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Tips for Potty Training Little Boys

Updated on November 10, 2014

Is your toddler ready for toilet training?

Taking that step from nappies/diapers to the potty can be daunting, and can be a long process. Sometimes you just feel like pulling your hair out and wonder how on earth other parents have managed it. The truth is we are all in that position at some point, and some children take to it quicker than others. But what can you do to encourage that transition to the potty or toilet, and start saving some money?

The Early Steps

Once my son was able to sit unaided, and before he could stand up and walk off (around 8-9 months) I invested in a fairly standard potty. I tried to sit him on it a few times and he would buck his hips and refuse to sit down. Feeling rather dejected, I put the potty to one side and reasoned that he wasn't ready for it. But then walking around the shops one day soon after I found one of those training toilet seats, and brought it on impulse. That night while I ran his bath I sat my son on the toilet... and he went - first time!

With such a promising start I was naturally feeling quite chuffed, and presumed it would be easy from that point on.

How wrong could I be...?

Getting Started: The Best Products for Toilet Training Toddlers

First of all you will need a potty. Toilets can be a little bit too high for a toddler to perch on unaided, plus a potty can be left in the room in which they are playing and therefore can encourage a child to take themselves to the 'toilet' without having to ask a grown up.

Summer Infant Lil' Loo Potty, White and Teal
Summer Infant Lil' Loo Potty, White and Teal

I can't see the point in paying for branded or musical potties, when a plain one does the same job. However there are plenty of other options out there, ones that look like a mini-toilet, ones that "flush" and lots of character branded ones. I like the simplicity of this one


Older toddlers may appreciate the independence of sitting unaided on the toilet with the use of one of these toilet seats. They fit snuggly in the existing toilet seat and create a smaller hole: so less chance of their bottoms falling into the toilet!

Washable training pants cut down on the expense of disposable nappies.

green sprouts by i play. Training Underwear, Blue Jungle, 3T (Pack of 2)
green sprouts by i play. Training Underwear, Blue Jungle, 3T (Pack of 2)

My son wore training pants for about a year. They are great for saving money on nappies, as you can wash them and reuse them. I recommend buying at least 8 pairs, allowing you time to wash and dry between wears.


Potty Training Problems

I am sure I am not the only parent out there who has experienced this, but everything went along fine for a while and then suddenly... nothing. We had repeated cycles of going along OK followed by tears,tantrums and just taking himself into a corner to fill his nappy/training pants.

Our main issue was that he knew what the toilet was for, but refused to ask or tell us that he needed to go. What followed was months of guesswork and putting him on the toilet 'just in case', but a lot of times he would just go in the pants a few minutes after getting off the toilet. So frustrating, not to mention the extra laundry!

Looking back he had a lot to contend with: two house moves and his Nan died before his second birthday, meaning he was probably feeling unsettled.Plus the death of my mum had its toll on me, and I probably didn't put as much effort into toilet training for a while. In addition, every time he became ill it felt like going back to step one. Cue mum pulling her hair out!

If you are having similar problems think about your child's routine - are they settled in a regular routine, or is there a lot of changes going on that they might be finding difficult/unsettling? Sometimes though, they just don't want to do it, and all you can do is persevere and keep trying.

Something my partner and I had to overcome was the thought of little accidents making the house smell. Because of this I was buying pull-up nappies, you know the ones: nappies that pull up like pants. But while my son wore them it was as though he didn't feel the need to make an effort. We made most progress when we switched to training pants. But you can't rely on them not to leak. Occasionally if we were going out I'd put a disposable liner in his training pants to prevent leaks.

Super Undies Step Up Microfiber Inserts - 2 Pack (Medium)
Super Undies Step Up Microfiber Inserts - 2 Pack (Medium)

These are cotton inserts which can be put into regular pants to turn them into training pants. I wish I had known about these, as I used a disposable version (terrible for the planet)


To be honest there isn't really anything you can do about accidents except be on alert for puddles and clean them up quickly. With regards to furniture I found it helped to have old towels folded on the chair my son regularly sits on. That way I could quickly put the towel in the wash (with some Napisan), without having to resort to stripping the covers off our chairs. For the floor I would mop the puddle up and then steam clean the floor

NAPISAN nappy treatment powder 500G
NAPISAN nappy treatment powder 500G

This stuff is great to add to the washing machine to sanitize the laundry


So how did we do it?

What potty training techniques actually work?

After our most recent house move a few months back I took my son to the shops with me and let him pick out a new 'toilet' (as he calls it). It is a potty in the style of a chair, with little arm rests, and it is bright green. My hope was that by having some involvement in choosing his potty, he would be inclined to use it more often. This worked (a bit).

I ordered a book from Amazon which is aimed at toddlers and teaches them about using the potty. I read it to him every night. Eventually he memorized it and said the words along with me, after a few weeks of that I began to have conversations with him about what was happening in the book... For example 'Where do big boys do a wee wee?' He would have a think then reply 'on the toilet!'. At this point I knew he understood exactly what he should be doing, it was just a matter of getting him to ask.

The extra stuff that made all the difference for us

Boys' Potty Time
Boys' Potty Time

This is the book we brought our son, and he loves it! He asked for his 'big boy book' every night, and now knows it word for word. I'm sure this book tilted the scale in our favour. It is illustrated with photos of boys - but there is a girls version too.


We also brought reward stickers, which my son calls 'big boy stickers', every time he used the potty or toilet he would get a sticker, along with lots of cheers and smiles. They don't have to be toilet training specific stickers, any brightly coloured stickers will do. I get him to pick which one he wants , and then we play a game (his Dad came up with this idea) where we ask him where he wants the sticker... Sometimes he just wants it on his top, sometimes on his nose, belly button, back of the hand or even his ear! They don't stay there long, I usually find them on the floor a few minutes later - but he likes playing the game.

Fun Express High Five Sticker Roll (100 Roll)
Fun Express High Five Sticker Roll (100 Roll)

We have gone through hundreds of reward stickers, but they have helped to reward our son without resorting to things like sweets


Finally, I dumped the training pants for real pants. This was purely by accident, I put his training pants in the wash one evening and forgot to hang them out to dry. Next morning they needed to be re-washed to get rid of that stale water smell, and then I realised that he had no clean training pants in the drawer to put on. So I crossed my fingers and dressed him in proper pants (luckily we had some already), and he has been dry ever since. More importantly, he has started asking for the toilet - even when we are out and about! He still has a nappy for bed, and I just buy the store-brand cheap variety for that purpose.

(Update - my son wore a nappy to bed for approximately two months, then I made the decision not to buy anymore nappies. He went to bed in his pants and pjs. He had about four accidents during the night over a two month period. He goes to the toilet before he goes to bed, and now we get him to go again when we go to bed (without thoroughly waking him). We keep his potty in his bedroom, and if he needs to go during the night he calls me. He has been dry 24/7 now for quite a few months.

Potty training sticker chart (from 2yrs) - Ultimate potty training reward chart for toddlers and young children about to start toilet training
Potty training sticker chart (from 2yrs) - Ultimate potty training reward chart for toddlers and young children about to start toilet training

We had a potty training chart in our bathroom, and apart from the funny looks you get from childless guests who use your bathroom they work really well, and can be used to promote good behavior as well as toilet training.


What technique worked for you? - Has this lens helped you to persevere?

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