Differences Between Potty Training Boys and Girls

toddler boy and girl sitting on potty

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When it comes to potty training, you may be wondering if there are differences between boys and girls that you need to consider. While the fundamentals of potty training remain the same regardless of your child's sex, there are some minor differences between potty training boys versus girls. Understanding those differences and addressing them can help your child become a potty training pro with less stress and frustration for you both.

When to Start Potty Training

When you begin potty training depends more on the individual child than your child's sex. But there are some factors to consider when it comes to when you actually begin toilet training. Overall, girls tend to show interest in toilet training earlier than boys.

They also tend to complete the potty training process earlier than boys by about three months. That said, this is not a hard and fast rule. Some girls can be ready to start potty training as early as 18 months old, or they may not be completely ready to potty train until they're 3 or 4 years of age.

It's important to remember that each child is different.

Your older son may be a potty superstar, beginning toilet training at 18 months while your daughter may not be ready to start until she's 2. Meanwhile, your younger son may not respond to all this potty talk until he's 3.

Look for the signs of potty training readiness to save yourself and your child from setbacks that cost you months of time rather than relying on your child's sex alone. Overall, most kids are ready for toilet training at 2 years old but this can vary by as much as a year.

Adjust Your Technique

When it comes to potty training girls and boys, there are some anatomical differences to consider as you embark on the process. Little girls need to be taught to wipe from front to back. This approach keeps them from introducing bacteria into the urinary tract and is a habit that should be developed and reinforced from the beginning.

With boys, there is less focus on which way to wipe, but they do need to be instructed on what to do with their penis when going potty. Many parents start by teaching their son to sit on the potty and to push the penis down before going.

Others prefer to teach their boys to pee standing up. They might encourage aiming by tossing Cheerios or another cereal into the toilet and having them try to sink them while peeing.

Most medical professionals suggest starting out potty training a boy by having him sit on the toilet first, because standing to go requires developmental skills younger boys may not have yet.

That being said, if your son really wants to stand up, work with him on allowing that to happen. Stress the importance of peeing in the toilet and not on walls and floors. And, if he has an accident, engage him in cleaning up the mess.

Similarly, if your daughter wants to try peeing while standing up because she sees big brother go that way, by all means allow her to try. She will quickly realize that this is not the most effective way for her to use the bathroom especially when she has to spend time cleaning the floor and the potty from the mess. Most girls want to try once—or not at all—and that's about it.

Choose a Potty

Whether you've potty trained multiple children or this is your first, you'll find the potty you need to get started can be a bit different from girls to boys. With girls, you can pretty much buy any potty seat on the market and know that it will do its job for your daughter. That's true regardless of whether you're purchasing a standalone potty that sits on your floor or a potty seat you place on top of your toilet's regular seat.

For boys, shopping for the right potty seat is a bit trickier. Potty time can quickly become a huge mess if you don't search for a potty with a splash guard.

This guard prevents your floor or you from getting soaked when it's time to go pee or poo. Because both can come out at the same time, it doesn't matter if you're teaching your son to sit while urinating or to stand, when it comes time for number two, he'll still be sitting and a splash guard is a must.

Other Potty Training Considerations

When it comes to other aspects of potty training, children vary more based on temperament and personalty than they do based on their sex. Consequently, you will need to adapt your potty training approach to the needs of each individual child. Here are some things to consider.

  • Choose rewards: Some parents find that how their kids respond to potty training rewards varies between boys and girls. Whether it's a sticker chart, a piece of chocolate, or something more elaborate, you know your child best. Choose reward systems that will work for your individual child, and always keep a stash of potty training rewards on hand when you're out and about.
  • Monitor interest: While it's true that girls typically complete potty training more quickly than boys, the most important thing to remember is to remain patient no matter what, so that potty training doesn't turn into a negative experience. Additionally, some kids are excited about potty training initially and then lose interest the same day. Watch for signs of a frustrated potty trainer, adjust your methods, or even put off potty training for the time being.
  • Address accidents: Both girls and boys will have accidents, even long after they seem to have finished potty training. You'll need to carry a change of clothes and wipes with you for a while. Resist the urge to make assumptions about your kids, though, based on their sex. Accidents will happen regardless of your child's sex. Try not to get upset or scold your child when these accidents happen. Making potty training a negative experience at any stage will only set your child back several steps.
  • Prepare for completion: You can't put a clock on any child or make a deadline for them to finish potty training. They'll complete potty training in their own time. While both boys and girls can be potty trained within a few days, the average time for any child to be fully potty trained is around three months. But the compete process may take until they are 3 years old.

Potty training is complete when your child recognizes that they need to use the bathroom, goes into the bathroom by themself, and requires little or no help going potty and getting cleaned up. Keep encouraging them and stay positive throughout the process. Their hard work (and yours) will pay off soon enough.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Schum TR, Kolb TM, McAuliffe TL, Simms MD, Underhill RL, Lewis M. Sequential acquisition of toilet-training skills: a descriptive study of gender and age differences in normal children. Pediatrics. 2002;109(3):E48. doi:10.1542/peds.109.3.e48. PMID:11875176.

  3. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica. Association between urinary tract infection and postmicturition.

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Toilet training.

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By Apryl Duncan
Apryl Duncan is a stay-at-home mom and internationally-published writer with years of experience providing advice to others like her.