Author: Tara Tihema
Without a doubt, toilet training twins has been my proudest achievement as a multiple mum. It was made all the more special because I feared and avoided it for so long, but now that it’s over I wish I had dived in earlier and saved a fortune on nappies.
My fear and avoidance were not shaped by my experience with my first born, Nicholas. He just woke up one day and decided he wanted to stop wearing nappies and has not had more than five accidents, day or night, since.
My reticence was due to already being so tired and so busy that adding another job to the list left me feeling slightly terrified. I imagined spending my days on hands and knees scrubbing bodily fluids from the carpet, on top of the constant work that caring for two three-year-olds and a nearly fiveyear-old requires.
While it wasn’t a picnic, it was only a couple of days of inconvenience and then it was done. My boys were accident free during the day after about a week and developed iron-like will to control their bladders reminiscent of both my eldest boy and their father. One of my twins still isn’t a fan of public toilets (who is?) but will stand to wee if necessary and hold on to poo for his home toilet. We are working on this!
So how did I approach toilet training twins? This is what worked for us.
1. Do your research about toilet training twins and make a plan
I didn’t need to do this with my singleton, as he was attending day care five days a week at the time. They took care of the heavy lifting for me and I just had to reinforce the habits they taught. In retrospect, however, I never insisted on my eldest being trained by a certain time. It was all his decision. I was of the belief that many people have that “it will happen when he is ready”. For Nicholas, this was true. After doing some research and reading, I now believe that it was his personality type that accommodated this approach, but like many things to do with children, one size does not fit all.
I came across a resource on called “The Ultimate Training System” that I used to inform my plan. There was a cost attached, but for me it was money well spent as I had no idea where to start with two. Should I train one after the other? Or both at once? The reading I did made me feel more confident to create a plan that would work.
I didn’t use all of the resources in the system, but I found the information useful for helping me understand that different children need to be trained differently. This resonated with me, as I could see that my twins were not going to be like Nicholas and just decide to lose the nappy and use the toilet. They had been raised differently from birth, put into a rigid daily routine and sleep trained through the night, as is necessary for a multiple parent’s sanity.
Change is a hard thing to instigate
Change is a hard thing to instigate in any aspect of the twins’ lives when routines have been so firmly implemented, so trying to convince them that the nappies they had worn for three years were now unnecessary was always going to be challenging. Through the resource, I learned that with some children, starting training earlier actually makes it easier. This contradicts what I had heard, that the child needs to be “ready” before you begin. I realised that I had already waited too long and should just get into it as soon as possible.
My plan for toilet training twins was simple
My plan was simple – lose the nappy cold turkey and reward wees and poos in the toilet with small chocolate treats. My children have never had many sweet treats in their daily lives, except as a reward for eating all their dinner or compliant behaviour. Therefore, this sudden offer of an abundance of treats was motivating for them. This wouldn’t work for every child and I realise many parents would be uncomfortable with giving their children junk food for any reason. However, for us it was the perfect reward. The resource had many other reward strategies that could be implemented, but they involved quite a bit of preparation and effort for this tired mumma.
I planned for night time training to commence immediately after the day training had been mastered. This was also the advice provided in the resource. I didn’t want to have my boys in nappies overnight until kindergarten. I felt confident that I was ready to tackle this and prepared for the next step.
2. Get prepared before you start toilet training twins
The preparation involves getting together the materials you will need to be successful. For my plan, I needed to have chocolate rewards on hand but, more importantly, I had to have an environment for the boys to wee and poo in that would make them feel confident and comfortable.
We already had a little step from when my eldest started training so we decided to use that and keep it permanently set up in the short term. This was important as setting up the step every time might have deterred the twins; I wanted to make this as easy as possible.
As my eldest doesn’t like to use the seat anymore, I also had to invest in a portable potty for the wall and a step for the spare toilet as well. I had visions of all three boys wanting to wee or poo at the same time and then going on the bathroom floor due to a lack of facilities!
The potty training resource I used also talked about going out with your child and letting them choose some cool new undies, perhaps with characters they like on them, as another motivator to lose the nappies. We had an abundance of these already handed down from the big brother and other friends and my boys certainly enjoyed choosing their “big boy undies” to wear for the first time.
Cleaning up “accidents” while toilet training twins
I recommend investing in a good enzyme cleaner to tackle accidents on the carpet, or just being prepared with your preferred cleaning method ready to go. I don’t want to scare you, but there will be two (or more if you have triplets etc) little children running around sans nappies. There were definitely accidents in my house and I was not as prepared as I would have liked!
If you are like me, and let’s face it parents of multiples are super organised and prepared for anything, you have carried around a nappy changing kit for the last 2-3 years. Well now your kit evolves into the super easy and fuss free dealing with accidents in public pack!
In mine, I have about 5 pairs of new undies and shorts, as well as a couple of spare t-shirts, a few pairs of socks, a pack of baby wipes, a small towel and about 5 small plastic bags. If you have a spare pair of shoes, keep them in your car. Any soiled clothing could just be quickly whisked off and put into a bag for later (or chucked out as I did a few times). Socks and shoes can also be victims of wee accidents, so I recommend being prepared for this. The towel is for wiping down places where you wish your child hadn’t weed (like the indoor playground at McDonalds!).
Deciding on a start date when toilet training twins
In your preparation, you should consider the most difficult aspect of the early days of training and, that is, staying home for a few days (at least this was the hardest thing for my active little boys). When this can occur will inform when you choose to start your training. I started on a Monday as my eldest is out attending preschool Mondays and Tuesdays, and my twins go to day care on Tuesdays, where the staff happily maintain the training. So it was really just the Monday at home all day with the twins, then the Wednesday at home all day with all three.
Staying at home was an essential element of the training as the boys became acquainted with their toilet environment and the mess that ensued (yes there was mess) was contained in a place that wouldn’t affect the general public. There’s no point trying to go to a park or a shopping centre with a nearby toilet in these initial days as this isn’t the toilet you are training them to use. Also, tackling the public toilet is a whole other challenge for some children. Stick to one focus at a time.
Preparing for night time toilet training for twins
Night time toilet training is a natural progression from the day training and as such it would be good to get your materials organised for this time as well. We started with just the usual single mattress protectors on each bed and a spare, but I soon realised that we had taken on too much without the adequate equipment. I then purchased the type of mattress protector pictured below. It is positioned over the flat sheet and your child sleeps on it directly. When accidents happen through the night, it is removed quickly, and your child can get back to sleep without an entire bed remake. I still had the regular mattress protector under the flat sheet in case of a second accident. While this hasn’t happened, we did have nights when both boys had accidents at different times, so a quick change is a huge consideration.
Even using this system of protection, there were leaks and I had to strip the entire bed and replace the mattress protector in the middle of the night. You can invest in some pants with an absorbent lining akin to cloth nappies that can be worn to bed to lessen the impact of the night time accident (called “Big Kid” training pants). They are designed to still allow the child to feel wet, so they must get up and get changed, but they limit the impact on bedding. By the time I ordered them, the boys had stopped wetting the bed. However, I would get them if I was starting over.
3. Dive in!
Once you have all your ducks in a row, it’s time to dive in and get started. You have to talk it up to your little ones for a few days beforehand and get them used to the idea. Mine weren’t happy about it, but I didn’t back down on the planned start date.
Mine had used the toilet intermittently at home (a wee before their bath for example) and quite extensively at day care, so they knew what was involved. My boys would happily wear undies and go to the toilet at day care because that’s what the other kids were doing, and the toilets were the right size and easily accessible. They would arrive home in their undies, not having had an accident all day and happily wee on the floor or poo their pants. This happened for weeks before we started “the plan” and made it hard for me to determine whether they were ready to train. I now believe they never would have been ready on their own and they needed to be pushed.
The chocolate treat reward was perfect to motivate them to take that first step and give it a go. I know intrinsic motivation is the ideal to aim towards, but with the attitude I was getting from them when I was trying to take them to even just sit on the toilet (think full blown tantrum and requiring me to drag them literally kicking and screaming) meant I had to bring out the big guns.
Day one of toilet training twins
That first day, I was giving out chocolate every 5-10 minutes and celebrating the tiniest little dribble with over the top jumping, clapping and shouting. When they sat on the toilet, but nothing came out they still got chocolate. I had one who was pretty keen to get to the toilet in time for a wee, and I had one that would wee on the floor but if his brother got a chocolate, he would go and sit on the toilet to get one as well. It didn’t matter; my aim for Day 1 was to get them into the bathroom of their own volition, sitting on the toilet and trying to score the reward.
There were lots of accidents this first day. I felt like I was mopping up wee all day. They pooed in their pants. Basically, they showed no awareness of the fact that the nappy wasn’t there. I’ll admit that I was quite despondent about this. My first son never weed on the floor and only pooed his pants once when he was at a park and too completely engrossed in his play to remember to go to the toilet. I didn’t even think they were trying at first.
Day three of toilet training twins
By Day 3 (they went to day care on Day 2) I could see a change. This day was tricky because I had my four-year-old home as well and nobody was keen to stay at home all day. I had to offer a bigger reward (two chocolates for everyone) for poo as I noticed they were never being done in the toilet, but most wees were. There was more urgency being demonstrated in getting to the toilet and the accidents were more likely to occur getting to the toilet or in the bathroom.
Leaving the house when toilet training twins
We tried an outing on the fourth day and that didn’t go too well.
We had three accidents within 30 minutes even though I took them to the toilets twice (they refused to go) and were in a playground meters from a toilet block. I had to take them home as I was worried I would run out of spare clothes.
I now know that having to go to “other” toilets was too hard for them so early on in the process and even now cause issues for one of the boys. To help with this, I bought a portable potty that converts to a child’s toilet seat insert. This is also a reassuring item to have in the car for emergencies.
4. Dry days, dry nights
Each day that went by got easier and the boys became more invested in the process. A few weeks on and they are holding on if they need to and I’m no longer worried about venturing out. I’m also pleased to report that we started the night training after about two weeks of day training and now we are 5 nights in a row without an accident. They have even woken through the night and successfully made it to the toilet when they needed to go.
Apparently, training the brain to wake the body to get up to wee is easier for some kids than others and not all kids have a bladder size that can stretch the entire night, but we seem to have been pretty fortunate in both of these areas.
You will also be happy to know that I stopped giving treats for using the toilet about 5 days in for wees and about 7 days in for poos. However, we have been rewarding dry nights with my delicious chocolate fudge when they wake up, which may prove a more difficult habit to break.
The time frame for this whole process has been about 6 weeks. This was so much longer than it took for my eldest to “train”, but I also realise that many children take longer than this.
Overall the best advice I can give it to lose the nappies and dive in. It was the best decision I made.
You can read another Twinfo members story about toilet training her twins HERE.