Potty-Training Girls and Boys: The Differences

Potty-training has to be the single most challenging thing about raising a child – in my experience, anyways.I recall my frustration (and perhaps a bit of jealousy) when friends would talk about how quickly their kids would pick up toileting skills. Some did it as early as 22 months.

My little one did not become day-trained until 3.5 years old, and, even now, at almost age 5, we’re still working on nighttime training. For a period of time, we were worried he’d be going to junior kindergarten with pull-ups. Or worse, his graduation!

Then suddenly, out of the blue, something just “clicked.” He got up from the couch, walked to the bathroom, and did what he had to do without being reminded. It’s been said that girls and boys potty-train differently and it is absolutely true.

If you’re experiencing the same frustrations I did a few year ago, these tips may aid in making the process smoother – for everyone involved. Remember, there is no right way to learn how to potty-train. Each situation is unique and each child goes at his/her own pace.

7 Talking the Talk

Girls: It’s important for both genders to learn their individual body parts and functions before they start potty-training. For girls, this is their vagina, urethra, and urine and bowel movements.Get in the habit of teaching them the proper names for their body parts, instead of referring to them by nicknames, such as their “pee pee.”

The trouble with not using proper names is if your child is at school, or has to communicate with someone other than you that a trip to the bathroom is needed, miscommunication could happen. That’s when accidents can happen, too.

Boys: Boys have to learn the name of their penis, anus, and urine and bowel movements.The topic of “bathroom words” can be a source of amusement for both genders, but especially boys. Girls tend to outgrow their potty humour long before boys. Boys could be in their mid-40s before this happens. Sorry, guys.

6 Is Your Child Ready to Potty-Train?

Girls: Children show signs of daytime potty-training readiness at different ages. It can happen as early as 18 months old and as late as 5 years old. In terms of gender, they share similar signs of readiness when it comes to learning how to use the potty. Both should be able to walk to and from the bathroom themselves, undress independently, show a dislike for being soiled, and show an interest in using a “big-kid” toilet.

Staying dry for at least 2 hours during the day, or during naps, is also a sign that potty-training can begin. Your child does not have to achieve all of these things before you begin the process. It’s more about spotting patterns toward independent toileting that is important.

Girls tend to mature quicker and have more advanced language skills, making it typically easier to learn the potty-training basics. Studies show that girls typically have signs of readiness three months earlier than boys.

Moms, show your little girl how you use the toilet so she will know what it’s used for and how to go about doing it. Take her with you to the bathroom and have her potty seat ready, in case she wants to try to go as well. Signs that she may have to use the bathroom could include clutching herself.

To avoid bladder infections, teach her to wipe herself from front to back. If this is too complex, she can always pat the area dry after she urinates.

Boys: Little boys want to be like their dads, so they will copy their behaviour. Take your little boy into the bathroom when you go. Teaching boys how to urinate sitting down at first is generally preferable, simply because they will be sitting when they have a bowel movement as well. When a boy starts to recognize he has to use the bathroom, he may grab himself, or hop up and down in one place.

When he develops the skill of sitting down to urinate, you can try him with standing. If he’s reluctant, or his aim isn’t quite there, try floating something flushable like Cheerios (yes, you read right) in the toilet bowl for target practice.

5 Scheduling Bathroom Breaks

Girls: Keeping to a “schedule” can really help when potty-training. Plan scheduled breaks every hour or so and ask if your little one has to use the potty. Consistency is key.

Boys: It’s been said that boys tend to be more hyper than girls, so getting them to the bathroom can be a challenge. It really depends on the child and individual maturity level. My little one was always more interested in playing and, often, we’d find puddles in the living room. At this stage in the game, do not just rely on the child to alert you that a bathroom break is needed. Gently remind (not force) them that it’s time to go to the bathroom – especially when they’re deep into play.

4 Considering Incentives

Girls: Let’s face it: potty-training is not exactly exciting. That’s where you come in; it’s your job as a parent to keep the enthusiasm going. Pooping in your pants and having someone clean you up is so much easier – make it worth their while to go somewhere other than in their pants or on the floor.

Kids are very much about “what’s in it for me?”, so keep that in mind when starting the process. A good incentive may be a sticker chart. Every time your child makes it to the potty on her own, she gets a sticker. It’ll give her a goal to work towards and she’ll likely end up with a whole collection of her favourite stickers when she is done.

Boys: Studies show that boys respond well to incentives (especially stickers). Incentives can even come in the form of treats or a promise to go to a favourite place. We would promise to take my son to an indoor playground he absolutely adored if he peed in the potty.

Sometimes we got so desperate for him to do bowel movements in the toilet, we’d raise the stakes: we promise to buy you that big T-Rex you’ve been eyeing if you do one little poo in the toilet. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Above all, keep the enthusiasm and load up on the praise. We used to clap loudly for my son and watch him smile proudly.

3 Accept That Accidents Will Happen

Girls: It’s inevitable that accidents will happen when potty-training. It is not an overnight process and can easily take six months or longer. Nighttime dryness is a whole other issue. When an accident occurs, clean it up calmly and try again. Yelling or showing your frustration will only discourage your child. If you have to, step away.

This goes for girls as well as boys. You may have days when you have multiple accidents and you feel like your laundry machine is on overdrive. It’s all perfectly normal.

Boys: Physiologically, boys can lag a bit behind girls in the potty-training department.One way to curb accidents is to put a potty chair (if using) in the area where your child plays.Put down plastic over your carpet to avoid stains.

Because your boy might be habitually and wonderfully rowdy, you might be tempted to interpret accidents as reckless disregard for what you’ve been tirelessly trying to teach him. Whether it is or it isn’t, try giving him the benefit of the doubt – discouragement and harsh discipline aren’t super motivating.

2 Ditch the Diapers

Girls: If your little girl is consistently dry and you think you can move on to underwear, go for it. Your little girl will love going shopping with you to buy special underwear. Get her to pick it out and make a fun afternoon of it. If you feel underwear is too drastic of a step, you can always use pull-ups as a transition.

Take some caution when deciding when the diaper-ditch celebration should occur; it might happen that what you’ve interpreted as potty-trained behavior was just a good week, and she’ll still have periods during which she poops in her pants again. You don’t want to end up back and forth between diapers and underwear – this process is convoluted enough without our miscues!

Boys: When you and your boy are experiencing potty-training success, let him know how well he’s doing and get rid of the diapers. This can involve donating unused ones to those in need or a relative. Make a day out of shopping for big-boy underwear and get him excited about this new step in his life.

1 Know When to Call It Quits

Girls: Because of the notion that girls potty-train earlier than boys, you may be inclined to start training early. Being ambitious is fine, but keep in mind that if you start training too young (18 months or younger for example), she may not be physiologically as ready as you think.

She may understand what she has to do, but her bladder and rectal muscles may be too immature to control. If she is not “getting it,” drop the issue and start again a few months later. A bad experience will only create negative feelings about potty-training and create a power struggle.

Boys: If you are starting to panic because your little boy is over age 3 and not grasping the concept of potty-training, stop and listen to him. He is trying to tell you, in his own way, that he is not ready. He may have to go back to wearing diapers for a little while; make sure he knows it’s not a punishment and, above all, it’s temporary.

Surely no 18-year-old went to the prom in diapers, so a bit of a break may do everyone a world of good. Plus, the peer pressure from seeing other kids at daycare or pre-school may be enough to inspire your little one to start using the big-boy toilet.

Potty-training can be equally frustrating for you and your child. Understanding the differences in training girls and boys will hopefully help make the experience a little better. Above all, be calm and know it will happen – eventually.

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