Most boys don't come potty trained (unless your son is a peeing prodigy), but you can teach them the art quickly and effectively – don’t worry, you no longer need to fear the possibility of sending him to his first school dance with Pullups underneath his tuxedo. The key is consistency (and bribery – LOTS of bribery). Still, most boys take to the toilet if you encourage them to set goals and aim high (but not too high – you don’t want them to miss the bowl completely).
It’s a long held belief (perpetuated by parents and pediatricians) that potty training boys take longer than girls. One reason for this is that women have historically been the ones who toilet train when little boys might be more receptive to their daddies.
Another reason is that girls have a stronger desire for hygiene. This is a desire that appears to remain for quite some time: the average teenage girl is showered with hair and makeup carefully done; the average teenage boy mists on some body spray and smiles while flexing in the mirror.
But, whatever the reason, boys can potty train if they want: they just need to learn to go like a girl.
Sit down, then stand up
The first step to this is to allow your son to sit down while peeing (and pooping, obviously). Sitting down gives him the opportunity to master the basics. Once he’s learned, encourage him to rise, stand tall, and pee like the wind (but not into it). However – be warned – allowing your son to urinate from a standing position before he’s ready is setting him up for accidents and you up for spending half your grocery budget on bottles of bleach.
Once your son has peeing down, initiate target practice. This is best taught by the father as he has the correct equipment. Many people use props, like Cheerios or Cornflakes, to give their child something to aim for. It doesn’t always work, of course – at best, your son grows frustrated by his inability to hit the cereal; at worst, he fishes it out of the toilet because it’s snack time.
Buy big boy underwear and rewards
For children who are able to control their bowels, purchasing underwear with their favorite characters is an effective form of manipulation: they’ll gladly soil a regular old pair of briefs, but nary a piece of poop shall hit the face of Spiderman.
Rewards are part of the potty training game too. Boys are particularly responsive to stickers – they like to collect them in binders or on jackets and show them off to their friends. Anything that instills pride in a child gives them motivation.
Make it seem like their idea
Children love to be in charge; if they had their way, sugar would be the only food group. A son who’s convinced using the toilet was his idea will grow more likely to use it again (and paint himself as brilliant in the process). If you’re expressive in your pride, your child will be more responsive.
Tips for the journey
In your journey towards the john, your pilgrimage towards the porcelain, a few helpful tips guide the way. So, keep the following in mind:
- Set aside naked time: Naked time is exactly what it sounds like – let your kid run around sans clothing. Without the security of a diaper, your son learns quicker to control his bladder.
- Watch for visible signs: Most children exhibit signs when they need to use the bathroom – they jump or hold themselves. Keep an eye out for these clues (and an ear out for a more overt one (the sound of water dribbling onto the carpet)).
- Try again and again: It takes some children longer to learn their way around a toilet paper roll than it does for others: don’t grow discouraged.
At the end of the day (or when you’re at the end of your rope), potty training happens eventually. Different kids learn proper etiquette at different times. The best you can do is go with the flow and wait for their flow to happen.