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5 Differences Between Potty Training Boys & Girls, According To Experts

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By the time your little one shows interest in transitioning from diapers to underwear, you've probably already started your seemingly endless potty-training research. You know all about the sticker charts, the whole "bribing with candy thing" and the 3-day potty training method (although, to be fair, you're skeptical). And while there's no one "right way" to potty train a child, there are differences between potty training boys and girls that are helpful to know before you embark on this pee-filled journey. You know, to keep your expectations in check.

Now before we get all "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" about it, please know that Dr. Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D. tells Pampers that one important similarity, regardless of your child's sex, is that both boys and girls should first learn how to pee by sitting on the toilet. Why? Well, because it's easier. It's only when your son is capable of "holding it" until he makes it to the bathroom, and can control his "stream" while aiming, should you consider moving him to a standing position. And because potty training is a "developmental task," according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), you shouldn't start the process until your child reaches around 24 months of age, and, again, regardless of their sex. Beginning too soon — before your child is developmentally ready — may create more setbacks and frustration.

So while there might be some subtle differences between potty training boys and girls, there's one thing every parent should remember before they start the process (regardless of which method you choose or who you're potty training): if your child isn't ready, they're not ready. Every kid is different, which means every attempt at potty training will be different.

They Need Different Potty Training Equipment

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You can certainly purchase the same over-the-toilet toilet seat for either a boy or a girl. In fact, a separate mini-potty can work for both sexes, too. But Parenting says a potty chair helps a girl specifically in terms of assisting the pelvic floor relax. If you choose to put her on the big toilet, you might want to consider having her use a step stool, too.

For boys who are not yet ready to stand, they can use the same potty training equipment, but will probably have to adjust themselves in different ways.

They'll Sit In Different Positions

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With girls, it helps to encourage them to sit all the way back with their knees apart to, again, help their pelvic muscles relax. Boys will need to push their penises down before, or as, they sit so not to touch the splash guard and end up peeing everywhere except the inside of the toilet. Little boys might also need to lean forward to keep their penis pointed down.

If your son has graduated to standing while he pees, be sure to help position him close to the toilet, with his feet apart, so everything is aiming in the right direction. Care.com says if your little girl wants to give it a try the way her brother(s) or dad does standing, you should let her. She'll figure out pretty quickly that standing is not the ideal position for her.

They'll Wipe Differently

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While it's the same general rules for both sexes when going number two, girls should always wipe front to back to prevent the spread of infection and urinary tract infections. Kids Health says UTIs are more common in girls, because the urethra is shorter and closer to the anus.

They Might Require A Different Tactic

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When it comes to potty training and keeping a child interested, girls might be more inclined to sit on a toilet longer if they're given a book they love, or music to listen to, or a bathroom buddy to talk to them during the process.

Boys can also love books or music or small talk to keep them occupied, but you might find that they're much more fascinated with their penis and what's happening, their potty talk might be more frequent, and if he's standing to pee, he'll enjoy aiming at something in the toilet bowl (and might even find it "fun").

They Reach Developmental Stages At Different Times

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PottyTrainingBoysGirls.com says that, while obviously not true for all, girls are potty trained on average by 30 months where boys may need some additional time to get it. Don't take too much stock into numbers or statistics, though. Only you know when your child is ready and only you can adjust the potty training plan to suit them and their individual needs and as they reach those developmental milestones.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.