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Child looking up from the potty

Everything Nobody Ever Told You About Potty-Training Boys

By Amalah

Hi Amy-

I have a 2-year-old son who is showing signs that he’s ready to potty train. We’ve had him sit on our training potty (it’s an Ikea one that we used with our now 4.5-year-old daughter). He’s successfully gone (pee) while sitting on it, but…the pee went everywhere! I’m sort of clueless here.

What advice do you have for training boys :

  • especially things like how do you keep pee from spraying everywhere?
  • Also – is there general advice for sitting vs. standing for boys? I feel totally clueless here.

I had not intended to start training our son for another month or two. We are spending an extended visit with grandparents across the country while our daycare is closed and we are trying to actually get work done working from home during the coronavirus pandemic with a 2 and 4 year old. We drove to our relatives (20+ hr drive) and I don’t really want to deal with a potty-training toddler on a 20+ hour drive back home.

That said, he is definitely interested and occasionally insists he has to use the bathroom but seems unwilling to go in his diaper, so… here we are trying to potty train at grandma and grandpa’s. I probably won’t get too serious right away and will follow his lead and plan on using diapers for our drive back home in a month or so.

Do you have any thoughts or advice on whether to push through now or wait or just kind of do it in between? This is not how I planned for this to go, but he may have other plans for us (always keeping us on our toes, this one).


Potty Training Boys Sitting vs Standing

I never really developed a strong opinion on either side of the sit vs. stand debate—probably because both options will, inevitably, result in pee going places other than the toilet bowl.

(Thinking back on it, that’s probably why I DID develop a strong opinion against separate training potties vs. a potty seat that fits on the actual, full-size toilet. All I had were boys! Who all had terrible aim sometimes! Oh my God, there would be pee on the floor, the shower curtain, the WALLS! At least try to get SOME of that pee into a toilet that flushes vs. an overpriced plastic bucket that I have to rinse out every time!)

But no matter what kind of training potty or seat you use, and no matter if he sits or stands, he still needs to…aim. And this is not a skill that comes naturally. Like, at all. You must teach him to aim, and you must remind him to aim. Every time. And for a longer time than you’d think!

So for sitting, you need him to point his penis DOWN, and down ENOUGH that he’s clear of the seat’s rim. (Otherwise you get the dreaded splash-back, where some of the pee makes it in while the rest ricochets WILDLY off the seat rim, usually directly at you.) You might need to aim “for him” a few times and give him a word or phrase for what you’re doing. I think we usually said, “Point it down!” or simply “POINT IT!” after a while. Basically, create a verbal cue that you can use to remind him that there’s still one last potty step he needs to take after his butt hits the seat.

Will he forget sometimes? Of course! Will he sometimes wait a little too long to get to the potty and/or not get his pants down fast enough to fully sit down? You know it! Is having him stand instead the solution to all these problems? Not necessarily!

For standing, we used a Cheerio tossed in the toilet bowl. It floated, it held its shape long enough, it was small enough to encourage a fair level of precision, and it wouldn’t hurt the plumbing when flushed. It was also fun! Like a really, really weird video game.

Of course, there will come a time when you don’t have a Cheerio handy, or when you’ve simply had ENOUGH of throwing perfectly good cereal into the toilet 10 times a day. And then yes, there will once again (hopefully only occasionally though!) be rogue pee where there should not be pee. He’ll miss, he’ll ricochet, he’ll forget to put the seat up (OR down) and leave a mess you’ll discover right when YOU really need to pee. He’ll get distracted mid-pee and like, turn his entire body away from the toilet while you shriek DUDE STOP YOU’RE STILL PEEING!

I realize this is probably not the kind of helpful advice you were looking for. So let me add this: At some point they are old enough to clean their own bathroom. Make them clean their own bathroom. And then sit back and watch their YEARS of terrible aim come to an immediate, screeching halt.

Should I potty-train before a long road trip?

I also have a slightly more encouraging answer to your second question, regarding the wisdom of potty-training a toddler when there’s a 20+ road trip on the semi-near-ish horizon. THIS is where having a boy totally works in your favor. Because boys can pee anywhere. It’s not such a…thing for them to find an acceptable place to go, nor does it require as much…disrobing, as it does for girls.

We took many, many long car trips with kids at all stages of potty training. Sometimes we made it to the actual pit stop or fast food bathroom, but sometimes the side of the road had to do. And sometimes…well…an empty water bottle or soda cup became an emergency toilet because we were stuck in traffic with no end in sight and why didn’t you go at McDonald’s? We were just at McDonald’s!

(Say it with me, everyone! “BUT I DIDN’T HAVE TO GO AT MCDONALD’S!!!”)

Anyway! Go ahead and potty train him! Teach him to aim, the best you can. If he fully trains and is fully resistant to diapers when the time comes to drive home, put him in Pull-Ups as a back-up instead. (Call them his Special Travel Underpants, or something.)

And maybe, you know, keep a couple of empty water bottles handy. Just in case. For the next few years, at least.

More on Potty Training at Alpha Mom:

1. On “Scheduling” Big Milestones and Transitions
2. Potty Training & Travel: Do I Pause or Power Through?
3. Potty Training In the Real World

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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