There are things you will face as a parent that nothing can prepare you for. You may think you are ready to answer whatever questions about life your little ones will ask, and then potty training begins and you find yourself speechless, unsure how to explain to your two-year-old twins why one has certain body parts and the other doesn’t. You may find your twins trying to help each other use the bathroom, including clean each other’s bottoms. Or you may walk into the bathroom to find your girl twin trying to imitate her twin brother by standing up in front of the toilet.
Potty training twins is an interesting experience, to say the least, especially if they are boy/girl twins. No two children develop exactly the same, and boys and girls have different needs and challenges in the bathroom. If you have boy/girl twins who are ready to potty train, you may wonder how to go about the process. Should you train them at the same time? Should you let them go to the bathroom together or should you separate them? A lot of these decisions will be a matter of preference or trial and error, but here are a few things that helped me get through that lovely time of teaching two little ones how to use a toilet.
Potty Training Boy/Girl Twins
First, be prepared: potty training twins is not the same as potty training singletons. The twin factor definitely plays a part in the process. My twins have always pooped at the same time, and several of my friends with twins have marveled that their twins are also on the same pooping schedule. This can be a good thing (we get it over with at the same time) and a bad thing (just finished cleaning up that diaper, whew! NOT! There’s still another one to clean up!) The synchronized pooping has extended into potty training.
Another way the twin factor has shown itself in potty training is that when my twins do have a success in the bathroom, they feel the need to see one another’s success and very emphatically congratulate the other. In fact, the other day, when my boy twin had pooped in the potty and I was about to flush it down, my girl came running and said, “NOOOO! I need to SEE IT!” This is a phenomenon I, as a singleton, cannot comprehend. There has never been anyone in this world I have been so bonded to that I came running, demanding to see their bathroom successes. However, twins are fascinating in every way. So be prepared to witness your twins’ bond even in the bathroom.
Along with pooping at the same time and needing to be very much involved in each other’s bathroom endeavors, I have noticed that the twin factor lends itself to some competition in potty training. This can be advantageous when it encourages one twin to copy the other and also use the potty. This is why I initially put my twins’ potty seats side by side. I found that they were motivated by each other and learned from one another. However, having them involved in each other’s potty training has had its difficulties. As mentioned previously, sometimes they will try to copy each other in the bathroom, which does not work so well when the girl is trying to stand up like her brother.
A lot of questions surrounding potty training revolve around the readiness factor. Parents wonder if their kids are ready, and how they will know when the time is right. Let me take a minute to assure you that the real question is often not only: Are they ready? But also: Are you ready? One of the most important things you as a parent can give your twins during potty training is consistency. And a parent that is not ready, or that is constantly second-guessing whether or not their child is ready, is often inconsistent. They will often jump back and forth between diapers and underwear, which can be confusing to the child and can lengthen the potty training process. Wait until your child is ready and when you yourself are ready to embark on the journey, committed to consistency.
As far as a specific age when they are ready, all children develop differently. However, it is interesting to note that the average potty training age in the 1950s, before the convenience of disposable diapers was widespread, was 18 months. Now, I’m not at all suggesting you try to train your 18-month-old to use the potty unless you’re both ready…obviously, it is possible, and some kids do potty train at this age. But my point is that if your twins are over the age of 2 and you are all ready, they should be physically and mentally capable of learning to potty train. Of course, there is no harm in waiting, either.
Should you potty train boy/girl twins at the same time? I say sure! Why not? If they are both healthy and developmentally on track, they should be able to potty train together. I personally preferred training mine at the same time, as the thought of getting one trained and then having to turn around and start all over with another was not appealing to me. Now, I know there are rampant rumors that girls are easier to potty train than boys, but I do not believe that is always the case. In fact, my girl was noticeably more difficult to train than my boy. She was more resistant to the process and had more accidents. So try not to make any advanced judgments based on the child’s gender. You never know which one is going to get it immediately and which one is going to need a little more time. Respect their individuality and never make one feel bad for taking longer.
Once you decide you are ready and committed to consistency, go for it. Go out and let your twins pick out some exciting new underwear, then ditch the diapers during the day, making sure your kids know that diapers are for sleep times (and maybe long vehicle rides) and that otherwise, they are big enough to wear underwear now! With each of my 6 kids I used a timer and in the first few weeks, I would tell them “It’s potty time!” when the timer beeped. Potty time meant sitting for a few minutes and giving it a good try. If nothing happens, that’s ok! We would just try again in a little while. In all of this, confidence and consistency are key. If you’re confident they can do it, they will pick up on that and it will boost their confidence.
When they have accidents – and they will – tell them it’s ok, everyone has accidents sometimes, and try not to make a big deal about it. Try not to let accidents cause you to second guess the process. Accidents are a necessary part of the process, for they help kids learn the sensations associated with needing to go, and feeling wet when they can’t quite make it in time. Never shame a kid for an accident – they are still new little people and need plenty of patience with this process. However, an accident is rarely a reason to throw your hands up and switch them back to diapers.
Potty training boy/girl twins may not be something you’re looking forward to, but it doesn’t have to be dreaded. It will get easier little by little, and you will be able to breathe a sigh of relief when they finally master it. Think about all that your twins have learned in the first few years of their lives, marvel at their innate, amazing ability to learn, and trust that they can learn this too! You’ve got this!
Natalie Downey is a stay at home mom to six rambunctious but lovable kids. Her two-year-old boy/girl twins were the surprise of her life and keep her on her toes. She gets by with lots of help from coffee and yoga and enjoys literature, spontaneous dance parties with her kids, and playing guitar.