Toilet Training for a Boy

Ever since Gavin was little I have been attempting to toilet train him on and off.  Although most Potty Training books will tell you it’s useless trying to train a child that isn’t ready for it, I came across another school of thought called natural infant hygiene (also called elimination communication or infant potty training) that believed infants already have an instinct for elimination.  It followed that if a parent was in tuned with the infant’s elimination cues, that parent could effectively potty train the infant before the habit of eliminating in a diaper is developed, after which time it becomes more challenging to potty train the child.

To be honest, I never really attempted to practice natural infant hygiene fully or completely.  I did try to practice it for a few hours a day while we were at home but not when we went out.  Even with this partial practice of NIH, we had some successes peeing and poop-training Gavin, interspersed with phases of regression.  There was even a phase when he would actively tell me he needed to use the bathroom.

Unfortunately, Gavin’s successful run of telling us he needed to poop was not a permanent one.  Some time back, we had another phase of regression which doesn’t appear to be correctable.  At some point (when I wasn’t paying attention), Gavin seemed to have decided for himself that he no longer wanted to use the toilet to pee or to poop.

Despite starting our little sticker chart and reward system for peeing and pooping into the toilet bowl, Gavin still refuses to tell me when he needs to go.  As far as I can tell, he is aware of the rewards and he is keen on them – he often repeats to me what he’ll get if he can pee and poop into the toilet bowl.  In this case, however, knowing the rewards and doing the deeds to achieve them appear to be two different things.

Although he is fully equipped with the awareness and the words to tell me he needs to use the bathroom, he still persists on telling me after the fact.  While I’m cleaning him up, he’ll remind me that he gets a sticker for peeing and pooping into the toilet bowl.  Then I’ll have to remind him gently that he didn’t do it in the toilet bowl so he doesn’t get a sticker this time.

Currently, our only successes have been when I have actively taken him and sat him on the toilet.  Occasionally, when I see him straining to poop, I can get him to the bathroom before the deed is done.  Most often, it’s usually done by the time I catch him at it.  Only when he’s partially constipated does he ever tell us he needs to poop before he does it.  As for peeing – it’s a real hit and miss.

How Potty Training a Boy is Different

Deciding to take things one step further, I started googling tips for potty training toddlers.  Did you know there are different tips for boys and girls?  The general consensus is that boys tend to potty train later.  Of course, the most obvious difference after that is that boys eventually need to learn how to pee standing up – which is obviously a challenge for mothers to teach since we can’t exactly demonstrate how it’s done.

Most tips recommend teaching boys to pee sitting first and once they have mastered the concept of peeing and pooping into the potty or the toilet, you can get a male (usually Daddy) to teach him how to pee standing up.  There are many reasons for teaching your son how to pee sitting first, but I think the most important reason is that it can be confusing to a toddler if he has to learn to pee standing up and poop sitting down.  Essentially, the main message you want to communicate is that pee and poop belong in the toilet regardless of how it actually gets there.

Potty Training Readiness

One tool that I discovered which I thought was very useful was a potty training quiz on Parenting iVillage.  I took the quiz for Gavin and it says that while he has potty training potential, he isn’t quite ready for potty training just yet.

Potty Potential

Your child is almost ready to begin the potty training process … but she isn’t quite there yet. You’ll probably want to wait three to six more months before you begin toilet training. A child needs to be physically, emotionally and cognitively ready to become potty-trained, and yours may not be all three quite yet. Consider any or all of the following to describe your child and explain why she isn’t ready:

She understands and can communicate the need to go to the bathroom, but she only tells you she’s gone after the fact. Ideally, when she’s ready to be potty trained, she’ll tell you that she has to go before she actually goes.

Yup, that’s Gavin alright.

She still has a wet diaper after naps. Is she continuously drinking fluids? That could be part of the reason she’s still wetting every two hours.

Gavin usually has a wet diaper after a nap, however, he can occasionally go two hours without wetting his diaper – sometimes.

She may be too young. Emotionally, a child’s sense of self starts to emerge around the age of two. For the first time, the child realizes that she can affect the world and her own life. Unfortunately, one of the first manifestations of this newfound power is the terrible twos stage, during which the child seems interested only in affecting his or her world negatively. It’s not all bad, though. One of the positive results of the emerging assertiveness is a desire to grow up. And one of the best examples of grown-up behavior a child can relate to is being toilet trained. Once your child arrives at this point, she is more likely to cooperate with your toilet training efforts because she wants to. Body mastery is more self-rewarding than a desire to please.

Oops, that’s Gavin again. I once asked him why he didn’t tell me he needed to poop before he did it and he replied rather matter of factly, “I didn’t want to tell you.” He also articulated quite clearly that he doesn’t want to poop in the toilet and that he wants to poop into his diaper.

The average child cannot be successfully toilet trained before the age of 28 months. While girls are often trained by age two, boys may not be trained before three or later. Of course, there are always exceptions.

Well, Gavin will be two and a half this month so maybe we are a tad early on the potty training game…

Aside from the quiz, there are also ten signs to tell if your toddler is ready for potty training.

From the time your child is about 2 (though it may be nearer to 3 for some), you should watch for signs of readiness for training. If certain signs are clearly present, and the child is basically past the negative “no-to-every-request” stage, he or she is probably ready.

You’ll know your child is ready when he or she:

  • Is aware of the “need to go,” and shows it by facial expression or by telling you. (Yes)
  • Can express and understand one-word statements, including such words as “wet,” “dry,” “potty,” and “go.” (Yes)
  • Demonstrates imitative behavior. (Sometimes)
  • Dislikes wet or dirty diapers – don’t confuse this with your level of discomfort or inconvenience. (Only if it has poop in it)
  • Is able to stay dry for at least two hours or wakes up dry after a nap. (Sometimes)
  • Is able to pull elastic waist pants up and down. (Nope)
  • Is anxious to please you. (Sometimes)
  • Has a sense of social “appropriateness” – wet pants can be an embarrassment. (Nope)
  • Tells you he or she is about to go – praise such statements to set the stage for a child who wishes to please you by learning to use the toilet or potty. (Usually no)
  • Asks to use the potty chair or adult toilet! (Nope)

I guess we’re not ready for potty training…


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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