FAQ After they are born
Potty Training for Two
First, two pieces of advice: 1) Get two potty seats and 2) don’t expect miracles.
When it comes to potty training twins, plan ahead but don’t push. I’ve spoken with many parents of twins who took decidedly different approaches to potty training, but there was one thing they on which all agreed: Let the kids decide when they’re ready.
In my case — even though I intellectually understood that girls mature faster than boys – for some reason I expected that Abbey and Jonah would train at around the same time. (Duh.) I bought two potties (actually a potty that sits on the floor and a small cushion that you insert over a regular toilet seat) and started seriously working with them when they were about 2. I bought potty books and videos. We took frequent potty breaks where everyone would bring his or her reading material along. I used every incentive I’d heard about (stickers, charts, candy, etc.). I would loudly praise the twin who was doing well, holding that child up as a good example, trying very hard not to make the other feel badly.
By 2½ years old, Abbey was trained, except at night. Jonah was close to doffing his diapies, but once his baby brother was born — just a month shy of Jonah’s third birthday — all of the progress immediately went down the drain. He completely regressed and demanded diapers. He actually cried when I tried to get him to sit on the potty. He didn’t care that Abbey was now “a big girl” and got to pick out special Blue’s Clues underpants. It wasn’t until he was 3½ (and many Mommy gray hairs later) that he finally got it.
During my most desperate potty training moments, I consulted other moms of twins and was regaled with hilarious stories. One story featured a set of fraternal girl twins who were potty trained together fairly early, but several months after setting aside their diapers, the girls began to rebel and pee in random containers (like videotape boxes) all over the house, laying like unexploded land mines for their mother to find. Then there were the fraternal boys who used potty training as a weapon, peeing in plants or household garbage cans when they got angry with mom. Another mom of boy/girl twins has tales of her son asking his sister to push up to the edge of the toilet while she was peeing, so he could go pee behind her, getting pee all down the sister’s back in the process.
Mom authors Malmstrom and Poland tell parents of twins to hold off on potty training until both kids “are enjoying doing things together and copying each other, rather than fighting and competing.” (If I waited until that stage, my kids would never have been potty trained.) But they also remind parents not to expect that both kids will be out of diapers simultaneously. “It is quite likely that twin children will not reach this milestone at the same time,” they wrote. “If this is the case with yours, resist the temptation to make a big deal of the differences. The child who is behind is certainly aware of it.”
If there’s one thing that parents of twins say that they certainly don’t get enough of, it’s time alone with each twin. (I’m not talking about time alone with newborns who need to be fed and changed constantly, but with a more mobile youngster.) Though it’s not always convenient to take the kids out individually, it’s well worth the effort. Once a kid is away from his or her twin and alone with a parent, you’ll likely see a different side of that child emerge.
My husband and I started taking Jonah and Abbey on separate jaunts when they were about 18 months old. Whenever I take them out, there’s an initial hesitance from the kid who’s left behind. “Can I come too?” is the constant refrain. Once I leave the driveway with only one car seat filled, the child sharing the vehicle with me hesitates for a nanosecond before opening up like a butterfly, reveling in the exclusive attention and the absence of competition. By the time we arrive home, both children are the better for the time apart from one another, but also for the time alone with a parent. There’s typically little whining, acting up or demands issued.
“Capitalize on opportunities that arise for spending special time one-on-one, but don’t worry about manufacturing such times,” Malmstrom and Poland advise. “In time, you will have more and more opportunities to be alone with one or the other.”
Some people also encourage parents of twins to give the children individual solitary time. “It may be an even bigger challenge to arrange, but you should try to make sure both of your children have some time alone – all by themselves,” Poland and Malmstrom said.
Keep in mind that when taking your twin out, you don’t have to plan a big trip to the zoo or the fine art museum. Your time can be spent running an errand to the post office, the grocer’s or even to get the car washed. Any time you can do a little something with a twin alone, take advantage of it.
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