Montessori and Potty Training Boys

Toddler boy sitting on adult potty, with title of post on it.

My son E. is 26 months old and has been wearing underwear for about a week during the day (cloth diapers at night). For the first day or two, he'd make it to the potty about half the time... But after those first few days, any suggestion of the potty upset him very much. So, I stopped mentioning the potty, thinking he was still learning about his body... The past few days he has not attempted to go to the potty at all, just has accidents all day. Should I be doing something else? If so, what? Should I try to get him to help clean up? If so, how? Have I missed his window of opportunity?

Oh! The joys of potty training! Boys? Oh boy! Boys (when they potty train or potty learn) act just as you described! They are fickle! What to do?

Lisa Nolan's son and his buddy sitting at a table when they were in preschool

1. Don't show emotions when your child has accidents or refuses to try to go in the potty, just be matter-of-fact.

2. Don't expect the child to clean up accidents, you can invite them to help you, but at age 26 months they might not have the attention span or enough practical life experience (with wiping and cleaning) as they are still in a gross motor stage of development.

3. Don't be in a hurry to change them when they are wet... and exercise their "patience muscle". For example, if your son comes to you wet and wants to get changed, say, "OK!" and wait a few minutes. He'll ask again, say, "OK!" and slowly get his change of clothes together... in other words, part of potty training is letting the child feel wet; and part of having a toddler is teaching him to wait. Now is your chance!

4. Don't expect boys to be fully potty trained until age three (although at 26 months you have an early start).

5. Don't go back to diapers/pull-ups if you can help it! This just prolongs the potty training process and you end up starting all over again.

6. Don't expect independence, you have a toddler, some days he will refuse your help, and other days he will cry for your help! It is a between stage of development (and a frustrating stage for them).

OK, here are some dos:

1. Remind your tot to go to the potty upon waking, before or after eating, before playing outside, and before bedtime. Reminding is the best helper for potty training!

2. Allow your tot to experiment with dressing and undressing by leaving clothes in his room in a clothes hamper or basket.

3. Start stocking up on elastic waist pants (no more pants with zippers or snaps!).

4. Give hugs and kisses when he goes in the potty (in our classroom we used to sing a potty song!).

5. If you allow DVDs, show potty DVDs like It's Potty Time and Potty Power.

6. Start buying a few potty board books to read at bedtime.

What worked for my son (and it was suggested by a behavioral specialist) was to ask our son to go on the potty before we allowed him a favorite activity--like watching a DVD, eating a snack, or playing outside. So when my son wanted a snack, for example, I asked him to sit on his potty. (Shh, don't tell anyone but he also got a sticker! So not Montessori of me!)

One last potty tip, I promise!

A mom (the same mom who asked the question at the top of this post) e-mailed me a week later to say she and her husband found a great solution (from where I know not!): they allowed their son to put food coloring mixed with water into his potty before he used it (a Montessori pouring work!) and after he went he looked into his potty to see what happened to the color ("Yellow and red makes orange!"). I loved this tip and could not wait to blog about it!

So moms-to-boys, hang in there! And go out and buy some food coloring (and maybe a few stickers)!

Lastly, our MOST favorite potty DVD was Bear in the Big Blue House - Potty Time With Bear

Need some children's book recommendations for potty learning and training? Here are the top three: 

  1. Diapers are Not Forever
  2. Everyone Poops
  3. Where's the Poop?
Want to read more Montessori toddler blog posts, click here!

Toddler boy sitting on adult potty

Top and Bottom photo credit: desertrice / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Second photo by Lisa Nolan

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And now for my top posts!

The Working Mom's Guide to Montessori in the Home by Meghan of Milkweed and Montessori

Montessori and Composting with Kids

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Simone Davies of The Montessori Notebook

A Montessori Teacher's Thoughts on Waldorf Education

How to Give a Montessori Three Period Lesson for ages Three and Up

Are You Having Toddler Troubles? Some Montessori Advice...

Montessori Homeschool Routine by Marie Mack of Child Led Life

How to Boost Your Child's Creativity in a Digital World by Clarissa Brooks

Montessori & the benefits of the geoboard!