Parents usually make potty training a bigger deal than it should be. That’s because it can be a little messy, and a step toward independence and self-sufficiency and all that “big kid” stuff. It can be a little anxiety-inducing, too, not just for kids but for parents who have to figure out how to teach the kid how to sit stand and wipe depending on their gender. But, importantly, knowing how to potty train a girl is generally the same as how to potty train boys, with a few distinctions. Girls don’t have to worry about aiming, and may finish their training a little bit earlier, but all kids grapple with recognizing the sensations of potty training.
Some parents (and advice givers) recommend positioning a child backwards on the potty to help them be more comfortable. But more important than facing the front or the back of the toilet is making sure the pelvis is angled correctly and the child has something to push against. Letting a potty-training child’s legs dangle unsupported can be pretty uncomfortable and may even delay the toilet training process.
Potty Training Tips for Girls
- Get a leg up: it can be difficult and uncomfortable for kids to go when their legs are dangling. Parents should use a comfortable potty seat and a small stool for kids to push against.
- Front to back: Girls need to learn to wipe front to back to help avoid painful urinary tract infections that can delay potty training for weeks.
- Model behavior: little kids may be inspired to learn to use the potty like a big kid if they see their parents and siblings using the bathroom.
“Face girls forward on the toilet while placing a small stool under the feet,” recommends Dr. Beatrice Tauber Prior, a clinical psychologist and owner of Harborside Wellbeing (and a mother of two). “Girls are usually ready to successfully use the toilet before they are tall enough. Dangling feet do not help them go quickly and easily.”
Probably the most important aspect of potty training girls is wiping – another complicated action (at least for a toddler) that can be tricky to learn to do well. Girls need to wipe from front to back. Wiping back to front might seem more intuitive, but wiping this way can have painful consequences for girls, which may delay their toilet training.
“Always teach kids to wipe from front to back because the opposite way can quickly lead to urinary tract infections,” cautions Dr. Prior. This is considerably more serious than poor aim. Even the parent stuck scrubbing out the grout around the toilet bowl would agree.
Other than that, though, there isn’t any great difference between toilet training girls and boys, in that any number of techniques, timelines, and willingness to try may work for one child but not another. A few things are worth trying, though. Observing the child for tells or signaling that they need the potty is one. Modeling bathroom behavior is another.
“The use of role models is very helpful,” suggests Dr. Prior. “Have an older sibling or parent demonstrate going to the bathroom. Leave the bathroom door open while mom or dad (if sitting) uses the toilet. This will help inspire young girls to ‘go potty like a big person.’”
Leaving the door open to use the bathroom may feel weird, probably because in any other scenario it is an unmistakable badge of slovenliness. But parents find themselves doing all sorts of weird stuff when it’s toilet-training time. They just need to ride it out with patience.