Potty training is one of the biggest milestones of toddlerhood. But it isn’t always smooth sailing. However, keeping these tips and tricks in mind will ensure both you and your son have a much better experience.
Although the basics for potty training are the same for girls and boys, potty training a boy has its additional challenges.
These range from when to introduce your son to the potty, whether to teach him to pee sitting first or standing, how to help him aim into the toilet, which potty training books to buy and which rewards work best for little boys.
Fear not, we have all the answers right here!
Tip #1: Timing is crucial.
Potty training will only be successful if and when your son is ready. According to BabyCentre, most toddlers learn the skills that are needed for potty training between 18 months and three years.
However, remember, there is no hard-and-fast time frame.
Boys generally take longer to master these skills than girls. So don’t rush your son into using the potty before he is ready, and don’t compare him with girls his age.
If your son is showing the following signs, it means he is physically ready to be potty trained:
- Showing an interest in using the toilet
- Is dry for periods of at least one to two hours and poops at a regular time everyday
- Can pull his pants up and down on his own
Make sure there is no other major distraction at the time, such as the birth of a sibling/ change of home or nursery/ going on holiday.
If he is showing a lot of resistance in going to the bathroom, or having more accidents than success even after a week, maybe he is still not ready. In which case, give it a break and try again after a few weeks.
Tip #2: Plan it right before you even start.
Initiate your son to the idea of using the potty before actually doing so.
Let him see you (or preferably a male role model such as his father or older brother) using the bathroom. Tell him you feel like doing a wee and must go to the bathroom in order to do so. This will help him associate wee-ing and poo-ing with the toilet.
Read him books or show him cartoons that explain what potty training is, and how to go about it. Pirate Pete’s Potty, The Prince and the Potty and Dinosaurs Love Underpants are books worth investing in.
Go shopping with your son and let him choose his potty and toilet training seat. And don’t forget some superhero underpants of course! Most boys will not want to ‘wet’ or ‘dirty’ their favourite superheroes, so that’s a great incentive to use the toilet.
Make sure you have a number of easy-to-remove bottoms like track pants, which are easier for your boy to pull down and put back on again. Avoid pants with buttons, belts and dungarees while potty training your son.
Tip #3: Standing vs. sitting when learning to pee.
I know what you’re probably wondering…
Should I teach him to sit or stand and pee?
The burning question all mothers of little boys ask themselves before potty training.
The popular answer according to childcare experts and mothers is: SIT.
Let your son master the basics of potty training first, then focus on teaching him to stand and pee. In the beginning, learning to listen to his body and being able to use the toilet independently is more important than technique.
When he shows an interest in wanting to stand and pee, show him how. At this stage, getting help from a male like an older brother or daddy is a good idea. Toddlers learn by imitation, so it’s best done with help from a male role model.
To perfect his aim, throw some Cheerios or Fruit Loops (or any circle-shaped cereal) in the toilet.
This is a tried-and-tested (and fun) way for your little boy to get ‘target practice’. If you want to add another element of fun, put a ping-pong ball inside and let him aim at it.
Tip #4: Make potty training fun!
Potty training is a huge step forward for your toddler, and can be a bit daunting, so make it as much fun as possible.
Positive reinforcement goes a long way in encouraging your boy to use the toilet. Praise him every time he uses the toilet!
Rewards are the key here. Why else would your son, who has had the comfort of pee-ing and poo-ing whenever and wherever he likes in the security of a nappy, be bothered to stop playing to use the toilet?
In my own son’s words, it’s so “boring!”
So, make him want to go for the reward. Stickers work a charm, but most boys need a more tangible reward, like sweets, chocolate buttons, toys (small cars are a sure-shot winner) or an extra bedtime story. Get creative and offer him different treats and incentives for using the toilet.
Little boys have a very short attention span, and get bored quickly. Keep him entertained while on the toilet, at least in the initial stages. Read a book (make it a special book, one you read ONLY when on the toilet); tell a story; count; sing songs – anything to make sitting on the toilet more fun for him.
Tip #5: Be consistent.
Stick to the number one rule of parenting consistency!
Don’t use the start-and-stop approach (no nappy one day, nappy the next). It confuses your boy in learning to listen to his body.
Tip #6: Dealing with night-time training and poo-in-the-toilet fears.
Some boys learn to pee in the toilet pretty quickly, but have a fear of poo-ing in the toilet. My son does all his pees on the toilet, but still asks for a nappy for the big job.
The reasons could range from being used to standing and doing a poo to being afraid of falling in the toilet to constipation..
Understand the problem and help your son overcome his fear. Don’t force or shout at him – with a little help and lots of rewards from you, he will soon be poo-ing in the toilet!
Children take much longer to master night-time training, so don’t throw those diapers away just yet.
Consider night-time training if:
- He is completely dry and clean during the day
- He wakes up with a dry nappy on most mornings
- Limit his fluid intake before bedtime
- Leave a nightlight on in his room, so he can go to the toilet in the middle of the night if he needs to
Tip #7: How to have (somewhat) mess-free potty training.
Potty training involves a lot of mess, accidents and resulting laundry.
Here’s a handy tip that served me well: keep one bucket with dettol (or any disinfectant) solution and one with clothes washing liquid. This way you can clean the mess and soak the soiled clothes at once.
Don’t have a potty yet?
Be sure to read our guide on the best potty seats! It tells you everything you need to know.