One of the blog posts people have asked me to write in the past has always been potty training tips. I never did one because…I didn’t have any! It was so hard for me to be consistent and thorough with potty training. I tried many times, only to get frustrated that it didn’t happen instantly or be too tired at the end of a long day to put in anymore energy toward it. Their teachers would tell me they did okay at school, but it wasn’t translating to home.
Finally, right after their third birthday in March, we went all in. We were in quarantine, and with school and work closed, nowhere to be, and nothing but time, it seemed like as good a time as any. Alex in particular already showed signs of readiness and had even told us outright “I don’t want to wear diapers anymore; I want underwear like Liam (his big cousin)” What did we have to lose?
It’s been important for us to remember in the potty-training process that though our boys are twins, they are individuals. They have different priorities, different needs, and different levels of development. Alex took to potty training right away, but Nathan took much longer. However, with consistency, patience, and time, they both got it down! We’re officially out of diapers and in underwear 24/7 with very occasional accidents.
Here are my crucial keys for successfully potty training two kiddos in a span of six months!
Be consistent and commit. Once we were in, we were in. We committed to Pull-Ups only during naps and at night. No matter how over it we were, we refused to put a pull-up on them during the day. We felt like it would only send us backwards. Eventually, those pull-ups started staying dry during periods of sleep and after a few nights of waking up dry, we committed to underwear at night too. There was some bed-wetting at the beginning, but we held fast.
Timing is everything. We made sure the boys went to the bathroom first thing in the morning and last thing at night. This helped prevent night accidents and eventually got them in the routine of doing it themselves. We also paid attention to how much time had passed between bathroom trips and asked if they had to go to the point of probably being annoying. Now, they go on their own cues and we still send them right before bed. They go first thing in the morning on their own – just like big people do!
Reward, reward, reward! Lots of child psychologists probably frown on this, but never undestimate the power of a single Skittle. The boys got one Skittle for number one and two for going number two. It was a big motivator! Eventually, they started going without needing a reward and it tapered off as it became automatic for them. We also showered them in praise, yelps, and cheers every time they were successful and got all of our family members on board to applaud them too. They were really proud of themselves and the positive reinforcement was definitely motivating for them.
Be patient and respect their timeline. Like I said above, Alex got it right away. He wet himself once or twice and that was it. Nathan took months. For the longest, he just flat out did not care about anything we had to offer or say to him to keep him dry. So we focused on Alex and let Nathan do his own thing, and once Alex had it down, we shifted our focus. This helped keep us from getting burnt out and frustrated trying to do them both at once. And then, one day, Nathan was interested. He asked for underwear, so we put them on him, and slowly but surely, he got it. It didn’t start to work until we stopped trying to force him and met him where he was. We might have taken the long way, but we got there eventually.
Understand that accidents happen. And still do! Every now and then, they may still have a night accident or one in the car when we can’t pull over in time. It’s normal, and I can’t beat myself up or blow up at them every single time if it was truly an accident. And this understanding has to increase tenfold when they’re still learning, because they’re doing just that – learning, not mastering. Give yourself and your child grace when accidents happen and understand that they are part of the process.
Get cool underwear. Pretty simple: we got them underwear of their favorite characters. At the time, it was Thomas the Train. Their underwear collection has since expanded, but seeing their favorite things was quite motivating and helped them form more of a personal connection to what we were asking for them. (“Please don’t poop on Thomas.”)
Get the right gear. The potties we used were a Christmas gift, but I liked them because the seat could come off and fit onto a regular toilet seat. That seemed more fun for them. We put a step stool in front of the toilet and they enjoyed climbing up and sitting up tall. They still used the small potty pretty often, but it helped that we could switch back and forth. We also bought the “frog urinal” that I kept seeing on my Facebook feed. They liked that, but it wasn’t make or break, and we honestly didn’t get a ton of use out of it before they got comfortable using the big toilet.
Limit drinks in the evening. I try not to give the boys anything to drink at least an hour before bedtime. Sometimes, if they’re acting like they’re dying of thirst, I’ll give them the tiniest bit of water – literally a comical amount – and that’s it. This cuts down significantly on nighttime accidents, especially when coupled with using the bathroom before bed.
Hit the Cheerios! Like many families, we made a game out of it. I got a big box of store-brand Cheerios and dropped a couple in the potty every time I got the boys to go. They started calling it “spraying the Cheerios” and while I recognize how gross that sounds, it really worked! I’ve also heard of using ping-pong balls in the toilet, though not sure how that would work when flushing. Either way, it always helps to up the fun factor.
Put the potty in a high-traffic area. Now, of course, we can expect them to independently go to the bathroom, sit on the toilet, finish and go back to what they were doing. But when they were still learning, we used a little bit of a different approach. We moved the potties out to the living room, so they didn’t have to go far to stop playing and could still see the TV if they were watching something particularly exciting. If you can get past the gross level of having your child poop in the living room, it makes a big difference – the easier access, the better.
Get teachers or any other caregivers on board too. I knew they worked on potty training at the twins’ daycare, so when we sent the twins back to school in August, I stopped sending pull-ups with them. Full stop. I sent a big bag of clean underwear and extra clothes. The first week, Nathan was in a change of clothes and I was being handed a bag of wet clothes every afternoon. But I just kept sending clean clothes and rewarding him on accident free-days with a special treat, or a big prize at the end of an accident-free week, and it clicked. The home-school connection makes a big difference. If both entities aren’t on the same page, the whole thing can unravel fast.
Be okay with getting a little weird. My boys – like many others – LOVE going number one outside. There’s something very wild and free about it and they think it’s hilarious. So every now and then – they have to get permission first – we let them go in the backyard. A little unorthodox, but it prevents accidents and makes going fun, and has translated very well to the bathroom.
Don’t compare and don’t bend to anyone else’s pressure. Y’all, one day I asked on an IG story poll what age my followers’ kids were potty trained and somebody really got on there and said ten months old. I about fell out. If I had tried to potty train my boys at ten months it would have been an abysmal failure and a massive stress on James and I. If it worked for that parent, awesome! But there’s nothing wrong with listening to your heart and following your child’s cues. The twins finally got it at past three years old, and I had people in my ear for well over a year telling me it was time for them to go to the bathroom. Like I said, we got there eventually, and we did what worked for our family and did it in a way that kept us all sane and happy and not frazzled and frantic like we would’ve been if we’d rushed the process.
If you have anymore questions about how we potty trained the boys, please reach out to me! I have no regrets about the way we did this and I’m extremely proud of my boys and the many changes they adapted to this year. (I’d write a blog post about how we got rid of pacifiers but it’d be too short: We bagged them up and chucked them and endured a night of screaming. The end!)