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When To Start Potty Training Boys And Girls

Galina Mikova LittleThings writer by Galina Mikova
Galina is a freelance writer for LittleThings based in the U.K. and specializes in lifestyle content.

Potty training is a subject that keeps many parents awake at night, browsing forums and sites in search of tips, advice, and proven techniques. But how do you know which potty-training tips will work for your child and which won’t? Surely, there is no “one size fits all” solution that applies to both boys and girls at different ages.

The truth is that potty-training readiness is related to the physical, emotional, and mental state of your child. Or in simple terms, you can’t expect to introduce such a change in a child’s bathroom habits if he or she is going through a stressful period, such as starting kindergarten or moving to a new house. Your child has to be both physically and emotionally ready for potty training.

Most children are ready to start when they are between two and three years old, but every child is different. Keep in mind that, as a parent, it is your responsibility to make the process as stress-free as possible. If it’s taking too long or you or your toddler is becoming upset and frustrated, chances are that you may need to try a new method. The key to potty-training success is starting only when you know your child is ready to learn.

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Signs Of Potty-Training Readiness

Child ready for potty training

Transitioning into underwear is a big step for every toddler. There’s no point trying to get a head start since it’s been proven that this can only be a successful endeavor when the child is physically or emotionally able. So the first thing to do is check for signs of potty-training readiness. The first and most important prerequisite is for your boy or girl to be able to control their bowel and bladder muscles. Having bowel movements around the same time each day, not having bowel movements at night, and having a dry diaper after a nap or for at least two hours at a time are all signs that they are able to control them. Toddlers must also be able to climb, talk, remove clothing, and have a few other basic motor skills before they can use the toilet by themselves.

As a general rule, children are likely to be physically ready to toilet train before they are emotionally ready, so expect some level of resistance to this change. While tantrums are common, potty training should be a positive experience with lots of encouragement on your part.

Disruptions or delays can happen if there are other stressful factors in the child’s life, or major changes in routine. Sometimes, a child who is doing well with toilet training may suddenly have difficulty for no obvious reason. This is a normal part of toilet training and should not prompt the parent to scold, punish or make the child feel ashamed in any way. If there are frequent “accidents,” consider this a sign that your toddler is still not ready for potty training. Put it on hold and try at a later date.

When To Start Potty-Training Boys

boy being potty trained

It is generally believed that potty-training boys can be a bit slower than potty-training girls, though it’s really a matter of how you approach the whole process. While every child is unique in his own way, there are common behavioral traits at different ages that can be used to determine when to start potty-training boys.

Ages 2 To 3

Potty-training boys age 2 to 3 has one big advantage: the child can comfortably sit down until he’s mastered the basics. Because toddlers are still not peeing standing up, this is a suitable age to potty-train boys without any accidents. At this time, toddlers love imitating grownups, so a little encouragement and a loving, positive environment can work wonders.

Ages 3 To 4

You can start potty-training a boy as soon as he starts displaying interest in how his daddy or big brother are going to the toilet. Some parents prefer to make it a fun game of “target practice,” where you teach him how to pee standing up. The later age to potty-train a boy can turn into a real bonding time with Dad as he teaches him how to do his business like a “big boy.”

When To Start Potty-Training Girls

girl being potty trained

Parents of girls are in luck, as studies show they learn quicker than boys at the same age. Girls also have a natural inclination towards cleanliness and tidiness, which works to your advantage when you’re potty-training them.

Ages 2 To 3

Starting at an earlier age can produce great results, being that toddlers are naturally curious and love to imitate their parents, older siblings, and playmates at the kindergarten. If your girl has seen other children at her age or adults go potty, she’s likelier to want to try it herself, so a good start would be to leave the bathroom door open when you’re using the bathroom. The lack of privacy may be a bit uncomfortable at first, but this is also teaching her the valuable life lesson that there is nothing shameful about her body or its needs.

Ages 3 To 4

Although girls have a stronger desire than boys to stay clean and not wet themselves, sometimes they can take a bit longer before they display signs of potty-training readiness. Since girls more often play pretend games with stuffed toys and dolls, you can use these to show how “big girls” should use the toilet. Choosing comfortable, cotton underwear with your daughter’s favorite movie characters can also make potty-training fun and interesting for her.

While the average age to potty-train boys and girls is between 22 and 30 months, parents should remember that having realistic expectations is the first step to beginning the process of potty-training. Accidents are bound to happen and your child is never doing it on purpose, out of disrespect or with malicious intent. Do your best to be encouraging and very supportive, and hide your frustration when your boy or girl has a slip. Remember that nothing makes your child happier than making his or her momma happy too; your approval and love mean the world to them. Taking the time to make them feel comfortable, loved, and calm will make potty-training a breeze.

We hope you’ve found these potty-training tips helpful. If you’ve tried them out and have had amazing results, make sure to SHARE the good news with everyone!