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Potty Training Boys? 7 Mistakes You’ll Definitely Want to Avoid

While I love chasing bad guys, building skyscrapers, and making mud pies; potty training boys is one adventure I’d prefer to sit out.

Maybe it’s because they have a natural love for messes, or maybe it’s just that they’re so caught up in their imaginations to think to go, but potty training boys is seriously like slaying a giant diaper-wearing dragon

Thankfully, you’re a boy mom, so “Professional Dragon-Slayer” is part of your job description. 

Plus, I’m giving you special VIP boy mom access to the super top-secret Potty Training Boys Booby Trap Map. It’ll show you all the mistakes to avoid on your quest to slay the diaper-wearing dragon.

Belt up, boy mom. Let’s go show that diaper-wearing dragon who’s boss.

Potty Training Boys Trap #1:
Starting Too Soon

Your Facebook friend announces to the world that her not-yet-two-year old daughter is completely potty trained—she even stays dry at night, that child potty prodigy!

After resisting the urge to punch her in her face, you start to wonder if something might be wrong with your three-year old boy who has no interest in going potty.

A word of advice?

Don’t go there.

Today, only 40 to 60 percent of children complete toilet training by 36 months of age.

The American Academy of Family Physicians says that most healthy kids have the skills necessary to start potty training between 18 to 30 months of age, but they’re also quick to point out that you should wait until you feel your child is ready.

Instead of focusing on age, focus on readiness. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • Does he copy what you (or daddy) do?
  • Does he show an interest in the toilet, his potty, or wearing “big kid” underwear?
  • Can he follow simple instructions?
  • Are his bowel movements pretty regular?
  • Does he tell you when he is about to have a bowel movement or when he has just gone?
  • Does he pull at his diaper when it’s wet or dirty?
  • Can he pull his pants up and down?
  • Does he wake up dry from his nap?
  • Can he walk to and from the bathroom?

If you answered YES to most of these questions, then your son probably has the skills necessary to start the process. Whenever you feel ready, just make sure he hasn’t had recent diarrhea or constipation issues or experienced any major life changes (new baby, move, etc.). If so, he could regress and that would be like building the world’s greatest block tower and having it demolished not even a minute later by your toddler godzilla. Womp womp.

Potty Training Boys Trap #2:
Expecting Too Much

You know those mommy blog posts that claim they can have your kid completely potty-trained in less than 24 hours?

Put ’em out of your mind, girlfriend. 

You *may* be able to do it all in 24 hours. (My grandparents actually potty trained me in a weekend, and I’ve been trying to convince my mom to pay-it-forward to no avail.)

But typically, these things take time—like three to six months on average.

Our pediatrician (and fellow boy mom) recommends the following steps to ease into it:

  • Start out by putting a potty chair (this one has a nice long seat with a high splash guard for boys) wherever your child normally plays. Let him pretend to go potty with his clothes on.
  • Once he’s comfortable with the potty, sit him on the potty (bare bottom) a few times a day: when he wakes up in the morning, when he wakes up from nap, before bath, and before bedtime. 
  • When he’s pretty regularly going a few times a day, start setting a timer for 45 minutes to an hour and have him try to go every time the alarm goes off. If he resists, don’t force it. Just try again later.

While you may be eager to start target practice, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests letting him sit until he’s more familiar with the process and has better aim (because boy pee is the absolute worst to clean up—can I get an amen?). Instead, wait until he’s a little older  and may show more interest in standing up because he wants to be just like his daddy. 

Many kids will continue to wet the bed through age five. Most children outgrow this by age six, but 10% still won’t stay dry at night. No need to worry about that yet!

Boy Potty Training Trap #3:
Not Involving Daddy

If your little boy is anything like mine, he wants to be just like his daddy. Now is the perfect time to take full advantage of daddy’s super hero status.

Williams Sears, PhD says that one of the reasons boys take more time to potty train than girls is because it’s easier for girls to emulate their mommies.

So why not let daddy take the reigns for awhile?

Let your little guy watch daddy go potty. Then have him sit on his potty right next to daddy. Make sure to give him a book (we love this potty book for boys) or his pretend phone so he can really play the part.

Daddy’s words of encouragement are also *really* important. When I say good job, I get a smile out of my son; but when daddy says well done, he beams from ear to ear. 

I’m okay with being chopped liver…as long as it helps him get out of diapers.

Potty Training Boys Trap #4:
Being Stingy With Rewards

In the world of potty training boys, a little reward can go a long way. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you praise or reward your child with an appropriate treat after every successful potty time so your toilet-training toddler is motivated to keep trying.

Yep, you read that right…every single time. 

What sort of rewards work best?

That all depends on your son.

  • Does he love stickers? Give him a badge of honor every time he goes with one of these fun reward stickers.
  • Maybe he has a sweet tooth. Try jelly beans or m&ms (one for trying, two for pee, and three for poo). Then, when he’s all done and you’re swimming in jelly beans…use them in a few fun learning activities!
  • Perhaps little rewards don’t do much for him. Try a potty chart where he can work his way up to a really cool prize (like a new Hot Wheels car!).
  • Or maybe words of encouragement or quality time mean way more to him than any prize ever could. Give him a high five, do a fun potty dance, or run around the house cheering each time he goes!

Now is not the time to worry about spoiling your child, mama. Heap on the praise!

Boy Potty Training Trap #5:
Underestimating the Importance of Cool Underwear

Confession: I totally fell for this booby trap.

I figured I should wait until my oldest son was completely trained to introduce underwear, but boy was I wrong.

After a few months of unsuccessful potty training, I decided to try letting him wear big boy underpants on a whim. I kid you not–it was THE BEST potty training move I ever made. My autobot-obsessed three-year old loved his Transformer undies and suddenly became very motivated to use the potty.

Every little boy is different, so what worked for mine may not work for yours. But friend, the moral of the story is to not feel too bound to “what the experts say” and to feel freedom to try out whatever you think will work for your son. If you think Thomas the Train or Paw Patrol undies might motivate your little man, than by all means, go for it!

If you’re nervous about transitioning straight into regular underwear, try these cloth training pants instead. They’re not as absorbent as a diaper, but they’ll give your child a little bit of the padding he’s familiar with.

Potty Training Boys Trap #6:
Being Inconsistent

You can arm yourself with potty chairs and potty books, rewards and undies, but one of the most powerful weapons in battling the diaper-wearing dragon is consistency.

Toddlers thrive on routine. According to parenting expert Justin Coulson, PhD, that’s because routine gives little ones a sense of security in knowing that there is predictability and certainty in their lives.

Here are four ways you can be consistent for your little one during potty training:

Once you break up with diapers, don’t come running back.

There will be days—busy days, sick days, I-just-wanna-pull-my-hair-out-days—when you want more than anything to fall back on diapers.

Resist the urge, mama.

If he knows that diapers are still an option, he may start holding out on you. You don’t want to throw all your hard work down the toilet (well, figuratively at least).

Set a timer.

Who has time to think about potty breaks when you’re fighting the bad guys?

Help your little ball of energy remember to go by setting a “potty timer.” Use your phone alarm, a kitchen timer, or the Pull-Ups Time to Potty App.

Make sure the rest of the team knows the battle plan.

It’s tough to parent as a solo gladiator. The same can be said of potty training boys.

Think about all the caregivers in your child’s life–daycare workers, babysitters, Sunday School teachers, grandmas and grandpas–and make sure you talk with them BEFORE you start training so you’re all on the same page.

Keep up with training on the go.

Going out in public can be hard when you’re potty training boys, but you can do it! Here a few tips for successful boy potty training in public:

  • Mentally prepare you child. Tell him where you’re going and assure him that there will be a potty available. When you get there, point it out if it’s not too much trouble.
  • Have him go before you go.
  • Keep an extra plastic potty in the car.
  • Make sure you have an extra set of undies or training pants, along with an extra outfit, in case of an accident.

It’s hard to stay consistent, I know. But I promise you it will pay off when he’s (finally!) consistently going potty on his own.

Boy Potty Training Trap #7:
Stressing Out 

Try to remember that this isn’t life or death, mama. Your son (hopefully) won’t go to college in diapers.

Kids can sense when we’re stressed out. When accidents happen, don’t get angry. Try to remain positive and encouraging. He’s stressed out enough by all the changes. He needs you to remain calm.

When accidents happen (because they will), Shout Advanced and Nature’s Miracle are this boy mom’s secret weapons of choice.

Well, boy mom, you have your booby trap map in hand, and I’ve let you in on a few of my boy potty training secret weapons.

Slaying the Diaper-Wearing Dragon

1. Thomas Train Reward Stickers
2. Hot Wheels Cars
3. My Big Boy Potty | 4. Lil’ Loo Potty
5. Shout Advanced | 6. Nature’s Miracle
7. Baby Björn Potty

With a little courage and a whole lot of patience, I think you’re ready to face that diaper-wearing dragon.

May the odds be ever in your favor!



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