Time to Go!

Introducing Toileting to Twins, Trips and Quads


Training one child (or singleton) is in itself a challenging feat. But, for parents in a position to train multiple children at the same time, the task becomes monumentally more demanding and difficult. Here’s our best tips:

Tip #1

Michelle LaRowe, a native New Englander and author of several parenting books including “Nanny to the Rescue!” said that toilet training is often more about control than about going to the bathroom.

After investing the past 15 years working exclusively with twins, LaRowe suggests that multiples be trained at the same time and that each child have their own set of training tools (training pants, underwear, hand soap, reward chart/mechanism and potty chairs) that they themselves select.

“It’s important for parents of multiples to tackle potty-training with a systematic approach,” she said. “Parents should have set potty break times, including when the children wake up, before and after the children eat meals, before baths, and before bed. Having a line of potties against the bathroom wall can be effective in encouraging multiples to be part of the training process. A reward chart with a column for each child can also help to positively reinforce toileting and track each child's individual progress.” LaRowe further suggests that moms of multiples hold off on using disposable training pants (i.e. Pull Ups). “Disposable pants mask the wet, uncomfortable feeling that helps increase potty-training success.”

Tip #2

Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais, M.D., a pediatrician, mom of four (including a set of twin boys), and author of the soon-to-be-released book, “Raising Twins, From Pregnancy to Preschool—Advice from a Pediatrician Mom of Twins” suggests that parents avoid making comparisons.

“Comparisons are inevitable, but each child is an individual and will progress on their own appropriate level with mom and dad’s love and encouragement.” She also encourages parents to keep expectations age-appropriate. “Families can begin to use the language of toileting at 18-months ['pee', 'poop']. By 24 months of age, most children are ready for the next level of potty- training, including one or two designated times each day to practice sitting on the potty--regardless of any result.”

Tip #3

Establish a reward system. In her work as a nanny to twins, LaRowe uses individually marked containers filled with M&Ms for each toilet-training child—and offers those children the opportunity to select one M&M of their choice for sitting on the potty and two for performing. “As simple as this sounds, allowing multiples to choose their own M&Ms will head off a power struggle because the need for control will be directed into making a choice about the candies, rather than a choice about whether or not to sit on the toilet.”

Tip #4

According to LaRowe, “Positive peer pressure can be a wonderful thing, especially when toilet-training multiples. If you have one child that is really succeeding, praise him for doing such a great job. Doing so will foster a natural and healthy level of competition among the siblings. A reward sticker chart will do the same thing. While getting the multiples to engage actively in competition (see who can go first, who can get more stickers, etc.) may not be effective, letting the natural competition have its place can be beneficial. You do this simply by praising and rewarding each child for their individual successes.” She does warn parents of multiples to avoid ridiculing, teasing or taunting the child that isn’t doing as well since that could backfire and result in injury to that child’s self-esteem rather than the desired result of a potty-trained child



Bodily Exploration and ‘Poop Play’

Once your multiples begin toilet training, their attention may naturally sway towards their ‘private parts.’ And, as utterly gross as it sounds, children may also play with their urine or excrement at some point during the potty training phase. Parents, do not freak out!

The reality is that a child’s genitalia have been, up until the toileting time frame, covered with either a diaper or Pull up. These newfound areas remain relatively foreign to your child, having been under cover almost every hour of the day (except bath and changing time) – since birth.

As children begin toileting, they realize their private parts and in an effort to discern their abilities, will investigate them—just as they did their ears, mouth, nose and toes in earlier months. Parents tend to panic (I know I did) as children begin investigating – and in some cases—sharing their findings with parents, friends, walls, floors and clothes. A girlfriend once confided in me that her son ‘served up his poop on a slice of apple’ after having an accident during snack time. These things happen and while we don’t typically discuss it outside our four walls, parents should be alerted that these things will occur and that it is OK. “Toddlers have a natural curiosity about everything in their world—and this includes how their bodies work. It is completely normal and age appropriate for potty training toddlers to take an increased interest in their body parts and ‘emissions,’ so to speak,” said Dr. Vaziri Flais.

Other professionals agree. Dr. Peter Stavinoha, a neuropsychologist and co-author of Stress-Free Potty Training said, “Genital exploration and even poop play are normal as long as they are not excessive. These are normal expressions of curiosity for kids - anything unfamiliar (or sticky or gooey) is fair game for exploration.  As gross (or taboo) as we adults may consider these activities, little kids have not yet attached those meanings to these behaviors.” Stavinoha likens the situation to others adults may find gross or germ-filled such as a toddler picking up a dead cockroach simply because it looks interesting. He believes that young children are simply not yet governed by adult social rules. “Some kids like to look at what's in the diaper and that may satisfy them so they don't need to touch it. As those body parts and their functions become more familiar, curiosity usually wanes.”

As parents of multiples adjust their multi-child radar to manage these sometimes unexpected ‘extras’ during the potty training process, experts encourage parents to not get overly negative or over-emotional about failures, accidents or body exploration. “Parents should avoid overly dramatic or negative reactions as toddlers can pick up on negative connotations and wonder if they're doing something wrong, said Vaziri Flais. “Pee and poop are a natural, healthy part of the daily routine, and should be regarded as such.”

What To Do When You Leave The House

Once toileting practices have been initiated, some parents establish a timeframe during which they hope to successfully potty train their tykes—a weekend, two weeks, one month. Some even avoid leaving the house with their children to insure that a toilet is always available. Realistically though, children of toilet training age need to emerge from their homestead well before they are fully trained—and there in lies yet another dilemma for potty training parents—underwear or

Pull Ups?

Moms of multiples seem to agree that while there is a convenience garnered from using disposable training pants, it can become a short-lived benefit as toilet training tykes can easily backslide and wish to return to a life…sans toilet.

“I do not believe in Pull Ups since they only add to the confusion surrounding potty training,” said Rachael Murphy, a North Andover mom of three (including a set of twin girls) and member of the Merrimack Valley Mother of Twins club. “Realistically, Pull Ups are pretty much diapers, so we instead carry around a portable potty in the back of our van. It’s great to have since not matter where we go, there’s no excuse for any potty accidents.”

Karen Nichols, also a mother of three from North Andover, suggests finding enclosed locations to travel with multiples. “There are a variety of indoor play spaces and museums that cater to younger children, so you can not only watch all of them, but corral them for a trip to the bathroom whenever your set time limit runs its course.”

Twin expert LaRowe further encourages parents to manage bathroom breaks for multiples in a strict, orderly fashion. “For parents of multiples on the go, always insist that each child use the bathroom before leaving the house and upon arriving at the destination,” she said. “While parents can become overwhelmed heading into the public bathroom with toddlers in tow, they don't have to be. Using a family bathroom or oversized stall can make things easier. One by one, get each child on and off the potty, like a human assembly line. If using a stroller, keep children strapped in until it’s their turn and use the same system for washing hands.”

So, to my twin sons who now enjoy occasional visits to the potty, I won’t push. When they are ready to embrace their newfound toileting skills, I’ll be there with the M&Ms to reward their efforts.

Quick Tips:

Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais, M.D., a pediatrician, mom of four (including a set of twin boys), and author of the soon to be released book, Raising Twins, From Pregnancy to Preschool—Advice from a Pediatrician Mom of Twins (October 2009)

  1. Parents and caregivers should all be on the same page as far as what words to use surrounding toileting (pee, poop, vagina, penis, etc.).
  2. Parents and caregivers should remain as ‘matter of fact’ as possible when talking to their kids about body parts.
  3. If children ask what poop is, give a simple answer, such as "We eat food for energy so we can play; poop is what is left over, so our bodies push it out every day."
  4. Should ‘messy exploration’ occur, have your child/children help clean up the mess—including washing hands very well with soap and water.
  5. Stay calm and rational and keep on your ‘poker face’ when accidents occur. Toddlers are smart and will adjust their behavior according to caregiver’s reactions.

Humorous Stories from real moms of multiples:

At the very beginning of our potty training adventure, my 3-year-old daughter stood up from the potty chair and said she was all done. I was in the middle of changing one of the baby’s diapers, so I could not assist her right away.  She starts dancing around the room in her birthday suit and I remind her "please do not pee on the floor."  Not 30 seconds later I turn around and see her squatting next to the potty chair……peeing on the floor!! Kathy Mann, mom to 3-year-old boy/girl twins and 19-month-old girl twins and member of Keeping Pace with Multiple Miracles.

One afternoon, my husband had the kids at the park at which time they had their first experience with a port-a-potty.  My husband had my son stand (for the first time) over the toilet to pee.  At bedtime, it was time to go potty again. My son undressed himself and proceeded to stand over the potty chair and use his hips to try to aim.  Needless to say there was a decent sized mess to clean up, but he was so proud of himself. Kathy Mann, mom to 3-year-old boy/girl twins and 19-month-old girl twins and member of Keeping Pace with Multiple Miracles.

For Merrimack Valley Mother of Twins (MVMOTA) member, estate attorney, and mom of six (including a set of identical twin 3-year-old girls) Elaine Daniels, “The most important thing I learned in training my twins was to not expect them to train together. At the time we began, one was completely ready, yet the other was not. Initially, Daniels expected her twins to do everything at the same time. “Very little of their development has occurred on the exact same timetable so why did I expect that it would with potty training. I just didn’t want to put pressure on myself or my girls and took cues from them.”

Cool Products for Toileting

Munchkin Inc. has recently released a series of versatile sit-down potties in sports themes (baseball, basketball and soccer) as well as a princess-style unit that makes a magical wand sound with every flush. As parents of multiples are often short on extra space, these new potties double as a sit stool when the lid is closed. www.munchkin.com  (photos attached for reference).

Excited 2 Learn, a Mass.-based company founded by twins sisters offer I Can Use the Potty!, a visually appealing, interactive, potty chart that breaks down toileting skills into simple steps, making it easier for children to master the entire sequence, and giving the child ownership of the process. The company also sells Hippo’s Reward Chart which allows children to visually see their progress. With multiple children learning to use the potty at the same time, it helps children use teamwork to fill the same chart. www.excited2learn.com. (photo attached for reference)

Invented by an engineer and father of three girls, the patented Johnny Light is a soft green night-light activated by a gravity switch when a toilet seat is raised. Part of the inventor’s intent with the creation of the Johnny Light was to speed the potty training. The Johnny Light founder believes that the green light means “Go!” for boys and “Watch out below!” for girls. Available nationwide, the Johnny Light sells for under $15. www.johnnylight.com. (photo attached for reference).



Wendy Bulawa Agudelo of North Andover is a freelance writer and mom of a three-year-old daughter and set of 22-month-old twin boys—all of whom are amid potty training.  

By Wendy Bulawa Agudelo
Wicked Local Parents
Fri, 06/26/2009 - 11:05pm