Toilet training is one of those last major toddler milestones that you have to go through. You managed to navigate your way through two lots of teething, starting solids, learning to sit, crawl and walk and are hopefully someway down the path teaching them that it’s not polite to hit and bite their friends….
And then comes toilet training…
I have to say that I approached toilet training with quite a bit of naive optimism. My girls were two and a half, it was Summer, and all of the toilet training ‘guru’s’ were telling me I could have my girls’ toilet trained in just a few days.
One of my girls had been sitting on the toilet to go number twos for about a year and I had been building it up with them for a few months – talking about the toilet, putting them on the toilet, you know, all the things you are ‘meant’ to do to help make it an easier transition…
This should be easy.
I had decided to go cold turkey (I’m an all or nothing kind of girl) so I timed it for the end of the Christmas holidays. One of my girls was recuperating from an illness that kept us at home for a couple of weeks so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to give it a go while we had to stay at home anyway (mistake number one).
We went shopping for a toilet seat insert and a step so they could climb up to the toilet, plus a potty for those twin emergencies when they both HAVE TO GO AT EXACTLY THE SAME TIME.
It was also good to have it sitting as a reminder in the lounge when the toilet is just too far to go (we live in a tiny 2 bedroom unit so the toilet is maybe 8 steps further than the potty). I got them all excited about wearing the pretty little knickers Santa had given them for Christmas (clever Santa).
So we were all set.
Toilet Training Twins – Take One
Day one was a bit hit and miss, but I was expecting that. I had read that you needed to ask them every 20 minutes if they needed to go but by 11 am they were so annoyed at me asking them about needing to wee I think they started weeing just to get back at me.
Over the next few days, the toilet became the favorite room in the house to hang out. Our water bill must have spiked as they HAD to flush the toilet I don’t know how many times each time they went toilet.
The new obsession was playing with the toilet seat (it was pink and had pretty butterflies on it) so the gross factor for me was through the roof.
Our 12 pack of toilet paper had mysteriously disappeared, not a lot of wees was actually making it into the toilet, my washing pile had suddenly quadrupled and I was spending the best part of the day in the smallest room in the house.
My patience was wearing very thin.
So, what happened to toilet trained in three days as all the ‘guru’s’ had promised me???
I was terrified about them sitting on the couch, playing on my bed. Leaving the house just didn’t even feel like an option. What if they peed in the car – more washing, or needed to go NOW while we were at the supermarket (do they even have toilets at the supermarket??). I felt like my life was all about wees and poos.
I had read somewhere that once you started toilet training, you shouldn’t stop – at all costs. That it would create confusion and cause more problems later…. But we were 7 weeks in and it was just getting worse. Each day they would come home from daycare with about 7 changes of clothes each – all covered in wee.
Something had to give – so we stopped and went back to nappies.
I was sooooooooo relieved and felt like a weight had been lifted off me, but I felt like I had failed as a parent.
I could hear the disapproving tuts from the older generation – nearly three and still not toilet trained. If I had to listen to one more story about how their children were out of nappies when they were 18 months, I was going to scream.
Strange how the age that your children are toilet trained becomes some kind of competition and a perceived indicator about how good a parent you must be.
Anyway, I couldn’t care less. I had restored a sense of balance and calm in my wee-free home again, so I was happy, the girls were happy to have their less grumpy mummy back, and life was good again. I would try again next summer.
It’s all in the Biology
After my first disastrous foray into toilet training twins, I took the time to investigate this whole training your children to wee on the toilet thing and discovered a lot of interesting information.
Namely, it takes biology for your children to be ready – not a number on the calendar.
All those precious nerves that need to join together for your child’s bladder and bowels to be able to communicate with the brain, don’t go by our paper calendar hanging on the back of the toilet door that tells us they are two years old so ‘should’ be toilet trained.
They could be far too busy building the pathways that help them to jump, or to say “I love you mummy” or to hold a crayon in their hand.
Life is busy for those nerves during toddlerhood. And considerably busier than they would have been in our parents or grandparents generation. Our toddlers are exposed to soooo much more now than they were 30-40 years ago.
So, it makes sense that the average age for toilet training now is closer to 3-3.5 rather than the 2 that it was a generation or so ago.
Another interesting discovery I made in my quest for information (another personality flaw) was that twins generally seem to toilet train later than their singleton friends, with the average being around 3 and a half.
Toilet Training Twins – Take Two
So, roll on next Summer and I decided it was time to try again. But this time I was more prepared (emotionally and physically).
Looking back to my first attempt, I think one of my girls could have successfully toilet trained but I was so stressed out about the whole thing I probably put her off. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
I was determined to be a cool, calm, collected mama. Oozing optimism and support. I had my secret weapon this time though – experience. I knew what was coming and I had prepared myself for it.
And this time biology was on my side.
One of the signs to look for before you start toilet training is that they can hold their wees and wee less often and you can tell this by checking their nappy. It’s a sure sign that those beautiful little bladder nerves have made it to the top of the to-do list and are now connected, so your child can tell when their bladder is full and can control if and when they release wees.
I also made sure I had all the tools I needed to help me feel less icky and stressed about the whole thing.
I had a cover for the couch, so I didn’t worry every time they sat on the couch.
I had car seat covers so I didn’t have to worry if they had an accident in the car.
I had a potty, plastic bags and changes of clothes in the car in case we had to stop for an emergency wee/poo or a quick change.
I took two changes of clothes and plastic bags with me everywhere and a pack of wipes (just in case a puddle happened on the floor). Wipes are seriously THE greatest invention EVER.
I bought another potty to avoid World War 6543 when they BOTH NEEDED TO USE THE POTTY AT THE SAME TIME (even though the toilet was free and one of them could easily have used that).
Packs of baby wipes were strategically positioned everywhere.
To reward, or not to reward
During my Toilet Training Twins hiatus, I had also thought about whether I wanted to add in a ‘reward’ system to help the process along as I know LOTS of twin parents use this tactic really successfully.
I don’t know what it is about my personality though, but using reward systems to get my children to do things just doesn’t seem to gel with me and my parenting style (we all have our foibles).
I had ruled out the ‘reward with food/sweets’ option as this is not something that sits well with me. I did think about using a sticker chart – one for a wee, two for a poo but I know my two and there would be two sticking points that would happen that could derail things:
- They would just go to the toilet ALL THE TIME for a sticker. I would be back to living in the toilet again and it would kind of defeat the purpose of teaching them to listen to their body rather than to get a sticker.
- World War 6544 would break out about how many stickers each of them had and again my life would be back to misery listening to them arguing and crying about it.
So that quickly got ruled out as well.
I figured I would just stick with my usual parenting style of verbal praise and being their cheerleader and making them feel like we are in it together.
I could always resort to sticker charts if hooray’s and cuddles weren’t cutting it.
We were ready
I spent the week before D-Day talking about toilet training and how we were going to stop using nappies and wear pretty knickers again.
They started wearing their knickers over their nappies to get them used to the idea again. And after a few days, I just gave them the choice – wear knickers with or without their nappy underneath.
I hadn’t intended to do it this way at all, but it just seemed to work. They had some control over the situation which I think is what helped ALOT. It made no difference to me as to whether they did or didn’t wear a nappy so why not hand it over to them to decide.
Some days they wanted to wear a diaper and on other days they didn’t. Some days they started with knickers and then chose to wear a nappy for the afternoon.
And we hardly had any accidents.
And as the weeks went by, they wore their nappies less and less.
The Twin Challenge
One of the challenges us parents of twins have is often what one twin does, the other wants to do too – even if they are not ready. So with toilet training twins, it is finding a way to manage the skills and ability of each twin individually while maintaining their emotional wellbeing as they navigate their natural twin ‘me too’ desire.
Looking back, my accidental strategy of letting my girls decide whether to wear a nappy under her knickers or not helped with the fact that one of my girls was far more ready than the other, so the one that wasn’t quite there yet managed to save face throughout the whole process until she was ready too.
Lessons I learned
- Be prepared – emotionally, physically – as much as possible. You cannot be over-prepared.
- Biology – they have to be ready otherwise you are fighting a losing battle.
- They may not be ready at the same time – it can be hard to get twins to do things at different times but if you can, give it a go if one is ready.
- Get their buy-in – make them part of the journey and give them some control over their world.
- The younger your child is when they are out of nappies does not make you a better parent.