Potty training: How to graduate from rewards to real life

How do you reward children without setting their expectations each time?

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  • Editor's note: This article was originally published on Katy Blevins' blog, Chaos and Kiddos. It has been republished here with permission.

  • 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.

  • 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 percent potty trained thanks to them and our bank account is 99 percent 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.

  • 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 time 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.

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  • 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 beverage to enjoy on a day of nasty accidents and constant clean ups? Share the love!

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Welcome to the chaos! I’m Katy, the writing Mama behind Chaos & Kiddos, a blog dedicated to helping working mothers claim a more manageable life as they seek to achieve balance and order in both the professional arena and their home lives. In between juggling twin toddler boys, a rowdy teenage stepdaughter, a handful of fish, a newly acquired snail, and one rescue pup as a single Mom, I also work full time in sales and run a boudoir photography business in Virginia Beach, VA. When I’m not elbows-deep in kiddo crazy, you can find me behind the camera, teaching basic photography and small business management, or managing The Studio Hampton Roads.

Website: http://chaosandkiddos.com

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