Take Aim: How to Potty Train Your Boy

Not long ago, I posted about how to potty train girls. I have girls, so it’s what I know. But I also know that many of you have boys, and you’ve got questions about how to potty train boys, so I’ve asked my friends with sons as well as dug into what the experts say to help you master this phase with minimal pee on the floor.

Hahahaha, ok, I can’t help with the pee on the floor (that happens with all kids, poop too), but I can help you with proven tips that come from those that have taught boys how to use the potty.

Truth be told, it seems like some grownup boys might need a revisit to this lesson, but whatever.

Signs Your Son is Ready for Potty Training

Much like with girls, boys have signs they exhibit too for potty training readiness. According to statistics, there may be a discrepancy of 6 months between boys and girls as far as readiness goes, but these studies must be taken with a grain of salt. They aren’t completely representative.

My friend Natalie had her son potty trained by the time he was 24 months old. She said it was easy. Then there’s my friend Ruth and her son who was nearly 4 before he finally got it right. It’s all really a crapshoot, pardon the pun.

Anyway, you’ll look for the same signs of readiness as you would if you had a girl. Your son should be between 18 and 24 months of age at the very least before you attempt potty training. If you push and start too early, it’s going to backfire.

Signs of readiness for potty training a boy:

  • He’s curious about the potty
  • He asks why Daddy stands in front of the potty and why you sit on it
  • He gets upset when his diaper is dirty
  • He comes to tell you he has to pee or poo, or even right after he’s gone in his diaper
  • He can dress himself
  • He can follow basic instructions
  • He goes around the same times each day

What is the best age?

You can’t go by age or just one of these signs. Of the most important, he’s got to be able to pull his pants down to go. If you think he’s ready, let’s move on to the next step of getting that boy of yours out of diapers.

Preparing for Potty Training Your Boy

If you think he’s ready or close to it, start the preparation process. That doesn’t mean you need to start today, but if he’s in that rough age bracket I mentioned above then you can look for potty training books for boys to start with because that will help him get ready.

I’m a big fan of books in general and I might not have boys, but I do know kids and they all get spooked by the unfamiliar. I’ve heard boys can be pretty difficult in this regard so grab some of those potty training books for boys which you can easily get on Amazon.

Mother teaching child to potty train while reading a book

Next up your preparations list is to get a small potty. I’ve been told that potty training toilets for boys are better than merely getting one of those potty seats.

Boys seem more fearful of falling in than girls, according to my friends with boys. You can opt for unisex toilets, but the biggest thing I can tell you right here is this: let him pick the potty he likes best. He has to want to use it and if he likes it, you’ve got a better chance of him going on it than in his pants.

Just to be clear,

He’s going to have lots of accidents. Boys and girls all have accidents when potty training and while I can’t find anything that states specifically from experts, every one of my mom friends with boys said that boys seem to take it really hard when they mess up. So be kind!

You may want to pick up a potty seat if your son seems agreeable to trying it, or you can hold off on that. There’s something else for potty training boys though that you might want, but not right off the bat. They make potty training urinals for boys and some of my friends with sons were very happy about this.


I have to tell you that shouldn’t be your first purchase because experts all agree that you should first train your son to sit on the potty to pee. More on that below.

There are a few more things you should do to get ready to potty train a boy. Make sure you’ve got cleaning products ready to go. Natalie again suggested setting up stations like she did around her house so she always her arsenal ready when Joshua was potty training.

She got a couple extra diaper caddies from the dollar store and stocked them up with cleaning products as well as wipes and paper towels. Her house is pretty big though, but even if your house isn’t, one diaper caddy full of prepped items is the way to go.

You’ll also be doing more laundry, which you would no matter if you have a boy or girl potty training in your house. My friend Christie told me that her biggest tip for potty training a boy (and she would know…she’s had 4 of them!) is to prep all the easy to pull up and down pants in the house and have them ready to grab. She suggests using clothes you don’t care about as much or even going to a thrift store to have extras on hand.

And of course, the last thing on the list – potty training underwear for boys. Let them pick their new big boy undies. Find the right size and then point out the characters he likes in those sizes and let him choose. Pro mom tip from all of us who have survived potty training: get at least 16 pairs of undies, more if you can!

Don’t Start During Times of Big Change

With all children, it’s important to remember that learning to use the potty is MAJOR! I told you in my post about potty training girls that you should never start the process when other big things are going on. If you just moved into a new house or you’re about to, wait until the dust has settled. Same goes for divorce, death in the family, having another baby, or even starting in daycare. Give it about 3 weeks before going into the potty training process.

Tips on How to Potty Train a Boy

And now that we’ve properly prepared, let’s get into the whole potty training thing!

Pick a date to start

Christie told me what worked for all 4 of her boys was getting them prepared with all the items above. Reading to them daily and letting them get familiar with all those potty training items. Then when they seemed familiar enough, she’d say, “Do you want to use the potty like a big boy like Daddy? Let’s pick a day to start!”

She said the key to this was her overall enthusiasm in her voice, like she just told him they were taking him to Disneyland. She said all 4 of her boys were on the trolley instantly just by her letting them countdown the days to the excitement of using the potty.

Let him have a role model

Your son will likely barge in on you a million times while you’re in the bathroom, so use it as an opportunity to teach rather than get annoyed that you have no privacy (you’re not going to have any time to yourself until they go off to college, so surrender!). The best way to teach a boy how to pee is to have him sit on the potty. I’ll explain more on that in just a sec, but it’s also important if his dad is around for him to show him and teach him more about his penis and how to aim it.

Have him sit first

Child sitting potty

The AAP says it’s best for boys to get the hang of sitting on the potty to pee first. They’ll have to sit there to poo anyway, and there’s plenty of time to help them perfect their aim once they get used to using a potty. My friend Kim said she had the worst time with her first boy because she was trying to make him stand. Her husband traveled for work all the time and she was left trying to teach little Nathan how.

Then she looked up what the AAP had said, tried it out and voila. Nathan was peeing on the potty.

Help him aim

You won’t always have to do this, Christie assures, but you can’t just sit him on that potty the first time and expect him to just pee in it. First of all, I can tell you that girls don’t even just miraculously pee in the potty the first time they sit there. Usually, they get up and then pee or poo in their pants the first few days of potty training.

Try to clear your schedule for these few days at least. During this time, when you get your son to sit down on the potty, he has to point his penis down into the toilet. Be ready for sprays of pee, and please try not to get angry at him. Don’t encourage his laughter of it either though or he may keep trying to spray his hose around the room.

Make it a habit

Getting a boy to pee on the potty is similar to girls in terms of making it a habit. Each morning when he wakes up, have him sit on the potty. Keep a stash of his potty training books for boys sitting nearby or any board books so he can automatically go sit there and read. He’s going to get it, so relax.

Always encourage

Potty training any child is a difficult time, but by being kind and encouraging, you’ll help things flow along better, pardon the pun again. It’s a good idea to have him sit on the potty every 45 minutes to an hour, sooner than that if you’ve given him juice and snacks. Every little step he takes toward going on the potty is a step in the right direction.

Even if he takes a step back, and he will. Mine did. All my friends with both boys and girls did. Yours will too. No matter what, keep that Disneyland smile on at all times, even if you just want to scream because you just scrubbed the rug and he’s peed all over it. AGAIN. Even if he made a poop in the potty yesterday and today he’s smuggling a loaf in his pants.

This, I’m sure, is why wine was invented.

Besides, if you punish, get angry, threaten, or anything negative during the potty training phase, it will just extend your time in this phase. And it will give you a child that is terrified of using the potty.

Reward good potty behavior

When I talked about potty training girls, I provided tips for rewards that worked for my daughters. Boys are the same with rewards. Check out what I said about that here. All kids love rewards and it has the added bonus of making your child want to repeat the behavior they were rewarded for.

Try potty training aids for boys

Once your son has a handle (ugh, sorry!) on the potty training situation with sitting, he might like to try out those potty training urinals for boys with the help of his dad or even try some target practice in any toilet in the house. They make these toilet-safe flushable targets that are certainly worth a try!

Nighttime Training Pants – Yay or Nay?

The Mayo Clinic says that children even as old as 5 or 6 may have accidents at night and there’s nothing unusual about that. It’s harder for kids to gain control over nighttime bladder situations so some moms, myself included, opt for pull-ups. It worked great for my girls.

Natalie was a big NO on this. She said once she started potty training her son, she never bought another diaper for him again. She took protective measures for his mattress but she said within a week, he’d learned to get to the bathroom at night or else wake up in a bed full of pee.

Christie said she used pull-ups for all her sons and they each were out of them at night a few months after daytime potty training had begun. It’s your call really as to what you think is best, but I personally loved not having to wake at 3am to start laundry. My daughters also loved when they woke up dry and got to report it and learned not to feel bad if they peed in the pull-ups by mistake at night.

Can You Potty Train a Boy in 3 Days?

I really truly disagree with the potty training in 3 days’ methods. I think they all come back to bite you on the butt in the end. Kids need time to adjust, not to be pushed around like they’re in the army.

But I’m just one mom out of many. My friend Charlotte did the 3-day method with her son and it worked great for them…for two months. Then he regressed (he was just 2 when she potty trained him) and she had to start all over again.

Natalie did her potty training with her son fairly quickly but it wasn’t a 3-day situation. There are tons of books on the subject, touting success in just 3 days but I don’t buy it. From what I’ve cited in this post and my potty training girls post, most experts do not think pushing your child to potty train in just 3 days is the right solution.

What I do agree with is staying home the first few days just to keep things from getting too chaotic. If you have to run here and there and all over, it may make potty training more intimidating for your son.

Bottom Line

Be patient and be kind. You may do everything right and it could take longer, or it could be faster than you think. But with these tips I’ve outlined here, you’ll be on your way to getting your little man potty-trained with more success.

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