What is the best way to approach potty training twins or multiples? Should you potty train them together or separately? This post will give you the tools that you need to decide which approach is best for you and your family.
When we talk about potty training twins or multiples, this may include:
– children who are the same age/close in age and at the same stage of development
– children who are the same age/close in age and are at a different stage of development
So this can make the process of knowing when and how best to potty train them a bit tricky.
We are all familiar with the adage that “every child is different” and this is a very important consideration when training two children together, no matter what age they are. It is more helpful to focus less on your children being born at the same time and more on understanding their unique stage of development.
Children develop at different rates and one child may be months or weeks ahead of the other. One question I am often asked is will their developmental differences interfere with the process?
Are my children “ready” to potty train?
Yes! Children are born ready. What we mean by this is that the concept of “readiness” is not a proven science (and is, in fact, a product of disposable nappy marketing bias) and is not rooted in child development. Readiness is about whether the parent or carer is ready to lead the potty training process and what will make potty training a success (at any age) is entirely due to the approach that the parent or carer takes.
Therefore, instead of “readiness”, it is more helpful for parents and carers to consider the child’s capability. When it comes to the skills required to stop using nappies completely and do at least some of the process independently, most children are capable of success if they can:
- Understand basic commands such as ‘give this’, ‘take this’, ‘go there’, ‘come here’
- Communicate verbally or nonverbally their needs to you, e.g. “I’m thirsty”, “I’m hungry”, “I want to cuddle”
- Remember at least some parts of a nursery rhyme or a tune that they’re familiar with
- Sit up, stand up, and move about with or without your help
As you can see, this list is not at all age-dependent and there is no lower age limit to begin learning the skills needed for potty training. Many cultures around the world start potty learning from birth and some children may be able to do all these things by the time they’re one year old.
OK, so now you have established your children’s capability, let’s consider your options.
Option 1) Train them together
If your multiples are at the same developmental point, it makes sense to consider training them together. To do this, you will want to be really well prepared. Make sure you have a proper plan and know how to approach the potty training process before you start, especially for the first weeks. Also, ensure that you have support. You will benefit from having more than one person involved, even if the other person is not directly involved in the training process but can be on hand to provide food or take over for short periods to give you a break.
If one child is older or slightly more ahead than the other, they may make a good role model for the younger ones. Likewise, the younger one may also make a good role model for the older one! This can be especially relevant if you are potty training a toddler and you also have a much younger child – e.g. a baby, who can also use the potty sometimes (link to EC). If the younger one can do it, the older one may want to prove themselves more capable!
Potty training together has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you can use each child’s progress and motivation to inspire the other child. You can also get things done in one go, which you may find makes the process quicker. On the downside, potty training can be hard work and you may find it strains your usual multitasking abilities. It can also be a little challenging dealing with accidents (which you can expect in the early stages).
Option 2: Start with the child who seems the most capable
If one of your children seems more capable than the other at this point, you should direct the focus of your teaching to them. This does not mean leaving the other child/children out completely. You need to assume that the other one/s will show an interest and want to take part, and offer them opportunities to do so if you can. When one goes, have the other one go too as far as you can, even if you are focusing on one at a time. This may mean one stays in nappies but also uses the potty at potty time, whilst the other one ditches nappies completely and you focus on getting everything they do in the potty.
Potty training separately also has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you can take one thing at a time and you may find the workload more manageable. If you start with the more capable child, you may learn some useful strategies which you can use for the other. On the downside, you may have a longer period of “potty training” and become fatigued with the process if it drags on. You may also find that despite your attempt to train them separately, you end up having to train them together for other reasons, such as your children showing you they want to do it together.
So, together or separately?
Ultimately this is your choice, but whatever you decide, understand that you can do this and you will be successful if you:
– be prepared with a good plan
– accept that you may switch strategies once you begin
– understand that you will need at least two of everything (potties etc)
– stay calm and be realistic. It won’t be perfect – but hopefully, you already know this about parenting!
How do I make a good plan for Potty Learning?
We have lots of fantastic resources for parents, no matter the age or developmental stage of the child.
Also called Elimination Communication, this involves learning to use the potty as early as birth. You can learn how with our book The Baby Pottying Guide.
This is the name for the process where the parent or carer decides they are ready for the child to stop using nappies and learn to become toilet independent.
You can learn how with our fantastic eLearning packages.