Potty Training Girls vs Boys (differences, tips, tricks)
I’ve always heard it said that it’s harder to potty train boys than it is to potty train girls. I don’t know if that’s true, but there is definitely a difference between the genders. Back when I potty trained my seven year old daughter, I thought that experience was difficult. Looking back, it was a piece of cake. We had spent about six months having her sit on the potty a couple of times a day and at this point she had pooped and peed in the potty enough that she understood the concept. Meanwhile, I was tired of her getting constant rashes on her sensitive skin every time she sat in a poopy diaper for more than two minutes. Her skin was just so sensitive and she spent enough time in the church nursery or in daycare that once a week or so someone forgot to change her right away and she would get a bloody rash that would take a week to heal. Mostly due to my frustration over this issue, I changed her into a night time diaper on the night of her second birthday and said, “You’re a big girl now. This is your last diaper. Tomorrow you will be wearing underwear and using the potty all the time.” She cried at the idea of it, but the next morning she woke up first thing and used the potty. The next week was her “potty training bootcamp” and right or wrong, I was her drill sergeant. Thanks in part to a very understanding friend who babysat her in the four to five hours I was gone every day, the week was successful. We put the potty in the living room and had her play there all day. She wore underwear and if she peed in it, she had to run around without underwear until she peed in the potty (this is easier for girls because they can wear dresses). I only did it this way because I quickly discovered that to cloth diapered kids, underwear doesn’t feel much different than a diaper, but a naked butt does. When she made a mess she helped clean it. By the end of the week, with regular reminders, she was down to only one or two accidents a week. She never really peed her cloth diaper during the night anyway so after a couple of months I took away that fail-safe as well. Having her use the potty was more work in one way, because I had to constantly remember to send her and make sure she had gone before we went on an errand or remember to take her while we were out on our errand, but it was better than using diapers. It was just a different type of work.
“…to cloth diapered kids, underwear doesn’t feel much different than a diaper, but a naked butt does.”
When my son hit that magical age where he became interested in the potty, I was in the nauseating and exhausting stages of pregnancy where I couldn’t do much about it. We put a potty in the bathroom and showed it to him and had him sit on it, but we couldn’t give him the consistency we’d given his sister. We weren’t really able to give him any type of typical potty training until he was at least two and a half years old, mostly because I had a fussy newborn/infant in my arms all the time and I literally couldn’t put the time in. Also, I’d left my part time job and taken up babysitting instead so I had four and sometimes five children in my care.
There was one long weekend where my husband was home and we had the extra time to try the potty training bootcamp that worked so well for his older sister, and I have never seen something fail so badly. We had him going to the potty every twenty minutes and he would pee on the couch, the floor, his bed—anywhere but the potty—in between those sessions. I tried to be patient with him and I was, until the last poopy accident of the day when I yelled and lectured him and I watched him begin to shut down and cower under my words of frustration. “This isn’t working, Becca,” my husband said. “Right now I think you’re doing more harm than good.” He was right, of course. I took a deep breath and decided that maybe I was the one who wasn’t ready for potty training. My husband and I decided that this time around we would need to let him take the lead. I took a deep breath and decided to calmly accept the fact that we would continue to have two in cloth diapers with twice the amount of diaper laundry. Then we let him take the lead. When his little friend came back to our house for daily child care wearing underwear, that was a turning point. I had to send her to the potty every forty five minutes, so I started sending him with her. There was no pressure for him to actually pee in the potty or for him not to pee in his diaper, he was only required to sit on a potty next to his friend while she sat on the potty. Soon, his body’s clock started meshing with our potty timing and sometimes, he actually peed on the potty! From here he started becoming aware of his bodily functions. He still peed in his underwear and pants, only now he finally knew when he had done so. “Oh no! I peed!” he’d say. “That’s okay, buddy. Just put your underwear and pants in the diaper pail and get another pair.”
From there, he became aware of his poop—which has been remarkably harder. He used to hide when he had to poop, which means he would suddenly get quiet and I’d relax, foolishly failing to remember that a quiet toddler is a toddler up to no good. Also, he usually farts for awhile before pooping so with the knowledge of those cues, I started paying attention to when he had to poop. Then he, in turn, started recognizing the signs of when he had to go. The first time he “pooped” on the potty, I’d been sending him all day because I knew he had to go and he was gassy. We were outside and he said, “Oh, I got to poop.” “Go inside and take care of that, buddy!” I said.
He went inside but braced himself against a kitchen chair to do his business instead of going all the way to the bathroom. As he began his bowel movement, he looked at me like he was helpless to stop it. I responded quickly. “Oh no you don’t!” I said, grabbing him under the arms and carrying him to the bathroom where I removed his poopy underwear quickly and let him finish his business on the potty…and he actually did finish his business on the potty for the first time ever!!! Up until this point if I interrupted his process as I had done today, he just sat on the empty potty for awhile and then finished his business later. But not today!!! We made a huge deal of how he’d pooped in the potty and then he got a reward—he got to watch Batman—and I sent Daddy a picture of him standing by his full potty, which made him puff up even more with pride because his Daddy is his hero. Now, every time he poops on the potty we watch Batman as a family when Daddy gets home. I sometimes send pictures of his turds to his Daddy at work because that makes it all the more exciting for him (“Mom, look, it’s HUGE!”), and then Daddy comes home and says, “I heard you pooped on the potty and my son beams in the admiration of this man he adores and then puffs his chest out in pride as he plops on his fathers lap to watch his favorite superhero save Gotham.
Our latest step in this l-o-n-g potty training journey with our son is that we have removed diapers during his waking hours (I tried during naps but he’s just so inconsistent then and I was quite tired of changing the sheets). We were letting him wear his diapers when we were out of the house because it was easier for us not to have to think about it, but we realized that he knew that he didn’t have to give an effort when he was wearing a diaper so he never went to the potty. So, we ditched the diapers at church and the grocery store and his play dates too and he’s been progressively doing better since then.
I’ve also discovered that he is scared of sitting on big potties so when we are out in public, if I sit him on the public potty—even if I’m holding him—he can’t relax enough to poop or pee. One day I set him on three different potties as we were out running errands and he didn’t go any of those times, but he peed in his carseat on the way home. Since he is a boy, this is remedied by simply allowing him to stand and pee. He likes standing to pee just like his daddy even if I cringe because he’s barely tall enough to do it and his private parts rest right up against the ceramic bowl every time.
I don’t know if there truly is a psychological difference between potty training boys and girls. I only have experience with one boy and one girl and each of them had a completely different set of circumstances when they started their potty training. My daughter was an only child who became a rule follower and a people pleaser largely because of her birth order. When we potty trained her all the attention of the adults was on her. My son, the true second born, likes to figure things out on his own and bend the rules. When we are potty training him our attentions are quite divided and he knows that and takes advantage of that. Honestly, in the case of my children, I feel that birth order is more of a factor than gender. However, there are obvious physical differences that you have to take into account.
I’ve heard from many parents that boys are harder to train because they are less likely to want to poop on the potty, they prefer to maintain more control over the situation, they take longer to stay dry through the night, and they’re generally older than girls when they potty train. Those have all proven true for my son so I’m apt to believe them, but it doesn’t mean that your son will be hard to potty train, so take all those warnings you get from other parents with a grain of salt. They can be helpful, but they can also be discouraging. Don’t let yourself be discouraged, even if your son takes a long time to potty train. I just keep telling myself that he can’t stay in diapers forever. This will end at some point and I’ll probably miss it.
Truthfully, though potty training is one of those parenting things that truly intimidates me so I don’t feel like the expert here, but I would love to share with you some of the things I have learned over the years.
1. You know your child.
You know your child. You know their personality. You know what they love, what motivates them, and what causes them to shut down. Go with that when you’re potty training. My daughter is highly motivated by praise and by rules so our bootcamp approach worked for her. I quickly learned it wasn’t a one-size-fits-all method when it flopped with our son so I had to relax and find a way to flow with his personality before we had any success with him.
2. Find a prize that motivates.
My daughter was motivated by gummies. Following that example, I let my son have a chocolate chip every time he used the potty but it didn’t seem to motivate him and he stole the chocolate chips when I wasn’t watching—something my oldest would never do. When we found that he liked Batman, that became a much more effective prize—though we have yet to find a good prize for when he pees. Watching 25 minutes of batman after he poops is one thing, watching an episode after every time he pees would be way too much screen time.
3. The buddy system
This isn’t always possible, but if your little potty learner has an older sibling or a twin, or if you babysit like me, using the buddy system for potty training was quite effective as kids are highly motivated by peer pressure. My daughter was in daycare when she started using the potty so on the days she was there, she went to the potty in a line with all her little friends. Peer pressure is a nasty thing most of the time, but there are occasions where it can be positive too. You might as well use it to your advantage when you can.
4. Get the right tools
Along the likes of knowing your kids, you need to know what tools will work best for them. Buying a potty training seat to plop on top of our big potty is helping our son conquer his fear of the big potty seat. I made my daughter special Sesame Street training pants and she was so afraid of making the puppets sad by peeing on them that it motivated her to make it to the potty on the time. The little girl I babysit just loves using the little potty I found in my basement that is now just for her. These are three things I found that motivated those, specific children. Your child has a motivator too, and in time, you will find it.
5. Essential Oils and pressure
When the girl I babysit was having trouble with bedwetting, I looked up information on my favorite essential oils website about potty training and found that some people had some success with using cypress oil over the bladder before bedtime. They also give testimony of starting a routine of firm pressure and squeezing on the arms and the legs to help the child become more aware of their body and where they are in time and space. I don’t know if her mommy ever used those techniques, but when I use them with my son, he’s more likely to keep his diaper dry during nap time, so it’s worth a try. Besides, it has become a special thing between he and I that he looks forward to. At first he giggled at me but now he asks for me to do the arm and leg squeezes. Here’s the link to that information, if you’re interested: http://hopewelloils.com/bedwetting-enuresis.php.
6. Real underwear
I think another important tip in potty training is switching to underwear. Whether you go to regular underwear, training underwear, or even Pull-Ups, it’s important to give your learner something that helps them recognize the change that is happening. Underwear does that. It not only serves the function of no longer catching their messes, but it helps them feel important and grown up. It helps them feel proud of their new achievements as a big kid who goes to the potty and not a baby who uses diapers. I prefer to use a combination of both big kid, “real” underwear with little to no protection and cloth trainers that offer some protection. I also think it is important that whatever you choose actually causes the child’s clothing to get wet so that they have to be inconvenienced by a change of clothing and are forced to be aware of what happened. Up until this point they haven’t been paying attention to whether or not their body is telling them to eliminate.
7. Proper conditioning and preparation
It is really important for your child to understand a little about “using the potty” long before that day when you expect them to keep their underwear dry all day long. I usually start talking to my children about the potty as soon as they’re able to toddle in there while I’m using it—before they can even speak. It starts with just me talking to them as I model the behavior I want them to eventually imitate, follows with my answering any questions they have, and continues when I pull out a little potty and ask them to sit the potty with me while I go. Of course you know where it ends—an independent and confident child who is completely in charge of their own eliminations.
8. Learning Materials
I’ve also found that it is helpful to use what the child already likes to help educate them on the matter. My first daughter really loved Sesame Street, so we bought her Elmo’s Potty Time and let her watch that as often as she liked. I remember once she had an accident and I was frustrated with her and she said, “It’s okay, Mommy. Grover says ‘accidents happen’.” If you aren’t a fan of Sesame Street or of introducing more screen time to your little one, try a picture book. Duck Goes Potty by Michael Dahl is a short, simple, and hilarious option, but there are many more too. We have also found that letting dollies pee on the potty is helpful. We have a couple of toy potties and both of my children have enjoyed both putting cloth diapers on their babies and having them pee on one or all of these toy potties. For awhile, we even kept a dolly potty in the bathroom so my oldest could have her dollies pee on the potty with her. The more you can get your child comfortable about the topic by talking about it and even introducing it into their play, the more apt they are to catch onto your enthusiasm.
9. Talk to someone who has been there.
Pick the brains of all the experienced moms you have at your disposal. I learned from a friend that putting Cheerios in the potty is a great way to motivate your little boy to stand up and pee. Another friend cautioned me that my son would probably use his diapers as a crutch if I continued to send him to church wearing them, and I found success when I followed her advice. I learned how to relax and let my son go at his own pace from other friends and family. I can’t tell you how many awesome parenting decisions I’ve made only because someone else gave me the idea to approach a situation differently from my original plan and personal limitations. Potty training is no exception. Don’t take for granted the experience of others no matter how under control you think you have things. Their advice may be invaluable to you.
Potty training can be a daunting task when viewing it out from the beginning of the journey, but remember that you know your child better than anyone else out there. You know your child. Use what you know about them to guide your potty training path. Don’t be afraid of trials, errors, and even failures. Know that the sheets will wash, the smell will eventually wear out in the minivan, you will eventually get your sanity back, and your little one will resurface from the journey successfully wearing underwear. I mean, that is a prerequisite to entering high school, right? Ha ha! No, seriously, as with all parenting stages, embrace the journey with all of it’s difficulties. It’s just another beautiful part of the process of raising little humans that you will one day look upon with laughter and cherish. It’s hard to cherish it now, I know, but there are moments where the clouds break for a moment or two and the sun shines through and I look at my little boy with his third pair of soiled pants and think that he is so beautiful and I genuinely love being his Mommy. Hold onto those moments, and also the ones where you find yourself elbow deep in poop because one day, there truly will be no more diapers in your house and no more poop smears on your walls and I think…I think you will miss it just a little bit. I think I will miss it.
Did you find this post helpful? Have any additional tips and tricks to share? We’d love to hear from you.
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