Potty Training Boys (Without the Fuss)

One day, out of sheer madness, we decided to do it. You know, the whole stuck-at-home-for-three-days potty training method. Cabin fever, and all. We did it. And believe it or not, those three days turned into five. We didn’t leave the house for five days. And, in the end, it was the best decision ever.

When I look back on our potty training journey (it’s been about two months now, so not exactly a “journey” per say), I realize that although all toddlers are different, there is a science behind the whole process. Can you do it differently? Sure, but it might just take a lot longer, and there might be a lot more fuss, which is something we were desperately trying to avoid. My husband had just gotten tricep surgery and I was (and still am) in my third trimester of pregnancy. Not exactly a time during which you have the energy or motivation to pin your child down to a toilet multiple times a day.

Note: We are not planning on tackling nap time or nighttime for a little while. Liam still wakes up with very wet diapers and our goal is to simply reduce our diaper usage and get him to become independent during the day. He starts preschool next September and we’d rather get him potty training and not have to start from scratch when his newborn brother gets here.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.32.17 AMSince Liam had shown us that he was capable of going both number 1 and 2 on the potty back in July, we knew he at least felt familiar with the whole thing, and was more or less ready to tackle it. I think this is a major tip for all parents thinking about potty training in the near future: make sure your child is ready to start. Follow his/her lead. “Ready” can mean that your child stays dry for many hours during the day, or that he/she simply asks to use the “big girl/boy potty” on his own. You can also make sure your child sees you, or your partner, use the bathroom. That way he/she understands that this is what adults and big kids do. Back in July, we sat Liam onto his potty chair in front of a cartoon and kept prompting him to push, and he did. We weren’t able to fully commit then, and had to wait a bit, but it gave him a few months to mature and be even more ready.

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When I say the “three day” method (or, in our case, five) was the best decision ever, it’s because we did the whole potty training thing cold turkey. Liam went commando for the first three days, then with pants (no diaper) the next two. We didn’t leave the house, so he didn’t get confused about what to do on the go. We simply reminded him every 15-20 minutes (then eventually every 30-45 minutes) by asking him if he needed to use the potty. These reminders were eventually no longer needed, and Liam actually went by himself or asked us to help him use the potty. The learning process felt very natural and unforced, and we didn’t have to put anything “on hold” during that week. We didn’t use pull ups or anything that could potentially confuse him, either.

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We’d read a lot about having a reward system in place, and, for Liam, it definitely worked. We give him a high five for number 1 and a lollipop and sticker on his chart for number 2. We praise him every time he runs to the potty on his own (without us having to remind him it’s time to go), and he really does feel proud of himself. Avoid scolding your child if he/she has an “accident”, and simply tell him/her that, next time, they need to use the potty quickly before it’s too late.

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We had a good potty training journey so far, but that doesn’t mean Liam won’t have regressions. It’s common when a baby comes into the picture, or with any other “big” changes at home. Sometimes, he’ll decide to be difficult and have a few accidents because he tries to hold it too long. Other days, he’ll do amazingly well. Just like with sleeping through the night, be consistent, patient, and try not to give up when it’s hard. It’s all a learning process!

When it was time to actually take the “big step”, I did a ton of research to buy all the “must-have” potty training items. I’ll admit I went a little overboard at first, but now, two months in, I can honestly say the items below are our family’s favorites… and they’re all available on Amazon!

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.32.37 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.36.40 AMThis potty seat is Liam’s favorite, probably due to its soft cushion and fun design and handles. I love that it comes with a reward chart and stickers, too! We’ve been using them every time he goes number 2, and he’s always beaming with pride when we let him pick out his sticker. The potty is very secure due to its unique “lock” system, and it honestly does not budge once tightened. It’s a winner in our house!

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.32.42 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.41.35 AM.pngWe are obsessed with these stools for Liam. Our sink happens to be very high and the stool height is perfect for him to reach the faucet. He loves climbing up like a big boy, planting his feet on the footprint marks, and washing his hands on his own! The best feature about these stools, in my opinion, is the rubber grip at the bottom. They really do not move at all!

We use the Perfechi potty seat in our second bathroom (the one Liam uses occasionally) and actually really like that it’s so simple, resembling a regular toilet seat. At the end of the day, no bathroom seats have cozy padding and fancy designs, so this is a good thing for him to get accustomed to as well.

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I really wasn’t sure if Liam was going to love PoGO. He tends to be scared of toys that move/speak, so I was curious to see what his reaction would be. Turns out, it’s now his favorite toy! Developed by a parent and psychologist, PoGO says things like “I’m so proud of you!” and other positive potty-related phrases, but also reminds your child every 45 minutes to use the potty. Liam takes those reminders very seriously and always takes PoGO with him. Bonus: he’s washable!

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.32.48 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.37.55 AMOriginally, I bought Liam thin cotton underwear with Disney characters on them. They’re perfectly fine, but I wanted to get training pants with some absorption capacity for times when we’re on the go. The 3 layers make these training pants partially waterproof, helping to catch small accidents. Unlike with pull ups, which are more similar to regular disposable diapers, your child will feel the wetness with the onset of an accident. I love that they have a thick waistband and are easy to pull up and down for toddlers learning to do so. 

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Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.39.17 AMMy biggest fear about potty training was that Liam would go in the car seat or in the stroller when we’re out and about. This car seat protector has been a life saver! Not that Liam has ever peed his pants in the car (yet!), but it gives me some much needed peace of mind. It’s crash test approved, fully waterproof, and easy to throw in the wash!

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.32.56 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.39.51 AMThis is a fun change for little boys. Liam still has a hard time aiming directly into the bowl when he’s sitting (depending on how badly he needs to go), so we practice aiming into this fun little urinal. If it was summer, we’d have more options (like trees!), but for now this urinal is definitely doing the trick. Liam thinks it’s the coolest thing ever!

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.33.07 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.42.42 AM.pngFinally, we had to think of a “desperate times call for desperate measures” item, and this little portable urinal fits the bill. It saved our butts one day when we were driving down a busy road and Liam exclaimed, “Pee pee!”. We quickly pulled over into a vacant lot, unstrapped him, and had him go directly in the urinal. It’s very easy to clean once you get home, and can be a true life saver in public places when bathrooms aren’t accessible right away, especially in these early stages of potty training. You just never know when the need to go will strike, and it’s better than an accident! The portable urinal is super tiny and easy to stuff into a diaper bag.

There you have it, Mamas! My tips and must-haves for potty training without a fuss. It is important to note that, on average, boys are potty trained later than girls, so do not stress it if your child has no desire to use the potty quite yet. Besides, it gets a lot more stressful without diapers… so if you’re not 100% ready, then it’s worth the wait. I thought it would be a nightmare potty training Liam, but it was actually not as difficult as I thought it would be, and it taught Liam to communicate with us a lot better. Minus the accidents and occasional grumpiness, we’ve managed to make it relatively fun!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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