Potty Training Your Son – The Best Time to Start
There is no set time or age that is best when it comes to teaching your son how to use the potty. What you do need to do is to look out for the signs that he is ready to learn. Potty training can be an uphill battle if you try and force it on your son.
Some boys will be ready from about 18 months old, others need a bit more time. Expert opinion posits that boys take a little more time to ditch the diapers because they have higher levels of activity and may not be as willing to stop what they are doing for a potty break.
Because you will need a lot of cooperation from your son, the key to making a successful transition is to start only when your son is not only able to learn but also when he wants to learn. Pushing your son before he is ready is a complete waste of time. Not only will you have a lot of tears and arguments, but he still won’t get the hang of it before he is ready too anyway. Basically, trying to take a short cut will end up making the process a lot more drawn out than it needs to be.
Our checklist and our basic guide on how to start potty training should be looked over before you get started so that you know what signs to look out for and so that you know when your son is really ready to start.
If you have seen the signs that he is ready to start, you need to plan a time to begin. It is important that you schedule the changes during a relatively uneventful part of your son’s life. He should have a firmly established routine and not be facing any stressors. Toilet training in itself is a big life change and this can be stressful for your child.
So, if your child has just begun at a new school, or you have just moved into a new house, it is better to put off trying to potty train him until things are more settled again. If you do start when he is unsettled, it is very likely that he will feel that he is overwhelmed. Look out for his natural curiosity to start coming to the fore again after a big change.
Potty Training in 10 steps
So you are ready? Is your child ready? Then let’s get your son out of diapers!
Teach by Example
Our children learn just about everything through observation – everything that we want them to learn and some things we do not. Start off by letting him see how both Mommy and Daddy use the bathroom. He is bound to notice the difference between the way Mommy pees and daddy pees and this will allow you an opening to discuss how boys should behave in the bathroom.
As difficult as it may be to discuss, it is vital for your son’s body image that you be precise when it comes to the names of the body parts – like penis and anus. Using a cure little nickname instead may make it easier for you but it could teach him that he should be embarrassed about his genitals.
Use the Right Tools
It is not practical to expect a little kid who is just starting potty training to use a toilet designed for an adult. Most little kids have a fear that they will fall into the toilet and so may avoid using it altogether.
You have two alternatives here – buy your child a potty of his own or get an adapter seat that fits over your toilet.
Buying your son his own potty is the way that I would go first. It can be a fun experience for him to choose one that he likes and this can make him more likely to use it. Do look for a seat that does not feature a urine guard – these are designed to prevent pee spraying in the bathroom but they will also make the experience more unpleasant for your son as they will scrape his penis as he is sitting down.
I would switch to an adaptor seat when your child has completely gotten the hang of using the potty. There is a bit more involved when it comes to the adaptor seat – the child must be able to climb on and off the toilet easily and they will need to have something to rest their feet on in case they need to lean forward while using the toilet. You will need to provide a stool for them to use. You must also make sure that the adapter seat is secure and that your child is comfortable on it.
The next thing to look out for is visual aids that will help your son when it comes to the information that he is learning. Taro Gomi’s Everyone Poops and Uh, Oh! Gotta Go! are always winners. Once Upon a Potty comes with a doll that has its own doll-sized potty as well.
Getting Your Child Comfortable with His Potty
Before you even start the training, you can get your son excited about using his potty by allowing him to personalize as he likes. Then have him practice sitting on it, fully clothed, for around about a week.
When he seems to have the hang of it, ask him if he would like to try it without his diaper. If so, great, if not, drop the issue and wait another week before trying again. It may be tempting to force him but this will only make the whole process much more difficult for both of you.
You could use your son’s favorite stuffed toy as an aid in potty demonstrations. Most kids will enjoy seeing their toy learning something new and they will be more likely to learn in this manner than if an adult just tells them what should happen.
You might even want to consider finding a toy potty or rigging a potty that is for the stuffed toy’s use. This can be useful in that your child and their toy could go to the potty together and is a great way to reduce anxiety and increase the fun factor.
Play Favorites with Underwear
When it comes to the new underwear that your son has to wear, there is nothing quite as inspiring for him as knowing that he can pick out whatever underwear he likes. Here is where playing favorites can pay off big-time. The more he likes his new undies, the more likely he will be to wear them and the harder he will try to keep them clean.
Make the trip to buy the undies seem like a rite of passage, a sign that he is a big boy.
If he still wants to keep his diaper on, try letting him wear the undies over his diaper. There is a good chance that he’ll ask to ditch the diaper when he is ready.
Create a Plan of Action
You need a plan of action that will work according to your own circumstances. Does your son attend a daycare? If so, then you will need to discuss your plan of action with the people at the daycare as well. Or are you going to clear time in your schedule throughout the training period? Work this out beforehand.
When it comes to training your son, there are two approaches that you can choose from – ditching diapers completely during your son’s waking hours or switching from undies to diapers and vice versa.
Generally speaking, it is better to make a clean break and clean up any accidents. Switching between diapers and undies can delay the child’s progress and be confusing for them as well. Diapers can also impede progress because your child will not always be able to tell that they have wet themselves.
You know your son and so you probably already know which approach will work better. If you are still confused, you might want to consult his pediatrician. At this stage, it is advisable to allow your son to sleep in a diaper and to use them when he is going on a long trip. It is also a good idea to coordinate with your son’s daycare provider.
Start with a Seated Pose
To start off with, your son should learn how to pee and poop sitting down. At his age, he might need to do both simultaneously so he needs to be prepared. This is also a good way to learn the basics without distractions. (Learning to aim standing up can be a fun game that may detract from his learning the basics.)
It is not a good idea to have something that can distract him while using the bathroom so do not position the potty in front of the TV. Set a time limit for him – maximum fifteen minutes so that he learns to get down to business.
Only once he has mastered the basics is he going to be able to learn to pee standing up. Again here, there is no need to pressure him into learning. Let him decide when he wants to learn. Let him learn visually through watching his dad, uncle, etc. pee. When he seems to have fully grasped the concept, let him try himself.
You can make it more fun by putting a few round pieces of cereal into the potty to aim at. Alternatively, you can set up a target on a sheltered tree outside and let him practice on that. Either way, do be prepared for some mess to made.
Ditch the Pants
If you are at home, you can allow your son to run around without pants on as a way to help him to learn how to use the potty. Keep the potty nearby so that he can easily get to it and, from time to time, get him to sit on it. Needless to say, you should prepare yourself for accidents.
During this play time, it is important to watch your child so that you can learn what signs he gives when he needs to go to the potty. (Like clutching his penis or squirming.) Do this at the weekend or in the evening when it is easy to watch him. The more he is allowed to ditch his diaper, the more quickly he is going to ditch his reliance on it.
It’s Celebration Time
We know that your son is not going to get it right every single time but, once he gets the hang of it, he will no doubt feel a great sense of accomplishment. This is the time to make a big fuss about him. Choose a special outing for him or come up with a new privilege that he can enjoy as a big boy.
Once he has gotten it right, you don’t need to celebrate like this each time he goes or he could start to feel self-conscious. Instead, you can set goals for him and celebrate milestones. Maybe when he has spent the full day without wetting himself he gets a reward, for example.
Patience is a Virtue
The more your son practices using the potty, the more he will improve but it will take time so you need to be patient.
Start off by making it as easy as possible for him – look for clothes that are loose and easier to take off and consider buying undies that are a size above what he should be wearing.
Should he still be battling, make sure that you only use positive reinforcement and that he does not see signs of frustration on your part. Overreacting or punishing your child for lack of progress is only going to make things harder.
Try to remember that a little bit of patience now can save you months more of accidents and possibly a return to diapers. In essence, potty training is like learning any other skill – your child learns from each mistake, much as they would if they were learning to ride a skateboard. Accidents happen and will occasionally happen again when your child has become adept at using the toilet.
If, however, you are finding that you are making no progress or that both you and your child are frustrated with the whole process, it might pay you to go back to diapers for a while and try again a little later.
Call in the Clowns
Okay, I don’t mean that literally but what I do mean is to make potty training more fun with creative ideas. The more fun your child has, the more you’ll be able to maintain their interest.
You can try this cool experiment (and yes, I did try it out when I first read about it and I thought it was fun):
Get some food coloring in different colors. Start off with blue and put a few drops in the potty. The water will change color and, when your son pees, will change color again. Do this with different colors.
Set up a rack with some of his favorite books in it so that he is able to look through them when he is using the toilet. (Do this only once you have established time lines for how long he can sit on the toilet.) You might even consider reading to him while he uses the potty as long as he won’t find it too distracting. Let him cut out some shapes from toilet paper so that he has something to aim at.
Up the ante when he starts losing interest by giving him rewards.
Using a progress chart is a good way to keep him interested and to monitor his progress at the same time. Every time he makes it to the potty, allow him to choose a sticker for his page.
When the interest is the stickers starts to fade, try implementing a secondary reward system – maybe he gets a toy that he likes when he has 10 stickers or when he has no accidents for five consecutive days.
Now onto Nights
Nights are always a little more difficult and so this training is usually left for last. Let your son master the use of the potty whilst awake before moving on to nighttime strategies. He should wear diapers when napping during the day and when sleeping at night. Kids do not take long to stay dry during naps – most will be able to within the first six months of potty training.
Training during the night is a bit more difficult. It will depend on what bladder capacity your son has. It should also be remembered that he may be sleeping so deeply that he may not even wake up when wetting the bed. Children can even wet the bed up to about the age of 10 so do not worry about the occasional accident.
Should your son come to you and tell you that he wants to ditch his diapers at night, you should let him. Again, make it as easy as possible for him – make sure that he drinks less liquid in the evening, make him go to the potty just before bedtime, and then wake him so that he can go when you go to bed. If he keeps wetting the bed, let him know that it is all alright and that he can go back to diapers for a little while longer. If he is able to stay dry for three nights out of the five, he is ready to sleep without a diaper.
Make a Production of Getting Rid of the Diapers
This is a huge milestone in your child’s life and should be treated as such. Have a party, allow him to give away whatever diapers are left. Celebrate his victory with him – he has earned it.