Toddler Thursday: Reflections on Potty Training Twins

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Categories Parenting, Potty Training, Preschoolers, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers

I originally posted this on my blog a couple of weeks after Baby B potty-trained, which was about 6 months to the day after Baby A potty-trained.  I decided to document what worked for us, in hopes that it might be helpful to someone else.  Here’s hoping!

Potty Training Reflections

I remember where I was a year ago…I didn’t know much about potty-training, but I knew it would be in my relatively near future. I planned to do my research and decide upon an approach. I would be prepared, and I figured that would be at least half the battle.

When Baby A started showing some signs of interest in the potty, shortly after she turned two, I started reading…the parenting books I had, online sources of parenting information, blog posts. Outside of the “boot camp” approach, I didn’t feel like there was much “methodology” to understand. I read about reward systems and pull-ups, but I surely didn’t find a step-by-step guide as I’d hoped.

Having said goodbye to diapers three full weeks ago (!!!), I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned. I know that two children does not a statistically significant sample make, but – even with the girls being very different from each other – there are a couple of learnings I can point to in our experience. Some of these are personal opinions of mine, and some are more overarching principles that I’ll actually reference beyond potty-training.

Consider your rewards very carefully, in light of what behavior you’re trying to motivate.

I often hear about people using sticker charts or M&Ms, with rewards earned for output, sometimes in weighted amounts. In both cases, our girls told us they wanted to start using the potty, so I didn’t need to motivate them to “produce”.

Instead, I sold our girls hard on how cool it was to get to flush the potty. With both of them we went through a period of time when they wanted to tee just a couple of drops to be able to flush (I could just imagine how manipulative things could have gotten if they were jonesing for M&Ms!). I told them, “That’s not enough to flush.” (In Baby A’s first couple of days, we flushed so much the potty actually did “break”…fortunately Hubby heard the anguish in my voice and was able to rescue me during his lunch period that day. In the midst of potty-training, I was in no state to deal with a plunger myself!)

The “prestige” of being a big girl, of flushing the potty, and of wearing pretty underwear seemed to be motivation enough for both our girls. After several months, Baby A began having some very small accidents…not wanting to interrupt her play for a bathroom break. About six weeks ago I started awarding her a sticker at the end of the day for keeping clean and dry all day. It worked like a charm! She loves to get her card off the refrigerator, pick a sticker, and show her new sticker off to her daddy. I immediately got Baby B on the same system, and she’s been earning stickers almost every day, too.

“Play” is part of learning, but I only allow it in measured doses.

When both girls started using the potty, it was quite the novelty, of course. It was so frustrating to me how much they wanted to play! Whereas I don’t tolerate playing at mealtime, though, I was afraid to reprimand them too much on the potty…ultimately they were doing what I was trying to encourage. Someone commented on a blog post, reminding me that a child’s job is to play. It was a great reminder for me to be patient, and know that the novelty would wear off sooner or later.

Still, I have rules about sitting on the potty. Your hands belong on the handles on either side of the seat. When the girls start to play the “why” game, or sing, or get otherwise distracted, I’ll remind them, “We’re here to make our tee-tees / stinkies. We can talk / sing when you’re finished.”

I don’t “reprimand” them so much as encourage positive behavior. After a point, though, if I think they’re truly just playing, then potty-time is over.

Be flexible – and encourage flexibility – in the potty location.

Before the girls started to potty-train, I was vehemently opposed to using a potty chair. (I couldn’t imagine having to clean it out!) I bought the girls a potty ring for the regular toilet. That worked fine…until Baby A seemed to use potty-time as an excuse to garner one-on-one time with Mommy (the bathroom being separate from the playroom). I bought the potty chair and put it right next to the playroom. That quickly addressed Baby A trying to go every five minutes.

Baby A used the potty ring on the upstairs potty, and she had no trouble using the portable potty seat in public restrooms. And if we’re at a friend’s house, she does fine sitting on the regular toilet (I hold her gently to make sure she doesn’t lose balance and fall in!) I have heard about kids getting attached to one particular potty chair or ring. By introducing different potty paraphernalia from the beginning, I hoped to avoid that issue.

I started Baby B on the potty chair, but she was playing so much…bouncing with her feet and wanting to lift the seat from the base. So I moved her to using the potty ring. That allowed me to discourage her playing, as her feet don’t touch the floor. I also transitioned A to the big potty, so we’re potty chair-free these days, too!

I never used Pull-ups.

I don’t mean to be controversial here…I know there’s a big market for this intermediate step, so it must work for a lot of families. Maybe because I was able to wait for our girls to make the first move, though, letting me know they wanted to use the potty, I never felt Pull-ups were necessary. I didn’t like the idea of putting a “just in case” / back-up system in place.

I think some parents use a Pull-up when they leave the house, to avoid messy accidents away from home. I certainly understand that fear! I wanted to avoid that scenario at all costs, too. For us that meant staying at home during the first three to five days when the girls were taking on their new responsibility.

With Baby A, who trained at 27 months, I took very small outings at first…a walk around the block for 30 minutes…then working up to a quick run to Target within a 45 minute window. I would wait until she’d just used the potty at home to time our trip.

With Baby B being older (I guess), this didn’t seem like much of an issue. When she “got it”, within the first five days, I felt comfortable to leave the house as usual. She used a public potty within the first week, and it wasn’t a big deal.

Potty-training is an emotional time.

I saw it with both my girls…they became very sensitive when they were potty-training. I’ve read about developmental changes inciting emotions, and I believe it wholeheartedly. I explained it to myself that the girls were coping with a huge responsibility, and – relative to their little worlds – that was a lot of pressure on them. Once they became more confident in their abilities, within a week or so, their emotions stabilized (at least relative to a two-year old!).

Baby A also regressed a bit when Baby B started training. I didn’t anticipate it, but I recognized it quickly. For a full six months, Baby A had been a star on the throne…and here was her sister joining her in the spotlight, wearing pretty underwear, and getting stickers, just like she had been. Whereas Baby A’s potty use had become a fact of life, I began to praise her again, noting how proud I was of her, as well as her sister.

Potty-training is stressful.

A blog friend of mine wrote a year or so ago, “If potty training is stressful, your children aren’t ready.” A couple of kids later, I agree…but…it’s all relative.

Even though I feel confident both my girls were ready, such that motivation wasn’t a huge factor, potty training was still a stressful time. That first week or so there was a constant need for attention…looking at the clock…listening for cues…back and forth to the potty…wanting to discipline, but not wanting to discourage.

But…everything evens out. The newness wears off, the routines kick in, and – over time – going to the potty becomes a part of life. Like so many other journeys to date in this crazy ride called parenthood, potty-training is just a phase. It will pass. You will all survive.

Still…treat yourself! I didn’t reward the girls with chocolate, but you’d better believe I kept a stash for myself! And I distinctly remember on Day 6 of Baby A’s training, I took myself to the Dairy Queen after the girls were in bed. I got a Reese’s Blizzard and sat in the car, all by my lonesome, and enjoyed every spoonful.


With enough time, {almost} every experience is sweet in hindsight.  Potty training was not exactly fun, but we made the best of it.  

If you’re in the midst of training, hang in there!  If training is ahead of you, you can do it!  And if you’ve been there and done that, we’d love to hear any tips and tricks you can share!

Twinkly Tuesday

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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MandyE is the mother of 4 ½-year old fraternal twin girls, Baby A and Baby B. (And yes, their names actually start with the letters A and B!) She worked in the marketing field for nine years before her girls were born, but these days she’s relishing the opportunity to be a SAHM, which she plans to continue until the girls start kindergarten. MandyE has been blogging at Twin Trials and Triumphs since her girls were a year old. Between her blog and her local Mothers of Multiples group, she considers the multiples community a huge part of her support system.

24 thoughts on “Toddler Thursday: Reflections on Potty Training Twins”

  1. These are some great tips. My first didn’t take much to potty train either. A few days with panties and she was virtually accident-free at 28 months, a good two months before her siblings were born. I don’t remember even doing rewards.

    These other two are a different story. They’re 29 months now, and not showing any signs of wanting to ditch their diapers. I’m in absolutely no hurry though. Diapers are perfectly fine until they hopefully just potty train themselves. I can imagine what it’d be like to rush two of them (at different times) to restrooms (after first finding them) while we’re out, supervising these trips (and waiting… and “don’t touch that!”… and waiting some more…), and I’m in no hurry to experience that!

  2. Great post with great advice. It’s interesting to see that both of yours have done it at different times! We are in the midst of kind of potty training! He’s been using a potty for a couple of months but not all the time. It’s really difficult because while you and lots of others say stating home and not leaving the house is key, being a working mum makes this incredibly difficult! We’ll keep going how we are at the moment, I’ve just bought some pants to trial so we’ll see what happens! Thanks so much for linking up with #twinklytuesday

  3. Definitely a post I’ll be bookmarking for when I start potty training, maybe towards the end of the year. Toby is almost 21 months and definitely not ready to potty train. After reading this, I definitely won’t be using foods as a reward, especially when it’s so easy to let them start manipulating you just for a piece of chocolate!

    Your girls did great and it’s so refreshing to read that you waited until THEY were ready, rather than you, which is a mistake I find mums often make. It’s at their convenience rather than their child’s.

    A must read for anyone who’s a parent and will/is potty #twinklytuesday xx
    Jade (Raising the Rings) recently posted I can finally say I’m having a baby this weekMy Profile

  4. Really interesting reading. I’m just about to start training no.2 but I have no idea what I’m doing! It just sort of happened with no.1 and I’m not sure I did anything at all. Really nervous about doing it so going to give some of your ideas a go
    Sam recently posted Chilling Out – Photos Of SummerMy Profile

  5. some great tips there, both my girls were dry at about 2 years its so much easier when the nappies were gone but I think the most important part it waiting until they are ready you’ll know when they are and trying before just ends up with stress and a lot of mess!
    Everything Mummy recently posted My Girls – MayMy Profile

  6. You’re so right, it is extremely emotional for children when they are being potty trained, our lady was about 27 months when we trained her but it brought ‘bad dreams’ with it even though she got it within a week. On the pull ups front we used them for nighttime and they were useful, we ditched the nappies altogether but the pull ups made her feel like a big but safe girl going to bed! #TwinklyTuesday
    Eimear recently posted Useful baby and toddler products on a budgetMy Profile

  7. Potty training is definitely emotional and stressful! When I trained my girls only one of them was actually ready- the other only insisted because she couldn’t stand the thought of her sister doing something without her (trust me, I tried so hard to get her to understand that she could do it at a different time!!). So I ended up using raisins as rewards. It worked well for me because it kept them from being constipated, and it was easy to carry around. I was worried they would be asking for raisins after every potty trip for the rest of their lives but we got off of the rewards pretty quickly, thank goodness! #TwinkleTuesday

  8. We are “close” to the potty training with our youngest. He does go to the potty/toilet but is now ready as when he is without a nappy if he is wearing just pants or trousers he will not go potty and just pee straight through thinking it’s a nappy.
    So he’s showing the signs and will soon be ready I should think, but we’re very relaxed about it. :)
    ERFmama recently posted Is Your Child Escaping the Car Seat Harness?My Profile

  9. My son was three in March and has a speech and language delay and I am not convinced he is ready for potty training. He hates the potty and screams whenever we get it out but his support worker thinks that we need to make it a part of his routine because he takes quite a whike to ‘get’ things but it’s just so stressful and heartbreaking for all involved. Sometimes I wonder if we are doing more harm than good and should just wait but we have been trying in and off for about 9 months now. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do for the best. I don’t remember it being this difficult with my daughter. I’m sure she was dry in a matter of weeks.

  10. I’m bookmarking this for when we hit the potty stage – a little way off yet (I assume… She’s only three months!).
    I hadn’t even considered what approach to take so congratulations on being the first benchmark set of advice :)

  11. I couldn’t’ agree more. Potty training is emotional and stressful – for everyone. Sometimes, the child just isn’t ready. It’s great to use positive rewards and encouragement. And have a bottle of wine on standby :) #TwinklyTuesday
    Becky, Cuddle Fairy recently posted Encouraging LanguageMy Profile

  12. Oh potty training! How I loath thee. Ok, not really, but man oh man can it be terrible sometimes. Baby B is totally potty trained right now and Baby A has zero desire to even consider the option. They’ll be 3 in a few short weeks. I do love the idea of treating myself lol! I’m never one to turn down a reason to delve into my secret stash 😀 Love the post! #twinklytuesday

  13. Potty training is such a tricky one – you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place as a parent – do you wait till their ready? But when are they ready? What if you miss the window? Will you scar them if you start too early?

    From what I’ve learnt, only through training one child to be dry by day, is that they are all different. Some (especially girls) train themselves are more motivated and boys tend to me a bit more trickier. I used a relaxed approach to potty training after getting stressed about my son going hot and cold with it and it worked. Give it a few weeks and you’ll see progress. If after a week of trying you aren’t seeing any progress, then lay off for a bit. It doesn’t matter if you stop and start again (I know there is the Gina Ford train in 3 days thing) but that’s quite stressful for most kids (and parents!). So juts chill, it will happen. #twinklytuesday
    doctomum recently posted Why you should vaccinate meMy Profile

  14. Very interesting! It is often hard training just one so I can’t imagine what it is like to train two simultaneously! It can be a stressful time for all involved. Positive rewards are definitely great to use. Sometimes I think children just are not quite ready and it is best to stop and try again. #TwinklyTuesday

  15. I am approaching this stage with my youngest so thanks for the tips. I have an older boy but feel my girl will be very different! She is wanting to sit on the potty already and is a while off her second birthday. I think it’s me who isn’t ready! #twinklytuesday
    Julia@ Rainbeaubelle recently posted Interesting vs OrdinaryMy Profile

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