Tips and Tricks on How to Potty Train a Boy

Potty training has been in full swing over here for over a week.  And I gotta say, just for the record, that it's a lot of work but I know it's worth it.  All those claims about having your child potty trained in three days is a load of crap.  Three days is the point of no return!  It's when he "gets it" and I as the parent am obligated to live the next few weeks or months of my life centered around a toilet.  Need I mention the accidents?  Nah.  That's a given, right?

Anyway, it's been a super exciting week here for Conrad.  I am so proud of him.  Conrad was just ready to tackle it!  We are officially moving out of the baby stage and on to bigger things.  It's so bitter sweet, especially since Bron and I are discussing that Conrad should probably be our last child.  (But that's a whole other topic for another day.)

Conrad is my third boy to potty train.  I feel like I'm kind of a veteran in the arena.  I've been asked a few times about how to potty train boys.  While I've never had any experience potty training a girl, I believe that potty training any child is pretty universal in its tactics... boys just have a hose attached.

Everyone has an opinion on potty training.  Everyone is probably right.  Every child is different and every mother is different too.  So please take these next suggestions with a grain of salt.  Pick what might be useful for you and your child and discard the rest.  This is what has worked for us.

:: Know when to stop potty training and try again later.  I have made this mistake twice, trying to potty train two of my boys too early.  My rule of thumb is that if by the end of day three he cannot pee "on demand" when you set him on the toilet or does not go running for the bathroom when he feels the urge to go, just stop.  Surrender.  Wave the white flag and come back to potty training in a few months when his body is more ready.  It will save you both so much frustration.

:: Underwear.  Skip the pull-ups and go straight to wearing big kid underwear.  Make it fun by having your child pick it out himself.  Or don't, and be like me and just choose something you know he'll like.  Toddlers are easily pleased.  I've loved using the extra thick training underwear; it seems to hold a little more fluid in case of an accident.

That said, I totally purchased a case of pull-ups for all those afternoons we're on the go.  Hashtag: thirdchildproblems.  Conrad is a third child and driving his big brothers to activities is just a part of his reality.  But when we're home, Conrad wears underwear.  Pull-ups feel so much like diapers.  I think it's important he absolutely know when he's had an accident by feeling wet and to set that expectation of using the potty at home.  I take him to use the public restrooms when we're out, but he has yet to stay consistently dry.

:: Keep an extra change of clothes in your bag or car for at least a year.  Accidents happen!

:: Speaking of accidents, be prepared to clean up a lot of pee with some old towels and a cleaner.  My favorite spray is this Clorox Urine Remover.  It takes out the smell but does not discolor fabrics like the couch or carpet.

:: Load up on liquids.  Whatever your child will guzzle, buy it that first week.  Capri Suns are a fun treat for my kids.  Conrad drinks milk like it's going out of style so I didn't bother buying anything at first.  Now, I'm mixing apple juice with water to help keep his stools a bit looser since pooping in the toilet still feels a little scary to him.

:: Ask, "Are you dry?" often.  Celebrate staying dry with lots of happy praise.  "Yay!  You're still dry!"

:: When your child does have an accident, immediately run him to the bathroom; he'll usually be dripping wet or standing in his own puddle of pee.  Pull down that underwear and go through the motions of using the toilet.  Encourage your child.  Tell him that he will get his pee into the toilet next time.  Try your hardest to avoid showing anger or frustration.  Be as positive and patient as possible.  (Potty training will will test your limits, trust me!)  This is a new skill your child is learning.  He will get it before heading off to college one day.

:: Take your child to the bathroom often.  Start by setting him on the toilet every 15 or 20 minutes.  Stay with your child for 5 to 10 minutes.  Hopefully he has a potty success during that time!  Make passing the time fun by reading books, singing songs, and playing games on your phone or tablet.

:: Ways to seat a boy on the toilet:
1. Traditional forward facing sit.  Toddler potty seats with a lip up front are helpful!
2. Sitting facing backwards.  Toddler boys want to emulate their brothers and dad by facing the toilet.  Go ahead and let him!
3.  Standing on a stool, leaning forward with his hands on the raised toilet seat for balance.  This is Conrad's preferred method for peeing as he wants to be just like his big brothers.  Thank goodness for soap for those little hands, right?

:: Celebrate peeing or pooping in the toilet with lots of clapping and praise and even a special potty treat!  Conrad is happy with a few chocolate or peanut butter chips.

:: Staying dry through the night.  We've been very fortunate that our boys stayed dry through the night early on.  Some kids sleep deeply and some kids' bodies just aren't capable of staying dry through the night for a long time.  So don't stress if it doesn't happen for a while.  However, I did learn that kids tend to wet the bed either a few hours after going to bed or in the early hours of the morning just before getting up.  Bron and I took Jed and Levi to the bathroom around 11PM for about two weeks.  They were groggy but peed in the toilet and went right back to sleep.  I hypothesize that the action of taking them in the middle of the night gave them permission to get out of bed to take themselves.  If taking your child to the potty at 10 or 11PM doesn't work to keep him dry at night, try taking him to the bathroom at 4 or 5AM instead.  Wish us luck with Conrad!  

1 comment

  1. Good luck with this (maybe last?) potty training adventure! These are all great tips :) And I have never heard of that urine cleaner but I AM ALL OVER IT! Planning to buy some stat, ha ha.


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