Before having any children I had a preconceived notion (as with many topics before kids) that potty training was all about commitment of the parent and getting your child to oblige couldn’t possibly be all that difficult. I even confidently assumed all kids ought to be potty trained by the time they can walk. Boy was I so so wrong!
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My son, Jake, is my firstborn and while he has, on most accounts, been very “ahead” for his age, using the big boy potty didn’t come until he was 3 years old! Up until then, he just didn’t have much interest in always going in the potty and even said, “I want to wear a diaper”. What do you say to that? Especially when you’re a tired, busy, breastfeeding zombie of a mom.
Nevertheless, we did have success potty training him right after he turned 3 and guess what–it only took 3 days, was so much easier than I imagined and we only had 1 accident! Here’s how it happened:
Where we struggled with early potty training
There were definitely a variety of things that hindered Jake’s potty training success before he reached 3.
First off, I take more than half the responsibility for missing the mark on “early” potty training…I know I was a bit lazy with it. I really didn’t want to have to worry about running him to a bathroom every hour or cleaning sheets every night. Does that make me a really bad mom?
Secondly, my husband left for Army basic training when Jake was a year and half and I was 6 months pregnant! We had a lot going on, a lot changing and I had read not to try to potty train when there are any changes happening in the home.
Thirdly, we (Jake and I) did not like his first kid potty! I felt like the hole was too small and he’d poop on the back of it! It was a seat that you put on top of your regular toilet seat so he also had to climb some small steps to get up there and that may have been intimidating.
Tried and failed, again and again
I heeded the expert advice I had read in many potty training posts by gently encouraging this next transition in life beginning around 18 months. At that time he didn’t have many words, but used sign language quite well. So, he’d baby sign that he needed to pee. We sort of made up that sign together. If you haven’t already introduced it, read my post on when and how to start baby sign language.
Anyway, I would take him to the potty first thing in the morning, thinking that would initiate things. Or, when he told me he needed to “poopoo” I’d excitedly ask if he’d like to poop in his potty. (Big party smile and all!) At first he was thrilled to do it! He loved flushing after he pottied and obviously we had some false alarms for this reason.
But by the time he was just over 2 and a half years old the potty lost its appeal and when asked if he’d like to go in it he’d smile big and exclaim a very happy, but definite, “No!”
Every time I would feel like “I think today is the day”, he would lose interest by the middle of the day and again, I didn’t feel like struggling with it.
“Must be potty trained”
Once he approached 3, there were more activities he was interested in, like sports and preschool-type outings. However, part of their admittance policies is that the child be potty trained, so I had a bigger incentive to bite the bullet so to speak! It was time to get this boy potty trained!
Of all the articles I’ve read, moms I’ve talked to and my own personal trial and error experience with this I’ve come up with a list of the 10 most helpful tips for potty training a boy.
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Tip One: Find the Right Big Boy Potty
This actually matters! I really had no idea, but it makes a big difference in how your child feels about going in his or her own potty. That’s something I didn’t really consider well enough at first. But alas, kids need to like their potty.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far! My friend, Elizabeth, has a son that is a little younger than Jake and one day while at their house for a play date Jake found his potty. He pulled his pants and diaper off and sat right down and peed! I was totally shocked, “What kind of potty is that?” I asked. I had to have it.
We ended up finding a close match to what Elizabeth’s son had and Jake Jr was so eager to use his new My Size Potty we bought from Walmart. It looks just like an adult toilet. No fancy characters, just a simple white toilet made for toddlers. Hey, whatever saves me $ on diapers!
The potty has a flush handle that makes a flush sound. And the seat has a hole similar to adult toilets, which I thought was a better fit than the circular hole in a typical kid potty. With the more oval opening everything goes into the pot, not on the sides or back of the seat, which is a problem I found with other potties.
Tip Two: Form A Plan and Make Sure Your Child Understands It!
Wherever you get your plan, whether you choose to follow what I did, which I’m just about to tell you that, or you find a better idea somewhere else, stick to it! And then explain it to your kiddo. They may not totally understand it right off, but it will click eventually! Also, make sure anyone you consider a caretaker is completely on board and committed as well. The last thing you want is your babysitter or daycare being the one who messes up your plan and sets your child back some more!
Tip Three: Go Easy on the Going, No Pressure!
The experts say pressuring your child to reach and achieve this milestone too soon more often times just creates an uneasy tension around the whole topic and you’ll be quicker to feel agitated when things don’t go as you’d hoped. And your kid will sense that pressure and strange tension and think, “wow, I want nothing to do with this situation!” Instead, play it cool. (Even if you are anxious on the inside for it to work this time!)
Tip Four: Praise and Celebrate Any Potty Accomplishment
Kids love to see us happy with them, don’t they? Even my very mischievous son truly prefers when I am happy and proud of him.
That’s why praise goes a long way with potty training. A silly celebratory dance and song after any little potty training goal is reached encourages them to do the same next time they need to go wee. Along with praise, rewarding potty trips and dry underwear worked for us. If he remembered to go on his own without a reminder, for example, he’d get any special treat he’d like! (The first few times anyway)
Tip Five: Don’t Expect To Succeed The First Time
It took us–oh, I don’t know, a dozen times of “today is the Day” before we finally stuck to it, committed to the task and won. If you go in it like I did thinking this really can’t be that big of a deal, you might find yourself pretty disappointed with yourself and maybe even frustrated with your kiddo. Remember, he (or she) might be super intimidated by what you are suggesting to him and possibly even unsure of his own capabilities. Work up to it, get him (or her) comfortable first and then gradually slip out of those diapers!
Tip Six: Get Extra Sheets…
Night time potty training (if that’s what it’s called) takes a bit longer for some children, especially when potty training at a younger age. Extra sheets or towels is a must! Oh, and definitely invest in a mattress protector before you start on this journey! Theres nothing special about them, other than they keep your mattress from being ruined! I found a great waterproof one at Target. Flipping the mattress over will only work for so long! Who does that?? Gross. 😉
Oh, and be prepared to be disgusted…boys tend to get a little messy when they pee standing up. LOL
Tip Seven: Do Not Scold For Accidents, Including Bed Wetting
I am sure you wouldn’t scold or discipline your child for having accidents anyway, but just in case your parent did it to you, it’s a big no no! It further prolongs the intimidation and uneasy feeling they’ll associate with potty training and cause the diaper to become a necessity again. Accidents will happen and it might take extra patience on your part, but focus on where your child is doing well in this milestone.
Tip Eight: Potty Party Play Dates!
If that’s not already a thing it should be! My son’s interest was ultimately peaked big time after being at a friend’s house and seeing his killer big boy potty. I highly recommend planning play dates with this hidden agenda! 😉 Kids want to do what they see other kids doing! Why didn’t I think of it sooner!? If you don’t know any other little kids or can’t get out for whatever reason, move the potty into your bathroom and let your little tinkler pee alongside you.
Tip Nine: When All Else Fails, They Make Adult Diapers…
Okay, I’m kidding. It is highly unlikely that your child will skip over potty training altogether and need diapers forever. But, if you have tried all of these things and your child still isn’t accepting the potty or seems to be having other complications related to potty training, maybe you should consult with his or her pediatrician. According to latest research only 40-60% of children have achieved the potty training milestone by three years old, so chances are you are getting close at the very least!
Tip Ten: Start Early!
This should really have been at the top, but I think it’s appropriate to put it here since I failed to realize how helpful it could have been for us if I had initiated potty training earlier on. All of the advice out there recommends starting right after they turn one. And if you can, go for it and you might start saving $$ on diapers much quicker. One thing I keep seeing amazing reviews on is the Potty Trainer Combo seat and steps/ladder that goes on a standard toilet. Check it out here (Walmart online). It may work better for you and your kiddo!
Now for the 3-Day challenge!
How I Potty Trained My Son in Just 3 Days
Just after my son’s third birthday I pulled up my big girl pants and truly set out to potty train him. I imagined it would consist of asking him to use the potty every 5 minutes only to have a house that smelled like pee and lots of wet carpet to clean. But…there would be no going back. “You’re done with diapers”, I told him happily. Little did we know this would be a piece of cake! And only took a total of 3 days to completely achieve success. ?
Day One: I explained that today he was going to wear big boy pants (toddler underwear) and he should tell me if he needs to pee so he can go in his potty. I decided we’d call it a successful first day if we just got one pee in the potty.
The first time he went I made a big deal of how awesome he was and how happy I was with him. “And you get a sucker!” I told him. After that, every time (well, almost every time) he peed in the potty I overreacted with joy and he got a sucker. Zollipops are sugar free, totally healthy suckers that promote healthy teeth, by the way. So really, we’re tackling two things at once! Snag this BOGO coupon! (While promotion lasts).
I asked if he wanted to use the potty every 20-30 minutes that day.
He used the big boy potty that entire day and only had one accident–pooping. Then, that night he wore pull-ups to bed, which I called night time big boy pants so that we can totally eliminate relating to diapers.
Day Two: I reminded him that he did so good yesterday peeing in the potty and wearing big boy pants and asked if he wanted to do it again for more suckers. He said yes! And his attitude was totally different from the times before when we’d tried.
He was 100% with this game plan. Finally!! Again, to my surprise it was a very easy day. I said, “Remember to tell me when you need to poop in the potty too, we’ll poop in the potty today if you want.”
“Ok,” he replied with a shrug.
We needed to run a quick errand on this day so I used a hack my friend did with her daughter and brought our big boy potty with us in the car. *I know, genius.* I sat it in the trunk of my SUV and after we hit the store he used the potty in the car. MOM WIN!
I continued to ask him about every 30 minutes if he needed to potty and sometimes he’d tell me without me even asking.
That night, again he wore ‘nighttime pants’.
Day Three: Dry diaper this morning! I was so happy I gave him a chocolate chip and told him that for the rest of the day every time he pottied he’d get a chocolate chip as a special treat. Again, no accidents and he even just went into the bathroom every time he needed to potty, no more reminding him. Wow!
And that’s it!
Was I just lucky? Was it this easy because he was more mature at 3 years old? I’m not sure if it was my confidence or the bribing with candy that finally did the trick, but I am happy to say I only have one child in diapers now!
??ONE MONTH update: my 3 year old is still a potty going champ! He goes to the potty when he needs to go. Very rarely does he need reminding or have an accident. I would suggest reminding them when they are busy playing as that seems to be when accidents will happen. Also, we’ve had to avoid going nude-ever. He thinks if he’s naked it’s ok to go, right where he stands! ?
And about the peeing sitting or standing up dilemma…
We started with sitting, but after a couple weeks, my husband taught Jake Jr to pee standing up and now he does both. Depending on his mood I guess he’ll either bring the stool to the adult potty and pee standing up, or he’ll sit on his potty and go. I think for this, go with what is working/easier for you and your child!
What I learned about potty training boys
I learned that, for the hundredth time, all kids are different and need different methods for achieving certain milestones and my son is no exception! Praise (and bribes) go a long way. Celebrating the small accomplishments is vital. And lastly, that potty training happens when you’re both ready-you and your child. It simply took us both a bit longer than “normal” to get there. Aside from the extra $$ it cost me to keep him in diapers, it really wasn’t (at least it doesn’t seem like it) detrimental to his health or well-being.
Turns out, I’m still a pretty great Mom! ?
My daughter, Jolene, was completely different. She started pooping in the potty around 2 1/2 years old, but wouldn’t pee in the potty. Until right at 3, when she decided to pee in the potty all day without even telling me. So…yeah she was even easier I’d say!
**Travel tip: for the first 6 months after potty training, keep a portable kids potty in your car to avoid accidents.
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