Potty Training Your Preschooler

“Every kid is different”, says one preschool mom, “and mine is no exception to that rule.”

It’s true, of course. And since every kid is different, the potty training method that worked for one preschooler won’t necessarily work for the next (or for the kid after that!). With another parent’s truism that “for potty training, peer pressure has always worked best – always, always, always”, it seems it’s the first child that’s most challenging to train. This may also be because of our own inexperience as first-time parents.

Then there’s the gender difference in potty training, with the commonly held perception that boys are “notoriously slower than girls…generally”. (It should be noted that all husbands are highly insulted by this notion, and it forms the basis for all manner of difficulties between the sexes.)

Potty Training for Girls

You can never have too many ideas on potty training – although it’s actually a brief period in the life of preschool parents, it can seem like forever. While you’re deep in it, you may not actually realize how time is actually spent on poop patrol, but one mother came up with a depressing calculation: “Did I mention that after No. 3 was born, all the kids were in diapers. I probably spent 25% of my waking hours just changing diapers. Yuck.”

Let’s look at toilet training success stories for inspiration:

“My niece was potty trained by having cartoon character underwear. She didn’t want to pee on Rainbow Brite.”


“The girls got it in 3 days. They were so ready and the big girl underwear I bought for them was way cuter than any diapers.”


“Our daughter was pretty resistant because when she peed, it was “warm.” Then she’d giggle. So, we drew a picture of a toilet on a piece of paper and every time she went in the potty instead of a diaper, we added a star sticker. When the toilet was filled, we took her to Chucky Cheese. Then we started over again. She only filled the toilet two times before she was trained.”

Potty Training for Boys

We also have some real-life toilet-training stories from parents of preschool boys. As in others areas, boys and girls tend to develop at different ages with respect to toilet training (ie., generally girls are interested in 2-2.5 years of age, while boys are somewhat later).

“I really only had to train my oldest son. He was recalcitrant in the extreme. He liked me taking care of him and was perfectly happy to continue in the diaper stage. He was almost 4 years old before he grudgingly started to use the potty consistently. We tried everything to get him interested but he really didn’t care if he was rewarded or not. My husband maintains he potty-trained our son in one hour, after a major (and horribly disgusting) accident at a local motorcycle shop. I think the boy just got tired of us carping on him all the time.”


“Potty training took us a very long time. My boy didn’t want to stop playing long enough to go. I told him the peepee needed to go home to the sewage treatment plant to be with its friends. That helped a bit. Eventually, he did it when he felt he was ready. One day, by divine inspiration, he put on his underwear and that was that. No more pull-ups.”

The following is a wonderful example of What Not To Do When Toilet Training:

“When my now-4-year old was training, he was outside with his father. He had to potty. Dumb Daddy decided that instead of bringing him inside, he’d show him how to use the Great Outdoors. Dear Son took that as an invitation to potty everywhere, and he did. The living room, the hallway, the front yard, you name it. If he had to pee, he just pulled down his pants and went. It took me a long time to undo the damage. Not to mention all the carpet cleaning.”

Let Nature Take Its Potty-Training Course

Your pediatrician will tell you that there are very few teenagers in diapers. Most kids are successfully toilet trained. And like weaning, like walking, talking and all the other huge steps our children make almost daily, they need to be developmentally ready. Being ready includes being interested.

Bee HappyEncouragement and praise and positive feedback are all very helpful. One family’s “potty-training technique [included] really cool stickers, given as rewards. [Our daughter] got to stick them all over a piece of plexiglass attached to the wall right behind the trainer toilet. On Sunday nights, we’d admire and count them — great counting practice too.”

Be prepared to make a slow, rather casual introduction, like letting your preschooler sit on the potty a few times a day, even if nothing happens. After two weeks of this behavior, reports one proud mom of a just-turned two-year-old boy, “he finally peed while he was on the potty last night! Yay!!!”