My twins were nearly 3 years old. I was fed up with diapers (though they didn’t really seem to mind them).
The first day I took the diapers off of the twins, I set the two portable potties in the backyard. My husband didn’t want any mess inside the house. My brilliant alternative: Let them run around butt-naked in our backyard.
No sooner had I shut the back door with my back turned, and my son laid a fat one on the ground. Right next to the shiny green potty I had set out for him. His twin sister looked on in horror, shocked to see the big brown mass emerge from her brother’s bottom. A few moments later, it began to rain. It was a sign. Potty training would not be as quick and simple as I had imagined.
The good news? I know there were other traumatic moments, but I can’t remember any of them. Like the pain of pregnancy or childbirth, I’ve blocked it out. Somehow, my kids survived. They learned to pee and poop in the potty. Perhaps the one secret I can share from experience is this: Don’t worry about it. This too shall pass.
There are no true “secrets” to potty training. As Jamie Glowacki, the author of Oh Crap! Potty Training, told me, “Anyone who says they have a method to potty training is full of crap. You take the diaper off the child. That’s what you do.”
Your children won’t remember potty training. They will get through it. These five helpful tips, however, may help preserve your sanity.
1. Know the Basics
There are two different philosophies of potty training. My husband just couldn’t bear the idea of poop and pee on our floors. And, we were two working parents with little time and energy to spare. So we opted for the gentler, and longer, version of potty training.
Option 1: Thick Cotton Underwear
We put the kids in training pants, basically thick cotton underwear. They felt wet when they peed, but it gave them more time to run to the potty.
Option 2: Cold Turkey
This “sudden death” approach is beautiful in its simplicity. Toss the diapers. Expect a mess. Don’t look back. Choose this method if you can stay at home with your kids for at least three, preferably four, days in a row.
2. You Need Help
You can’t do it alone. If your spouse isn’t on board, find a grandparent, nanny, or friend who is game.
Once the diapers are off, most kids just start peeing on the floor. The key is getting them to the potty as soon as possible, so that they associate it with having to pee.
Easier with one than two (or more), however.
“When you’re getting one to the potty, the other is in the corner peeing. It’s really, really hard to do this by yourself until they start to make that connection,” she said.
Most kids will see the light after a few days.
3. Duplicate Everything
I bought a green potty for my son, a blue potty for my daughter. Those were their favorite colors, or so I thought.
They jostled to be the first one to sit in the blue potty. No one wanted their bottom on the green one. Lesson learned. Get identical potties. Buy enough so you have two sets for every bathroom in your home. The kids eat at the same time. They will poop at the same time too.
4. Twins Are Competitive
Use it to your advantage! If one twin shows interest in the potty but the other could care less, that’s okay. Focus on the more engaged twin.
They’ll serve as the role model for the other. As parents, we want to treat our kids equally. A good rule in general, but not in this case. Let them compete.
5. Know When to Call the Experts
Your kids will be much more patient than you will be about potty training. Give it at least a week, Glowacki says.
If you don’t see the teeniest sign of progress, then consult a professional. Pee is relatively easy to deal with. Most problems center on poop. You might want professional advice from the get-go if you know that your child gets constipated.
Similarly, if you’re facing an external deadline — if your preschool won’t accept your children unless they’re potty training, for example — you might want to bring in the experts.
But whatever you do, don’t post on social media that you’re beginning to potty train your kids. Every parent who has been through this process fancies themselves an expert. We readily offer plenty of unsolicited, conflicting advice. But you’re the expert on your own children. Trust yourself. Don’t listen to us.
Emily Kopp is a mom of twins and lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a journalist with over 13 years of experience reporting and editing for both broadcast and digital platforms at local, national, and international levels. Find out more about her work here.