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I was trying to find out the best way to potty train our son, since I know boys sometimes have a harder time learning than girls. I was thinking of just teaching him to sit when he is ready to start to try, and then later teach him how to stand when he could control himself better. Is this a good idea and could it help him? Or could this make it harder for him later?

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How old is your son? Ours didn't even try until he was 4, and that was after years of prompting and suggestion. It basically came down to us saying "You're ready. You're starting in underpants today" in spite of his screaming. Also, can we correctly assume that he's your first child? –  Ernie Jun 9 '11 at 20:36

5 Answers 5

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Our son is 2 and a half and he has peeing pretty much mastered. He occasionally has accidents, but is on his way. We started with him sitting down and he does much better that way. When we introduced the idea of peeing outside, standing up became the thing to do. When he is inside we will give him the choice, but he has much better aim sitting down which saves on clean up. :-)

Boys tend to take longer to potty train because of the physical development. We tried pushing the "Big Boy Underwear" idea for a while. He wanted to make it happen, but just kept having accidents and getting really upset. We would go back to diapers and try again in a couple weeks. After a few rounds, he pretty much mastered peeing in one weekend. We let him go naked for three days, at least from the waist down and he was on his way. We pretty much went cold turkey into big boy underwear when he showed that he was ready and able to keep them dry.

We still have a diaper at nap time and bedtime, but mostly because that is when he tends to poo. When he has an accident, we never say, "That's ok..." We just tell him that our pee/poop go in the potty. Good luck and remember to move at his pace. Everyone figures it out eventually.

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Thank you. This was very helpful. I am going to try the sit down technique. –  Kempra Jun 12 '11 at 12:12
This is exactly what we did (naked from the waist down) and our 3-year-old was essentially potty trained in a 3-day weekend. Sometimes he sits on the potty, sometimes he stands. It's all about how he feels at the moment. –  Meg Coates Mar 15 '12 at 20:46
This is an old question, but I feel compelled to mention another benefit of sit-down first: My friend couldn't figure out why his three-year-old was peeing fine, but having poop accidents. Well, he'd neglected to tell his son that boys only pee standing up. He didn't know to sit to poop. Also, if you're doing sit-downs first, then you'll be in a better position for poop surprises. –  Kit Z. Fox Jul 25 '12 at 17:47

We used an variety of techniques, but I know many people have had success with other techniques. The most important is to be patient, recognize if your child is developmentally and/or physically ready to recognize body cues.

My tips:

  1. have a plan and discuss with all caretakers so your son will have consistent help and support.
  2. no yelling/shaming for accidents - they need to feel okay with trying and messing up.
  3. no pull-ups - our preference since pull-ups may obscure the feeling of wetting his pants
  4. have a diaper-free day/weekend - this is the hardest but it really worked. we had a day where our son ran around without diapers. We reminded him every 45 minutes or so to pay attention to his body or try to pee. there were a LOT of accidents, which is normal. try this on non-carpeted rooms and have a pile of undies at hand. You also have to be very attentive to him throughout the day, so don't plan on doing laundry or reading a book. The next point is critical to this exercise.
  5. if he starts wetting his pants, scoop him up and take him to the toilet right away. do this even if you don't make it in time to reinforce the association between the gotta-go feeling and the bathroom.
  6. treat/reward liberally at first, then taper off. start out with a treat or celebration every time he tries. as he gets used to it, start rewarding more verbally, or else you will always associate jellybeans with potty time. and so will he. (oh, and treat with non-food items too!)
  7. diaper overnight at first. your son may not physically be able to hold it for more than a few hours due to the size of his bladder.
  8. timers/alarms are your friends. start with trying every 45 minutes during the day.
  9. I recommend "reminding" your little guy to try and potty, not asking him if he needs to go potty. that way, you don't become the potty police for the next three years.
  10. our guy was a little freaked out about no. 2, so we used a "magic poop stick" that he picked at the park. he held it during potty and it helps him, well, you know.
  11. we got training potties, which in hindsight was a pain. he didn't like the big toilet, and the cleaning! ugh. go straight to the big toilet.
  12. we started with sitting as many others have mentioned. once he graduates to standing, the cheerio trick works perfectly.

Good luck!


  1. I'm a parent of a recently trained toddler boy.
  2. Many of these tips come from an eBook 3 Day Potty Training by Lora Jensen. I don't like the hyperbolic title because it's not realistic, but the concepts discussed are great.
  3. Touch Points - does a great job of explaining developmental considerations when potty training (and in general)
  4. Our pediatrician
  5. Our daycare teachers (they've seen it all - definitely ask!)
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Put Cheerios on the back of the toilet. When my son had to pee he would throw a handful in the toilet and pee on them

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Brilliant. Does it work sitting down or only standing up? –  Joe Jan 21 '14 at 22:24
This doesn't really answer the question of whether sitting or standing is the best way to start. –  Erica Aug 25 at 16:39

I think that you will be better off having him sit than stand:

  • For little children the process of eliminating can take some time (they are still figuring out how all the muscles work). My own 5-year-old still doesn't know if he needs his bottom wiped without looking in the toilet to see what's he put in there. Standing up for a long time is much less likely than sitting, so sitting should take priority to help achieve the patience required.

  • Even at 5 my son's ability to control where his urine goes while standing up leaves something to be desired. It sounds like trouble in the making to even suggest standing up as an option for peeing to a very small child.

  • Unless standing somehow motivates him more, there's no real benefit to it.

Finally, not related to your question but something that helped us: my son didn't become potty trained until I had answered all his mental reservations. I asked him very specifically if there was any reason he couldn't put all his poop only in the potty all the time, and he had some reasons, which I was able to answer. I asked this same basic question several different ways, and each way he responded with some objections that I was able to address. Lo and behold, within a week he was reliably using the potty with few accidents, whereas before he'd had very little success. So it's worth trying this for any parent who's having trouble. (One example was that he said it hurts, but I explained how it's holding the poop that makes it hurt: "You know how when you're hungry, eating makes you feel better, and not eating just makes the feeling of hunger worse? Well, when you have to go, it's getting the poop out of you that makes you feel better!")

This happened around his 4th birthday and was a bit like a light switch. So for any parent feeling discouraged, take heart. Your child will use the potty when he or she is ready. But sometimes you can jump-start the process.

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I have no experience with my son yet, but I would imagine that sitting down is the easiest (cleanest, least frustrating for all) to train and should be the only focus until that's mastered. Only then (and outdoors) would I train standing up.

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