I related in a prior post how I set the stage for potty training my two-year-old twinbling girls. In this follow-on post, I outline our experience from the day the diapers were pulled off and onward. As a reminder, we used the Oh Crap! Potty Training Method.
With multiples, potty training starts off a bit differently because you have to decide when to start if one child is “ready” and the other is not showing the signs. There are some twin parents who will train each child separately as they show interest, but I just couldn’t hop on that train. I wanted this done in one go. After all, hitting all developmental stages and milestones at the same time is both my favorite (and least favorite) thing about parenting multiples, and I didn’t want potty training to be any different. In the end, we began potty training when the girls were 26-27 months old. One child was extremely interested in the idea while the other couldn’t care less.
The day the diapers came off
We potty trained on a late July weekend and we completely cleared our calendars. We also ensured that we were 100% aligned with our nanny, who would be thrown in to the process on day three (a Monday). As soon as the girls went to bed on Friday night, we readied a few things. We rolled up all of the rugs in our common area, we brought out the potties and set them up in the main floor bathroom, and I drafted letters to the girls from one of the characters in the primary potty concept book that we relied on, Dexter the Underwear Pup. (For some context, this book’s main character is a big dog named Dexter who observes children (sort of like Santa) and sends them a special letter when he believes they are ready for the potty. It’s adorable in my opinion!) I also made sure that we had plenty of rags/towels on hand for messes, and I unloaded my local Target of pretty much their full Clorox wipes stock.
When the girls woke up the next morning, we sat them in their chairs for breakfast (with diapers on) and provided them with a normal breakfast and milk. We then told them it was a very special day – today they were going to learn how to use the potty! We explained that they got to stay inside all day with mommy and daddy and drink lots of juice and play, and learn how to use the potty. They were so pumped, and their excitement only grew when we showed them the potties, their letters from Dexter and handed over their first special juice and removed their pajamas and diapers.
I would say that most of the concept stuck with the child who was “ready” in that very first day. She both peed and pooped in the potty and although she had some accidents in the very beginning of the day, they were completely within my range of expectations for a new skill. As for the child who wasn’t ready, she was equally excited about the concept and latched on to peeing pretty quickly (but admittedly not as quickly as the “ready” child). However, it took her weeks and weeks to poop in the potty. She would wait until nap and then go in her diaper and we were worried that she would never do it. However, we stuck with it and she eventually got it maybe 4-6 weeks after we began training.
On the second day, we added clothing and returned fluids to normal but maintained the rest of the day as pretty much the same as the first. Per the book’s suggestion, the girls went commando for a long period of time – thinking back on it, it may have been as long as eight weeks. We had absolutely no problems with commando and I think it was helpful for the girls to fully feel what was going on when they had an accident.
By the third day, our nanny entered the picture and she took them on their first major outing. And from there, the girls returned to their normal activities, which now included no diapers. Of course they had accidents here and there, but again, nothing outside of expectations for a new skill.
Deviations from Oh Crap!
As I’ve mentioned, we used the Oh Crap! potty training method. For the most part, we followed the method to the letter. However, there were at least two areas where we deviated.
First, the Oh Crap! method advises to avoid associating any treats for the potty. The rationale about that made good sense to me and so I entered training believing that my girls should not be rewarded with stickers or candy for going potty. Well, this fell through within the first week! Our nanny kindly suggested a sticker chart to help our little girl who was less “ready” and it significantly improved our success with her. We also came to rely on a jelly bean treat (especially following The Regression, as outlined below). While positive treats have worked for us (and I sincerely doubt we would have survived The Regression without them), I do honestly worry about dialing them back at this point as the girls have now developed a strong association between the potty and treats. Any suggestions on this would be highly appreciated!
Audrey is checking out her first sticker on her reward chart.
Second, the Oh Crap! method eschews pull-ups. I was totally on board with this rationale as well when I read the book – the thinking was that introducing pull-ups will just prolong time in a diaper-type solution. But then I got a free sample of pull-ups (well played, Huggies, well played…). I used the pull-ups samples for a road trip with the girls and it was just so much easier to deal with pull-ups rather than a diaper when pulling over to a rest area to help the girls go potty. To be very clear, the girls have never used pull-ups during the day when we haven’t been traveling. But the ease of pull-ups has also led me to prefer them for nighttime use as well – nearly every night, the girls insist on using the potty right before I tuck them in. By this time, they are already in their nightly diaper. It is so much easier to take them potty and deal with a pull-up rather than a diaper with the annoying refastening of diaper tabs.
Roughly one month after we began potty training, we made a big move from Chicago to Lexington, Kentucky. The girls’ lives were turned upside down within days – new house, new nanny – oh, and we had the genius idea of throwing them in to preschool for the first time as well. So many people had warned me about a potty training regression due to this big transition and they were absolutely right.
Within the first week of moving, both girls were having pee accidents at least once a day (which periodically happened in Chicago, but not daily). And then suddenly they both were having poop accidents nearly daily (this never happened in Chicago). They also started refusing to sit on the potty when requested, which they had not done previously.
Obviously, this regression was really, really frustrating. It felt as though everything had been completely undone. But I had been warned that this was coming, encouraged to power on, and so we did. Prior to the move, we had dialed back the rewards for the most part but after about a week of daily accidents in our new home, I re-introduced the rewards pretty hard. It was nice to have that added push of incentive to get things back on track and within a couple of weeks, we were back to our pre-move status. (But as mentioned before, I really don’t think this was a perfect solution because I’m now struggling with how to take those rewards away.)
It has now been about six months since we removed daytime diapers. I may be jinxing it, but I am comfortable claiming potty training success at this point. It has been over a month since the last accident, and was related to one of the girls being extremely distracted by a new toy.
Both girls tell us when they need to go potty, and they are self-initiating. We still assist with wiping and I’m assuming that will go on for a lot longer. We recently have taken away the Bjorn floor potties and insist on the girls using the large toilet (with a toddler seat overlay). That has been a huge win – no more wiping out messes from the Bjorn floor bowls!
Over the past two weeks, both girls have started to wake up from naps and nighttime dry. This was completely unexpected and probably the best surprise of my holiday season. We’ve risked it by pulling the naptime diapers and they haven’t woken up wet yet (although it’s only been a week so I’m a long ways from declaring victory…) I was contemplating full nighttime training in the new year but now I’m sort of just in awe that I did nothing and they are waking up each morning dry. I may have to formally night train in the future and I’m still mentally preparing for that, but I’m not going to change anything at the moment because it’s working.
Overall I’m satisfied with our potty training approach and outcome, but I want to recognize that this is a super easy conclusion for me to say now that we’ve crossed the hump and we’re solidly on the other side. I really wanted to write this post before all of the frustration of potty training faded from my memory, but I didn’t quite get to it soon enough. One of my biggest irritations going in to potty training was some of the comments and advice from family and friends with older children who are long past potty training that it “is not that bad” or “don’t worry – they practically potty train themselves” or otherwise make light of it. I refuse to be one of those people and so I will tell you that potty training was no joke for our family.
Maybe these other parents had a magical approach that didn’t cross my radar, or had children who are potty prodigies, but for me – potty training brought me to tears on more than one occasion. I generally found the potty to be way, way more disgusting than dealing with diapers (scraping and wiping out poop from those floor potties is not something I will soon forget). With multiples, it was definitely frustrating to be handling the potty needs of two toddlers and inevitably miss a signal from one while attending to the other. I also really didn’t recognize before we started how outings and getting out the door would be impacted – we generally insist on the girls trying to go potty before we leave the house but this can take soooooo long sometimes with two two-year-olds and my patience is tested constantly. Finally, I had heard people say that diapers are so much easier in a lot of ways and I didn’t fully understand that concept until we got rid of the diapers and we went about our normal outside-the-house activities. The first time I went to the grocery store with newly potty-trained toddlers and literally ran through the store pushing a huge double cart so that one of the girls could make it to the toilet while the other was wailing that we had to leave her beloved cracker aisle, I quickly appreciated the convenience factor of diapers. Like I said, this potty training stuff is no joke.
But fingers crossed, we’re on the other side now…