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What Surprised Me Most About Potty Training My Son

Black and white picture of girl and boy playing

When it came time to potty train my son, I was ready.


Armed with the knowledge passed down from generation to generation, mother to mother, parent to parent. And what was the vital knowledge, you ask?

I’m sure you’ve heard it before—that potty training boys will be so much harder.

Boys won’t be ready for a while, they told me. Boys are awful to potty train, they said. Don’t even think about potty training for a while, they reiterated.

I was not disappointed by the advice from other mothers. “Boys are hard and don’t want to learn,” one mother commented. “Girls are easy and want to learn and basically self potty train. The best tip I got about potty training my son was to wait — don’t try it too early — and that was totally true.”

Although both of my daughters had potty trained right at their 2-year-old birthdays with relative ease (both were completely trained, even at night, within weeks with a few tears, more than a few accidents, and maybe one reward chart), I took all of the “advice” from other people and decided to not even attempt to potty train my son as his 2-year birthday rolled around.

Heavily pregnant with my fourth baby, I decided we had too much going on and that as a boy, he just wouldn’t be ready. He turned two and that was that–#diapersfolife.

But my husband, unbeknownst to me, had other plans in mind.

A month after our son’s second birthday and literally hours after we came home from the hospital after I had delivered our fourth baby (another girl!), my husband took potty training our boy into his own hands.

While I enjoyed endless baby snuggles and generally spent time sniffing my newborn’s head in postpartum bliss, my husband decided to see if our son would take to potty training. In his mind, it couldn’t hurt and if I had one less diaper to change when he went back to work, wouldn’t life be just that much better?

And wouldn’t you know it?

Despite me being convinced that my son “wasn’t ready” and that it was pointless to even try potty training until he was at least three and that the commotion of a new baby in the house would just make it worse, that little guy had potty training down in days.


I had been so sure that boys were “harder” and more stubborn and that potty training would be such a huge hassle for us all that I had no faith in my son at all. I had pegged him as more difficult simply because of his gender and seeing how quickly he got the hang of it and how proud he was to be a “big boy,” I felt thoroughly ashamed.

If it hadn’t been for my husband having more faith in our little man than I did, we probably would have missed that window for him being ready and struggled a lot more with potty training. He wasn’t more “difficult” because he was a boy—and I hadn’t been willing to look beyond that to pay attention to his personal cues.

Becky Mansfield, a fellow mom of four who literally wrote the book on potty training, agrees that boys aren’t necessarily “harder” to potty train than girls. “In my opinion, boys are so much easier to train than girls!” she shared with me. “With boys, you can literally see when they are starting to urinate. With girls, you don’t notice until they have a little puddle by their feet.”

I will say, also, that all of the advice about how difficult boys can be potty training did help me relax a little when my son didn’t quite get the hang of staying dry at naptime and nighttime right away. He just turned three and I am now working on getting him out of Pull-Ups at naptime, but he still wears them at night. Realizing that there is no specific timetable for him to follow has helped me not stress about the potty training situation, boy or not.

So really, there are two takeaways I’d like you to take from this little potty training saga of mine:

1. Having a fully involved parenting partner is awesome. Especially if they’re willing to do the dirty work (ha) of potty training.

2. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to potty training girls vs. boys. The truth is, every child is different and it’s better to ditch the rules, listen to your instincts, and follow your child’s lead instead.

And if that lead just happens to end up in dry pants through the night, I say more power to us all.

Image : Disney Baby

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