Key Take aways:
- Girls are very capable of mastering potty training when they show signs of readiness.
- There is no right or wrong method for potty training girls. Each child is unique so they may respond better to one method over another, or perhaps you will make your own that will best serve her.
- Like all people, girls benefit from positive reinforcement when potty training, such as affirmations, hugs, high-fives, little treats, toys, and quality time with a parent.
- Potty training is the perfect time to also teach them to talk about their bodies and how to clean their bodies both after going to the bathroom and in the bathtub.
- Girls are often quite capable of night training shortly after mastering daytime training, so don't hesitate to start if they are keeping their diaper dry at night.
article summary: Girls are often labeled as the "easier" sex to potty train. And, there is some truth to that in regards to timing, as girls usually complete potty training sooner than boys. With that said, each child is unique and there is not a specific timeframe that every girl will potty train. And, know that if she takes longer than your best friend's son to potty train, there is nothing wrong with her for taking her time!
Most children show signs of readiness to potty train between 24-36 months. Potty training will be most successful if you start when they show interest and developmental readiness. Some parents will opt to let their children take the lead in how long they need to master the potty, whereas others will tap into the 3-day method to get them a solid jump start on this milestone.
Girls benefit from receiving encouragement and positive reinforcement from parents and caregivers. Some parents like to use tangible rewards, such as treats and toys, whereas others find spending quality time with their daughters is more effective. No matter what type of rewards system you use, make sure you use verbal affirmations to let her know she is awesome and you are proud of all the hard work she is putting into using the potty.
Many girls are able to tackle nighttime potty training once they mostly master daytime potty use. If her diaper is staying dry most nights, don't hesitate to give it a go. Just make sure to have a backup pair of pajamas and linens, and protect her mattress with a waterproof mattress pad.
What is unique about potty train girls?
Of course, the biggest difference between potty training girls compared to boys is the equipment they are using. Where boys have a few options for how they pee, girls are pretty much limited to a sitting or squatting position. Yet, by not having to choose how you will potty train your child, potty training girls can be a little more straightforward (and a lot less messy).
The other thing that may excite girl parents is that they will likely hear that potty training a girl is much easier than a boy. While there is little research to support this (okay, there is honestly very little research on potty training in general), this word-of-mouth verification can be comforting to a lot of girl parents who are new to this milestone. With that said, you should know that gender has no effect on a child’s ability to potty train, so if you find your daughter struggling to potty train, know that she is not an anomaly among other girls. Plenty of girls need extra care, support, and time with potty training. And speaking of time...
How long does it take to potty train a girl?
Girl parents will be happy to hear that females usually potty train more quickly than males. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, girls will generally complete potty training before boys. However, that will not be the case for every girl, nor is there a specific time frame that most girls will potty train within. Indeed, some girls will grasp the concept in a few short weeks with plenty of focus from their parents and caregivers, whereas others may take months or even years - even with excellent support from parents.
Know that every girl is unique in how she will go through potty training, and no one is a failure if she happens to take longer than the neighbor boy or an older son.
Which methods are best for potty training girls
Regrettably, there is no ideal potty training method that works for all girls. Some girls will respond beautifully to a more intense method whereas others will thrive by being allowed to explore potty training at their own pace with support from their parents. Potty experts generally acknowledge that there are two main potty training methods: the 3-day method and the slow and steady method. Of course, there is a lot of flexibility within a method to modify it so that it is workable for your child.
The 3-day method for potty training girls
The 3-day method is a well-known method that appeals to parents because it claims to deliver you a fully potty-trained toddler in 3 days. That’s like a long weekend, right?
This method is intense and requires a lot of focus, planning, and dedication from parents. But, by giving your daughter your undivided attention, the method helps them master a lot of skills in a short amount of time.
You will need to verify a few things before you start the 3-day method:
- Ensure your child is interested and showing signs of readiness to potty train
- Carve out time in your schedule where you can focus solely on your child
- Get your supplies ready
- Prepare your child and others in your home
Many girls thrive on having their parent’s undivided attention and love to show off their skills at using the potty. With that said, this method can be pretty intense for any child who is not ready to potty train yet, or for those do not respond well when they are under pressure. Here are some pros and cons of the 3-day method for girls.
- You can usually expect to see some progress after 3 days of potty work
- You are closer to spending less money on time on diaper duty
- Fewer diapers = less waste in landfills
- Diaper power struggles will be out of your future soon
- You get to bond with your daughter
- The title of this method can be misleading, as you will not be done helping your child after 3 days. While they can learn many foundational skills in these 3 days, you will need to spend a lot of time following up and continuing to coach them in the weeks and months to come.
- Some children may start to resist and even fear using the potty if they aren’t ready
- It may lead to unhealthy elimination patterns if children are forced into something they are not ready to do.
- It may require an element of overfeeding and over-hydrating your child to get them to go more frequently over that 3-day period.
The slow and steady method for potty training boys
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a child-centric approach to potty training, meaning that children are not forced to start training until they show behavioral, developmental, and emotional readiness. The slow and steady method mimics these recommendations by the AAP, with the belief that potty training should not be forced or rushed, but should rather follow the child’s natural rhythms and capabilities. When it comes to this method, there really is no set timeline on how long it should take a child to master the potty.
There are pros and cons to using this method for girls as well.
- This gentle, natural approach to potty train allows your child to guide their experience and comfort level
- Creates less pressure on both the child and parent
- Allows for a more natural progression of learning these skills
- Reduces conflict and stress between the parent and child
- Can be a quicker method of potty training in the end if your child is ready
- Does not involve forceful snacking and drinking
- It may increase the time they are in diapers
- Some experts feel it gives the child too much control
- Children who start potty training later may have more difficulty learning the potty (after age 3)
Remember, these methods just provide a basis for parents to design their own method that works best for their child. Indeed, to successfully potty train your child you do not need to follow a method of potty training necessarily, but you do need to have some sort of structure so there is consistency and reliability for your child. Know that you can follow these methods to a tee, or modify them to suit your child’s needs.
Each potty training method is only successful if your child shows physical, behavioral, and emotional signs that they are ready for this next milestone.
Basics of potty training
When to start/readiness/signs
You will want to start potty training your daughter when she begins showing signs of readiness. So, you will want to make note of her:
- Showing interest in bathroom procedures, like watching parents or a sibling on the toilet
- Having fewer wet diapers or at least holding it for a few hours at a time
- Communicating when she has peed or pooped
- Exploring her body and mimicking bathroom behavior
- Going in a specific area to poop or pee
If you aren’t seeing these signs yet and she is at least two, start to build her curiosity by inviting her into the bathroom with you, talking about what happens at the potty, reading potty books for kids together, and learning about how other animals go to the bathroom.
We all benefit from having positive reinforcement when we do something good. Indeed, that is how we learn to repeat good behavior. And positive reinforcement is not just for children. Think about what motivates you to go to work - probably several things, but you can be sure that one of them is the fact you will bring home some sort of monetary reward for showing up when you would rather do something more fun. All of our behaviors are guided by some notion of positive reinforcement, and potty training a child certainly should not be the exception.
You may run across recommendations that you shouldn’t use rewards. Many people and some experts may argue that kids should be motivated to potty train because they won’t have wet or soiled underwear and it is something they have to learn. While it is true that having clean undies is great, they have spent their whole lives thus far in diapers, and see no need for switching things up. So, trying to get them to potty train just because they have to can be a difficult sell to a toddler.
All children will benefit from some type of reward when they learn potty behaviors. Rewards can be tangible, like a treat or small toy, or they can even be an extra few minutes playing their favorite game or having quality time with mom or dad. When thinking about how to celebrate their potty efforts, think about what they enjoy and what makes them feel loved and acknowledged. And, at the very least, always make sure to acknowledge their efforts with support and encouragement. A big high-five or a big hug goes a long way to show your child just how awesome they are and how proud you are of their efforts.
Heads up, parents! If you are skimming this article, slow down and give this section an extra glance, because What we say to our children MATTERS.
This is going to sound like a lot of pressure, but our tone, body language, and words will make or break a potty training experience. That’s right. If we get frustrated, annoyed, or angry, our children are going to suffer - as will their potty efforts. This does not mean you are not allowed to feel these things - in fact, most parents will feel frustrated and fed up at some point during this milestone. But, it is our job to always glean something positive from each situation - even the tough ones. Perhaps the best advice we can offer is that potty training is NOT your milestone - it is your child’s. As parents, our role is to support and encourage them, not to shame or belittle them because we are frustrated with the progress (or lack thereof).
Long story short - always put a positive spin on things. If your daughter is just learning to pee on the potty and didn’t make it there in time, have her finish the process by helping her clean up and wash her hands. Make note of the good things she did like washing her hands really well with soap and water. Or, if she sits on the potty and can’t go, compliment her on how awesome she is for trying and that you know she will be able to go next time.
If she has an accident, you can say, “whoops! I know you wanted to get to the potty to pee. I know you will pee in the potty next time.” Or, you can acknowledge how she feels by saying, “that must feel really wet in your pants. Let’s work together to clean you up.” It’s hard, but shaming them or getting angry and frustrated never has the outcome we want, so try to clear that from your playbook.
The words we use to speak about our bodies are important. Our children rely on us to help them know what body parts are called and how to feel about bodies in general. Use potty training to help your child learn how to speak about their bodies and what to call sensations they are experiencing.
Girls especially are prone to feeling negative about their bodies as they get older. And, we often do not use the right language when we are talking about girls’ bodies. Indeed, most girls do not even know what their anatomy is called and are encouraged to be private about it.
Soapbox moment: A lot of us are conditioned to be shy about our “private parts,” but this leads to adults who are unable to speak about and advocate for their bodies and health. Give your daughter the tools to talk about her body parts and the sensations she is experiencing. And, if you yourself are not familiar with female anatomy, learn together with your child!
Unlike boys who have splash guards and toilet targets, there are really no “girl-specific” supplies for potty training. When you are preparing to potty train your daughter, try to get some fun undies that are in her favorite color or have a fun character on them, and also consider getting some girl-specific kid’s potty training books. These tools can make potty training more fun and relatable.
There are two points of cleanliness girl parents need to consider. Firstly, there is cleaning up the potty and surrounding areas after using it. Secondly, there is personal hygiene.
Regarding cleaning the potty area up, girls are (usually) cleaner than boys because there is a lower chance of splashing or missing the target with girls. With that said, pee can often escape the toilet and poop can certainly end up in bizarre places. Make sure to involve your daughter in any clean-up by giving her paper towels and a simple, non-toxic cleaning solution. She will love to help spray down the potty if she has a mishap. Also, involve her in washing any soiled clothes. Perhaps you don’t want her to handle underwear with poop in it, but let her help turn on the washer, fold the clothes, and put them back in the drawer.
Teaching personal hygiene is also an essential part of potty training a girl, as it prevents infections and helps with long-term health. Teach her about her genitals and how to keep them clean. All girl parents should teach their daughters to wipe front to back. Because of how the female anatomy is arranged, girls are more prone to urinary tract infections. Indeed, E. coli (which is a bacteria found in poop) is often the culprit behind a lot of urinary tract infections because the two openings are located closely together. Females also have a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel into the bladder.
The bathtub can be a great place to help your daughter learn how to properly clean her body. With your help, give her gentle soap to cleanse between the labia and her backside. A lot of girls will experience itching and irritation on their genitals if they are not properly cleaning themselves, so keep an eye out for that and help her focus on getting clean and dry after each trip to the potty. Flushable wipes are especially useful when she poops, as it helps to get her as clean as possible.
Night Training a Girl
Many parents wonder if they should night-time potty train simultaneously as they do daytime training. But, this really depends on the child's developmental readiness. Generally speaking, children take longer to develop bladder control overnight compared to waking hours. Yet, many girls are capable of learning to stay dry at night shortly after mastering daytime dryness. If you notice your daughter wakes up with a dry diaper quite frequently, get rid of the diapers and give it a go!
To start nighttime training, always make sure she hydrates well during the day so you can taper off fluids after dinner time. Certainly, give her access to water at night, but be mindful that too much water may be challenging to withhold. Also, if you are nighttime training, switch your child to a bed that she can easily get in and out of so she can go to the bathroom, and make sure there are plenty of nightlights to guide her journey there.
Before bedtime, have her go to the potty at least 30 minutes before lights out, then do your night-time routine. Have her go one more time before falling asleep. You could even offer one more story on the potty to give her an incentive to try once more.
Some parents will wake their children up to pee before they go to bed. If your child has been struggling to stay dry at night, this may be a useful option to decrease bedwetting, but generally, it is best not to interrupt their sleep.
Likely, there will be a few accidents in the learning phase, so make sure you have a few supplies on hand to minimize sleep interruptions for both of you:
- Use a waterproof protector pad between the bottom sheet and mattress cover. These can be easily removed in the night if they get soiled. Have a replacement ready to go.
- Keep an extra bottom sheet or blanket next to the bed that you can throw on
- Have fresh jammies and wipes accessible
- Keep a nightlight on in their room, hallway, and bathroom