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How to Potty Train Your Little Boy (Or Girl)

Potty training can be a huge success or a huge exercise in defeat. The toilet training process depends upon the readiness of both parent and child. Toilet training little boys (or girls) is much like leading a horse to water: you can drag him to the potty, but you can't make him pee.

Here are some helpful hints to abolish diapers once and for all!

1. Wait for signs of readiness.


Little boys develop on a different curve than little girls. Most little boys are not typically ready to learn how to use a toilet until age two and a half. Waiting for the signs of readiness will make the transition from diapers to undies pressure free and effective. If your toddler imitates your toileting, communicates well, understands requests (like "please go pick up the ball"), shows signs of discomfort when his or her diaper is soiled, climbs to his potty or toilet willingly, stays dry for three hours or more, gives telltale signs of squatting, has a natural curiousity regarding his or her parts, and can derobe independently, chances are he or she is ready to begin the process of toilet training. Do not begin the toilet training process during stressful events like illness, the holidays, or birth of a sibling.

2. Be creative, humorous, helpful, consistent and ready yourself.


If your child shows signs of readiness, approach toilet training with a positive attitude, remain neutral, be consistent, and break out the paper towels. Toilet training is a precious rite of passage that requires skill, precise timing, and a stress free learning environment. Reading simple, children's books on toilet training, like the Muppets Babies Big Steps Golden Book titled: I Can Go Potty (by Bonnie Worth) are often a great way to introduce the concept to your child. Make the process an adventure, take your child out to shop for "big boy underoos" and ask for his input in the potty chair purchase. Also, introduce appropriate terminology for body parts (ex. penis, anus, vulva, vagina, etc.) and functions (pee, poop, #1, #2, etc.) Be direct, honest, and refrain from nicknames.

3. Take small steps in the right direction.


Your child will need to master the control of his bladder and bowel before connecting what he's feeling to elimination in the potty as well as hold the urge until he is seated or standing. Bowel training is usually the first step in toilet training as the body's bowel signals are slower than bladder signals. Bladder signals are sudden, strong, and usually hard to control. The process usually follows this sequence:

A. Night time bowel control
B. Day time bowel control
C. Daytime bladder control
D. Night time bladder control

4. Put your child in undies, hide the diapers, and assume the "watchful waiting" stance.


Remember what goes in, comes out. Monitor food and (especially) fluid intake. Most toddlers need to urinate 30 minutes or so following a drink. Be ready for a mess if your timing in getting your child to the potty is off. Don't be discouraged or give up. Put your child in clean undies and use the experience to remind him "Doesn't it feel yucky to be wet? Isn't it so much more comfortable to be clean and dry?" If your child insists on being diapered, shows signs of fear or hesitancy, give in and try again the next day or week. Use your child as a gauge.

5. If you do make it to the potty in a timely fashion, don't worry about positioning.


If you have a little boy under the age of 3, chances are he's too short to stand and urinate. If you're a little boy's mom, don't worry about teaching him to stand as boys are visual learners and observing your bathroom activities will give him a gentle push forward. Also, letting boys sit avoids messes. Once he's tall enough and masters basic concepts, he'll stand.

6. Make a potty schedule, be flexible, and stay home.


Put aside at least two days to focus solely on the training. Accidents happen when mommy or daddy loses track of time and are busy with the dishes, chores, and other responsibilities. Write up a quick schedule, set a timer for a thirty minute pee or poop check, and go with the flow. It's best to stay close to home in the initial days of potty training until your child and yourself get a feel for using the toilet.

7. Night time is different.


Night time training is sometimes easy, and sometimes very difficult depending upon the child. No matter how tempted, resist Pull Ups during the day or at night. The absorbency of a pull up does not allow a child to feel uncomfortable when they are soiled. If you feel insecure regarding night time readiness, (or daytime readiness while in the car or out running errands) put your child in cotton training pants or even cloth diapers. Brace yourself for sleep interruptions, as usually they good sign your child is developmentally ready to be diaper free.

8. Instill cleanliness.


Teach your child to wipe (be helpful with the bigger messes), flush, dress, and hand wash. Assist at all times in clean up for as long as it takes to instill the value of hygiene. Say "Bye bye" to you child's output and praise every single step, even the slip ups because every step, whether forward or backward, is a step in the right direction.

9. Expect problems, set backs, and delays.


From time to time, children regress or have function issues. Knowing when to worry and when to let things slid is paramount to your relationship. Contact your pediatrician if you encounter or sense any "red flag" moments. Always trust your instincts.

10. Keep trying and when all else fails, refer to books, others, and experts.


There is a multitude of good information available (try The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears) or even your child's doctor, teacher, or day care provider for a go to resource.

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