I didn’t want to potty train all three Tagalongs at once. Uh uh. No way. My original plan had been to tackle one kid at a time several weeks apart with the help of Nana over her summer break.
But life happened. Two months after I had wanted to start potty training just Danae, Chris and I finally got to work. Except we hadn’t quite understood one another. “What do you mean we’re potty training all three at once?!” and “What do you mean you didn’t want to potty train all three at once?!” we shouted at each other in our bathroom a mere 5 minutes before waking the Tagalongs to begin the Great Potty Training Undertaking. After a short “discussion” over who had miscommunicated, we said, “F it!” and took the plunge.
One year on the back end (no pun intended), I’m glad we did. By the time we started, all three kids were ready and capable of being potty trained. And doing them in one fell swoop meant we didn’t have to revisit this milestone over and over and over again.
So we’re here to tell you that potty training triplets at the same time can be done. Like most every other aspect of life with triplets, it’s chaotic and messy. The following tips helped make it doable.
*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.
Follow a method.
We chose to follow the method explained in Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki. Several moms in my triplet tribe spoke highly of it after potty training their own triplets, so we decided to give it a whirl. I knew just by reading the back of the book that this method would be perfect for us. A step-by-step, no-nonsense process designed by someone who’s “been there, done that”? Yes please!
When a friend learned about Oh Crap!, she told me it was “cute” that I was reading a book. Although her comment made me feel embarrassed, I quickly shoved aside my feelings. I knew we needed something to base our efforts on—especially since we might be training more than one kid at a time. Prior to starting potty training, the mere mention of the subject had me breathing into a paper bag. But as I got into the book, I found myself doing so less and less. The approach Glowacki described made me feel confident and capable about handling not just the basics of potty training triplets, but any issues we might encounter as well. And with three kids, we knew getting through potty training unscathed was unlikely.
And that’s why I encourage you to follow a method. It doesn’t have to be Oh Crap! It doesn’t have to be one your BFF/sister/in-law/coworker/playgroup friend used. It doesn’t have to be one you found on social media or a parenting blog. It simply has to be one that gives you something to base your efforts on and something to use if you train all three at once. Bonus points if the plan includes steps you can return to if you experience difficulty or regression. In most cases, it’s easier to go back one step than to the beginning.
Start potty training early.
But not in the traditional sense. There are several things you can do to make potty training easier for you and your kids that don’t involve teaching them to dispose of their waste in a toilet.
Teach them to identify their diaper type. Starting around when the Tagalongs turned 2 years old, we asked them to identify whether they had a “pee pee” or a “stinky” every time we changed them. This made them aware that there was a distinction between the two and helped them feel comfortable identifying what they needed to do when we started the real deal. At least that’s what I tell myself!
Teach them to dress themselves. This is something most people don’t even think about regarding potty training, but it makes a huge difference whether your kids can pull down and pull up their pants and undies when they’re doing the potty dance. Again, we started practicing with the kids around age 2; they were expected to pull off and put on pants when getting dressed in the morning, at a diaper change, and when getting undressed in the evening. When we started potty training, the Tagalongs had the fine-motor skills and coordination needed to maneuver their clothing mostly by themselves.
These might seem like “little” things, but when you have three kids the little things really do count!
Be flexible, and learn your kids.
Although you’re following a method, don’t hold on to it with an iron grip. Leave yourself and your kids some wiggle room. Being flexible allows you to really get to know and accept the kids you have.
We went into potty training planning to follow Oh Crap! but giving ourselves permission to deviate if we needed to because we knew that potty training triplets is a lot different than potty training a singleton. I practically wrote myself a physical permission slip as our start date approached. I’m about as Type A as they get, so not following a process to the letter makes my eye twitch. But having kids has taught me that “the best-laid plans … often go awry.” And while I tend to act like a two-year-old who tantrums when things don’t go my way, I’m trying to be better about my approach to how real life compares to the vision in my head.
Oh Crap! almost went out the window the very first week. Caleb and potty training just weren’t meshing. He didn’t have accidents. He didn’t seem to be afraid of the potty. He simply refused to use the potty. Every potty break saw him vehemently insist that he didn’t need to go, but his nap and overnight diapers said otherwise. Several people hinted that he was telling us he wasn’t ready—including our developmental pediatrician. After she observed his patterns at our annual appointment that first week of potty training, she went so far as to call me on her personal phone after hours to advise me about holding off on potty training him. Her words added fuel to my frustration about the situation, and I came THIS close to throwing in the towel (and telling the good doctor where to shove it).
But then I ate a bowl of ice cream and took a step back. On page vii of Oh Crap!, Glowacki says, “One of the coolest things I’ve discovered about potty training is that it’s your first glimpse into how your child learns.” A fellow triplet mom extended this line of thinking by telling me, “I’m so used to thinking and referring to the three of them as one unit that I just figured they would all figure [potty training] out together. This experience has reminded me that they are three very different people.” These words empowered me to put on my big-girl undies and look at the situation differently.
My mommy gut was screaming that Caleb was ready and capable. A consult with my mom and triplet tribe helped me understand that he might simply need a different approach. Oh Crap! calls for several days of being naked followed by several days of going commando before moving to undies. I proposed to Chris that we go straight to undies after the naked days. Maybe Caleb needed the security and familiarity undies offered, I reasoned.
Luckily, we didn’t have to take this approach. Caleb woke up the morning we had decided to change things up using the potty like nobody’s business. He even dropped a massive deuce that evening for his babysitters (Thanks, Tio!). Turns out, he just needed time to adjust to this huge change. To this day, he’s the best trained of the three.
So while you’re deciding on a method and/or in the trenches of potty training your triplets, keep in mind that, as in everything that regards raising kids, you may need to take a different tack. Give your plan the good old college try, but if it isn’t working, don’t be afraid to switch gears. And while you’re at it, turn off those other voices, and tune in to your mommy gut. It knows your kids best, and it’ll tell you where to go.
Have an extra set of hands.
This. This right here. This is a sanity saver.
Potty training triplets on your own is possible. But doing it with at least one other person makes it much less of a headache.
Dividing and conquering is truly the name of the game here. While one of you watches the kids like a hawk, the other cooks, cleans up, and takes their own potty break. You can even work a short breather into the mix. One person can hold down the fort with minimal or no damage done while the other rocks in the corner or scrolls through social media for 5 minutes.
The only thing you’ll want to make sure of is that you and the other person are on the exact same page about potty training. Exact same—even down to the words you use about taking a potty break or cleaning up accidents. Remember that this is a huge change for your kids, and a consistent approach will make the learning process go much smoother for everyone involved.
Designate a location.
A good chunk of potty training is all about location, location, location—particularly if you use little potties.
We put three little potties* right next to the kitchen table. Unsanitary? Most likely (especially when someone takes a dump in the middle of dinner). But it was really the best place for them. We spend a good chunk of time in the downstairs playroom or backyard, and the nearest available bathroom was a tiny half-bath at the front of the house. We couldn’t imagine shoving three kids and one or more adults in there for a potty break, and we didn’t want to think about the trail we’d leave if we had to sprint a kid to the front of the house mid-pee or mid-poop. So we set up an “open-air bathroom” downstairs with three little potties atop a plastic shower curtain liner from the dollar store. It worked quite well for us. In fact, we only recently picked it up and moved doing our business to that half-bath.
When choosing your own location for potty training your triplets, consider the following:
- whether you’ll be using a potty insert or little potties
- where you spend most of your time
- where your bathrooms are located
- how to keep an eye on both the pottier and the non-pottiers
- which area can best be cleaned up or potty-training proofed
If you’ll be setting up little potties, we have two recommendations:
- Place something down underneath them, and tape the potties to it.
- Set up a potty station.
Don’t be worried about choosing the “wrong” location. On the first day, we set up the little potties inside the playroom, thinking about only proximity and ease. Turns out proximity didn’t equal ease—the kids played in them and spilled pee on the carpet within the first 15 minutes. You’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you. It may just take a few tries and a little spilled pee.
*NOTE: The little potty we used (Summer Infant Lil’ Loo) is no longer available. However, the BABYBJORN Smart Potty is comparable in style and price.
Set up a potty station.
Speaking of potty station … This is super helpful if you use little potties somewhere other than the bathroom. Your potty station doesn’t have to look like something out of Better Homes & Gardens. It simply must have the essentials so you aren’t running around like a crazy person in a moment of need.
In fact, it’s so helpful that we’re doing a separate post on it. Look for that soon!
Potty training triplets is no joke—especially if you tackle all three kids at once. But it can be done! Use these tips, and you’ll be off to a good start. The rest is up to you and your kiddo(s). Good luck, and may the pee/poop be with you!
Visit our Pinterest board Triplet Potty Training to view a few of our favorite potty stations and other must-have potty training items.