11 Tips to Surviving and Thriving 4 Kids 5 and Under

11 Tips to Surviving and Thriving 4 Kids 5 and Under

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

11 TIPS TO SURVIVING & THRIVING WITH 4 KIDS 5 AND UNDER

It was just a few weeks after having my fourth baby that my back completely went out. Just existing was incredibly painful, let alone nursing a newborn and dealing with 3 other kids 4 and under.

As I sat on the couch, tears streaming from my face as my children ran rampant through the house and my baby tried to latch, I wondered if I had made a mistake.

Was I even capable of raising 4 small kids so close together?

Whether you have 1 kid or 6, being a mom is tough. The moment you become a mom, suddenly your entire existence revolves around caring for your child. How you sleep, eat, and live is suddenly completely at the mercy of this tiny little person.

And that’s just one kid.

So how do you manage multiple kids without losing your mind?

I’m here from the trenches to tell you that not only can you survive 4 kids 5 and under, you can actually thrive.

I know that look you’re giving me. It’s the look I get every time I go to Costco with my gaggle of energetic kids. While every day is not unicorns and rainbows (unfortunately), raising 4 kids 5 and under can actually be an absolute blast.

But it doesn’t just happen on it’s own. It takes discipline, planning, and prioritizing YOUR health.

11 Tips to Surviving and thriving 4 kids 5 and under #parenting #momhacks

11 Tips to Surviving and thriving 4 kids 5 and under #parenting #momhacks

1) MAKE YOUR HEALTH A PRIORITY. NO EXCUSES.

This is most important thing you can do, and yet it’s the first thing to go when overhwlem hits.

When you get on an airplane, the flight attendant always goes through that spiel where they remind you that in case of an emergency to put on your own mask before helping anyone else.

This absolutely applies to motherhood.

So many moms put their needs last, afraid to take care of themselves thinking it will take away from their kids. But it’s not a win-lose game where if you are focusing on yourself, your kids are missing out.

It’s actually the opposite: The better care you give yourself, the better equipped you are to take care of your family.

In other words, it’s win-win.

You can’t give your kids everything if you are running on empty. Take care of yourself mentally and physically and you can become even better.

2) GET ENOUGH SLEEP.

Okay, stop laughing. It actually is possible. But it’s not going to happen on it’s own. It’s gonna take some effort (here’s some strategies to get better sleep).

Have you ever been so exhausted after you put the kids to bed that you can’t do anything but sit and zone out? So you sit in front of the TV and binge-watch a show for 3 hours because you can’t muster the energy to actually go to bed.

Then, the kids wake you up the next day and you are totally crabby because you are exhausted?

Oh boy, been there and done that.

Or have you ever stayed up late to clean because it’s the only way you can keep you house from looking like an episode of Hoarders? That’s productive, right?

Let’s break this down: sleep is 100% linked to basically every part of your health (weight, energy, level, skin etc). It’s also directly correlated to the amount of patience you have.

Think about it: if you were bleeding profusely, you wouldn’t be like “Oh, let me just finish these dishes and then I’ll go get something to take care of this bleeding.” You would take care of the bleeding immediately.

If you are seriously sleep-deprived, sleep is the most important thing you can do.

3) WAKE UP BEFORE THE KIDS.

Waking up before your kids will supercharge your productivity and give you important “me time” when you are energized.

Call me crazy, but I wake up at 4:00am most mornings. Oh, and I am NOT a natural morning person. But once I started doing this, it changed my whole life.

I find that waking up early, exercising, and getting a few thing done before my kids are awake honestly makes me feel like there are more hours in the day. For tips to wake up early, check out these 9 fail-proof tips.

4) SET YOUR INTENTIONS IN THE MORNING.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. This is especially true for moms. You’ve got a million things coming at you at once and little people to keep alive.

So how can you manage your home, family, AND prioritize your health? At the start of your day, you’ve got to determine what the most important things you can accomplish today. Where will your focus be?

This can take many forms:

  • to-do lists
  • visualization
  • journaling
  • talking it out with your spouse

The key is to decide, right off the bat, what is important in your day.

For example, if my goals for the day are to be an attentive mom and to get some meal prepping done, then a dirty house or an unexpected phone call wont throw me off. I’ll snuggle my hurt child and know that I’ll get to the house on another day. I’ll find a way to end the call and get back to making meals.

5) EXERCISE.

Exercising does wonders for mental and physical health. It boosts your mood and gives you more energy throughout the day. Even 20-30 min a few times a week can make a huge difference.

As a mom, your average day is like an olympic event, so working out is like conditioning to mentally and physically handle your long busy days. If you have trouble getting motivated, check out these 3 fail-proof tips to get motivated to workout.

6) PICK YOUR BATTLES WISELY.

Every day, you are faced with a million different challenges. But you decide which are worth even dealing with.

You can’t do it all, but you can do what is important and valuable to YOU.

For example, I do not battle over my kids clothes and hair. It does not affect my happiness one bit. Instead, the fact that they dress themselves from about age 2 and on makes my life considerably easier.

Do they look like they were dressed by a blind druggie? Sure! But they love having control and autonomy over how they look. And I skip any battle over brushing their hair or making sure they match.

(Note: We do “brush our hair for Jesus” so they look presentable at church.)

On the other hand, I am really concerned about creating healthy eating habits. Therefore, I put a lot more energy and effort into preparing healthy foods and encouraging them to like things that are good for their bodies.

Pick your priorities and let go of the rest.

7) SHOWER & GET DRESSED EVERYDAY.

Showering and getting dressed for the day will make you more productive and efficient.

Mind you, “dressed for the day” does not mean you need to be ready for the Oscars or Instagram. It means you are clean, clothed (in not pajamas), and have brushed your teeth.

This shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. Remember, dry shampoo is a busy mom’s best friend!

8) GIVE INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION AND SNUGGLES TO EACH CHILD DAILY.

Having 4 kids 5 and under means that this takes some thought. But this goes a LONG way to creat a happy home.

Lot’s of snuggles make happier kids. And crabby kids make for a crabby and frustrated mama.

Remember, most crabby kids don’t need a lecture: they need a good long hug. More snuggles usually translate into a happier day.

9) LIVE BY 1 MINUTE RULE

This is simple: If a task will take only 1 minute or less to complete, do it right away.

Whether it’s putting something away, responding to a text, throwing away junk mail, or making a doctor’s appointment, do it immediately.

This gives you 2 boosts: you get the satisfaction of getting something done plus it creates momentum to accomplish more tasks. And it keeps small tasks from building up and becoming overwhelming.

10) USE THE “10 MINUTE CLEAN” PHILOSOPHY.

When you have huge messes to clean and no time (i.e. every moment of your life), this strategy is perfect. Especially when you’ve just put the kids down for bed.

Muster whatever strength you have for just 10 minutes and do a whirlwind clean. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 10 minutes of focused effort.

It’s usually enough to get areas of your house in good enough shape to feel fine moving on to an essential task or going to bed (see #2).

11) DECLUTTER, DECLUTTER, DECLUTTER.

The more things you have, the more messes you have to clean up. So the more clutter you have, the more time it takes to manage it.

My favorte decluttering stratiegy: Marie Kondo’s The Magical Art of Tidying Up

This book literally changed my life. Not only did we get rid of 1/3 of our possessions and make hundreds of dollars selling stuff, but it made my home a million time easier to manage (and more pleasant to be in!).

FOUR KIDS 5 AND UNDER IS TOTALLY DOABLE

Having 4 kids 5 and under doesn’t have to mean living in survival mode. Making small changes to your routine, prioritizing your health, and focusing on what’s important will allow to to actually enjoy life.

You’ve got this, mama!

MORE RESOURCES FOR BUSY MOMS

4 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Calm Themselves Down

4 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Calm Themselves Down

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

4 WAYS TO CALM AN UPSET CHILD

Trying to calm an upset child can feel like trying to wrangle a tiger while doing a headstand. At least it was that for me.

When one of my little girls gets upset, she gets UPSET. I mean, it’s really intense. Somehow, all of the angst of a tortured poet have been crammed into a tiny 5-year old body.

She sobs. She screams. The veins in her neck bulge like she’s trying to lift a car. And her whole body shakes as she tries to contain the intensity of all that she feels.

Everyone knows that you can’t reason with someone when they are completely out of their mind (though we try anyways). So my natural, motherly response was to try and help her calm down.

SO WHAT WOULD I DO? TWO THINGS:

  1. Instruct her to “calm down” (which is about as effective as telling her to start speaking Greek)
  2. Try and get her to breathe deeply (to which she would promptly respond by hyperventilating)

Yeah, they didn’t work.

But you knew that.

However, I knew that if I could get her her to breathe deeply then she could start to calm and reason.

Filling her lungs with air would send oxygen to her brain making it function better so she could start to think more clearly.

Basically, it would take her out of her fight-or-flight mode and help her to start reasoning.

4 ways to calm an upset child #parenting

4 ways to calm an upset child #parenting4 ways to calm an upset child #parenting
4 ways to calm an upset child #parenting

DEEP BREATHING IS MIRACULOUS

It’s literally how I get through days of raising 4 small kids while balancing work (and the countless other stresses moms face) without completely losing my mind.

Seriously, I owe my sanity to deep breathing (and funny online videos).

So I just knew that if I could figure out how to teach her to take deep cleansing breaths, we could have less raging and more “Kumbaya” in our house.

But I was at a complete loss. Trying to get her to breathe deeply by modeling and coaching her only made her more upset until she would basically hyperventilate.

I NEEDED A KID-SPECIFIC APPROACH

Which is why I was beyond thrilled when I learned these 4 strategies in a Conscious Discipline parenting class (seriously, check out this book). It was like the heavens opened and angels were singing. They were just what I was looking for.

And they made all the difference.

No more hyperventilating. Fewer and shorter meltdowns. More control. It’s been awesome. I’ve taught all my older kids.

But here’s why I especially love these strategies to calm an upset child:

THESE STRATEGIES GIVE KIDS THE TOOLS TO HANDLE DIFFICULT EMOTIONS

So whether they are at a friend’s house or at school, they have the tools they need to calm themselves when they are feeling ALL the feelings.

While I describe them all below, it’s easier to see how they’re done. So I wrangled my older 3 girls and we made a video (below). Mind you, they were soooo over the idea of making a video by the time I actually got them into one place.

And clearly, they dress themselves (one less battle to deal with).

1) BALLON BREATHING

This is my favorite.

I actually made one of the college classes I teach do this. It was nearing final week and everyone was stressed out of their minds. After I had the class do balloon breathing (with a few eye-rolls) one student exclaimed “I actually do feel a lot better!”.

What you do:

Link fingers above your head and take a few repeated breaths in to fill your lungs, while raising your arms (filling the balloon). Then drop your hands and breathe out mimicking a deflating balloon.

2) THE DRAIN

This is another fun one for kids. It mimics a faucet of running water.

What you do: With straight arms in front of you, and hands clenched in a fist, you tighten up everything. Then you “turn the faucet” and release all the tension as you slowly float your arms down (like water coming down) and do a long shhhhhh breath out.

3) PRETZEL

This one can be a tad tricky, but being tricky it engages the brain and helps it to calm down. Incidentally, it’s also useful for calming your mind when you are lying awake at night with your thoughts racing.

What you do: With arms twisted, crossed, and palms together, you wrap your arms in to a pretzel. You then cross your legs. Sounds complicated right? Better watch the video 🙂

4) BE A S.T.A.R.

Okay, I’m actually pretty sure this one is actually my favorite. Because I use it all the time. When my 2 year old chucks the plate of food I just made her at my head (because she can’t eat ice cream for dinner), this is what keeps me from losing it. Before I respond, I first…

  • Stop
  • Take a deep breath
  • And
  • Relax

And then I can deal with the situation without turning in The Hulk.

While it works great for moms, it’s also a helpful strategy for kids! You can remind your kids to be a STAR.

GIVE YOUR KIDS THE TOOLS

Remember, big emotions don’t have to spiral into an entire household of frustration. Instead of trying to simply calm an upset child, we can give them the tools to calm themselves down when they’re upset.

Our kids are capable of handling difficult things. And these strategies are the perfect ways to do just that. So that even when we aren’t with them, they can handle the big emotions that come with being a kid.

You’ve got this, mama!

MORE HELPFUL STRATEGIES

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The Simple Phrase That Will End Whining & Get Kids Excited to Help

The Simple Phrase That Will End Whining & Get Kids Excited to Help

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

END WHINING & GET KIDS EXCITED TO HELP

I know what you’re thinking: there is no magical phrase that will end whining.

And I get it.

When all 4 of my kids are screaming, there’s a puddle of pee on my floor, and my house looks like news footage after a tornado, it certainly doesn’t feel like any magical phrase is going to save me.

(Unless, of course, that phrase is “here’s a million dollars and a half-gallon of Breyer’s Mint Chocolate ice cream”.)

So it’s with a distinct understanding of the difficulties of motherhood that I claim to have a phrase that will change your life and transform your home.

It will end whining and actually get yours kids excited to help out. 

I know, because that’s what happened in our home.

My kids can destroy my house in way that defy physics. After dosing n the couch for a few minutes to a tidy room, I’ll awake to a house that looks like it’s been ransacked by burglars.

And the second I would try to get my two oldest (ransacking burglars aged 6 and 5) to help out it would be as though I’d just asked them to saw off their own arms.

Or suddenly their bodies would cease to function entirely. In an instant, they would go from happily playing to lying spread eagle on the floor whimpering and exclaiming that they were simply too tired to put away a toy or hang up a backpack.

End whining and get kids excited to help out #parenting #whining

End whining and get kids excited to help out #parenting #whining

So much whining.

Frustrated, I would just clean it all myself. Which just of course reinforced to my children that enough theatrics and whining will force mom to clean everything anyways.

But then I learned a simple phrase in our incredible Conscious Discipline parenting class (summarized in this AMAZING book). Now, my girls actively look for way to help each other and me.

It was a miracle, pure and simple. You want the magic?

Yeah, you do.

THE MAGIC: TO END WHINING & GET KIDS TO HELP

Here’s what you say depending on their actions:

You       (what they did )    , so    (how it helped/impact)   . That was so helpful!

This phrase points out what they did, how it’s been helpful, and it let’s them know that they have made a positive contribution to your home.

For example:

  • You gave your sister a hug after she got hurt so that she would feel better. That was so helpful!”
  • “You brought your dishes to the sink, so mama could wash it. That was so helpful!”
  • “You followed directions without complaining, so we finished quickly and everyone is happy. That was so helpful!”
  • “You put away your toys, so that no one trips on them. Plus, it’s made the room look so nice. That was so helpful!

Simple, right? But it is seriously a game-changer. Here’s why:

HOW IT HELPS YOUR CHILD:

  • Shows the child that you are noticing the good they do. It makes them feel good, which makes them want to get noticed more for helpful behavior.
  • Builds self-esteem. This points out the impact of their actions. So they can see the positive impact that they can have on the people and things around them. They see that they can make a big difference.
  • Shows kids they get much more desirable attention for helping than for whining. Kids crave attention and praise. This gives them both while teaching them to be helpful.

HOW IT HELPS YOU:

  • It gets you noticing good behavior, instead of focusing on bad. 
  • You’ll have waaaaay less whining in your home. 

As stressed out moms, we often notice our children’s poor behavior and while completely missing the good that they do. After all, bad behavior is often more effective at getting our attention! You may not notice your children playing nicely together, but the minute conflict arises…

“Don’t bite your sister!”

“Stop hitting!”

“We do not use those words! TIME OUT!!!”

But pointing out poor behavior doesn’t usually result in children suddenly turning into angels. At least not in my experience.

End whining and get kids excited to help out #parenting #whining

When it comes to your child’s behavior, what you notice, you get more of.

Notice the bad, get more of it. Notice the good, and your child will work hard to get recognized for the good they are doing.

Think about how you’d react if your husband came home and the first words out of his mouth were critical about the state of the house? All while completely ignoring that you managed to keep everyone alive and put some dinner on the table (we all know this is sometimes a major feat).

Pointing out deficiencies while ignoring the positive doesn’t exactly inspire good feelings. On the other hand, we are encouraged when we hear what we are doing RIGHT.

Kids are the same way.

Keeping your eyes peeled for helpful behavior and then pointing it out to your child will result in your child looking for ways to be helpful.

While you will probably notice an immediate change, long-lasting results will come with consistently using the phrase. Which means consistently noticing good behavior and helping your child see the impact of their actions.

YOU CAN END WHINING & GET YOUR KIDS EXCITED TO HELP

You can teach kids to help others by noticing when they are helpful. Try this phrase out and see what happens in your family. In noticing the good your children do, you will empower them.

You will inspire your kids to look for ways to be helpful, raise their self esteem and make them aware of how they contribute.

You’ve got this, mama!

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER RESOURCES

7 Steps to Teaching a Child to Clean Their Own Bedroom

7 Steps to Teaching a Child to Clean Their Own Bedroom

This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

7 Steps to Teaching a Child to Clean Their Own Bedrooms

Let’s face it: sometimes you feel more like “the maid” than “the mom”. And while you want your kids to pick up after themselves, it feels pretty overwhelming on days when you are just trying to keep everyone alive.

You’re tired and pressed for time so it’s faster to do it all yourself as opposed to fight the inevitable battles that come with getting kids to clean up.

But teaching a child to clean up doesn’t have to be complicated and time consuming.

By taking some simple steps now to teach your children to clean their own room, you can teach responsibility and save yourself loads of time and energy.

Teaching a Child to Clean: Start young

If a child can play with toys and make a mess, a child is capable of learning to clean up.

Children are amazing little sponges. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly my 4 kids learn things.

Their brains are incredible at picking up patterns and following them. If you teach them that you will always clean up their messes, they’ll learn that quickly. But if you teach them that you will always clean up, they’ll happily comply.

7 Steps Teaching Kids to Clean Their Bedrooms

7 Steps Teaching Kids to Clean Their Bedrooms #parenting #momhacks #teachkidstoclean

 

STEPS TO TEACHING A CHILD TO CLEAN THEIR BEDROOM

 

1) Organize child’s room so that it’s easy for your child to clean up.

Before you really dig into teaching your child to clean their room, you want to make sure it’s organized properly. Take a good long look at your child’s bedroom and ask yourself:

  • Does everything have a clear place?
  • Is it easily accessible?
  • Is the organization uncomplicated?
  • How can I change the room to make it easier for my child to clean?

Organize your room so that it’s easy for your child to know where everything goes and it’s easy to put everything away.

Taping images on boxes, bins, and drawers can be extremely helpful in teaching kids where everything goes. I do this with my kid’s drawers and it has been a game-changer.

To say my girls love clothes is a major understatement. Without exaggeration, it’s perfectly normal for any one of my 3 older kids to change their clothes anywhere from 5-10 times a day on any given day.

So plies of clothes on the floor has been a formidable issue for us from the moment these girls started dressing themselves.

A few years ago, I saw the daily deluge of clothes on the bedroom floor on the floor that made me snap. Something needed to change NOW.

So I got some 3 x 5 notecards, drew pictures of the clothing items that go in each drawer, and taped them on each of my children’s drawers.

It was nothing short of miraculous what happened.

With a little bit of direction (and telling them that any clothes found on the floor will become mine…) my clothes-loving girls actually started to put everything away in the correct place.

Picture labels make all the difference.

If you don’t feel like drawing, I created a free printable of both boy and girl clothes drawer labels (you can download the labels by scrolling to the bottom of this post).

Teaching a child to clean their bedroom

2) Clean along side your child, giving very specific instructions with lots of encouragement and praise.

Children are very visual and physical learners. Not only do we need to tell them what to do, we need to show them and lovingly guide them. While you model the correct behavior, explain to your child what you are doing and invite them to help giving very specific instructions.

EXAMPLES:

  • “Can you put the OBJECT in this PLACE? You did it! That was so helpful!”
  • “This is where we put the OBJECTS. Can you put that right in here? You are such a great helper. I love it!”

Remember, praise goes a long way to creating helpful kids.

Teaching a child to clean their bedroom

3) Set a routine for when you clean

Children crave routines that they can expect and predict. This is certainly true when teaching a child to clean.

If you are consistent in your cleaning routine, not only will your children respond better, but, knowing that clean up is imminent, they will begin to clean before you ask them.

Making it a routine they can expect will reduce the battles.

Since every home runs differently, this will look different for everyone. For some, it may be that you clean a room up completely before you leave it. 

For us, the evenings seem to be the most effective time to clean.

As part of their bedtime wind-down routine, the girls know that they are expected to have their room clean in order to get a story and a song every night (and they’d sooner cut off their own toe than miss the story and song).

As it’s become more routine for them, they have become quick and efficient little cleaners. Hallelujah!

4) Keep it positive and encouraging

The quickest way to sabotage a child’s attitude and the mood in your home is to be moody and negative. Be it potty training, school work, or what have you, when we start to get irritated and snarky with our kids, they will respond the same way or with tears.

Always give encouragement and praise for their efforts when teaching a child to clean. Praise and positivity go a really long way in helping to motivate a child. Helping them see how helpful they are and that what they do makes a difference will completely change their behavior.

A phrase we use (from parenting expert Dr. Becky Bailey) that has brought about miraculous attitude and behavior changes is:

“You (what your child did), so (the results). That was so helpful!”

EXAMPLES:

  • “You cleaned up all your clothes so you can find them. That was so helpful!”
  • “You put all your toys away so we won’t trip on them and your room can look nice. That was so helpful!”

I know it’s not always easy to stay positive when you are tired and overworked and the house is messy. But staying positive with kids yields magical results.

When I am super positive and complimentary, my 4 and 5 year old can turn a messy bedroom into a pristine haven in no time at all. 

5) Have consequences for failure to clean up

Natural consequences are best. Other than losing their story and a song at night, another strategy has also been very effective.

We put toys that have not been picked up when they were supposed to be picked up in “toy jail”. These items go in a big clear plastic container that lives in a high shelf in my closet and my kids have to do various chores to earn their toys back.

teaching a child to clean their bedroom

6) As they learn, give them more responsibility

As your child becomes more and more capable, it can be easy to just enjoy the new help and leave it at that. But it’s important to keep your child growing and becoming more independent.

You can increase their responsibility by giving less specific directions and even adding tasks to their cleaning routines. 

To begin, you may have to give lots of specific direction. But as they learn the process, you can move from “Put that toy right here” to “Put all the toys away” or “Clean this room.” 

Once they get cleaning their room independently, find other cleaning task for them.

For us, this has meant gradually learning to clean most areas of the house and helping with the laundry and in the kitchen. The same principles above apply to any cleaning job!

7) Be consistent, Be consistent, Be consistent

I know it’s not easy. Mom life is super hard. We have moments where we can’t care about much more than keeping our kids alive, let alone having children who clean up after themselves. I’ve been there. 

But if we are not consistent in our efforts and expectations, children will pick up that this is not important and not something they need to learn.

On the other hand, being consistent teaches our children that these expectations and responsibilities are here to stay and will be enforced.

Children’s brains are amazing at picking up patterns. If the pattern is that you won’t stay consistent, they will not comply. If the pattern is that they need to keep their room clean, they will! Stay strong, mama!

The struggle is worth it

I’m not going to lie, teaching my kids to clean up after themselves has been a struggle at times. Sometimes they have fought me vigorously and tested whether I will be consistent. But the struggle to teach a child to clean is worth it.  

These days, my kids are now amazing at cleaning up their rooms. And the excitement and sense of pride they have when they show me their immaculate room absolutely makes my heart sing.

You’ve got this. Good luck, mamas!

 

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To the Mama Who is Stressing Over Your Kid’s Birthday Party

To the Mama Who is Stressing Over Your Kid’s Birthday Party

Dear Stressed-Out Mama,

Oh darlin’. I get it. You want so badly to make your child’s birthday party magical and perfect. And you are stressed out about it.

You want everyone there to be blissfully happy. And you want some amazing pictures for your instagram feed. (And one day you WILL get to that Shutterfly album…)

But oh, sweetheart. You. Are. Tired.

Your eyes are glazed over from scouring Pinterest looking for the perfect themes, decorations, and designer treats. Maybe you’ve already put in a ton of time into planning and ordering.

But now you’ve had it.

Or, perhaps you are simply realizing all the hours (and $$$$) it’s going to take to make this dream party a reality.

Girl, I seriously know how you feel. I’ve been there and felt the exact same way. 

And my friend, I have some great news for you. Unless putting on an amazing party brings you immense joy, you can stop all this planning RIGHT NOW.

You don’t have to sacrifice your life at the alter of children’s birthday parties. And you can still be a rockstar mama.

In fact, I would argue that NOT stressing yourself out will actually ultimately bring your child more happiness and will help you be an even better mom than you already are.

And yes, you ARE good mom. You don’t need a party to prove it.

And your child does not need this party. Your child can experience the joy and magic of turning one year older without giving you gray hairs and forcing you into sleep deprivation.

Crazy stress is not the only vehicle for a fun and exciting party.

Stressed over your kid's party? There's a better way.

kids-birthday-party-stress

But I get you.

It was 2:30am and I was furiously hand sewing ballet tutus for toy dinosaurs when I suddenly questioned every step in my life that led me to that moment.

What on earth was I doing staying up at all hours sewing a tutu for a TOY dinosaur?!?!

Despite a headache and serious sleep deprivation, I had been determined to have a picture perfect Ballerina Dinosaur Party for my 4-year-old. I was looking at the pile of tiny tutus I had spent hours making FOR A DECORATION (*eyeroll*) and I was like: this. is. ridiculous.

And it was.

But like so many moms, I got caught up in wanting a picture perfect Pinterest/Instagram-worthy birthday party. 

So, some real talk here. I’ve got a question for you to ponder: Who exactly is the fancy birthday party for?

It is for your child? Other moms? Social media? For yourself? A combination?  

If I was answering in that moment with the tutus, I would have had to admit it was for all those reasons. While creating a magic experience for my daughter was my primary motivation, if it was my only motivation, I’m 100% certain I would have gone about things differently.

As you well know, kids find joy in the simplest things. A cardboard box or simple kitchen utensils can keep kids busy for hours while the mountains of expensive toys gather dust.

I’m telling ya’ mama, your child does not need a fancy party to have fun and feel special.

A better way

Just days after my stressful and exhausting dinosaur party, I went to a birthday party for one of my daughter’s friends. This mom had it figured out.

We met at her in-law’s house who had fun playground equipment and they had rented a bouncy castle. As it was morning, they got a few boxes of donuts for the treat. Also, the in-laws had a pony so the birthday girl’s dad guided kids around on little rides while the mom chatted completely stress-free with the other moms and the children joyfully played.

No gift bags, organized games, decorations. or photo props. Just a bunch of deliriously happy kids and relaxed parents.

Frankly, this mom was a birthday party ninja.

Okay, I know what you’re about to say. I get that we don’t all have in-laws with playgrounds and horses. Or even funds for a bouncy house rentals, for that matter. But, I’m telling you, my friend had birthday parties figured out.

She used the resources that were already easily at her disposal and she kept it super simple.

While I ran around my kid’s party, exhausted and frantically trying to go through each activity, my friend sat relaxed and happy, visiting with all the moms. She actually appeared to be enjoying herself.

The difference couldn’t have been more stark.

The 3 F’s of a Rockin’ Birthday Party

Can I let you in on a little secret? I’ve come to realize that a successful kid’s birthday party really only needs 3 things: frosting, fun, and friends.

That’s it. Really.

At the end of the day…

Remember, mama: at the end of the day, what your kids need most is a happy, healthy mama who takes care of herself. What will shape their future is feeling loved by you and connected. Not a party.

So go hug your kid and get some sleep, my friend. You’ve got this. 

To the Mama Who is Majorly Stressed Over Your Kid's Birthday Party
15 Potty Training Tips to Skip the Tears & Ditch the Diapers

15 Potty Training Tips to Skip the Tears & Ditch the Diapers

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SKIP THE TEARS: 15 ESSENTIAL POTTY TRAINING TIPS

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: potty training can be a complete nightmare.

If we start off on the wrong foot or lose our patience, it can devolve into tears and chaos.

And sometimes kids use potty training to exert control, like one of our 4 children. In fact, her “antics” while potty training meant investing in a carpet cleaner. When this otherwise easygoing child was upset at me for anything, she’d find a spot to be alone, drop her training pants, and work her magic.

Suffice it to say, she earned the name “Poo-casso” for her one-of-a-kind carpet designs.

It was both disgusting, hilarious, and terrifying. (Welcome to Parenthood!!!)

But even that was worth it in order to graduate that girl from diapers.

After thousands of diapers, we’re willing to do just about anything if it means getting rid of the diapers.

And with the right potty training tips, it doesn’t have to be so hard.  

When armed with best potty training tips and resources, we can make sure the potty training experience goes as smoothly as possible. These 15 potty training tips boil down exactly what you need to know as you prepare to potty train your little one.

The diaper-free life beckons, my friend. Let’s get started!

1) RECOGNIZE THAT EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT

It goes without saying that there is no one size fits all approach to potty-training.

One of the most important things a parent can understand is that every child and every situation is different and we, as parents, get to forge the path that is best for our child and our family.

Nowhere is this more true than with potty training where you are teaching a child to fundamentally change their behavior. There are A LOT of skills to learn in potty training!

Here is a breakdown of all the things a child has to learn to be fully potty trained:

    1. Recognize when they need to use the restroom
    2. Pull pants up and down by themselves
    3. Pee and poop in a toilet
    4. If using a tiny potty, then dumping contents into the toilet
    5. Wiping
    6. Flushing
    7. Washing hands

Those are a lot of skills for a little one to master. And not every child learns the same.

In potty training my 3 oldest kids, I saw firsthand how even kids close in age and raised exactly the same all responded differently.

The best thing we can do to prepare for potty training is learn as much as we can and get as many potty training tips as possible. So you are in the right place!

15 Potty Training Tips & Tricks #parenting #pottytraining #toddlers

15 Potty Training Tips & Tricks #parenting #pottytraining #toddlers
15 Potty Training Tips & Tricks #parenting #pottytraining #toddlers

2) MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS READY

I cannot overstate this enough. You wanting it more than anything in the world does not count.

As awful as diapers can be, they’re easier and less traumatizing than cleaning up epic poop and pee messes from around your house. It can get ugly very quickly. Trust me on this one. Wait until your child is ready.

Your child should be showing at least a few of these signs before you venture into potty training.

  1. Pulling at or taking off a wet or poopy diaper
  2. Hiding to pee or poop
  3. Going long stretches with a dry diaper (shows bladder control)
  4. Wakes up from naps or in the morning with a dry diaper
  5. Interest in others’ use of the potty
  6. Telling you before, during, or after they’ve gone in their diaper.
  7. Child follows directions (this is extremely important)

Also, if your child seems ready but then resists once you begin potty training, stop and try again later. If things get too frustrating and negative, it could make potty training a near impossible task.

3) BEFORE YOU START POTTY TRAINING, PRACTICE THESE SKILLS 

To make the potty-training process easier, here are a few skills to practice BEFORE you begin potty training that will help the process go more smoothly.

Again, our little sweeties have to learn sooo many skills when learning to potty train. Teaching some early will pay off when the real fun begins.

  • Washing hands together after changing a diaper: You’re already washing your hands after every diaper change. So start doing it together. Explain and show your child that after you pee or poop, you wash your hands.
  • Pulling pants up and down: Since the goal of potty training is helping your child gain toileting independence, being able to pull pants up and down is a completely necessary skill. But this is tough for little hands and bubbly buns. Before you start potty training, you can practice pulling pants up and down. Help your child place one hand on the back waistband and another on the front to work on pulling pants up and down.

4) GATHER THE TOOLS

Remember, there is no one right way to potty train. Depending on your situation, different resources will be more helpful than others. Moral of the story is find what works for you and your child.

You need the tools to make it easy for your child to go to the potty by themselves and wash their hands.

These are all resources that I have used and found extremely helpful:

  • Potty Training Chair: A small potty chair with removable bowl is awesome for helping little ones learn to potty train. First off, you can move it to any room you are in for easy access. Also, kids can easily learn to get on and off (which is more of a struggle on the full-sized toilet).
  • Toilet seat cover: Some parents opt to skip the chair, but use the seat cover to make the big toilet more manageable. We’ve used it as a bridge between the training potty chair and just using the big toilet as our children are quite small.
  • 8-10 Training Pants (at least): You will, most likely have a lot of accidents in the beginning of potty training, so it’s important to have a nice stock of good training pants. Consider buying some a bit on the large side so it’s easier for your little one to pull on and off. Some of my favorite training pants:
  • Step stool for toilet: Whether you start on the toilet or with a chair, once your child is on the regular toilet, a step stool will be necessary for your child to get on and off the toilet on their own. We own a few of these.
  • Step stool for sink: Since the ultimate goal is getting them to do it all on their own, they’ll need a stool to reach the sink. I love this one–looks nice, sturdy, and it was really easy to put together.
  • Potty Training Children’s books: These can be so helpful in not only teaching and reinforcing potty training routine, but also getting kids excited about it.

5) ALWAYS KEEP IT POSITIVE & UPBEAT

Kids respond soooo much better to our positive reinforcement and encouragement as opposed to getting upset and focusing on what they’re doing wrong.

Praise your child for the things they are doing right. If they’ve had an accident and you then practice running to the potty

If the potty-training process turns negative, things will devolve into a nightmare scenario where neither you or your child is happy.

Remember, if things are truly not going well you can try again later. Diapers are easier than disgusting messes, heaps of laundry, and lots of tears. Diapers are not forever. I promise.

Think about all the things a child has to learn to be fully potty trained.

These are A LOT of skills for a little person to master. It’s going to take time and lots and lots of practice.

So if your child has had the 6th accident for the day and it’s not even lunch, take a deep breath, keep teaching the skills, and point out what they’re doing right.

Are we perfect parents? Nope. We mess up all the time. And no one jumps out and yells at us for our mistakes. We need to be patient with our little friends as they learn all these new skills.

potty training tips

6) START WITH A FUN KICK-OFF PARTY

I’ve found that beginning potty training with a super upbeat, fun “potty training kick-off party” is really helpful for introducing underpants and the potty training routine. Plus, it gets the child excited about the whole process.

Some things you may want to try:

  • Eliminate all distractions: Turn your phone off. If you have other kids, get someone to care for them. Keep it focused and your attention 100% on your little one.
  • Give lots of water, juice, salty snacksSalty snacks promote thirst, which mean drinking, and later lots of pee. This create opportunities for lots of peeing practice.
  • Small rewards: Have small incentives for when your child follows directions, sits on the potty, practices the new skills, and of course, when they go in the potty. Stickers (see the bottom of the post for a free potty training chart) or small treats work great.
  • Use a doll that can “pee”: This can help model the behavior and you can help your child to teach the doll to go pee in the potty. In my experience, it can be hit or miss mostly due to the difficulty of finding a quality doll that pees.
  • Watch potty training shows and clips to reinforce routine and get the child excited.

7) USE ACCIDENTS AS A CHANCE TO PRACTICE

When potty training, accidents are 100% inevitable. But they can be valuable learning experiences for your child if you keep it positive and reinforce the potty training skills.

When your child has an accident, review the steps to see where they went wrong. And then practice the steps they missed

For example, “When you felt you needed to go, you didn’t run to the potty. Let’s practice that now.”

And then you’d guide the child to running to the potty from the area they had the accident (and perhaps other areas of the house) and practicing pulling down underpants and sitting.

8) FOCUS ON STAYING DRY

Instead of just talking about where we go potty, talk about how we want to keep our underpants dry. If they have an accident, have them feel that their pants and ask if they’re dry. When they respond that they’re not, reinforce that they want to stay dry and then review and practice the steps to going potty.

As they go throughout the day, ask them if their pants are dry and give them lots of praise for dry underpants.

9) READ POTTY TRAINING BOOKS 

This is awesome for getting kids excited and reinforcing the toileting principles. My 3rd kid basically potty trained herself after I read her this potty book.

(But before you get jealous of my little unicorn, just note that she discovered the transcendent joy of fecal smearing shortly thereafter. Yep, she became my little Poo-casso)

Here are our favorite Potty Training Children’s Books:

10) USE INCENTIVES

Incentives can be very powerful in motivating kids to learn these new skills. Pick the incentives that align with your values.

For example, if you don’t like the idea of sugary incentives–which work for many parents–don’t do it. There is no one right incentive for everyone.

Some examples include:

  • stickers (that can be used with the potty training sticker chart at the bottom of this post)
  • special time with mom or dad
  • small prizes

Treats worked really well for my kids (since they are rare in our house) so I’ve used M&Ms, Skittles, and mini marshmallows for reinforcing good behavior in the beginning. Things like sitting on the potty and waiting, pulling pants up and down, staying dry, and going in the potty can all earn treats at the beginning.

I also like to give incentives for reaching big milestones.  We’ll get a $10 toy they want and display it (so it is a constant reminder) until they go like 3 days without accidents or something.

Feeling successful is very motivating for kids.

potty training tips & potty training chart

11)TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING IN THE BATHROOM 

Let’s be honest, mama, you’re probably not going to the bathroom alone very often (or is that just me?). Make use of your company by explaining what you are doing and the routine (wipe, flush, wash etc). Your child will be familiar with the process and excited to be like you!

12) USE DIFFERENT APPROACHES

Since every kid is different, you may need to try different approaches. Some ideas include:

Go Naked

Sometimes losing the diaper and training pants altogether works really well for some kids. Feeling nothing between their little behind and their environment makes them more motivated to use the potty.

This has worked really well with a couple of my kids.

The Cold Turkey Approach

Ditching diapers 100% can be a useful strategy for some while others may take a more gradual approach. This approach definitely takes a lot of pateince and positivity.

Many parents who take the cold turkey approach will spend the first couple of days cleaning up repeated messes (I speak from experience). But a few days into it, often the child catches on and starts to do really well.

13) KEEP THE POTTY HANDY

As kids are learning to listen to their bodies, it’s important that the potty stay close.

I love these little potty chairs.  They’re easy to move around your house so the potty is always handy! Keep the potty in whatever room you are in.

14) USE ROLE MODELS

While you can be an effective model for your children, I (and many other parents) have found that other children are even more effective potty training role models. If there are potty-trained cousins, friends, or siblings that can model peeing on the potty, use them!

15) ESTABLISH ROUTINES

Children’s brains crave routine and patterns. Creating a potty routine that you do over and over and over can be very effective in teaching these principles. If you want to sing a song as you do it, sing a song. Just be consistent.

POTTY TRAINING TIPS

Potty training doesn’t ave to be a nightmare. By following these 15 potty training tips, you’re ready to tackle the challenges that come.

Just remember that all kids are different. Be patient. Be enthusiastic and positive. And don’t be afraid to ditch an approach that doesn’t seem to work and try something else.

And be sure to claim your free printable potty training chart!

You’ve got this, mama!

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