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Potty training can be frustrating, but both you and your son will be happy once he’s using a big boy potty.
However, you need to make sure your son is ready to start potty training before you begin.
When he’s ready, start by getting him used to sitting on a big boy potty.
Then, put him on a training schedule.
As he learns to use the potty, shower your son with praise and rewards to keep him motivated.
Making Sure Your Son is Ready
Expect your child to be ready between the ages of 2.5- to 4-years-old.
The majority of toddlers are ready to start potty training at around the age of 3.
Keep in mind that there’s no “official” age to start potty training, so it’s best to follow your child’s lead, if possible.
Since some kids can be very stubborn, you may need to encourage your child to start potty training if they’re getting old enough for it to be a problem at preschool or daycare.
Notice if your son stays dry for at least 2 hours during his naps.
Check his diaper to see if he’s dry.
If he is, it shows that his muscles are strong enough to hold in his urine, which isn’t true for babies.
Your child cannot learn to potty train until he can control his bladder, so it’s important to wait until you know he can stay dry.
If your son is not staying dry, then he likely can’t hold his urine yet.
This is completely normal! However, don’t start potty training yet.
Make sure he urinates all at once rather than in small amounts.
Younger children may release a little bit of urine at a time until their muscles are strong enough to hold it.
If your toddler is still wetting his diaper a little at a time, then he’s not ready to potty train.
However, if he’s wetting his diaper all at once, then he may be ready to potty train.
You can do several spot checks to see if your son is wet but hasn’t soaked his diaper.
If he remains dry for about 2 hours and then soaks his diaper, he may be ready for potty training.
Check that your son’s bowel movements are predictable.
For example, your son may typically have a bowel movement after breakfast or in the evening.
If his bowel movements are expected, then he may be ready for potty training.
If your son has bowel movements at random times during the day, it will be harder for you to potty train him because sticking to a schedule will be difficult.
Notice if your son can sit still for at least 5 minutes.
If he can’t sit still, then he’ll have trouble using the potty.
You don’t want him jumping up in the middle of urinating or having a bowel movement!
If he’s having trouble sitting still, help him build this skill first.
Have him sit still while playing a game, then reward him with a treat and praise when he’s successful.
Make sure he can pull his pants up and down.
This is a practical issue.
It will be difficult for your son to use his potty if he can’t get his pants down and then back up.
It helps to have him wear elastic-band bottoms while he’s potty-training.
Watch to see if he hates wearing a soiled diaper.
As your son gets older, he will stop wanting to wear his diaper when it’s wet.
This is a great sign! Talk to him about potty training and how it can help him be more comfortable.
For example, you might notice him pulling off his diaper or asking to be changed.
Getting Him Used to the Potty
Buy a potty that feels comfortable for your son.
Let your son help you pick out his potty so that he’s more likely to use it.
Then, make sure he can comfortably sit on the potty so that he isn’t afraid of using it.
You can purchase a potty for your child at a department store, children’s store, or online.
If you like, you can purchase a potty that has a fun color or theme that your son will like, which might encourage him to want to use it more.
For example, you might look for a blue potty or a Thomas the Train Engine potty.
Your potty may come with a urine guard that prevents splashing.
However, this can also hurt your son’s penis, so make sure the model you choose is comfortable to him.
You may opt for a removable urine guard so you can try it both ways.
Let your son sit on the potty while wearing clothes, as first.
This helps him get more comfortable sitting on the toilet.
Treat the potty as a fun addition to your home, and your child is more likely to keep an open mind about it.
Give him 1-2 weeks to get used to his potty before you move on to potty training.
Give your son toys to play with while he’s on the potty so it’s fun.
Choose a toy that works for your child, whether it’s his favorite toy or a secret stash of bathroom toys.
You can even let him pick the toy.
What’s important is that he sees the potty as a fun, un-scary thing.
For example, you might convert an old baby wipes container into a tiny bathroom toybox.
Then, place a few special items inside that your son can play with during potty time, like a small picture book, a fire truck, and a doll.
Let him watch how his parent or guardian uses the potty.
This will help him understand how using the potty works.
Let him ask questions, and be as honest with him as possible.
If he’s curious about how to potty, then he’ll be more open to learning how to do it.
Children learn by imitating their parents or guardians, so this is the perfect way for him to start potty training.
If he expresses interest in using the potty, let him try.
However, don’t try to force him to try, as that will make him afraid.
Starting Your Training Routine
Pick a time when you can focus on potty training.
Don’t try to potty train your child while dealing with other high-stress events, such as moving.
Your son needs to know exactly what to expect for the first couple of weeks so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed.
Before you begin, make sure you can stick to his potty-training schedule.
Teach him to use the potty sitting down, at first.
This is much easier for your son and will help him get comfortable using the potty.
Show or tell him how to position his penis as he sits so that it doesn’t bump against the seat or the splash guard, if you have one.
When sitting, he’ll want to have his penis pointing down into the toilet.
If your child is uncircumcised, don’t worry about the foreskin getting in the way.
A boy’s foreskin is fused to the head of his penis until he goes through puberty, so you shouldn’t try to push it back.
Don’t teach your son to pull or tug on his foreskin, as this can cause pain or injury.
When he’s ready, teach him to pee standing up by having him aim at a sticker or a few Cheerios in the bottom of the bowl.
However, don’t rush him to transition too quickly.
Place your son on the toilet for 5 minutes every 2 hours.
Start your potty schedule first thing in the morning right after your child wakes up.
Then, visit the bathroom every 2 hours and right after naps.
Sit with your son to make potty time fun. After 5 minutes, allow him to get up, even if he hasn’t used the potty yet.
While he’s on the potty, keep him relaxed by singing songs or playing with him.
It’s okay if he doesn’t use the potty.
Give your son some "naked time" to encourage him to use the potty.
Naked time removes the security of wearing a diaper or underwear.
This encourages your child to choose between urinating or pooping on himself or using the potty.
Remind him to sit on the potty frequently, and walk him to the potty if he shows signs of needing to go, like holding himself and hopping around.
It’s best to do this in a room that has a tile floor or to put down plastic sheeting.
It’s possible that your child will have an accident.
Make sure the potty is in the room where your child is playing so that he has easy access.
Begin night time potty training after he stays dry all day.
However, keep in mind that it’s normal for some children to wet the bed until they’re 10-years-old.
To figure out if your child may be ready to do night time training, check his diaper in the morning to see if he’s dry.
If he seems to be dry most mornings, talk to him about switching to underwear.
Otherwise, give him more time for his body to get ready.
If your son is wetting the bed, then his bladder may not be able to hold in his urine for the full night.
This is completely normal, but you can consult your doctor if you’re worried.
If your son really wants to wear underwear but is having accidents, try using disposable training pants, like Pull-Ups, to transition from diapers to underwear.
Reducing his fluid intake after 5:00 p.m. can reduce his risk for wetting the bed.
However, let him have water if he’s thirsty.
Keeping Him Motivated
Celebrate each little success to keep him going.
Each stage of potty training is a milestone, from learning to sit on the potty to transitioning to a toilet.
Show your child that you’re proud of him by offering praise, hugs, and trinkets that show he’s doing a great job.
Once he’s fully potty trained, you might have a little party for him.
In addition to celebrating, allow him to get rid of his diapers.
If you have younger children in your family who still use diapers, your son might enjoy “gifting” his old diapers to them.
For example, he might give the diapers to his younger sibling or cousin as part of his celebration that he’s a big boy now.
Focus on the positive rather than the negative.
Potty training can be stressful for both you and your son.
If he feels like you’re angry with him or becomes ashamed of himself, he’ll be less likely to succeed.
Instead of yelling at him or pointing out his mistakes, celebrate when he’s successful.
Acknowledge good potty behavior and tell him you want to see that more.
For instance, you might say, “Mommy saw how you did such a great job using the potty! Good work!” or “Daddy’s very proud of you for going to the potty!”
Buy fun underwear so your son wants to wear them.
Get underwear with your son’s favorite characters on them.
If you can, let him pick them out! This will encourage him to work hard at potty training because he’ll want to wear his special underwear.
Show excitement when you get the underwear so he gets excited, too.
You might say, “Yay! It’s Spiderman! Do you want to wear these Spiderman underwear?”
Give him rewards for using the potty
Rewards can be a piece of candy, a sticker, or a small toy.
Choose something your child enjoys receiving but that isn’t too expensive.
It’s a good idea to put the rewards in a basket so that your child will get excited about picking something out.
As another option, put up a potty training calendar and let your son put a sticker on every day he doesn’t have an accident.