TwinParenthood.com is pleased to turn over this space today to guest author Ilana Long, mom of now school aged twins Benji and Marina. This story is excerpted with permission from Ilana Long’s humorous multiples parenting book, “The Binky Conspiracy”. The book is available at Amazon.com
Wee-Wee-Wee All the Way Home
“It’s all to do with the training; you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.” -Queen Elizabeth II
Steve and I lay in bed, bickering at midnight, as if this decision would alter the course of our childrens’ lives. “I think it’s time we just go military on ‘em and get it done with,” he asserts.
“I don’t know. What if one of them gets it, but the other isn’t ready. Let’s just play it by ear.”
We are at an impasse about the path to potty training our two-year-old twins, Benjamin and Marina. Steve, a math teacher, wants to take the logical, ordered approach. I want to go with a more creative, freeform method.
To be fair, I have to admit that Steve’s techniques have always been the route to success in our previous child-training efforts: sleep schedules, feeding schedules, consistent discipline. Nonetheless, I feel a need to argue with him, if only to keep in shape for these tactical bouts.
“C’mon, Hon,” I add, “They’ll pick it up at their own pace. I promise they won’t go to their Microsoft interviews still sucking their thumbs and wearing diapers.”
He is unmoved. “Look, let’s try it my way. If they’re not potty trained within the week,” he concedes, “we’ll reassess.” We’re like some kind of miniature parenting focus group, awaiting results from our study.
For each child, I purchase three pairs of outrageously overpriced training underpants, imagining, in my naiveté, that these will last three days. We have waited until the heat of summer in their second year, so that we can let them run around naked on the back deck, and, hopefully, become aware of the fact that they are peeing. We fill up a little wading pool for them to play in, and explain the rules.
“Alright. No peeing in the pool. If you need to pee, go and sit on the potty,” I say, gesturing to the lovely addition to our outdoor patio furniture.
“Okay,” says Benji as he is peeing out a stream into the pool. “Oh, look. I peed!” He is thrilled with this visible action that he is now able to perform with his useful equipment.
Not to be outdone, Marina exclaims, “Ohp.” Bowing her legs, she opens her eyes wide with surprise, “I can pee, too!”
“Run to the potty. Run. Run!” I shout, knowing full well this is a futile effort. The damage is done. Simultaneously, they race to the potty chair in a frenzied game of musical chair, and try to sit on top of each other.
“Me first,” says Benji. And seven seconds later, “Nope. I can’t pee.”
That afternoon, we go through all six pairs of underwear. I race to the store and buy 12 more pairs. They are ridiculously pricey. I consider taking out a second mortgage on the house.
That night, we put the kids to bed in underpants. I know. I know. Well, now I know. You could have told me earlier that most toddlers sleep in diapers, even after they are potty trained during the daytime. Hours later, I’m wide awake, running the dryer on high and breaking out the few training diapers I had too-hastily stashed away in my earlier over-confident delirium.
I was getting desperate. Preschool was starting in a couple of months, and my three and a half year old twin boys HAD to be potty trained or they couldn’t start. The main problem in getting them toilet trained was that we just didn’t have the energy to devote to it. Our twin girls were in their first year and had consumed every ounce of it.
But now, it was down to the wire, and I could put it off no longer. As per my usual style, I read everything written on the subject. I wondered if the technique for training multiples needed to be different than for toilet training a singleton. And when it came down to choosing my method, I ended up doing my own thing anyway. I took bits and pieces of things I’d read and reworked them to fit our family and our needs. Just as you should do, too.
The thing that most amazed me was that my girls were only about 12 months old, and unintentionally, they began to potty train, too! By 14 months old, they were completely toilet trained (with no accidents) and only used diapers at night. By eighteen months old, they were off the night diapers, too. The thing is, if you enthusiastically model the behavior, I think you could potty train 20 kids at the same time. There is a kind of synergy that grows. In fact, if it is done correctly, I really think that potty training multiples can be easier than potty training a singleton. So whether you have twins, triplets, or more — give my method a try and see how it goes for you.
The technique is pretty simple. I figured out a schedule of events for going to the bathroom and washing hands. I enthusiastically modeled the behavior. I then turned to the kids and asked, “Who’s next?” The timing for heading to the potty were natural events in their day that could be triggers the kids would be able to key into later by themselves (not based on a clock).
Our events were:
- Always upon rising (in the morning / after nap. Do this first thing, even if they wear a diaper for sleep)
- before snack (morning / afternoon)
- before sleep (nap / bedtime)
- before meals
- always before leaving the house
- always upon arriving home
Before we started, we talked about them getting to be old enough to use the toilet and to wear “big boy” and “big girl” underpants. We went on a special shopping trip where they picked out their new underpants, and we talked about how exciting it will be for them.
Then, I continued to really talk it up and model the behavior, and was VERY animated about it. “Oh! it’s snack time! I’ve got to go to potty!”, then I’d run (literally) in and let all four of the kids watch me use the toilet and wash my hands. (You’ve gotta give up on your privacy for a while!) Then I’d turn to them and say, “Who’s next?”
|Tip: Be sure to have at least as many potty chairs as you have children. Multiples model the behavior to each other and there will be many times that they will go at the same time.
Pretty soon I’d only have to say, “Oh! it’s snack time!” and all four kids would run down the hall to the bathroom. Since there were four of them, we had them line up out in the hall to wait their turn. If there was any pushing, fighting, or crying that child went to the back of the line.
It’s kind of funny now… they are 8 and 6 and still, when I say, “Dinner time!” you can hear a trampling of footsteps as they all stampede to the bathroom. Then they line up outside the door to take their turn washing hands. They no longer use each of the events as triggers, but the hand washing at each of the events pretty much stuck.
If you have other regularly occurring events at your house, you can add those in — or create events as needed. The trick is that these events should trigger the habit of going to the bathroom. That way, later on when they ARE trained… you don’t have to spend all your time reminding them to go to the bathroom. The events trigger it.
Another critical survival tactic for us was having a potty chair in the back of the van. Even though we had them use the potty before we left the house, we still had our emergencies. The portable potty was a lifesaver more than a few times.
|Tip: Put a clean diaper in the bottom of the potty chair in your vehicle to keep the liquid from sloshing around until you are able to empty it.
Toilet training is one of those things where a lot of different styles can be successful. You may need to consider other approaches that might be a better fit for your family and your kids.
One twin mom highly recommends Jan Faull’s approach to potty training (Mommy! I have to go Potty! A Parent’s Guide to Toilet Training). Archana B. of Seattle says, “I have a schedule for my kids to go “practice with them” so we end up going almost every 1 hour to 1.5 hours. I remind them by using these words (important words here) – ‘its time to go practice our potty… its your job to go potty, I am here to help, one day you will go potty all by yourself.’ This way you are giving them the onus for taking the responsibility to go potty and that they can count on you for help. Its about setting expectation too.
The other thing that I did which I did not even consider doing till Jan mentioned was getting rid of our changing table completely. Basically we now clean them, and diaper them for the night standing up. We got flushable wipes for the poop and do all the cleaning in the bathroom. We told them they are grown out the table and now big enough to use the potty. Its subtle, but made a big difference for the kids. We used to use the changing table as our “bonding” area and now that we have taken it away, we still cuddle and play but not while they are being diapered/pull up for naps etc..”
As with anything parenting, there are many different approaches and methods. If something here doesn’t quite click with you, there are many many books devoted to the subject available at your public library or book store. Whatever method you decide to try, the key is patience and consistently — as it always seems to be in parenting.