Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TWINS TUESDAYS: Potty Training!

Potty charts and stickers are on the fridge.
It's time to potty!!
Don't we all wish there was a magic wand to work on this skill! There is no real sage advice for potty training twins. I will tell you this: It is definitely more involved and time consuming than just training one child. It almost reminds me of the days when they were infants and you needed to feed them often and if they got off the same schedule it was maddening. Not as bad, but sort of similar.

We started last week, and it was a somewhat rocky start. Buddy Twin is ready. Bunny Twin in not. So I put my focus on Buddy Twin. I hoped she would follow his lead, so I got them out of their one-piece sleepers and into clothes and Pull-Ups first thing in the a.m., ready to go. I figured we would start slowly, let them get the feel of it, and put them on the pot often. Buddy Twin has peed on the potty many times, so he gets it, and is happy when he goes, but I haven't been structured. We have read some books. We have talked about it.

So here we are, that first structured morning, and I sit him on a "ring" seat on the big potty. His Pull-Up was wet, so he likely didn't have to go. But he sat there. And sat there. And sat there. I ran water to hopefully stimulate the feeling. He played with the toilet paper, so I had to explain to him that he couldn't touch the paper until he was done. Meanwhile Bunny Twin is shimmying all over the bathroom floor, touching everything and anything. I asked her if she wanted to sit on the little potty, but she didn't and backed away. Then I decided to leave Buddy Twin alone for a moment to see if privacy helped. It didn't. I heard a noise and realized he was spinning the toilet paper roll and it was all over the bathroom. After such a long time, I knew he couldn't go and made him get off the potty. And he cried because he wanted to sit there. And then I think, "Am I screwing this up?"

I was trying to remember back to Big Girl's potty training days. She started on the little potty, and sat in our kitchen with books and toys, and was rewarded with stickers and M&Ms. She wasn't a quick trainer, but she got it and relished the rewards. The one thing I learned is that there is no race to train. It will take time and patience. But your child will not be in Kindergarten wearing diapers because it just won't happen. And whether it happens at age 2 or 3 or 3.5, it will happen. And earlier doesn't mean better or more advanced or any of that.

Tip #1: Twins may not be ready at the same time.

This is the case with my kids. Buddy Twin is ready and wants to go. Bunny Twin is not ready, does not want to go, and is stubborn. They are two individual children and will have different feelings and incentives and need different approaches.

In the past week, Buddy Twin has succeeded in using the potty. Bunny Twin has not. But that's OK.

Tip #2: Each twin may like a different kind of potty.

If you are just starting out, there are two kinds of potty seats: Little potties and ring seats.

Little potties are tiny little seats with a hole and a pot to catch everything. Pros: You can move it into the main house if your child likes to sit forever. They can keep their feet on the floor, which is less scary to some kids. They can be fun, with noises and designs. And you definitely know if a child went, or not, because you have the evidence in the pot. Cons: They are the more expensive option to purchase. You have to clean them, which is not always fun. You can take them with you, but might not have them with you in mall or a restaurant. And you have to progress to the bigger seat, which can be difficult for some kids.

Ring seats are circular, padded seats which fit on top of a regular toilet seat. Some have handles on the side, some do not. Pros: They are much cheaper than little potties, for the most part, and you can get them in fun designs. (My mother bought Bunny Twin a special Disney Princess ring seat that has handles and plays music when you press buttons under the handle.) They are easier to store and tote with you. They get kids used to sitting on the big potty, which is helpful all around. Cons: It is harder to tell if a child has gone to the bathroom sometimes. A child might not want to be on the big potty.

So which one is right for you? I suggest having one of each, at least. You could start on the little potty, but if they are amenable to a ring on the bigger potty, try it! Bunny Twin is comfortable on the less-scary little potty seat, but Buddy Twin is OK with sitting on the ring. That said, we have two little potties and two rings now.

Also, please note that not all little potties are right for all kids. I had a little potty seat from big girl, but I lost the "boy" add-on piece for boys sitting down to pee. My mom got an inexpensive potty in Marshalls so we would have a second one. But the potty is made differently and doesn't seem as comfortable. If at all possible, check out friends' seats or look at them in stores to see how wide them are, how easy to empty, etc.

Another useful potty seat for your family might be a portable potty seat. I have one from Big Girl's potty training days. It is a plastic seat that folds down. I store it in a gallon-Ziploc bag, and it's useful for outings where you can set it on a regular toilet and a child feels comfortable and not like they will fall in. I purchased mine from One Step Ahead and it was a great purchase! Here is the link to the current one they sell; my did not have handles like this one. We used it a long time and I highly recommend this.

Tip #3: Boy twins are different than girl twins, so if you have boy/girl twins, you will need different approaches to both.

Boys and potty training are different than girls and potty training. Some little boys are fine with learning to stand right away, and like to "aim," especially at targets that you can purchase or even just Cheerios. Some boys might do better sitting intially, but you have to have a little guard to avoid a mess in your bathroom, or teach them to point down. Again, it's like choosing a potty seat: Whatever works for your kid!

And daddies are helpful in the boy department. Make sure Dad is involved in working with the boys.

Tip #4: Shop smart and stock up on supplies.

The next issue is supplies. Some parents progress from diapers to underwear, but I am a fan of Pull-Up-style pants. Let's face it: Kids have accidents, and twins are twice the accidents. You still have to leave the house. And there is only one mom with multiple children, which means you can't be juggling two kids on one potty in the bathroom. (Of course, you can two little potties, or a potty and a potty ring, but if both want to use the big potty there is only just one available for mom to monitor.)

Pull-Ups are more expensive than underwear (or diapers), but kids realize the change from diapers to Pull-Ups so it is a little encouragement. If you put them on the potty a lot and catch them before they wet, you can reuse one several times during one day. And the "pull up" feature is a blessing when you are dealing with numerous sessions with twins!

As for the brand of Pull-Up style diapers you use: My theory is whatever is cheaper when you are buying them, especially with twins when you have to buy double the amount. I started with Target's Up & Up brand, but last week when I went shopping to stock up for an official start to the process, the Huggies brand Pull-Ups were the cheapest at Target for me: I had $1.50 coupon off one pack, and if you bought two packs you also got a free pack of wipes.

Use your coupons, check generic prices, shop wisely, and if possible, stock up. Even if you progress to underwear quickly you will likely be needing Pull-Ups at night for a while. Also, don't forget to take advantage of rewards programs through Huggies and Pampers, especially if you have twins and are buying a lot of diapers and Pull-Ups with brand names!

For nightime, I am currently sticking with regular diapers. My first goal is daytime training as best as possible. Nighttime will come later, and for some kids, takes longer.

Other supplies that may come in handy are special flushable wipes, kid-oriented soap for hand-washing, and a stool to reach the sink or potty. They are both useful and an incentive.

Tip #5: Incentives and rewards.

And speaking of incentives: Many children do well with a reward system. I've listed a few ideas below, but be forewarned that sometimes rewards with multiples cause competition. Competition can be healthy, but try and handle it appropriately. (Also, be firm about the rules -- no M&Ms if one doesn't go! It may be hard to stick to when one twin gets it and the other doesn't, but the whole point is rewarding for the actual deed.) Sometimes enthusiasm is the best reward, and siblings are also provide enthusiasm for their twin.

Possible incentives can be:
  • Sticker charts. Do not spend money on a chart: This link has a ton of free printables. Buy a variety of stickers (dollar stores provide many affordable options) and post the charts on the fridge or somewhere important for kids to see. Get a variety of stickers to please both kids. 
  • M&Ms or another small treat. Set a rule: 2 M&Ms for pee and 5 M&Ms for the other elimination. And don't give in to the other twin. If they didn't go, they don't get them. Yes, there may be tears, but stick to your guns to prove the reward comes when you do the deed.
  • Small toys, as a reward for getting a certain number of stickers, completing a sticker chart or going on the potty consistently for a certain number of days. If one twin reaches the milestone first, consider making the outing for a small toy an individual trip. Leave the other twin home so they are not truly upset at the toy store while their sibling picks out a toy.
  • A trip or outing when both twins complete potty training. Tell them when both use the potty, you'll take them to the zoo, or a museum, or even to a special park for a hike. 
Huggies Pull-Ups offers a wealth of free potty training tools on its web site. There are charts, a door hanger to print, coloring pages, songs and instructions on how to do "The Potty Dance," as well as the video for the song. Pampers has a wealth of potty training instructions and ideas on its website as well.

Tip #6: Prep the bathroom.

I soon realized, after that first time in the bathroom last week, that some changes were in order if I was going to survive this with twins. I need to prep the house for potty training. As I said earlier, when one twin was on the potty, the other was tearing apart the bathroom. Twins means bathroom "prep" is important.

I needed to remove all decorative items from the counter so there is not things to grab when I am dealing with one twin and the other is investigating. I need a little basket of fun things to look at on the potty, like special toys or books. I need a better stool for hand washing. I need fun "kid soap," not my fancy hand soap for visitors. I need to have those potty seats ready for the adventure.

You can also store a small basket or box of toys in the bathroom for kids to enjoy only while sitting in the potty. Here's a great post from I Can Teach My Child about that idea.

Tip #7: Potty training extras may help.

Don't forget to get a few books about using the potty. (I would list some here, but there are dozens and dozens of them on Amazon.com, with every character or angle you can imagine!) You can read these anytime, at bedtime, or even while your child sits on the potty. Reading books during the waiting time is a great way to get kids to relax. It might help to have a small basket of books in the bathroom for just this purpose.

And if you have boy/girl twins, be sure to get each of them their own gender specific book to make each feel special.

There are also potty dolls and doll potties. We did not and do not have a doll that goes potty, but we do have little doll potties so we can put our dolls and animals on their own toilet too. This worked well with Big Girl, who did not have siblings at the time.

Tip #8: Use a timer. 

Routine is crucial to catching them when they can go. I use my stove or microwave timer. You can aim for putting them on every hour. Or, if you take off their pants and find a wet Pull-Up set the timer for 30 minutes or 40 minutes or an hour to make sure you catch them before the next time. (And hand them a cup full of water to fill their bladder up again!)

Tip #9: Don't sweat the night just yet.

To me, potty training comes in two distinct stages: Daytime and nighttime. Daytime is goal number one. Nighttime comes much, much later than daytime. Once the daytime part is accomplished, keep using Pull-Ups for night for a long time. Kids take longer to learn this skill, but there will be a time, after many, many, many dry nights, where you can attempt underwear at night.

My advice for this step? Waterproof mattress covers. Limit liquids after dinner. And if necessary, wake them to use the bathroom before you go to bed later that night. Sometimes it takes a year or two to get to the next step.

Frankly, just having daytime covered is a big deal in my book. I do not expect to have kids in underwear overnight for a long, long time!

Tip #10: Praise your twins when they succeed, and praise yourself as well.

Training twins is hard, so don't forget to pat yourself on the back when you reach this milestone!

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