My Favorite Potty Training Tip For Boys (Hint: The Cutest Little Boxer Briefs You’ve Ever Seen)


Mamas, I attended a Montessori workshop when Raines was roughly two-and-a-half.  We learned a ton – some of which I’ve shared with you previously, in our Independence Building: Cheap and Easy Montessori Style Shelves article.

But my hands-down, favorite Montessori tip ever was in regard to potty training boys.  And while true Montessorians (is that a word?) advocate that you start potty training at 18 months….that was SO not gonna happen.  But happily, this tip worked wonders for our little man.  And here it is:

While potty training, your little man must wear…underwear.

You know the conventional wisdom that says that you are supposed to wait until summer to start potty training?  The thought being that the kiddos run around naked all day and will eventually figure it out?

Yeah.  This strategy might work well for girls (I wouldn’t know), but there is one key difference between boys and girls:  Boys love to pee…all over, on everything.


Running around naked for Raines was awesome.  Running around naked and peeing was even better.  “I pee on tree!!!”  was often shouted, gleefully.  He peed on rocks.  He peed on the sidewalk.  He even (since we were living downtown Denver at the time) peed on a fire hydrant.  There was absolutely NO incentive to use the potty.  None.  None whatsoever.  Peeing on things, peeing at things, just peeing peeing peeing was fun.

But…once I slapped some underwear on the kid, things got serious fast.  It turns out that wetting your pants is actually uncomfortable.  And wetting your pants and then having to take time-out from playing to wipe up the floor and yourself?  Total. Torture.  So here’s what the Montesorrians had us try:

  1. Give your kiddo a head’s up:  X many days, and there will be no more diapers!  Repeat often, etc etc.
  2. Go shopping for underwear.  Get him excited (Raines wasn’t…I just ended up buying the underwear myself).
  3. Once that fateful day arrives, put your kid in underwear (pants are optional, underwear is not).
  4. There may have been a step about encouraging them to use the potty.  Raines would fly into such a rage if I dared mention the potty (I DON’ HAFTA GO!!!) that I usually skipped this step.
  5. When he pees his pants say something like “Bummer, buddy!  Here’s a towel to clean yourself up!” in a light, loving voice.
  6. Let him try to clean up himself.  Only help if he absolutely needs it.

It took only two days at home, using this strategy, before Raines was, relatively, potty trained. (One exception – We used diapers for naps/bedtime for the next year or so.  I could only handle one thing at a time, Mamas.)

THE BIG DISCLAIMER:  Every kid is different (I know you know this).  I only employed this strategy because I knew, deep down in my gut, that Raines was totally ready to potty train.

We had been working on potty-training for a while, using varying tactics, but had reached an impasse.  Essentially, the novelty of the “big boy potty” had worn off, and Raines simply found potty-training inconvenient.  (snort)  However, he was also embarrassed when he pooped in his diaper, and had managed to outsmart all of our efforts to reward him for peeing.  He had so much bladder control that he could literally pee two drops, then ask for his M&M.  Then pee 2 more drops…and ask for another.  He could continue this peeing-charade for hours, Mamas.  Hours. And once we started arguing with a two year old over how many exact drops of pee were required for chocolate…I knew we had lost.  So bring on the Montessori method!!

But we had one remaining point of contention:  Not only was Raines totally uninterested in buying underwear, he simply refused to wear it.  And I’m not much of a forcer – really, I don’t know where you’d even begin with this one.  The kid was adamant that all tighty-whitey underwear was “too tight!  Too tiiiiiiiiight!  TOOOOOO TIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!!”  Even when we bought a size larger.

Um.  Ok.  Now what?

Luckily, the other parents at the Montessori workshop had dealt with the same issue.  And their recommendation?  Boxer briefs.  For two-year olds!

Screen Shot 2012-04-02 at 7.10.12 PMIt turns out that Hanes makes man-style boxer briefs for two year olds.  They are hysterical in their simplicity – they do look exactly like hubs’.  And he wore them!  (With only a small amount of convincing on my part…)

Now, more companies have started to get into the boxer-briefs for-the-3T-crowd game.  Carter’s makes some that have a few stripes and ball action (punny!!)…but I’m also loving Crazy 8’s selection: Motorcycles, Guitars, Mod looking dogs and lots of skulls:

Screen Shot 2012-04-02 at 8.42.04 PM


(All images above from Crazy 8’s toddler boy underwear collection)

Cute, no?  However…the boxer briefs at 77 kids (and YES – they carry them starting at 3T) are even more over-the-top and result in a total I’m dressing-my-little-dude-like-a-teenager vibe.  I’m not wild about the logo waistband, but I have to admit: Raines would love these:

Screen Shot 2012-04-02 at 8.44.58 PM

(All images above from 77 Kids’s toddler boy underwear collection)

And so do I. Seriously!  How flippin’ cute would these be on a toddler??

Hey Mamas – any other little words of advice on potty training, or potty training boys?  What did you do?



ps.  His insistence on boxer briefs didn’t last….he’ll now happily wear any type of underwear, preferably super-hero.






  1. My boys love the boxers, too. I just can’t take the cuteness. Potty training is pretty much the absolute worst. My boys pretty much had me wrapped around their little fingers. I have one more little boy to potty train, and the best piece of advice is to stay consistent and DON’T use Pull-ups!!! I totally agree about making them clean themselves up, too. My second son hated it. I think it’s what finally broke him (he was tough, too).

  2. Montessori all the way! Our daughter has attended montessori for the majority of her life. They started her in underwear at 17mos and within two weeks she was down to only wearing diapers at night. While she still has an accident here or there she is great about the toilet. Skip the kid toilet as that is just one more thing you will need to transition from- one step ahead at bed bath and beyond makes toilet seats that have drop down seats for kids built in. Perfect and great aesthetic! Saving all the $ on diapers means more $ for shopping 🙂

  3. Infant potty training ladies! I used it with my daughter who is now 5 and we are using the method again with our little boy who is now 1. Ofelia was finished with nappies by the time she was 18 months. She said, “no more nappies…”
    In summary, it’s another form of communication with Julius where we associate having a wee with a sound, usually a sshhhh…sound. We started when he was 6 weeks old.
    We catch a lot of wees during the day and usually poos too. He doesn’t like having poos in his nappy anymore which is also a really good sign. So, I use a nappies but I’m thinking that I use less than if we didn’t go this route. I try to take him about an hour after he has a milk feed and then every 45 minutes or so afterwards. Also, if we’ve been out, the first thing I’ll do is take him to have a wee when we get home.
    We were using the sink first but we’ve moved to the toilet with me helping him balance on the toilet seat facing the tank. We’ve tried it facing the other way too with a Baby Bjorn seat and it’s going well.
    Have a look on Amazon. Lots of literature out there…

  4. Cute undies, I didn’t know they made boxer briefs that small! Just wanted to comment that your advice is great, but my boy is the exact opposite. I started pt when he turned three (in retrospect I believe I waited too long and I will start my other son much younger) and put him in undies cold turkey. The first day we went through twenty pairs of underwear!! He was like a leaky faucet and just kept wetting everything and not caring too much. After a couple days of this, I started leaving him naked when we were home, and it made a huge difference. I think it helped him see where it was coming from because he could catch himself before having an accident almost every time. So we did naked for a long time and that seemed to be the turning point in helpIng him learn. I only say all that in case there’s someone else looking for advice on potty training, just to give another idea to try. Awesome undies, though. 🙂

  5. I dont ever think its too early for a kid to start wearing boxer briefs. I remember when I was a kid I could not wait to start wearing them. lol Of course they had to have spiderman on them.

  6. Sarah – I admire your dedication to the cause!!!  Not sure I have it in me (I actually don't mind diapers…weird??  Maybe), but your method is impressive!  I had heard of infant training, but always assumed that it didn't work.  You've set the record straight!
    Sent from my iPhone

  7. Amber, M has that toilet seat thingy and it IS really nice looking.  We've joked about doing a cute kid potty / kid seat round up here…hunh.  Perhaps we should! 
    Sent from my iPhone

  8. S—thanks for being so real. My son is 3 in June and not at all interested in PT’ing. Will look into boxers and plan on starting this summer. How do you clean up the pee if it’s on carpet? Am I the only one who doesn’t like the sound of that?

  9. I totally agree with this! I have three boys, two of which are PTed. And I definitely learned my lesson after the first: don’t waste your money on Pull-Ups! To him, there was no difference. It felt like a diaper, so he’d use it as such. I was so frustrated until I gave myself a pep talk and determined we’d go into underwear cold turkey. The first few accidents are messy, but he was MORTIFIED to be wet and quickly figured it out!

  10. I’ve got a just turned 3 yo boy who’s been ‘sorta’ potty training for 6 months. It’s working anout 1/2 the time. Maybe the undies will get us over that hump! Thanks for the tip!

  11. Cindy – I just keep reminding myself that it's sterile, lol!  We just use a little soap and water and call it a day….
    Sent from my iPhone

  12. *sigh* Did all of that with my daughter and after two solid weeks she only went in the potty twice. She simply does not want to use the potty at this time. I wasn’t going to use pull-ups, but here we are. Every kid is different indeed.

  13. Olivia – Hang in there, Chicky!!  I don't know of a single teenager who wears pull-ups, so, you know….she'll be ready when she's ready.  (This is the same thing I told myself about Raines sleeping in our bed, LOL.  "There isn't a single teenager that is still crawling in with Mom & Dad…")

  14. Unfortunately I started with my son naked from the waist down and he was virtually accident free. Now when I put underwear on him he pees and poops in them and it doesn’t seem to bother him. I have 2 other children so staying home isn’t an option. Anythoughts on what to do during outings? Oh and he is 21 months.

  15. Hanes also has actual toddler boxers that look almost identical to my husband’s Hanes boxers.We bought some for my toddler in size 3T and he was pretty pumped about looking like Dad.(and we put Gerber cloth training pants on under for absorbency). Just for whatever reason, his discomfort at being all wet just made him freak out, not become inspired to use the toilet instead. Oh well. I think maybe he just wasn’t ready, but he also tends to be obsessive compulsive about messes in general, so maybe that was it.
    Luckily, Pull-Ups and bribery are actually working very well for us.

  16. Tamara – we didn't go underwear cold-turkey until R was roughly 27 months.  And then, when venturing out, I'd just bring along a TON of boxer briefs ( and a pair or two of extra pants)…knowing that some days he'd be out with nothing but boxer briefs on.  But they are so young that I think that's fine.  And I was pretty liberal with where he could pee.  If the kid had to go, we'd stop everything and find him a spot – even if it was just against a tree in plain sight of everyone.  I wanted to help him be successful first, then we could work on decorum, and…uh…common courtesy, lol!  Also, having him pee in a cup was really exciting, for some reason.  You can start that game now, in the bath when there is no pressure.  And I think carrying around a cup of your child's pee is one of the great joys of potty-training, is it not?  Lol
    Sent from my iPhone

  17. Great stories … I completely agree that pull-ups are not only a waste of money, but can actually prolong the PT process. I think the other thing to keep in mind is that kids will be ready when they are ready. It’s part emotional and part biological readiness. There are several articles out now talking about how pushing kids to PT and pushing too early can lead to issues ( Happy PT’ing.

  18. I heard that girls were easier to train than boys and I believed it when I trained my first son at 30 months (we went with the undies only and stay at home for 3 days strategy). It was truly the first time I thought that being a parent was tough stuff. We tried and failed for a month, took a 2 week breather (had to get groceries at some point!)and he totally got it the second time (though it was still a bit heartbreaking when he repeated “No thank you” when I brought out the undies again) BUT my second one who is just 21 months has decided all on his own that he wants to do his business only on the potty. Influence from big brother? Yes a big factor. Readiness of child? Most definitely. My advice is to not fret so much and have patience, they will get it eventually, whether a boy or a girl. And the key is to find the incentive that works for your child, whether it is cute undies, candy or a new iPad game (which was the only thing that worked with my first!)

  19. I was lucky enough to hear about EC (elimination communication aka infant potty training) from a friend while I was pregnant. Having seen the results, I can’t understand why it isn’t more mainstream.
    I think it maybe *sounds* like more work than it actually is. It started out as the same work as changing a diaper (just say “psss” if you see them going while you’re changing them) and then once they have the connection between the cue sound and going, you can cue them whenever you’re going to change them anyways. Then you can start taking them to the toilet/potty after naps and 10-15 minutes after nursing. Basically it means that they never lose their initial instincts and even if you still keep them in diapers (like we do), using the toilet/potty is a normal thing. I’m so glad my friend mentioned it, as it’s been one of the best things we have chosen to try. I now can’t imagine waiting until 18 months or older.

  20. Thanks, Shana. That kind of thinking is why I decided to go with the pull-ups and stop pushing the issue. Not worth the fight at this time. Right now she tells me she’ll use the potty after “baby brother is born” which is in a little over a month. *fingers crossed*

  21. This is essentially what we did with our son. Undies didn’t work for us, though–he’d use those as a diaper. But he was day trained in three days, taking naps on his undies by the second day. Completely night trained by five or six months. But he was very ready at that point. We had tried training a few months before that and it was a disaster. So I believe in not forcing it but going by your child’s cues.

  22. What a great idea. My son is 2 1/2 and I have begun worrying about whether he’ll be potty trained by 3 years. I’ve tried the no diaper in the house tactic and like you said he just pees on everything. Now I will try the underwear and see how that works. The ones you show above are so cute! I might have to get him some.

  23. One thing that has worked for us is the Potty Time App for our iPhone. Our little gal is going on 3 and had plateaued, and found this to be a great tool once we downloaded the videos. We have tried having her wear “big girl undies” with thick training undies over those and Thirsties over those. This gives her the same sensation of pants wetting without much of a mess around the house…usually none at all besides what she is wearing. This helped us move to a new level too, but the girl is very strong willed and wants it to be her idea to go potty. Uggghhh. It is an inconvenience thing at times but she is coming along. Fingers crossed that she can get this within a month before turning 3.

  24. Shana, I’m late to this party but had to mention that I so appreciate this post! I bought the “How to Potty Train Boys” book on your suggestion last year. As always I’m silently laughing and saying “YES” to myself as I read since our experiences are so similar. I just put undies on my son for the first time yesterday – he’s 27 months. He’s had practice on the potty so it’s familiar, and now on day 2 of the undies I can see the wheels in his brain really turning & things starting to click for him. I’m prepared for a long journey, but since we are a cloth diaper family I’m maybe more ok w/it that some who fear the sight of urine. This was just the reassurance I needed today, thank you! My son LOVES his big boy pants & asks for them – I think he was ready, yes? 🙂

  25. In answer to the commenter who said what about the carpet? We tried underwear and my son peed on the floor and didn’t care. We tried Pullups and it only prolonged the agony. He would go in them just like a diaper. I finally found Joe Boxer training pants from Sears. They come in packs of three and they are cloth with a double absorbent center. They look like underwear but they were the ticket with my son. If he would start going he would feel a little wet and catch himself and go to the potty and the carpets stayed dry!!

  26. There’s really cute toddler underwear from Nawi (sp?). Tighty whities with adorable dinosaurs, matching tops and bottoms. I think they were on Amazon (isn’t everything?). Great for potty training incentives…

  27. Don’t let others discourage you! I had plenty of people telling me I was starting too early with my son, but I pushed thru the accidents and negativity. I used a combo of the naked and underwear methods. Accidents are going to happen. I can proudly say I had a completely potty trained boy at 26 months old… night time included! And he’s adamant about putting the toilet seat down 🙂
    If you sit a boy backwards on the toilet, they have a better chance of getting it in the toilet with no help. Also, look into the frog urinal potty that hands on the wall. I really think that got my child excited about potty training!

  28. When it came time to potty train my son, I waited for him to tell me when he was ready. And he wasn’t ready to take his “pee-peeing” by storm until he turned 3. I trained him using the 3-Day Potty Training Method.
    Watch the video click here:
    If you’re a working mom, like me, I suggest you take off Friday and bang this out in a long weekend. Why? Because you need to quarantine yourselves in your home—or in my case (cringe) small apartment—for three entire days, no exceptions.

  29. hi..
    Go here to look the video Potty Training in 3 Days:
    We completed the 3-day potty training 2 weeks ago, and it was quite successful for my just-turned 22-mo old boy. I HIGHLY recommend “crash course” for potty training, but be sure you follow everything she says. We had a minor setback once he returned to daycare, but they are onboard with the program now & are really helping a lot. My mother-in-law potty trained 5 kids & 10 grandkids before this, and none were as successful as quickly as using this method…

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