two, maybe it would be a good idea to postpone the potty training until after the madness.
But if the trouble is your older kids activities are picking up, you’ve gone back to school, gone back to work, or something else longer term, just go ahead and start.
It’s not like things are going to settle down any time soon, and the whole family will be better off for having your toddler out of diapers.
Some people like them, some people hate them, but it’s a trick to keep in your pocket when dealing with a stubborn toddler.
Some kids, especially older toddlers, are just not interested in changing the status quo.
After all, it’s a lot of work to use the potty, and Mom and Dad have had this covered pretty well.
Why make the effort?
(This is a good argument for starting young, before they get complacent!)
You can use M&Ms, stickers, cheap toys, have them dance to their favorite song afterward, but you have to know what reward will work for your child.
Sadly, my toddler seems to be motivated only by chocolate at the moment, but I’m hoping that stickers will do the trick soon.
11. Creative Pottying
Since we’re talking about training boys, it’s worth bringing up some of the tricks that make pottying a little more fun for them.
If you have a semi-private yard, in warm weather just let your little guy pee on a tree now and then!
I’ll never forget how excited my older boy was the first time we let him do this – it’s a guy thing.
Roll with it.
If you’re teaching them to pee standing up, float a few Cheerios or other little targets for them to aim for while they pee.
I wish I had tried this when my oldest was younger – it would have saved us a lot of clean up.
And if you’re putting the boys on the big potty sitting down to pee, try putting them on straddling the toilet facing the tank.
It’ll keep all the streams from overshooting, and they can pretend they’re horsey riding.
12. DON’T STRESS
This is a phase, and you WILL get through it.
Your child WILL potty train at some point.
Hopefully before preschool, but you’ll definitely get this by Kindergarten.
Just stay consistent, keep getting them to the potty, and set a few bucks aside to steam clean the rugs when this is all done.