This is Part 2 of The Potty Training Twins Boot Camp. You can find Part 1 here.
So you’ve prepared your home, your twins, and yourself for all the fun that’s to come with the potty training twins boot camp. Strap in folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! But I can tell you it will all be worth it when you get to say BUH-BYE to diapers forever and ever, amen.
As soon as they are up, the diapers come off and the underwear goes on. Some families like to train their kids with naked bottoms, but I like my furniture too much for that (don’t forget to roll up your rugs!) It was also February, so running around naked in the backyard was not an option, but if you’re training in the summer you should take advantage of this.
Set a timer for every 30 minutes and when that bell goes off it’s potty time. Make sure to tell your kids, “It’s time to go potty,” and usher them to the floor potties. Avoid phrasing these moments it like it’s an option. Asking, “Do you want to go to the potty?” will rarely give you the answer you want. Most kids don’t want to stop the fun they are having to go, which is why they have accidents. If you phrase it like it’s part of the routine, they will likely go along with it. If they are in the middle of watching a show or working on a puzzle, pause the action and promise it will be the same when they return.
Twiniversity Tip: Did you know that your Amazon Echo (aka “Alexa”) can help you POTTY TRAIN? Open the Alexa app on your phone, and under the “Alerts & Alarms” tab in the menu bar, you can set reminders, timers, or alarms. Choose Reminders, and name each of them “[YOUR TWINS NAMES], it’s time to use the potty.” and Alexa will actually say those words to your twins! You can’t set recurring reminders–only one at a time–but you can set multiple reminders at once. BRILLIANT! To buy: http://amzn.to/2gQzFWG
When you’re potty training twins there is often only one toilet nearby and so they have to learn to take turns. This is why it’s easier to start them with two floor potties — no waiting and fewer accidents from waiting. Also, it’s less intimidating for more reluctant trainers. For my boys, they didn’t really like the floor potty right away so I never bought a second one. They preferred using the big potty like mommy and daddy and often would fight me when I tried to get them to use the floor potty, so just having one floor potty worked for us. I would say start with two and if you find you don’t really use the second one you can keep it in the car for visiting friends and family. You will transition them to using the big toilet in their own time but don’t push this during the bootcamp.
Show them how to pull down their own pants (love those elastic waistbands!) and sit on the floor potties themselves. Once their business is done, give them ample praise and teach them to wipe and pull up their pants, then wash their hands. Coach them to do all of this themselves, but you’ll have to help out for quite a while. You’ll need to dump out the pee/poop into the toilet and rinse the potty cup out, and finish it off with a Clorox wipe. It’s up to you if you want to use a reward system (see Part 1 for details on rewards).
When your kids are ready for the big toilet, assist them at the beginning and soon they will get the hang of it. With little boys, you may want to start them out sitting down, teaching them to point their penises down to avoid rogue sprays (I did this with my boys because they weren’t very stable on the stool.) There’s a fantastic episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with a cute jingle to “flush and wash and be on your way!” (It’s also a really fun app!) We still sing that song almost 6 months after boot camp. My boys transitioned to the big toilet pretty quickly, and I realized that I needed two stools, one for the potty and one for the sink so that one boy can wash his hands while the other one gets on the potty.
Expect that you will get nothing done on Day 1. Your entire day will be watching your kids to determine when they need to go potty, as well as cleaning up the inevitable messes that will happen right in front of you. If you step away to do chores, that will be the moment that you miss the pee-pee dance. Accidents are bound to happen (and they will happen, a lot) but this first day is training you to learn what each twin’s “tells” are; what physical signals they give off that they need to visit the potty. Above all, never scold a child for having an accident; explain gently what to do next time, a few words of encouragement, and move on. This is all part of the process of learning; expect to go through a LOT of underwear that first day.
A note about sleep time
In the early stages of potty training twins, you will need to put your twins in Pull-Ups to sleep, as they won’t have control over their bladders while they sleep. The plus to Pull-Ups is your kids will feel when they “go” more easily, where a diaper just soaks it all up, and they can easily pull them down for a potty break. However, Pull-Ups tend to leak easier than diapers. I remedied this with a towel between their mattress pad and sheets. We added one final visit to the potty to our sleep time routine before getting in bed. The emptier their bladders are before bed, the better. You may even want to limit fluids a few hours before bed. As soon as they are up from sleep, switch them back into underwear.
Expect that your twins will sleep in Pull-Ups for several months, if not years. It is very common for children to not have that much control over their bladders until they are 6+ years old. Also, expect that one twin will be out of Pull-Ups before the other. It is rare that both will be done with Pull-Ups at the exact same moment. As with all steps in potty training (and child development in general) you have to remember that your twins are two different people and you should never expect them to follow the same patterns or behaviors, even if they are identical twins. One of my twins was sleeping through the night with zero accidents about 3 months into training, while his brother is still wearing a Pull-Up to bed 6 months later with no end in sight.
By day 2 my enthusiastic twin was independently going to the potty whenever he felt the urge, so I stopped setting a timer and moved to a potty reminder every hour. My reluctant twin started becoming angry and resentful to the whole process. Rewards were no longer motivating him and he was asking to have diapers back. At one point he pooped and peed in his underwear standing right in front of me. He pointed to the pee puddle and said, “Mommy look.” I handed him a paper towel to clean up the accident himself, and then I brought him to the bathroom to sit on the potty. As I took off his underwear a poop came flying out and splattered all over the bathroom floor. So yeah. Things were not going so great with him.
At this point in the weekend, you’ll probably notice that they are getting much better at peeing in the potty, but poops are still not happening or are very inconsistent. This is very normal. Bowel movements are way more challenging with early potty trainers. Your child may choose to withhold and refuse to go until they have a tummy ache. Some kids are scared to poop in the toilet at all, with some viewing it as losing a part of themselves. That can be scary to a 2 or 3-year-old! Just be sure to put your child on the potty consistently, every hour or so, to try to make a poop. One trick I learned from a potty pro is to have them blow bubbles on the potty; the fun of the bubbles lightens the mood, plus the deep breathing will help relax their bodies and make it easier to “go”. If your child shows signs of constipation and/or withholds for a long time, talk to your pediatrician.
Look forward to breakthroughs; they will always happen, sooner or later. At one point during the afternoon of day 2, my reluctant twin got up off the couch while watching a movie and walked into the bathroom to go potty on his own! I’m not sure if he did this just so he could pretend that he peed so that he could get a sticker (which he did a few times) or if he actually did plan on peeing. He came out and said it was, “So easy!” and I encouraged him, saying, “Yes, it is so easy! And you’re so good at it.”
You’ll also have setbacks. Many, many setbacks. Two steps forward, one step back. For example, my confident trainer suddenly peed on the couch while watching a movie. I took him straight to the potty and he sat on it for quite a while and I hung out with him in the bathroom and then all of a sudden he made an unexpected poop. So there you go, you never know what’s gonna happen.
On day 3, I found that there was a vast improvement. We had zero accidents all morning and my reluctant guy was routinely going on the potty by himself without me having to prompt. The other guy had made it to the end of his sticker chart and he got a Spider-Man toy and he was super excited. Then he pooped on the potty by himself and I didn’t even know he was doing it, as I was in the kitchen cleaning up. He called me from the bathroom, “Mommy, I made a poopy!” He was really excited. I recommend that you coach your twins to call to you when they’ve made a poop so you can supervise wiping and cleanup.
By mid-day, a miracle happened. The reluctant twin made a poop in the potty all by himself without me having to ask him to try. I was completely shocked and amazed at how far he had come in just 2 1/2 days. I was really glad I didn’t give up on him and we just kept trying and he eventually just got it.
After the Boot Camp
While the boot camp was a great success for us, we still had many months of continued training before finding consistency. Twin A was 100% trained (no Pull-Ups for naps or nighttime) within 3 months, which was a total shock to me. I knew he was ready to ditch the Pull-Ups when he was waking up from a full night sleep with a dry Pull-Up.
Twin B continued to have pee and poop accidents, at home and at day care. I became very frustrated because he just didn’t seem to care. He would poop his pants and keep playing, even sitting in it for a long time until someone would notice it. This caused him to have a diaper rash (I’m glad I hung on to that diaper cream!) Even after multiple explanations that doing this was making his tushy hurt, he would still do it. I think it was mainly because he didn’t want to take a break from playing. It was the worst when outside in the backyard or at a park. For a while, we brought the floor potty outside in the yard with us to remind him to take potty breaks.
After 6 months, he is finally getting the hang of it, and accidents are minimal. I don’t know what did it; it was like a switch flipped one day and he was able to cue himself to pee and poop on the potty without being nagged about it. I am pretty sure that his mild sensory issues had a lot to do with his delay, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. He’s onboard the potty train and there’s no going back. Woo wooooo!!!!
Julie Burt Nichols is Twiniversity’s Dean of Parents, serving as Editor-in-Chief of Twiniversity.com, Account Manager, and Instructor for Chicago Twiniversity classes.