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 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 naked in our backyard.
No sooner had I shut the back door with my back turned, 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’ll get through it. These five helpful tips, however, may help preserve your sanity.
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 bathroom.
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.
Both of these methods can be less frustrating for everyone if you wait until your kids are showing some signs of readiness, such as hiding to poop or pee, or going longer between wet diapers.
You can’t do it alone. If your spouse isn’t on board, find a grandparent, nanny, or friend who’s game.
Once the diapers are off, most kids just start peeing on the floor. The key is getting them to the bathroom 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,” Glowacki said.
Most kids (if they’re old enough and ready) will see the light after a few days.
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 on 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.
Use it to your advantage! If one twin shows interest in the potty but the other couldn’t 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.
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 trained, 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’s 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’s 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.