Lacey & Lilly, age 2 1/2Prior to last weekend I had potty trained 6 of our 9 children - and each with a different story (same principles, but how they proceeded and reacted was different). And for the past 2 1/2 years since our precious little identical twin girls were born, I have been wondering how I should go about training two at once?! *laugh*
If you would like more information on potty training in general for singletons you can read my post Potty Training Children...In Less Than a Day? In that post I include: the signs of readiness for potty training, how to determine when a child is ready and at what age, our one day objective for training, what I do exactly to train a child, and additional tips I've learned along the way. And I would actually encourage you to read that post first before this one if you've not already done so so that you'll have a general idea and visual image with the photos of our potty training approach. I implemented the same approach but tweaked a little for two simultaneously.
Here is what I had to consider about training our twins, and what I will answer for you in this post.
- They have always done everything together: sleeping (in separate twin beds now, but still simultaneously and in the same room), activity times, meals, dressing, playing, etc. So even if I tried to train them separately on different weekends for simplicity's sake and so I could better keep up the actual training and with cleaning up accidents, I'm confident that they would potty together anyway only one would have had training and the other wouldn't. Not a good plan for success. *wink* So they needed to train simultaneously. Okay, that established, how would I keep up with that?
- Implementing the Toilet Training in Less Than a Day book principles - with two simultaneously. I like to potty train proactively, ON PURPOSE, just like everything else in our life. So how would I implement these principles with the two little muffins simultaneously?
- How would I work with their needs to sit up on the potty simultaneously? And how would I clean up accidents quickly and be ready to help the next one, or worse yet, what would I do when they both had accidents simultaneously and both needed my help?
- How could I encourage and motivate both girls simultaneously, encouraging them when they struggle, or motivating one who's discouraged while praising the other's success at the same time?
- How would the twins react to each others successes and struggles?
- What time of year would be best to train the twins, and at what age?
- How can I be the best prepared in different areas of the house to meet the twins needs?
- Potty training successfully, ON PURPOSE, and in a concise amount of time.
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They have always done everything together.
I encourage you to approach the challenge with a partner. *smile* Invite either a mother or mother-in-law to come over to help for those 4-6 hours on a Saturday, or perhaps a high school sibling or young lady from church, or another friend who has the ability to leave her own children with a husband for a little while. Having that help can be priceless, and really enabled me to train two children at the same time. Without this help I could not have done our twins, and I would have had to train separately (which, incidentally, the Lord can work with as well; He knows our circumstances and always has a plan for us.)
I also needed to remember to set my mind up for cheerful training and not condemn the training effort or the girls' success before we even began, thinking that the experience was going to just be horrible. I have wasted enough time in other situations and circumstances in my life worrying about how bad something was going to be, only to find that the Lord had His hand in His plan all the time and it all worked out just fine. When I sought the Lord's plan and His face and followed Him as He lead me, the Lord was so so faithful to walk me through those situations one step at a time - and in the end it was so fine. All my worrying was for nothing and was a waste of energy. I've gotten much better at not doing that. Rather to think, the girls could actually do beautifully and it wouldn't be an issue. Maybe they won't have accidents. Maybe they will encourage each other. And if they do have accidents, maybe they won't be at the same time and clean-up will be pretty do-able. Choosing my thoughts really sets us all up for success, and excitement in this new adventure instead of anxiety (which I guarantee you passes right down to the child before we even begin - not a great idea - I've done that as well). So - together, the four of us in one small bathroom *laugh*, approached this new season of life for our girls on a Saturday morning in July. *smile*
Implementing the Toilet Training in Less Than a Day principles - with two simultaneously.
Again, it took two of us grown people to help the two little people get up and down from the potty, have their rewards for dry pants (not for going potty, see my last potty training post for why we do it that way), and to help them drink lots of juice so they'll have lots of practicing going potty. *smile* And of course to help them clean up when there was an accident. But it's good to be able to give your full attention to each child simultaneously with that partnering help.
How would I work with their needs to sit up on the potty simultaneously?
I didn't want to use our little toddler potty chair. I don't like having an extra toilet to clean, and I don't like trying to keep other kids from using that little toddler one thinking it would be so fun. *smirk* But within 5 minutes of beginning training I was running down stairs to get it from the garage because both twins needed to use the potty at the same time. I don't know why I didn't think they would need to before. *chuckle* But they've done great with that little potty, and they both use it (rather than fighting over the big potty, or the small one; they don't seem to care).
Thankfully, the twins always want to go to the bathroom together. So we just take turns with a highschool sibling in taking them into the bathroom and waiting while they go. For the first week especially the girls would often sit on the potty for 10-30 minutes before going, but they did always know when they needed to go, it just took patience for them to use those little muscles inside. We all needed to be patient. But I could not personally always sit in the bathroom with them when I had 6 other young children needing me as well, so Karen & Melanie would bring a book into the bathroom and sit with the tiny sister until she went potty. And they'd rub her back, let her rest her head on their lap (while they sat on the edge of the tub beside them). Sometimes they would read aloud or sing songs with tiny sister, but we found that making it too nice also made the time lengthen out significantly, so we started being more on task.
The twins also did tend to want to have a giggle party in the bathroom while they were sitting on the potties, so we had to tell them to tell them this is not a play area or a play time. When they go into the bathroom they need to sit down and try to go potty (not just get some one-on-one time with someone but refuse to sit down and try to go). They either sit and try to go potty, or go out of the bathroom and back to whatever they were doing previously.
The girls also always like to go together into the bathroom. If one says she has to go potty the other always says, "Oh! Me, too!" This may seem like a headache, but actually we've had only a couple of accidents on the carpet in the first 2 weeks after training because our twins have someone to be prompting them to go much more often than I ever did with a singleton. With one child they need to both think to go to the potty, and also have the discipline to break their play time and actually do it. These often did not happen for the first couple/few weeks and it resulted in accidents. The twins have each other to both think of using the potty, and to motivate each other to go do it. It is twice or three times as much heading in to the bathroom times, but it's also that much more successful.
One of our common phrases in our home with the twins is this, "They have each other...but they have each other." Meaning there are blessings that they have each other! But there's also mischief because they have each other. *wink* *smile*
How could I encourage and motivate both girls simultaneously?
It did take two of us. We would keep a timer set for every 5 minutes and when it went off we would do a "dry pants check". If they were dry, then they would receive a treat reward of either something salty (in our training history we've used Pringles chips, or bunny-shaped crackers, or pretzels) or something sweet (like a gummy bear, or a skittle, or an m&m). We do not reward for going in the potty but rather for being dry, and salty or sweet treats cause them to be very thirsty, which leads to drinking lots of sugary juice. *laugh* Which causes them to have a lot of practice going potty. We very rarely buy these kinds of treats so they're very excited about potty training in our house. Also very intentional. *wink* And we just kept one timer going for both girls even if it was more or less minutes for one or the other, just for simplicity. The point is doing the dry pants checks, rewards, and juice.
How would the twins react to each others successes and struggles?
I was so pleased that Lacey & Lilly continued with their relational pattern they've always had in being able to celebrate each other's successes even if they were just unsuccessful themselves. At one point we laughed out loud when Lacey.
Lacey actually took off with training and sat right up to go potty and then continued to do so pretty frequently and did not have an accident for the first 3 hours! *cheer!* But Lilly had several accidents peeing on the floor before she had a success in the potty, and she did get a little sad about it. We just had to laugh out loud when Lacey said to Lilly, after going potty in the big potty several times, "I went in the potty, Lilly!" And Lilly said with a scowl at her, "You always do!" And once when Lilly finally had a success, Lacey squirted juice (from the Capri Sun straw) at her. *laugh!* But once they were both having success then any slight bit of animosity disappeared.
What time of year would be best to train the twins, and at what age?
I personally prefer to train during the summer time because then I do not have the simultaneous goal of homeschooling and potty training at the same time. But there are some drawbacks as well.
During the summer time the kids are outside a lot playing, which means it's more tempting for children to stay outside and not come in to go potty when they need to, resulting in an accident; however the accident happened outside on the grass and not on the carpet so that's better. *chuckle* We also desire to be out and about a lot more in the summer weather to the zoo, the beach, going for a walk, and this makes training a little trickier. I'm planning on buying two little portable/collapsible potty seats to use when we're out at the beach when there is not a potty available, or not something other than a Honey Bucket (which will be fine of course later, but not likely successful when toilet training is new). But if we train during the school year then the simultaneous homeschooling and potty training is very interrupting. So, I pick summer as for me it's better. This does need to coordinate with the children's ages, though, too.
I talk more about appropriate ages for toilet training in my other post on potty training singleton children, but generally for girls age 2 1/2 is a good time, and that coordinated with our summer time for them. And it turned out to be the right age and season for them, praise the Lord. *smile*
How can I be the best prepared in different areas of the house to meet the twins needs?
We have a two-story house, so I need to be prepared both upstairs and down stairs with some supplies if I want the twins to avoid walking across the carpet after they've had an accident and their pants are soaking wet (or worse *wink*). Upstairs we have an extra potty seat in the bathroom so one can use the big potty and one the little potty. I also keep a tub in that bathroom for a couple/few weeks so I have a place to put wet underpants or dresses, and cleaning cloths used to wipe up anything from the floor. I keep all of their extra pairs of those extra-thick training under pants in the bathroom rather than in their dresser drawer yet, because that is where we do all of their pottying and changing of pants and clothes. I also keep a couple of pairs of rubber pants in the bathroom so when we go in the car or go down for sleeping times (naps and night time) we can throw those on over the top of their underpants just in case they wet. In the bathroom I also keep a package of baby wipes to wash the "tiny sisters" legs with if I have to drag wet underpants down their legs to get them off, and I keep a little package of diaper baggies to put pooey baby wipes in if necessary (as they're not flushable, and I don't want them in the garbage can).
Down stairs in that bathroom I keep a little basket also with baby wipes and diaper baggies for wipes in case we need to do a clean up down there. But after cleaning up we would just come up stairs to get new underpants or clothes.
Potty training successfully, ON PURPOSE, in a concise amount of time.
I can't encourage you enough to try using the principles from the book, Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, by Dr. Nathan Azri. It's a great, natural approach to potty training that enables parents and children to train in 4-6 hours and be done. No more diapers. And the child knows how to toilet themselves all by themselves. Now I still help them a bit when they're as young as these little muffins at age 2 1/2, by going in to the bathroom with them because knowledge is one thing but self-discipline to not play in there is another thing. *smirk* But the children know how to toilet themselves, and it didn't take 6 months to a year of off-and-on toileting.
Usually children decide when they're going to use the potty and when they're going to just use their diaper. Child-centered vs. parent-directed. Reactive vs. proactive. Child-centered is not only a headache, and expensive using diapers that much longer, but it's confusing to the child because they aren't expected to really potty train completely, and they then establish poor toileting habits. And parents are likely to find when their child is finally in underpants that sometimes the child will go in their pants because that was the pattern established earlier - sometimes using pants and sometimes using the toilet.
Now this doesn't mean that a parent just randomly decides when a child will potty train. There are lots of signs to watch for regarding readiness (discussed in detail in my first potty training post) to make sure it's the right time for a child to be successful, to desire to train, and for parents to be ready to take on this new adventure also. And it's a lot of focus time and work on behalf of the child during those 4-6 hrs. of training. But then it's done; ultimately taking a lot less time than dragging it all out over many, many months and having a lot more potty accidents to clean up (and not only at home, but on car upholstery, or at friends houses, etc.)
Well I hope this glimpse into our potty training twins experience has been insightful, helpful, and encouraging to those of you with multiples who are not yet potty trained. Now I've trained 8 of our 9 children! *whew!* *smile* There are many aspects to be considered in training these precious little muffins. But take heart! They will be potty trained some day. *laugh* I've often comforted myself with this thought. *hugs*
Blessings on your potty training efforts,
You might be interested in my related posts:
Potty Training Children...In Less Than a Day?
Living Life on Purpose - "Isn't it exhausting?"
Large Family Preparations to Leave the House - This, Too, Has a Plan
Siblings Sharing Bedrooms - "You have *how* many per room?!"
Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, by Dr. Nathan Azrin ($7 from Amazon)