Potty Training Boys In 5 Easy Steps
Last updated: September 13, 2017
One of the most challenging but necessary tasks when it comes to raising a toddler is potty training.
Fortunately, with the invention of the modern diaper, potty training is not as big a hassle as before.
Do you know how mothers did it before the diaper? They would carry their bare-bottomed toddlers around and hold them away from their bodies when they had the urge and hope for as little backsplash as possible.
That said, modern potty training is easier but not easy.
That’s why we created the best guide for potty training boys, so you can get this not-so-fun part of parenting out of the way as quickly as possible and focus on the truly rewarding parts.
Wait, is this guide only for boys? Yes, that’s because when it comes to potty training, there are some key differences between boys and girls that you should know to make your potty training as effective as possible. For potty training girls, click here.
Let’s look at some common things to know when potty training your son.
Boys’ brains and girls’ brains develop differently. Boys tend to have shorter attention spans. This shouldn’t be a surprise. It is thus more productive to break potty training sessions for boys into shorter chunks. You should also remove all possible distractions like toys, soap bars and magazines from the vicinity that they can get their hands on and play with.
Boys also tend to be less fastidious than girls. In essence, they ‘care’ less about being clean and proper and thus have less motivation to be potty trained. All these means that boys generally take longer to potty train and are potty trained at a later age compared to girls.
You don’t have to worry though; with proper technique and lots of patience you will achieve potty training success. Potty training a boy is a gradual process and does not happen overnight, so be patient and get ready to roll with the punches! Let’s get started!
Identify the best time to start
There is no “magical age” at which your son is ready to potty train. Some boys are ready to learn at 18 months, some learn as late as 4 years of age. The best time to begin training is when he shows an interest in using the potty and has developed the necessary physical ability to do so.
What are the signs that my son is ready to start?
- Dry periods lasting a couple of hours indicating developed bladder muscles.
- Regular bowel movement and ability to pee a lot at one time.
- Desire to be independent and in control of his body, e.g. saying things like “I’m a big boy now”.
- Shows interest and curiosity in adults’ use of the toilet, e.g. by following you inside.
- Able to communicate and let you know that he needs to go.
- Able to follow simple instructions.
- Able to sit still for a few minutes.
You can introduce the potty to him once he starts showing the signs above. There is no point rushing into the potty training process before he is ready. The progress will only be slower as he fights to regain control in a power struggle. Trust us, you don’t want to go there!
Bottom Line: Start when your child is ready. It will be easier for the both of you. Avoid starting during periods of high stress or major changes such as house moving or the arrival of a new baby.
Familiarize him with the potty and learn his cues
You need to make the potty a familiar sight for your child. Start by ‘introducing’ the potty to him. Encourage him to sit on it (even with his diapers on), to get acquainted. That way, when the actual training starts, he is already familiar with the potty. Remember, young children can be quite wary of new objects.
Also, be sure to use the word ‘potty’ in reference to the potty. This is important to let your child associate the object with the word and later, the process.
The next step is to let your child recognize when he needs to go. When you see your son looking uncomfortable, holding his groin etc. and giving all the signs, gently let him know by saying something like “looks like someone needs to go potty!”. Keep doing this so he will associate the word potty with both the potty itself as well as the need to go.
How to know when your child needs to go?
You should also learn the cues of when he needs to go. When they are really little, children do not understand the urges they feel. They may start fidgeting when they need to pee or say things like “my tummy hurts” when their bowel starts to move. They may also stop doing whatever they were doing and clutch their tummy while grimacing.
When you see these signs, bring them to the potty and encourage them to go in it. Remember to always praise them for trying, even if they do not go.
One great way to identify your child’s cues is to watch him closely when he is bathing. Often, the feeling of warm water running over his body will trigger the urge to go. When this happens, you can pick up on his cues.
When you see the same cues during the next bath time, carry him over to the potty or toilet, which should be right nearby. Let him finish his business there so he gets used to the concept of going in the potty or toilet.
Bottom Line: Let your child become familiar with the potty, by letting him sit on it and associate the word ‘potty’ with it. Recognize his cues (a good way to do this is during bath time) and bring him to use the potty or toilet when he needs to go.
Teach him the proper technique
To sit or to stand? That is the question.
It is difficult for a child to differentiate between the feeling of peeing and pooping. Throw in the confusion of associating peeing = standing and pooping = sitting and you’re in for a disaster!
Therefore, it is best to teach your child to first sit for both pooping and peeing. Make sure the tip is pointing down or you may find yourself in for a nasty surprise!
Pee while standing
Once he has mastered the art of going in the potty, you can teach him to stand.
Try not to rush him into standing as he may get confused. When he is 2 – 3 years old, he will start to get curious about the concept of gender and wonder why mummy and daddy do it differently. He will then want to pee “just like daddy”.
When it comes to the training itself, children learn by imitation. So it would be best if dad or big brother is around to show him the ropes of peeing while standing.
Aiming is hard, so give him a target!
To be honest, we know plenty of adults who need to practice their aiming skills as well, perhaps even more than toddlers! A creative way is to give your kid some target practice, for example using specifically designed stickers. You can use these stickers in 2 different ways:
- Stick them in the bowl of your regular toilet. Your child is probably not going to be tall enough to reach the toilet by himself; so consider using a step stool to help.
- Stick them in your child’s own potty. If you do this, keep in mind that the old regular squat potty that he’s being using may not be the best idea. This is because it is unisex and is more appropriate for squatting. Hardly any target practice there! Consider buying urinal potties with a fun spinning target for him to focus his pee on! This will train your toddler to not become ‘that guy’ in the men’s room when he grows up.
Bring him to the store and let him pick his own step stool or urinal potty. He will respond better and show more interest in the items he picked himself!
Bottom Line: Start your son off sitting down. Once he gets used to going in the potty, you can teach him to stand and pee. Other than making sure the tip is pointing down, you can use toilet targets and urinal potties.
Make the process fun and rewarding!
In addition to giving him a target, you can also make the process fun by using a few drops of blue dye in the water. He will get excited watching the color turn green as he pees!
Some children also like watching the “bubbles” they make in the water. Others get excited by the sound it produces. Although this may seem like a bore to adults, remember that children very easily find the joy in the simplest things.
Reward him to reinforce learning
While there is nothing like a little bit of good old fashioned bribery to hasten the process, you don’t want to overdo the incentives. Particularly if those incentives are sweets or chocolates as they will do more harm than good.
But, there is one incentive that you can give out that won’t cost you a thing and is healthy for your child to boot! That incentive is of course, verbal praise and appreciation.
Give verbal praise and appreciation every time your toddler successfully completes a step in his potty training journey. This means that in the beginning you will praise your toddler for indicating to you that he has to go while as you move along in the process, you will praise him each time he uses the potty successfully.
Don’t over rely on the sweet stuff!
You want to save the ‘big guns’, i.e. sweets and candy for the really challenging stages. This will vary from toddler to toddler. If he seems particularly reluctant on a certain day for whatever reason, then you can use them. But remember, use these treats sparingly; both for health reasons and also to reduce the expectation of such rewards for using the potty. After all, the idea is to normalize using the potty; to make it as part of an everyday routine and not as something that deserves a reward!
Does your child like stickers?
If so, potty training stickers and reward charts are a great way for your toddler to see his progress with his own two eyes! This combined with your verbal praise and encouragement will help him develop a positive sense of accomplishment in himself.
Bottom Line: Make potty training fun! Add color-changing dye in the toilet water. Praise and encourage your child every step of the way; stickers and charts are also good rewards. Save sweets and candy as ‘major rewards’.
Transition from wearing diapers to pull-ups to underwear
The ultimate goal of potty training is to get your toddler out of a diaper and into an underwear. The transition from diaper to underwear may however be a messy one. This is where pull ups (aka training pants) come in! Think of these as ‘training wheels’, the middle ground between diapers and real underwear.
Advantages of disposable pull-ups
A major advantage that pull-ups have over diapers is that it has an elastic band at the waist. This makes it easy to slide them up and down when your son has to use the potty. It is so easy that even he can do it himself! Diapers on the other hand are not easy to take off and it may be too late when your child has to go. In the early stages of potty training boys, it is common for your child to pee a little before he realizes he has to go. In these early stages where accidents are frequent, pull-ups are better than underwear as they are able to absorb the pee so you don’t have to keep changing his wet underwear.
In short, pull-ups have all the absorbent benefits of a diaper but in the form of an underwear. They help your child get used to the idea of pulling his underwear down to use the potty and back up when he has finished. You can switch to underwear once your child has fewer accidents. When making the switch, you should let him choose his own underwear. The more attached he gets to his underwear, the better. This will motivate him to have fewer accidents as those will spoil his favorite underwear.
Nighttime bladder control
Many toddlers who have mastered potty training in the daytime still suffer from nighttime wetting. This is because their bladder is not developed enough and is usually involuntary. You should not get angry at your child and should instead celebrate the fact that he has succeeded in achieving daytime dryness. Nighttime dryness will come automatically after some time. In the meantime, just be patient and use pull-ups at night. You can also limit his fluid intake before bedtime to minimize accidents.
Bottom Line: Use pull-ups to transition better from diapers to underwear. Let him pick his own underwear. Do not despair if your son wets the bed at night even though he has mastered potty training in the daytime. Nighttime dryness will happen naturally as his bladder develops. In the meantime, you can limit his fluid intake before bedtime.
Your toddler is not a robot and accidents can and will happen. When such accidents happen, the most important thing is to keep your cool and avoid showing anger toward your toddler. Simply accept that it is part of the process, clean it up, and continue with the training.
When it comes to potty training a boy, the adage “Two steps forward, one step back” will be more than relevant. It’s all part of the natural learning process.
This guide is just a basic primer on how to potty train a boy. Check out this video below that will allow you to fully potty train your boy in less than a week!