When we got Ruby, our now apathetic beagle mix with an under-active thyroid, she was an adorable puppy with floppy ears and big paws. In a newlywed haze, we picked her out of a box on a farm and snuck her into our college-owned apartment. We were in the process of buying a house, so my parents very kindly agreed to let her live with them for a few weeks until we moved in. We (quietly) cuddled and snuggled her, then handed her off to her doggy grandparents while we focused on our move.
She left a squishy pup and came back slightly less squishy, but potty-trained. In the midst of packing peanuts and hefting a hand-me-down couch up a flight of stairs, we got to experience all the sweetness of a new puppy while my parents did the dirty work (quite literally) of potty-training our dog.
When we had kids, it didn’t quite work like that. (Thanks a lot, mom and dad.)
Honestly, I saw no hope in sight for son #1 and was close to buying stock in adult diapers when he wasn’t potty-trained by his third birthday. I mean, I read all the blogs. Why wasn’t it happening?!
Ladies and gentleman, today I stand on the other side and happily exclaim that the stock in adult diapers wasn’t needed. He’s potty trained.
And you know what? It wasn’t that terrible.
With son #2, I’m so much more relaxed about potty training.
Looking back, there are the five things I wish I would have known about potty training boys. (If you’re a mom of boys, first of all, fist-bump to you because being a warrior mama to your tribe takes heaping amounts of energy and patience. Go you.)
5 Potty Training Tips for Boys
1. Try. I’ve heard that some miracle angel babies just decide to use the potty and then boom, they’re successful adults. I’m not sure if this is an urban legend or what, but in my experience, you have to start somewhere, and usually that means initiating a trip to the potty. (Is your little guy ready? You can find a readiness checklist here.) It can be scary to little ones (will they fall in?!), so we’ve liked using a smaller seat that attaches to the toilet. We also have a floor potty. Books and T.V. shows (there’s a Daniel Tiger episode we love!) about going potty help starting the process feel happy and normal, not scary and weird. Create a routine that is consistent with room for flexibility. (Go here to sign up for access to things like the Time to Potty app with Mickey Mouse. Kid-friendly + super helpful!)
2. Encourage. It’s so easy to get frustrated when things are not going well. We don’t need to get into the dirty details, but let’s just say been there, done that, sister. Positivity is a total game changer. When you’re frustrated, your little guy will get frustrated, too. Celebrate the victories, even if the victory is just that your dude sat on the potty chair for one-minute without sobbing. High fives and fist pumps and enthusiastic “yay’s!” all do wonders, even if you have to fake it ’til you make it. If you’re needing inspiration, try the Potty Dance.
3. Incentivize. In the beginning stages, we tried everything. We bought toys (good ones, even!) as rewards and kept them in the bathroom — in sight but out of reach. I thought it was genius, but apparently Joseph wasn’t falling into our bribery trap. Candy didn’t motivate him, either. Strangely, he was into putting stickers on a giant poster board that said, “JOSEPH GOES POTTY”. (Kids, I tell you.) Try it all, use what works and forget what doesn’t. Each little one is different. One may love getting an M&M every time he goes, while another may need Cheerios to aim at, and another might feel super satisfied by putting coins in a bank. For the love of everything sane, do not make yourself crazy about this. If your adorable, interactive, punny Pinterest chalkboard art chart doesn’t work, let it go.
4. Relax. Try for a while and if it doesn’t work, your little guy probably isn’t ready for the big leagues yet. And that’s okay. Put down the books and try again in a few weeks. I know some people swear by the intensive-two-day-potty-training-cure, and if that works for you, fabulous. But if it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself grace, give your son grace, and give all those inquisitive church ladies grace. It will happen (even when it doesn’t seem like it). If there’s a problem that’s keeping you up at night (How do you potty-train when you’re on the go? How do you tackle bedtime?), this site has short + simple articles that will get you back on track and save your sanity.)
5. Load the tool box. You don’t have to do this alone! Load up with everything you can to get to work helping your little man transition from diapers to big boy undies. Pull-Ups are lifesavers during the in-between, and after that, extra-absorbent training undies are helpful. Join the Big Kid Academy, which provides a personalized “My Pull-Ups” page with potty-training activities and advice (from parenting experts, medical pros, and been-there-done-that parents) customized to your point in the potty training journey. (There are also $2-off coupons!)
Potty training is not for the faint of heart, and I think we might be getting close to starting with Asher. (Maybe?! Eee!) He’s young and I have no expectations, but he sees how excited we still get for Joseph, and I think he wants in on the big-kid awesomeness. I’ll probably get more than a few gray hairs and I’ll probably be drinking copious amounts of coffee and I’ll probably call my mom just to make sure she doesn’t want to try that whole shipping them off to grandma’s thing, but I think we’ll make it through potty-training boy #2. There’s light at the end of the potty tunnel, you guys. (Amen?)