Potty Training Multiples

TOP 10 TIPS FOR POTTY TRAINING MULTIPLES by Jo Humphreys (with thanks to Sandra Patterson and Clare Brown)

Potty Training – it’s amazing how 2 little innocent sounding words can strike fear into parents. You’ve finally got the hang of nappies and can change 2 or 3 moving toddlers in a space the size of a shoe box, blindfolded and with one hand tied behind your back. Oh but now it’s time to discard those nappies and teach a child – who rarely listens to you never mind follow instructions – how to control some of the most disgusting things a body produces and only let it out at a suitable time and in a suitable place. Easy? Well sometimes yes and sometimes no. However, remember one thing: no child stays in nappies forever, so you know that, with perseverance and hopefully with the help of the following tips you will get there – I promise!!

Don’t start until the children AND YOU are ready and don’t be pressurized by other people – in particular grandparents – to start too early. Honestly I think all grandparents have selective memory or our generation were geniuses, as a typical piece of advice is “well you were potty trained before you were 18 months old – what are you waiting for?” Remember, the longer you leave it the easier it will be. Almost everybody started with their toddlers before I did, and the majority had to give up once or in fact several times. Without fail the final attempt (often months after the first) was not only hugely successful but also done and dusted in record time.

Or are we? The most asked question from parents of multiples is whether to do all the children together or separately. Luckily for me I didn’t have such a dilemma, as they were not ready at the same time. So I started with Sam and trained Josh 4 months later. We thought Josh might be difficult but he got it pretty quickly and I actually think watching Sam use the potty/toilet for several months helped him know exactly what to do when it was his turn. Sandra tried twice to train her 3 boys at the same time and each attempt was difficult and unsuccessful. In the end she decided to do them one at a time and felt that this worked best. Clare trained Jack & Eleanor together and says “If I was to potty train twins again (God forbid!) I would probably do them separately rather than together. That way you can really concentrate on making sure that each one is ready at that time and you will be better able to assess how it’s going during the early stages when deciding whether to keep going or try again another time”.

It’s like they are sitting their first exam and with each puddle on the floor and washing machine full of stinky clothes you start seeing your child in that bottom (excuse the pun) class at school. The key is to not expect too much too soon. Don’t stress over it and don’t despair over the accidents. At first it feels like they will NEVER get it. However like a miracle you can wake up the next morning after a day spent on your hands and knees cleaning up **** and suddenly by Jove they’ve got it!! Your darling child is going all by themselves and you are now upset that you are no longer needed and they will be moving out soon. I found the best way to clearly see that in the midst of it all progress is being made is to keep a chart (see 4).

If like me you find life feels a little less chaotic by filling in a good spreadsheet then you might enjoy this next tip. I’m not a huge Gina Ford fan but I found her “Potty Training in One Week” very useful. She is much less strident when it comes to potty training – fully recognizing that children are not an exact science and what might work for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other. She suggests using a Potty Progress Chart where you fill in the time something happens, if it was in the potty or an accident and if it was after prompting or of their own accord. This helped me in 2 ways. Firstly it showed me a time pattern of when they needed to go which allowed me to try and predict when to prompt them rather than spending the whole day asking them if they need a wee. Irritating for both them and me. Secondly and almost more importantly that despite it sometimes feeling like we were going backwards I could visually see that we were in fact making progress. Day by day more ticks were appearing in the potty column rather than the accident one and it really encouraged me to keep going.

Make sure you have enough spare clothes, pants, cleaning products and potties . Clare recommends that you buy at least twice as many pants and tracksuit trousers as you think you could ever conceivably need. Also go for things based on comfort and ease of removal rather than style and fashion. As much as my 2 looked like they were from a young offenders institute there’s nothing worse than trying to undo tricky buttons and zips in a hurry. Also the easier it is to remove whatever they are wearing the more likely they are to learn quickly to go by themselves.

Praise, praise, praise is the way to get results. My goodness there were times when I just wanted to scream “how many times do I have to tell you to do it in the potty!!!”. However the best way to get results is to reward when they get it right. Different children respond to different things whether that be stickers, star charts, sweets etc. Sometimes though just lots of praise, clapping and cheering does the job. Sadly in my case I once got over enthusiastic and invented the wee wee dance. They LOVED it and I was relieved not to have to buy a ton of chocolate buttons. HOWEVER once the dance was a firm favourite it had to be done everywhere we went. The number of times startled mums have walked in on us while we were dancing round in a circle chanting “I did a wee, wee; I did a wee wee”. Embarrassing!!

If you can, enlist some help for the first few days. Even if you are planning on training them separately it still is enormously helpful to have somebody to entertain the other child so you can concentrate on your pupil. It’s great to have moral support as well.

As terrifying as it is, don’t become trapped at home too afraid to venture out with unpadded bottoms. Accidents will happen but it’s better to face the challenges sooner rather than later. Start off by only going to playgroups where the toilet is right there. I made the mistake of going to a Sports Centre soft play where the toilet was on a different floor accessed by a lift – very stressful. You can also buy protective covers to go in buggies and car seats so if there is a leak they can just be thrown in the washing machine when you get home. Sandra and I also always had a spare potty in the boot of the car just in case.

Carrying a potty really isn’t attractive – it’s never going to be the next big thing in handbag design. I stupidly had 2 different coloured potties as I thought it would be nice for them to have their own. However when they then refused to use the “other” one I found myself lugging round 2 potties as well as a bag full of spare clothes. One of the ways to avoid this unsightly accessory is to invest in a travel potty (Clare recommends the Potette Plus). Not only is this easier to take around with you but it can double as a toddler toilet seat as well.