08/10/2011 07:14 am ET Updated Oct 10, 2011

Potty Training Boys: How Can I Potty Train My Son?

by Nicole L. Thibault

Most of my friends with children have girls.

I think it's a known fact that girls potty train way earlier than boys. So while my friends with girls are enjoying princess panties and not paying for diapers, we are still working on the whole potty training business with my youngest son.

I have a friend and her daughter potty trained by 18 months old. My middle son was potty trained at age 3-and-a-half.

So the big question is: How can I potty train my son?

First, look for signs of potty-training readiness. These signs can include understanding the differences between wet and dry, being able to communicate when he needs to be changed, and getting interested in the "bathroom business" in your house. For example, my 2-year-old son will go into the bathroom when my husband does to check out how going potty works.

Once you see these readiness signs, you can consider starting to try potty training. But how to get started potty training a boy?

A potty schedule is a good place to start. Have your son try the potty upon waking, every two hours throughout the day, and again right before bedtime. You can use an egg time, phone timer, or a microwave timer to remind you and your son when its time to try again. He will eventually hear the timer go off and run to the bathroom.

Limit the amount of beverages your son consumes after 6 p.m.
In our house, we have a beverage with dinner, and then a "last sip" right before bed. Too much liquid in the evening will lead to wet diapers through the night or accidents in bed.

There are logistical potty questions to ponder. Potty chair or potty ring? None of my boys ever used the potty chair that I bought, and it's still unused in the box it came in. All my boys prefer to sit on the toilet, with the aid of a foot stool and a potty ring. Find out which method your son is most comfortable with and go with it.

And then there is the question: To sit or to stand? Most boys first learn to urinate sitting down and then graduate to standing up a year or two later. Again, it depends on your son's comfort and readiness.

Some parents have used Cheerios in the toilet bowl for their son's "target practice." I purchased something called "Tinkle Targets" online - they are very thin, flushable, bowl-shaped pieces of paper with fun pictures of spaceships and trucks on them. Placed in the toilet bowl on top of the water, my son aims at the pictures to ensure he hits the bowl.

Sometimes being dry or a "big boy" is not enough of a reward
. Incentives are a good way to get your son to want to try the potty. For all of my boys, I've used sticker charts. I've found free potty charts with television characters online and posted them on the bathroom wall. I also bought stickers of various sizes to use with the chart. Our system was that for each try on the potty, he would get a small sticker. Each time he used the potty, he would get a large sticker. For every five large stickers, he could have a treat.

I've also used potty prizes as a reward system. I bought various small toys and party favors from a dollar store and put in into a large jar in the bathroom. For each success on the potty, my son got to choose a prize from the jar.

And finally, choosing their own underpants can also be a huge incentive for some boys. My middle son got to choose a pack of Spongebob Squarepants briefs and was potty trained in two days. He never looked back at his diapers again.

Nicole Thibault has been a writer for over 10 years and blogs at For The Love of Autism.