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Potty training twins: part 1 {No plan}

As a mother to three children with another on the way, I know the importance of planning. As a mother of twins, I know the importance of planning. And now, as a mother to children growing more and more independent each day, I'm learning the importance of going with the flow, trying things out, and seeing where life takes us-- essentially, throwing out the plan and flying by the seat of our pants.

We have already potty trained one child. I wrote three blog posts about the experience:
With him, he really didn't want to potty train. He liked diapers and was fine with how things were going. As his parents, we were the ones ready to be done with diapers. If you read the blog posts on potty training D, you know that he was ready to potty train and capable to do so. The thing that I liked about potty training him was that he was ready and so when we finally did it, we were able to do days, nights, naptime, out and about... It all just feel into place.

As for potty training our 2.5-year old twin toddlers, I came up with a plan. I wanted to wait until they were the same age our oldest was when we potty trained him, a couple months past 3 years old. I did have other reasons for wanting to wait as well, such as their vocabulary and their maturity level. (Read my blog post "Potty training 2.5 year old twin boys?")

My plan has gone out the window! One of our twin toddlers, C, decided that he wanted to potty train. He even said that, "I want potty train now." {Face palm.} I put it off. We played along with his desire to use the potty, feeling like it was helping him understand the concept of eventually potty training. He wanted his diaper changed after each time he tinkled. He would tell us before he would poop, after he pooped, waddle to the diaper changing basket, pull out a clean diaper and wipes, and demand we promptly changed him. Sometimes he would tell us before he would poop or pee and demand to use the potty. I was doing everything I could to prevent him from potty training. What changed my mind?

A couple weeks ago the toddlers' vocabulary and communication skills leaped forward. It felt like one week we were totally frustrated that they wouldn't use their words to communicate-- depending on temper tantrums to express themselves-- and a week later they were chatting with us about their day. C started expressing more and more his desire to potty train-- which I listened to-- but what really convinced me to let him try was when I started being able to negotiate and reason with him. One morning we were rushing out of the house. The toddlers were feeling hurried and stressed as I searched for shoes and dressed them quickly. C started screaming and flailing when I attempted to strap him into his car seat. I took him out of the seat and stood him in the driveway next to our van and began to reason with him. He listened! We came to an agreement and I was able to peacefully strap him his car seat. That conversation was the turning point for me. I realized that if I could explain to him why I needed him to buckle up, I could explain to him the fundamentals of potty training.

I made the decision to make a new plan for potty training: No Plan.

This past Thursday, we had an afternoon at home. I put both the toddlers in underwear and explained to them that they cannot go potty in their underwear; they must use the toilet. They agreed. C was beaming; he was so thrilled to finally be in underwear! I remembered how well the timer system worked with their older brother so I set the timer on the microwave. The timer works great for two reasons:

1. it isn't you harassing your child every couple minutes, "Do you have to go potty? Hey, do you have to go potty? Love, do you need to go potty?"
2. it puts them in charge, "Momma! The timer went off! Time to go potty!"

I figured that when the timer went off, we would all trudge into the bathroom and try to go potty. It didn't work well.

For C, our toddler who wants to potty train, he felt too much pressure. He wanted to go potty. When I brought him in the bathroom at intervals, he felt like I was telling him that he had to go then. He would try and try and when he couldn't produce even a drop, he would look so sad and disappointed. He didn't throw a fit or burst into tears; he would just look up at me with big eyes brimming with tears, "Momma! I no have to go!"

For O, our toddler who we only put in underwear because we were letting his twin brother attempt to potty train, it was boring. It became a game: do not use the bathroom when the timer goes off. He would run and hide when he heard the timer, or, worse, try to be the first to the bathroom so he could attack the toothpaste tubes before I got in there (as a rule, none of our boys are allowed to loiter in the bathroom when their business in there is done). Every time he stood in front of the toilet, he said he did not have to go. He did hold it for an impressively long time Thursday afternoon. It all blew up in our face though. By Thursday evening, he had a series of accidents, the first standing in front of the toilet and the next 3 anywhere that he wanted to in our house, all after denying the need to go in the first place, "No have to go, Momma. No need potty, Momma. No baf-room, Momma!" My poor husband had his hands full with O that night. Graciously, he allowed O to keep trying and let him put on underwear again and again, patiently explaining the process after each "accident" (in quotes because that child had no intention of ever using the toilet that day). After 3 accidents in a row though, even my optimistic husband couldn't justify putting O in underwear again and O was put back into a diaper. When O finally crinkled back to the table wearing a diaper, both his brothers looked at him. Finally D, their older brother, said, "Uh-oh. O isn't potty training anymore?" O didn't seem to mind; he acted almost relieved that he was no longer part of the potty training charade.

Thursday night, our first day potty training, my husband and I discussed how things were going and how we wanted to proceed. We came to the decision that we would continue potty training C and we would keep O in diapers. That is how we arrived at potty training one of our 2.5-year old twins and the other toddler is remaining in diapers. I'm in no hurry to push O because I don't think he's ready. While his vocabulary has grown, he doesn't communicate or negotiate as much as C does. I'm not saying that he won't or that I feel he is somehow delayed or that C is advanced; I just don't think he's ready to potty train. If he was not a twin and his identical twin brother wasn't potty training at the moment, I wouldn't even consider potty training him. And that is how I'm going to treat them: like individuals. Just because one twin is doing something doesn't mean that the other must. Just because one twin is ready to potty train now, doesn't mean there is something wrong with the twin not potty training. We have been very careful around here not to use language that is comparing them. "O, do you see what C is doing? Do you want to potty train too?" While my husband and I have discussed that seeing his 2 brothers in underwear could possibly motivate him to potty train sooner than later (never underestimate the power of monkey see/monkey do), we haven't vocalized this to the boys. Our 5-year old has asked a couple times, "Why is C potty training and not O?" And our answer is, "Because C wants to potty train right now and O doesn't, which is okay."

So how have been managing this? Yes, it gets chaotic having two toddlers in the bathroom. Just because O isn't potty training and their older brother D has been potty trained for 2.5 years now, doesn't mean when C has to go potty that it is just me and him in there. Nope, all the boys make their way into the bathroom. This stressed me out at first. There was just too much going on in there until I realized that when we go out of the house, this is how it will be. Now I don't stress about them being in the bathroom. They need to leave C alone while he goes potty. No toys are allowed in the bathroom (not that we ever really allow toys in the bathroom, but when 2 boys follow their brother into the bathroom, they have a tendency to want to drag the house in there with us). I do allow O to be curious in there. While we are not pushing to potty train him, I don't want him to feel that the toilet is off-limits for him. I allow him to watch and ask questions. However, we have rules in the bathroom. While I know how clean our toilets are at home, we aren't sure how clean public bathrooms are. We don't allow any of the boys to touch the toilet (well, more than necessary-- toddlers and toilets are just a bad combination in general). We believe in teaching them bathroom etiquette at home that can be applied out in public. I have our oldest stand like a gentleman if he wants to come in the bathroom with us while I'm potty training C. If O wants to watch as well, I usually have him sit on one of the bathroom stools or stand with D. I do not let D and O rough house while standing in the bathroom with us (yup, siblings have a gift for constantly messing with each other, "I'm not touching you... I'm not touching you... I'm not touching you..."). We have bathroom rules and we are strict in enforcing them. If they don't follow the rules, they have to leave the room.

Potty training, no matter how eager the child, requires spending a lot of time in the bathroom. We learned a long time ago that we need a chair in the boys' bathroom. I've spent a lot of time in that chair the last couple days. Thursday I completely cleaned the bathroom, even the baseboards. Friday was busier with a full day in underwear; it passed in a blur. (Amazing how some days fly by and some days drag on when you are a stay-at-home mom!) Saturday was great because my husband was home to help take C to the bathroom; I felt like I finally got to spend time in other rooms of our house. :)

Overall, I'm very pleased with how potty training is going with C. He really desires to be potty trained and is working very hard at it. He's had minimal accidents, none of them messy. He's actually taken to potty training so quickly that I put him in underwear all day, from the time he wakes up to the time he puts on pajamas. He took a 3 hour nap on Friday and stayed dry the whole time. Saturday we ran errands-- 2 different stops, out of the house for 2.5 hours-- and he was dry the whole time, even using the public restroom while we were gone. When we arrived at a store, we took him to the restroom and we took him again before we left. (Note: I only braved leaving the house this early in the potty training process with all the boys in tow because my husband was home to help. One of us was able to quickly get him to the restroom when C needed to go potty while the other stayed with his brothers.) Right now I'm feeling like we are going to hold off on nights. I'm not sure he's ready to be in the bathroom unsupervised, especially if he has a fellow 2-year old following him in there. For now we are taking baby steps, seeing what works, seeing what they can do with the freedom we are handing over to them. When we tackled nights with our oldest, he was waking up dry night after night. C is not waking up dry every morning, so I'm not sure when we will do nights. Again, my plan is No Plan-- we'll just see what happens.

As for a rewards system, we haven't had to be as creative with our rewards system with C as we were for his older brother. C's ambition to potty training is really driving us this time around. We do have a jar of gummy candies sitting on the counter as his treat, but we haven't had to do something different for pooping or peeing-- he does both on his own accord in the toilet. The only problem with "treat," as the he calls it, is that O gets quite upset when his brother is picking out gummy candies that he can't have. Occasionally our 5-year old asks if he can have one, but he is more accepting of our answer than his 2.5-year old brother. Because we don't want our toddlers to feel that they are being compared against each other as twins, we are careful how we word our reasoning as to why C gets a treat and O doesn't. When O starts reaching for a treat, I tell him that these are C's treats. When he demands further explanation, "Why I not get treat, Momma?" I politely tell him that C is potty training right now, which is the truth. O has said to that that he wants to potty train, which he doesn't. As I wrote this, he insisted on trying to go potty after seeing C get a treat, only to get in the bathroom and fidget around, refuse to go near the toilet, and try to grab the toothpaste tube. Now when I tell him that C is potty training right now, I quickly add that he will potty train soon too and will get treats then as well. I briefly entertained the idea of finding some sort of consolation treat for D and O, immediately shooting down the idea. We don't give all 3 boys medicine when only 1 child needs medicine. We aren't going to reward all 3 boys because 1 is potty training successfully. We are loving but firm and the technique is working thus far.

Wish us luck! We are breaking on to day 4 of potty training and-- knock on wood-- so far no accidents today! :)


We had two girls first so when our boy came along I decided I had no intention of potty training him before 3. I was frankly terrified! But then a few months before 3 he started asking to use the potty. I just followed his lead having no expectation that he was actually going to potty train. So, basically he did all the hard work and I just followed his lead! I feel so lucky he took the lead on this because I was worried about how to go about it.
Kimber said…
I feel like that is very similar to what our little guy is doing! He's very motivated. Yesterday he ran an errand with me and was dry the whole time and then took a 3 hour nap and woke up dry. I wasn't sure he actually wanted to potty train, but he is doing it!
Katelyn said…
With our twins, one was definitely more ready than the other. My daughter Alison would squeak out a pee every 5 minutes (or less) so she could get another chocolate chip! But, wasn't consistent over all. Her sister was able to hold it longer, woke up dry, and was just more ready. So we worked more intensely with Lisa at first, and then her sister, but they often overlapped. With twins I really do think its an individual basis thing.


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