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EC'ing Boys and Girls

by Elizabeth Parise

The differences between girls and boys has long been a compelling and controversial discussion. Are these differences biologically based or are they the result of the environment and culture children are raised in? The truth is, it is probably some of both.

Science suggests that there are differences in the way a boy's brain develops versus how a girl's brain develops. Working with these differences will not necessarily perpetuate gender stereotypes, but rather allow each gender to develop smoothly, quickly, and comfortably, thus reducing common misconceptions such as "boys 'mature' more slowly than girls".

So, what are these differences and how should they be handled? Many parents wonder if they should nurture their children following these developmental differences or should they teach their children to be more like the other gender to round them out more. Again this doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing, black-and-white, one-size-fits-all approach. Just like EC, each journey will be a little different.

Knowing what the differences are can be helpful in crafting out an approach that works for your family. Think of these differences in brain development as learning style differences. The *content* you are teaching is the same, but the way you teach it may be different. Of course, all people are different and gender is only one clue about the best approach for an individual.

In general, girls develop the right side of the brain faster than boys do. This leads to earlier verbal skills and better memory. Girls are also better able to read emotional cues and facial expressions. They are generally more interested in faces, and toys with faces. Girls develop fine motor skills faster on average than boys. Girls are also generally better able to multi-task.

The left side of the brain tends to develop faster in boys as compared to girls. This means that in general boys' gross motor skills, visual spatial skills, reasoning, and problem solving develop faster on average than girls. They are generally more interested in groups of faces, rather than a single face. Boys are more sequential and tend to complete tasks in a more linear way.

This doesn't mean that you need to pigeon hole your children into strict gender stereotypes. You most certainly can work on skills and ways of thinking generally assigned to the opposite gender. Speak softly and sweetly to your boys too. Play vigorously and boisterously with your little girls as well. Encourage creativity in your boys through the physical art of dance. Follow your daughter's imitative inclination by showing her how to fix a car.

Considering gender differences doesn't need to stop with your child either. You can use these tendencies as a guide for how you and your partner might approach EC and ways to involve older siblings.

When considering practicing EC, women are more drawn to the communication and bonding aspects. They are more likely to pick up on intuitive signals such as just getting a sense of when the baby needs to pee. Women tend to consider how the baby is feeling about EC and how it will affect them emotionally in the long run. They tend to be more patient and collaborative with the process.

Men are more interested in the immediate, practical results of EC. When trying to convince a man of the benefits of EC try stressing that it saves money on diapers. Men tend to rely on physical signals and timing. They tend to be more competitive about EC and stress graduation. Men like to find their own way to EC and take advice as criticism. They are more likely to direct a child on how to potty and will often find the most efficient EC techniques.

Siblings are often very receptive to helping EC a younger sibling. Common gender differences can provide further clues on ways to get them to help. Boys are great entertainers, especially in physical ways. Elicit their help keeping the baby occupied on the potty through games like "peek-a-boo" or stacking blocks. Boys also love tasks such as getting the potty for you too. Girls enjoy keeping baby calm on the potty through reading or talking to the baby. Girls love to help potty the baby and are concerned with how the baby is feeling about EC. They love to imitate your ECing tasks.

Parents often ask whether physical or emotional differences between boys and girls affect EC practice with each gender. The basics of EC are common to both genders. To get started with EC visit the Practicing EC pages of this website. 

While individual personality is also important, gender can make a difference when it comes to pottying strategies, positioning, and other factors. Below are a few ways to help you capitalize on the unique strengths of your own child.

Tips for ECing Girls

EC'ing a girl is a lot of fun! Many girls have excellent verbal communication skills at a young age, helping them to communicate about toileting. Parents don't have to worry about aim with girls in the same way as with a boy, and girls can easily use small potties such as the "top hat" style potty. Girls can also wear dresses which make for quick pottytunities. Here are some tips if you're EC'ing a girl.

  • Dresses and skirts make EC'ing easy. The little "bloomers" or "diaper covers" that often come with dresses and skirts often make great tiny undies. They last longer than the dress or skirt itself because you can use a smaller size bloomer without "back-up" on an older girl since you don't need to fit a diaper inside.
  • Realize that girls can "spray" too. This can be related to something temporary like having a strong urine stream, or to differences in anatomy.
  • Girls often dribble or leak down their legs or bottom. Choose toileting places and positions that work best to handle this.
  • Girls excel at imitation and modeling. Have mom and older sisters model proper toileting.
  • Always use proper wiping, front to back. Model this and teach it to your daughter. It is especially important for girls so no excrement gets into the vaginal opening.
  • Consider where the most absorbent part of your daughter's back-up is. Look for diapers or training pants with the most absorbency underneath and in back.
  • Capitalize on your daughter's verbal skills by talking to her about toileting.
  • Capitalize on your daughter's fine motor skills by using sign language to communicate about toileting.
  • Girls can be sensitive to facial expressions. Be careful not to reprimand or overly praise through your facial expressions. Use facial expressions to non-verbally communicate about pottying in a non-judgemental way. Girls may also enjoy pottying facing you.
  • Girls are likely to use or respond to communication and intuitive signals and cues. Look for facial expressions, sounds or words, looking at the potty, and sign language as possible elimination signals. Words, sounds, and sign language are all excellent cues for girls.
  • Entertain girls on the potty or toilet with faces, stuffed animals, dolls, books, and songs.
  • Capitalize on your daughter's keen sense of collaboration and find ways for her to cooperate with the pottying process.
  • Talk about how EC makes your daughter feel, especially emotionally.
  • When talking about genitalia parents are much less likely to discuss "girl parts" as opposed to "boy parts" which can leave girls feeling like there is something bad, wrong, or dirty about their parts. Similarly, be careful when discussing differences in girl's and boy's genitalia. Say, "You have a vagina" rather than "You don't have a penis." Consider in advance how you will refer to your daughter's genitals. Girls should know that the outside is the vulva and the inside is the vagina. Allow girls to explore their genitals without giving the impression that there is something wrong with it. Name her genital parts for her just like you would any other body part.

Tips for EC'ing Boys

ECing a boy is a lot of fun! Many boys have excellent gross motor skills helping them with getting to, and on and off, a potty or toilet. The ability to aim a boy can be helpful for pottying him disreetly into a bottle or small container. Boys' clothing doesn't need to be completely removed for them to urinate. Here are some tips for EC'ing boys.

  • Choose a potty with a splash guard, but be careful his penis does not get caught on it.
  • Practice pottying positions and aiming at home.
  • Check the position of your baby's penis before cueing. If your son's penis is in an odd position you will get an unwelcome or unexpected spray.
  • Choose two-piece outfits, instead of overalls or coveralls, for pottying convienence. You could also leave the underneath snaps of a coverall open to create a split crotch pant, or use real split crotch pants.
  • Have dad or older brothers model proper toileting, especially aiming and standing to urinate.
  • Position your son's penis before cueing. Touching his penis mid-stream can cause him to stop peeing.
  • Consider where the most absorbent part of your son's back-up is. Look for diapers or training pants with the most absorbency in the front.
  • Your baby's penis can give you clues about when he needs to pee. It is common for a baby boy's penis to "plump" (different from an erection which baby boys also experience) prior to eliminating. Babies with intact foreskins often "balloon-up" just prior to urination.
  • Your boy may be more likely to use and respond to physical signals and cues. Look for an increase in activity, banging on the potty, and tapping on you or his crotch, as possible physical signals for the need to use the potty. Positioning, seating baby on the potty or toilet, flexing the adult's abdominal muscles as if bearing down while baby is in-arms, and exhaling or blowing on the top of the baby's head are all excellent physical cues boys may respond well to.
  • Capitalize on your son's gross motor skills and allow him the leeway to experiment with getting to the potty
  • Use sign language in addition to words to communicate about pottying.
  • Keep boys occupied on the potty with toys that can be manipulated. Try putting a baby gym in front of him. Toys that move, such as spinning gears may also hold his interest.
  • A single face may not interest him on the toilet or potty, but a group of sibling faces might.
  • Boys can be big risk takers so take extra precautions to make pottying safe.
  • Your boy may enjoy having a potty just for him, in his own spot.
  • Capitalize on your son's keen sense of independence and make it as easy as possible for him to do things himself.
  • Talk to your son about how EC makes him feel physically
  • Allow your son to explore his genitals without judgment. Name his genitals the same way you would with any other body part.

Extra Tips For Aiming Boys

  • Early on, hold a small potty between your thighs and your baby in the Basic Under The Thigh Hold shown in Pottying Positions on the DiaperFreeBaby website. Tip the potty towards you and place your baby's entire bottom into the potty. Lean slightly forward to aim your baby's penis downward into the potty.
  • Aim your baby's penis downward with your index finger as you hold him in the Basic Under The Thigh Hold.
  • Help your baby lean forward on the potty or seat reducer to aim his penis downward. Make sure he is sitting far enough back on the potty to have room for the urine stream to go into the potty
  • Allow him to practice aiming through the natural exploration of his penis as he urinates
  • Face him towards the back of the toilet when holding him over the toilet or on a seat reducer
  • Talk to your baby about the expectation of the urine going into the toilet or potty, "Point your penis in the potty. That's where the pee pee goes."
  • Try holding him in an "airplane" position over the toilet
  • Try having him practice aiming in the great outdoors
  • Try floating a piece of toilet paper, tissue paper, or an O-shaped piece of cereal in the potty for your older ECer to practice aiming
  • Use food coloring to color the toilet water and have him practice aiming while changing its color.

Remember not to let everything boil down to gender, however. Other factors which can impact your EC experiences are how much experience you have with EC, how many other children you have, how much help you have with child care and EC, what your local EC support is like, whether you work outside the home or not, what the climate is like where you live, and the personality of your EC'ed child.

Additional Information:
Pottying Boys
Pottying Positions


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