When my first was potty training, I was madly hunting for potty training tips for boys over age 3 because we had been failing for months. I NEEDED him out of diapers because our third was just born, and three in diapers is just no fun you guys! While potty training was easier to conquer for us, poop training was not. They are so different that I should really just call this post poop training tips for boys. So stick around to see what made each of those possible at a desperate time.
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Potty training tips for boys
I was sure we would be out of diapers in 3 days like the masters on Pinterest. Nope. I was sure candy would work as bribery or those cute sticker charts…also nope. Potty training was easy for us, but poop training…o man. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to be on the other end of it now! If you are frustrated that your son won’t potty (and poop) train or if he simply doesn’t care to be bothered, then read on!
2 things needed to potty train:
- Your boy has to be interested. Something’s gotta motivate him to want to poop and pee.
- You have to be 100% available, especially the first week when on pee duty.
Desperation kind of led us to start because my third baby just came home from the hospital. Ironically, my 3.5 year old boy and 2 year old daughter both potty and poop trained that same week, when my third baby was one week old. Sigh, that time was insane!
Benefits of waiting to potty train
I didn’t mind waiting to potty train my boy till he was 3.5, even if I could have done it sooner. While I loved the idea of saving money on diapers and not wiping up as much nasty squished poop, it’s also way harder to leave the house because because you are always searching for the nearest bathroom everywhere you go.
1. Shopping is easier in diapers!
For the first 6 months after we ditched diapers, we had to use the potty before leaving, when we got to a store, and about 1 hour later when leaving a store. With 3 kids under 5, this is no fun, but unavoidable! The good news is the older they got, the longer they could hold their pee.
2. Flights and road trips are easier in diapers!
Like I said, you just have to stop more when someone is out of diapers. This lengthens trips for us now, and to be honest I still throw a diaper on my 3 and 4 year old for “just in case” moments when we are flying. Like sometimes you can’t get to a bathroom in 2-3 minutes after they tell you they have to go at the airport.
3. Park bathrooms are often closed.
A lot of parks close their bathrooms in the winter. When you have a kid in diapers you don’t even think about that. Now that we have potty trained it’s always on my mind, and I’ve had to throw a diaper on them before at a park, leave, or find a secluded spot 😉
Signs your son is ready to potty train
- He can hold his pee for a while and pee larger amounts.
- Be able to pull his pants up and down
- Poops about the same time every day
- He seems interested
- He can tell you he has to go. Verbally or through signing, this will just make it easier.
In general boys take longer to potty train. I’ve found it was a lot easier potty training and poop training my 2nd boy because he wanted to be like his older siblings. If this is your first, don’t worry, it will happen…eventually. They won’t go to kindergarten in diapers.
When NOT to potty train
If your son seems ready, you also have to be. But there are a few times it may be best to just wait. Like if you have a big trip coming up, or will not be at home much during a period of time.
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Should boys pee sitting or standing?
For boys, you have the choice and there is no wrong answer. Tons of moms, including myself, start with sitting down for a couple of reasons.
- They need a stool to be tall enough to stand.
- It’s less messy at first when they can’t be still.
- It’s what they see mom doing, and I’m with him all day.
- It’s simpler to just learn to recognize the urge than to do that AND learn to aim at the same time.
- It’s one less step for them at first when they don’t have to put up a toilet seat.
- You can transition any time to standing.
When potty training a boy, remove any rugs around the toilet for a while too so they don’t get peed on, and keep some Clorox wipes around to avoid that stinky pee floor smell.
What if your toddler refuses to sit on the potty?
This has been an issue with 2 of my 3 potty trained kids. Likely the answer is to just wait. But buying a portable toilet may help, because it’s little and not scary! How CUTE is this mini one below? (my friend has it and it’s adorable)!
The next thing you could try to do is set them on the toilet and distract…with anything. Show them things in cabinets, pictures in a book, whatever. If that doesn’t work, especially if panic starts to settle on their face, let them hop off. Try again when you think they have to go.
I DO NOT recommend doing what I tried once which was to force them to sit on the potty. That only ended in screaming, sadness, and it’s not like they were going to pee or poop on demand anyway.
Why you don’t need Pull Ups
They are just “diapers” that cost twice as much for half the absorbency. My kids knew that as soon as a Pull Up went on, they could go back to their comfort zone and pee or poop one time. So I stuck to diapers till we used undies and just used underwear once they could go a whole day without an accident on the floor
What you will want to buy first
This is super important because their knees need to be a little bit higher up to make pooping easier. Most kids go out and squat in a diaper before this, and pooping on a toilet will be much harder to learn if their feet can’t touch. I like this one by Baby Bjorn because it has a rubber non slip Bottom and top, so it won’t slip if it gets wet.
This was our personal favorite and most used item. With this on, he knew he couldn’t fall in and we would bring this to people’s house if we visited.
We didn’t use a portable toilet much with my boys, but some people’s kids love it! I did buy one though and many of my friends said to keep it in the car for “just in case moments”.
Tip: I would also grab plastic potty seat liners because cleaning out poop from this and bleaching is no bueno. I remember that being a sad surprise about poop training into one of these.
Tips for potty training (and poop training) boys who refuse
I’m going to share a ton of stuff to try with your son if he shows no desire to leave the safety and convenience of diapers. Not every tip will work for every kid, but something will stick so keep trying new things!
1. Try out things that may motivate your boy
Use this as mega leverage baby! When my 2nd boy potty trained, he was happy with cheers and chocolate chips for both pee and poop. But that wasn’t nearly good enough for my first. Or ice cream. He took chocolate chips for pee but I had to get more creative for poop motivation since he was a little older. Wait till you see what motivated him!
2. Let them watch mommy and daddy
Kids model what they see and this makes it very normal for them. (and lets get real, they already watch mommy!). This is why it’s so nice potty training younger siblings…they’ve seen the older ones go lots.
3. Explain that they can never get flushed down the toilet.
It’s a real fear for some kids! Mr. Rogers Neighborhood has a great episode on this you can watch for free on Amazon Prime.
4. Leave the diaper off at home
Having no diaper on just forced the issue of running to the potty. Because my reluctant boy was older, he could sense he had to go and make it in time. With younger boys you will have to literally set timers for yourself and take them every 30 minutes for a few days.
If he’s outside, show him where he’s aloud to go. (Sorry if you don’t or can’t do this, it’s the country girl in me!)
5. Let him pick out super cool undies
Get him special undies he can wear if he can go a whole day of no accidents on the floor. We found this extremely motivating with my 3 year old that he got the privilege of wearing undies if he could make it to the bathroom.
Plus, lots of little kids don’t want to ruin or wet their super cool undies.
6. No shaming for accidents
It’s really helpful to keep potty training positive for them, as doing new things can be so scary. If an accident happens on the floor, we would say, “O no, you had an accident. Potty goes only in the toilet. Let’s clean it up.”
I’ve also picked up poop off the floor on occasion (I know, I know, gross) and taken it to the toilet. Then we wave and say “Bye bye poo poo. Poop belongs in the toilet.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve totally shamed for poop accidents many times, but it’s not the best plan. Who wouldn’t be frustrated after months of throwing away poop undies and pants because your 3.5 year old WON’T go poop on the toilet, even though you know they’ve done it before?!
7. Tell him which of his friends go on the potty
I’m all for leveraging friends here! Our son really looked up to some boys just a tad older, and he was pretty excited to know they went on the pot. Hey man, whatever helps!
8. Watch for signs he has to pee or poop and RUN to the toilet
Signs he has to pee: crossing legs, squatting, holding themselves, or if they are advanced they may even say “pee-pee” or take off their wet diaper.
Signs they have to poop: going to “their spot” where they usually poop, or finding a space alone during the usual time of day. Or, if you are lucky, you’ll just see their face change a bit like they are really concentrating.
If you see it help them get to the toilet fast! With my 2nd son, I’d often catch him starting to poop in his diaper and run him to the potty. I’d take off his diaper and make him finish on the toilet.
If it was already a done deed, we would toss the poop into the toilet from the diaper and say “bye bye poo-poo”! Potty training is tiring for parents because it really does require a lot of attention.
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One trick to getting stubborn boys to stop pooping in their diapers
Stay home till they poop the first time on the toilet. Ideally, till they poop twice. Your whole goal is to try and catch them trying to poop and rush them to the toilet so they gain confidence on the toilet.
Kids are opportunists man and they will wait to poop in that diaper (or their pants) if it’s an option. Mine certainly did and it drove me bonkers!
If you have to throw diapers on them then do it but watch them for signs of pooping and run to a bathroom to finish if possible.
Our biggest mistake poop training
One of the reasons we failed so many times to poop train my oldest is because I couldn’t seem to stay home long enough. Usually after 4 days, I’d throw a diaper on, go somewhere, and like clockwork he would poop while we were out in his diapers or undies. Here are some reasons kids hold in their poop.
This was my pitfall, and probably made it way harder and prolonged the process. My 3.5 year old would literally pee fine in the toilet anywhere but not poop for 4 days! Usually by that time I was stir crazy so I’d put him in a diaper and go somewhere.
He used those opportunities to poop while we were out, even if he was in undies! Every. Time. And not just a normal amount, like a mind blowing 4 days worth of poo-nami. Soooo gross. So if you are poop training, give yourself a good week at home, keep them naked as often as you can, and feed them lots of fibrous foods to get things going!
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What finally worked to get him to poop on the toilet
Giving him privacy (his request)… and a trip to Goodwill. He picked out 3 toys that were awesome to him, and I put the helicopter across the toilet on the towel rack for him to swoon over. We told him he could play with one as soon as he pooped.
It sat there a whole day with him begging and even trying to sit and go a few times. He wasn’t even allowed to hold the toy. On day two, he finally sat and did it after months of nothing else working! We gave him his prize right away, and put up the next one, a dart gun.
Maybe it was toys, or maybe we just so happened to bribe him with toys while he just so happened to be ready to poop on his own. Who knows! I’ve just heard over and over again you can’t force boys to poop before they want to. Maybe the toy made him want to.
The next day around the same time, he went again! Each day seemed easier with less fuss. The thing we noticed was his confidence grew each time he went. It wasn’t as scary as he had convinced himself it was.
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What didn’t motivate him to poop:
- Candy didn’t work.
- Ice cream didn’t work.
- Telling him he could watch a show didn’t work.
- Giving him the Ipad to watch on the toilet to “relax” didn’t work. (FYI, he just sat there and watched a whole show, haha)
I was so frustrated. If this is you, I’m so sorry. Just keep trying to find ways to get around their fear of pooping. Watch for signs and make them sit on the toilet when you see those signs.
How to wipe a bottom when potty training
I don’t know why, but this was really confusing for me at first! With diapers you always use wet wipes which gets the poop off easily and quickly. I found I preferred them over toilet paper when poop training just at first. Also, an easy way to wipe them is to have them lean through your legs while sitting on the toilet. Maybe this is obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me!
Tip: If you are like me and don’t flush even “flushable wipes” down the toilet, have a plastic bag handy. Doggy poop bags or grocery bags are perfect for this.
Potty training at night…should you?
Here is my full post on how we have handled night time potty training with zero stress and no loss of sleep with 3 kids!
Don’t feel pressure to do it at the same time as potty training…night training happens naturally if you let it and much, much later.
I loved doing it later because it kept our nights normal for me, and I found it didn’t harm my son’s ability to learn to pee on the toilet in the day at all. Most kids aren’t fully able to hold their pee all night till ages 5-7, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There are two main ways to approach nights and naps while potty training.
- Cut them off cold turkey, put a washable waterproof cover on their mattress, and wake up in the night to help them go pee, until they are able to hold it all night. Also eliminating drinks after 7 pm is helpful with this method. This is great for some parents, but it wasn’t for me.
- Eliminate diapers in the day time and just use them for nights and naps. That’s what we did, because I had a new third baby and couldn’t fathom disrupting my older two kids 12 hour night stretches. I did not want to rock the boat at this time of my life.
After doing diapers at night for about 1.5 years after potty training, I noticed their diapers were dry in the morning and we just took them away after that. Doing it this way has made it so we have literally had zero nights of peeing the bed at night. Sure, my son wore a diaper to bed till 4.5, but it was stress free for everyone and obvious when he was ready.
Hand washing & Potty Training Tips for Boys
The last thing is that this is the perfect time to introduce regular hand washing. Kids need to know how to do this before going to preschool, and it’s a great habit to start. If you have a hot and a cold knob, it may be helpful to put a blue sticker on the cold knob, so they know which one to turn. We also had to teach him how to move the stool to the sink.
Good luck in this crazy journey and if you loved this post, please share it on Pinterest!