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Purposeful Parenting

Potty Training: How to Graduate from Rewards to Real Life

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Potty Training | Rewards to Real Life | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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I remember the first time I handed J a mini marshmallow after he peed on the potty. E looked at me at the ripe old age of 13 and said “You know, he’s going to expect a present every time he uses the bathroom for the rest of forever now.” complete with “lamest parent ever” eye roll. Potty training twin boys was (is) the most challenging milestone I have encountered yet, especially as a neat freak with OCD. It’s just plain nasty. If I had to convince them to use the potty by plying them with 24-karat gold, I probably would have tried it. But E was right. Learning how to graduate from rewards to real life was the biggest piece of the puzzle.

Potty Training: How to Graduate from Rewards to Real Life

How do you use rewards without setting a precedence for everyday actions? As I often do, I consulted their daycare teachers. They’ve been potty training kids for years! They can practically do it blindfolded at this point, and you all know I’m a firm believer of using your resources and consulting the pros wherever possible. I’m proud to report both boys are 99% potty trained thanks to them and our bank account is 99% happier for it.

The concept is fairly simple. It’s designed as a series of graduations that give smaller rewards over time. As the rewards get smaller, the expectations and excitement of the children get smaller as well, and when the rewards are redirected to another area of teaching, they are none the wiser and continue the learned behavior without the expectation of receiving a treat every time they perform.

Potty Training: How to Graduate from Rewards to Real Life
Here’s the official breakdown:

Step 1: Pick a toy from the treasure chest any time they pee or poop on the potty.
Step 2: Pick a sticker every time they pee on the potty. Pick a toy from the treasure chest every time they poop on the potty.
Step 3: Pick a sticker every they pee or poop on the potty.
Step 4: Pick a toy from the treasure chest when they stay dry all day with no accidents.
Step 5: Pick a sticker when they stay dry all day with no accidents.
Step 6: Redirect stickers to another activity (i.e. first to sit quietly on the rug).
Step 7: All rewards related to bathroom breaks are removed. Child uses the bathroom independently without expectation of reward.

Simple, right? Yet, I totally had no idea how to approach it and am incredibly grateful for the wisdom of those who have gone before me. My own super simple tips and tricks to potty training?

1. Potties, potties everywhere. We used these awesomely cheap, super easy to clean tiny potties from Ikea. Two downstairs where they could see them, two upstairs where they could see them.

2. Car diaper station. We had extra pull ups for long days away from home, extra sets of clothes, underwear, wipes and fresh smelling baggies to tie up dirty clothes right in the trunk of the car. Always prepare for the worst. Because it always happens. And it’s always messy.

3. Mini car potty. We found this awesome little gem on an online yard sale site (and thoroughly sanitized the heck out of it when we bought it). This enabled us to make quick stops, stay longer at the playground without braving nasty, bug-infested restrooms or porta-potties (AKA OCD Katy instantaneous death) and the boys thought it was darn cool. Win.

What was the potty training item you couldn’t live without? The one tip or trick that was keystone to your success? Your favorite mixed beverage to enjoy on a day of nasty accidents and constant clean ups? Share the love!

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Brittany

    July 25, 2014 at 1:58 am

    This is super relevant to me right now. Pinned it! 🙂

    • Katy Blevins

      July 27, 2014 at 7:09 am

      Yay! Thanks for the share, Brittany! And good luck!! You can do it!

  2. housebreaking a puppy

    August 1, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Thank you

    • Katy Blevins

      August 5, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Not at all!!!! Please share away! I would love to help as many people as possible!

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues

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How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please refer to my Legal Policies and Terms of Use. The opinions here are entirely my own. 
How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child's Cues - Infographic

Duh, duh, duh….the dreaded meltdown. With one kid, this can bring the strongest mommy to her knees. With multiples, well…the word “epic” takes on a completely new meaning. In the worst possible way.

My system certainly isn’t perfect, and my kids give new meaning to the word tantrum (I have one that goes “no bones, limp baby, immovable and impossible to catch” and one that goes “cement block that weighs a bazillion pounds and can’t be bended, lifted and/or manipulated in any fashion,” with both adding crazy decibel, ear-splitting screams to boot). At some point in the insanity, I learned to anticipate the meltdown.
My husband and I can spot a meltdown coming from a mile away. We’ll give the other that “It’s time to go. Stat. Grab the kids and sprint. NOW. Forget your shoes! Leave them! Run!” look and as the rest of the human race looks on in bewildered dismay, we quickly head for the hills before things get ugly. I think we have our exit down to about 46 seconds these days (58 if I get to grab my shoes).
On a day-to-day basis, I’ve developed a couple of tricks that stave off most meltdowns. IF I’m paying attention. This is where the understanding your child’s cues part comes in to play. You have to catch the cue before it’s too late. “Practice makes perfect” is the phrase of the day here. Or is “trial through fire” more resonant? In any event, here are my go to lifesavers:

1. Mini Baby Blanket with Attachment Loop – Cold is the enemy. Nothing brings on the whine, which brings on the frustration, which brings on the ultimate refusal to act like a normal human being like frigid weather. I was lugging around blankets to tuck the kids in to their car seats (Remember to avoid bulky coats when strapping kiddos in!) and they were getting tossed, dropped, forgotten, you name it. Then I realized my mother-in-law had given us these super cute sensory blankets with a loop that could attach to a stroller and the light bulb went off. I strapped both blankets to the side of each car seat (they are small and hang to the side if unused, so unobtrusive and the loop is short and sweet, so no wrapping around anything else) and they’re always there when I need them. The link above is one of many Etsy shops that make these small wonders, and ours are even sports themed, so the husband is happy.
2. Baby Sign Language – I admit to being one of those people that eye-rolled the idea of baby sign language when I was pregnant. Never gave it a second thought until my kids starting screaming for reasons that I couldn’t seem to identify. A friend suggested I take a jab at it, and purely out of desperation, I did, still with a bit of attitude and skepticism. And then the boys started signing back. HALLELUJAH! We did only the basics – “More, All Done, Hungry, Please, Thank You” – and that opened up whole new worlds for us in communication. Not only were they excited to sign and overjoyed that I knew what the heck was going on, but I was immensely relieved and didn’t feel like Failure Parent of the Century. Big win. I eat my humble pie proudly. I was an idiot to think this was lame.
3. Snacks at the Ready – Baby Cooler – If cold is the enemy, hunger is the Antichrist. I’d say a good 50% of the time, the boys’ tantrums stem from being hungry. We’re usually in transition to our next meal when the tank slips below E. Low fuel = channeling Satan. And the perfect timing for this special little stream of insanity was pick up from day care. The kids were tired and spent and ready for dinner. Like, 5 minutes before I got there. The first words I heard daily were “Mommy! I need my milk! Hungry!” They were whining, crying, going all sorts of Apocalyptic on me because the last thing they wanted was to be strapped into their car seats for the ride home. They wanted to be teleported straight to the dinner table. I got tired of this daily warfare, especially at the end of my own long day at work, so I started packing snacks and milk in this convenient little cooler (which as an aside, a friend gave me with the promise that it would be one of the most handy baby items I received – she was right). It gets stashed in the community kitchen at work and I grab it on my way out the door each evening. Every morning, I repack and head off knowing that I’ve crossed one tantrum off the list for that day. Yay me.Insert random cuteness here…I mean seriously, people, how can these children have meltdowns that rival the End of Days?

Photos Courtesy of Somer Anne Photography

Moral of the story? A little organization and forethought can go a long way. Considering WHY my kids were throwing tantrums and then exploring what I could do to prevent them before they started has saved me a million tears. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. But every little bit helps.

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child’s Cues

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How to Speak the Right Language | Understanding Your Children's Cues
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Every day I pick up my children from day care to hear “They are such great kids! They had a blast today and are some of the best listeners we’ve ever had. They’re so well-behaved!” Yay, Mama win! And then we go home and they act like total demon-infested, hell-raising psychos and won’t listen to a word I say. Weekends can be brutal and I sometimes find myself praising Jesus that I decided to keep working and not stay-at-home.

What was I doing wrong? Who were these little hellions and where were those
sweet kids from day care?
Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues

Best Thing I Ever Did: I went to pick the kids up one day and they were enjoying themselves, so I decided to just sit and watch for a bit and let them play. Funny thing happened. I started listening to how the day care teachers communicated with my children and how they responded. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know how to speak the language my kids understand.

I started listening harder. And then I came back the next day and did it again. Now, every time I drop off or pick up, I listen. How are they talking to my kids? What are they saying? How are the kids responding? And then I mimick it at home.

Major win!!! My kids are starting to see an extension of their daily routine back into the home and it’s making sense. I say certain words they’re used to hearing and like magic, they listen. Not every time (which I suspect also happens at day care), but the majority of time. Major improvement. We are starting to speak the same language.

Sometimes I forget (or refuse to admit) that I am not my children’s primary care provider. For those of us that work outside the home, most often our kids spend the majority of their time somewhere other than with us. Sometimes, being reminded of that hurts. A lot. But truth is, they develop routines, cues and references that we’re not familiar with. We need to learn the language they are used to hearing every day so that we can communicate our needs in a way they understand. I need to speak my children’s language.

Phrase Adjustments that Worked for Me: 

  • “Walk away please” instead of “No!” or “Don’t Touch!” 
  • “Are you using your listening ears?” instead of “Listen to me!”
  • “I’m going to go to work for awhile, but Mommies always come back!” instead of “Say bye to Mommy. I have to go to work.” 

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Emily Speaks

11 Alternatives to Self Harm: Emily Speaks

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Alternatives to Self Harm | Emily Speaks | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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If you’re just connecting with the Emily Speaks series, be sure to check out her first post, Cyber Bullying and Self-Harm, to catch up. Today, Emily will be sharing 11 alternatives to self harm to help those hurting to make healthier choices to cope with emotional struggles. 

11 Alternatives to Self-Harm: Emily Speaks


I know it can be hard not to self-harm if you’re being bullied, but you need to try to think of other ways to deal with the pain. Cutting leaves angry scars on your body. You should try to deal with your hurt in other ways. Here are 11 good examples that will hopefully help you out a little bit.

1. Try talking to somebody about what’s going on so that you can get it out of your system.

2. Go outside where nobody is around and just scream as loud as you can for as long as you want.


3. Take a rubber band and keep it on your wrist so whenever you feel like cutting you can just take that rubber band and snap it on your wrist (softly – not to where it harms you).


4. Get an old teddy bear or stuffed animal that you don’t want and take your anger out on that.


5. Go on a jog or go out and ride your bike or long board or whatever you have and just ride around to calm yourself down.


6. Go hang out with your friend(s) and get your mind off things that would make you want to cut or do anything else to harm yourself.

7. Sleep it out and take a long nap and see how you’re feeling when you wake up.


8. Go hang out with your family and just relax.


9. Listen to some music.


10. Read a book.


11. Get an art journal and draw out your feelings. You can paint, draw pictures, even just scribble hard.

These are some of the ways that I stop myself from cutting, because I do still think about it when things get rough. When that happens, I try to do these instead and it helps. It does! You need to do anything that would take your mind off of any bad thoughts you are having and make you want to hurt yourself. This might not be the best list of ideas, but if you take a chance and try them out, they might end up working for you. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping everyone else around you by making a better choice to not self-harm. 

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