The reward of choice at our house during potty training… one M&M for peeing, two M&Ms for pooping and Mommy always got some too!
We have talked about when to start potty training, how to “ditch the diapers” and get moving on the process, what to do with some “potty pitfalls” and a technique to help a resistant trainer…now, for the question your toddler will think is the most important…“What do I get when I potty?”
As a parent, we quickly learn that children respond to reinforcement. We can encourage behavior that we like with reinforcement, and unintentionally, we can encourage behavior we don’t like with reinforcement! Rewards or reinforcement come in many different forms and different ones work for different kids!
The first thing to remember about children is that your attention is the biggest reward or incentive to a child. That attention is so important in your child’s development. This is the important part, attention is attention to a child. Negative attention, lots of yelling, words, emotion and time spent on a negative behavior will probably increase that behavior! So lots of yelling, words, emotion and time spent on potty accidents or pottying resistance will increase that type of behavior. Ignoring or giving very little attention to potty accidents or pottying resistance will decrease that type of behavior.
So let’s talk about some incentives that have worked for toddlers that are working on that huge task of potty training.
- Positive attention. Hugs, words of praise, clapping, high fives, song singing, and yes the potty dance. A little dance celebrating that poop or pee in the potty!
- Stickers. Many children after the age of 2 respond well to stickers and a sticker chart. Let your child pick out stickers at the store and place that sticker on a chart when your child sits on the potty at first, and then later as they go poop or pee. Some children prefer to “wear” their sticker, or even get to wear one and place one on the chart too.
- Treats. M & Ms were the treat of choice in my house with potty training. As I have said, I used them to reward myself too for the success! Again, you would start out rewarding for sitting on the potty and then eventually for going potty. Other suggestions would be raisins, marshmallows, suckers, or any other treat that your child would not receive routinely. Sometimes a jar of these treats placed in plain view is a motivator for children.
- Dye the toilet water. Put a few drops of red or blue food coloring in the water, when your child pees…wow it changes to orange or green! A motivator for learning to pee on the toilet! Also helpful when little boys are learning to aim a bit better. A handful of Cheerios as targets also work.
- Stamps. Some children are more excited about stamps than stickers. Put a stamp on your child’s hand, cheek, tummy, let them decide! The problem may be convincing them to wash them off in the tub!
- Coloring book. Pick out a coloring book together. Every time your child has success, let them color a page.
- Marbles or coins. Every time your child is successful, let him place a marble or coin in a jar. After a certain number of marbles or coins, he gets a prize. This works well for a child that has been progressing in potty training and is trying to go several days without accidents. Not a good choice for the very start when children need an immediate reinforcement every time there is a success.
I know there are other incentives or reinforcements that have worked. The point is, your child has to think the reward has value to him and it must be a reward and not a bribe. A bribe is given before the potty success…a reward is given after a potty success. Always reward, don’t bribe. Rewards that are temporary also seem to be more effective too. The sticker will be taken off, the stamp washes off, the candy is eaten…..this gives incentive to get another!
All of us respond well to positive reinforcement. All of us like to be rewarded. Find one that works for your child and your potty training experience will be a little easier. It might be nice to find one for yourself too….wish they would have had peanut butter M & Ms when I was potty training my kids!
Share a potty training incentive that worked for you and your child!! We all are in this together. 🙂
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
So, your little one is growing up! You are starting to see signs that potty training just might be in your child’s immediate future. You are ready to help this process along….so what next?
When you think the time is right…
- When you are ready and have no major stresses in your life.
- When your child is showing increased interest in the potty.
1. Go buy “big girl” or “big boy” pants together. Talk about not getting those special pants wet and dirty!
2. Start by using the potty several times a day on a routine. Put your child on the toilet 20 to 30 minutes after every meal, before naps, right after naps, before bath…develop a routine.
3. Feed your child fruits and fibers to keep stool soft. Give your child plenty to drink so there are many opportunities to potty.
4. You might try letting your child play in lukewarm water with toys as he or her sits on the potty…..it may encourage “peeing”.
5. When you are ready to potty train full go—-ditch the diapers!! Diapers or pull ups make it difficult for a child to feel when they start to wet and give a sense of security. Even the feel and learn type pull ups are not like the good ole’ fashioned cotton underwear! You can put rubber pants or a disposable pull up over the underwear to help contain accidents. Do not switch back and forth from diapers to underwear, this becomes very confusing for a child. You can purchase car seat protectors for your trips out and about.
6. Start setting the timer for every hour and a half to two hours and announcing “it’s potty time!” Try staying home for a few days and close to the potty to get the process started. A weekend is a great time to start!
7. Try letting your child run naked with a long t-shirt outside or inside on non carpeted floors for periods of time. When you see your child begin to pee or poop, bring them to the potty. This allows your toddler to feel and learn very easily.
8. Handle accidents with patience. Very little reaction…just “oops next time we will use the potty!” Remember this is a process! When there is an accident, place your child immediately on the potty to “finish”. This will help them equate the potty with the action.
9. Be sure your child is really ready. If you start too soon the road will be more difficult. If you meet resistance, take a break for a couple of weeks and then try again.
10. Adjust your attitude. It is important that children are never forced, shamed or manipulated into using the toilet.
11. Celebrate success. Success is just sitting on the potty at first! Decide what reward system you will use and what works for your child. Some parents find sticker charts, songs, high fives, M & Ms or other special treats will do the trick. M & Ms were perfect for us….one for my child and two for me! Do not over celebrate as this can cause stress for some children, especially children who are real “pleasers”.
12. Do not teach any other difficult tasks during this time.
13. Remember the mantra “two steps forward one-step back”. Often children start well and then lose some interest or start having accidents. Remember, it takes a lot of work for a toddler to figure this out! Sometimes concentration is lost!
14. Be sure to teach good hygiene. Teach toddlers how to wipe bottoms, wash hands, and flush toilets with the lid closed. Toddlers will not be able to completely wipe themselves, especially after a bowel movement, without help for some time, often until about age 5.
15. Potty train for daytime only…leave night time training for later. This is a different process! Use diapers or disposable training pants for night time use, you can call them “sleeping pants” to keep from confusing your child.
So, give it a try if the timing is right! Both you and your child will feel so accomplished. Practice that celebratory “potty dance” and pick up some M & Ms to reward your child and yourself. Tomorrow…a few “potty pitfalls” that can make potty training a little more challenging.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Preparing your child for school success includes outings like this! School readiness is not just about letters and numbers!
It is that time of year when parents are beginning to look at preschools for next year. Sometimes I feel that there is more pressure on parents to find “just the right preschool” than deciding on a college! Preschool is a must for some children, but it is NOT a must for every child. Studies have shown us that children who have engaged parents who read to them and provide various activities at home but don’t attend preschool are not at any academic disadvantage. Some recent studies continue to show us that any academic edge a child may receive from preschool may fade by the 3rd grade.
So, do I think preschool is a waste? Absolutely not, I feel it is very advantageous to those children that have fewer opportunities. I also think that with Kindergarten now being a full day, a year of preschool often helps children adjust to the rigor of school. It has become more necessary for children to have at least one year of preschool to help with the adjustment, prepare the child for following directions, learning to sit still for periods of time, and the general routine of school. However, I do think that the choice of preschool attendance for 2 and 3 year olds from families who are able to provide outings, hands on activities, and reading at home is an option. Many children LOVE their preschool experience, and Moms often enjoy some time to themselves. Children also can learn very valuable social skills and have the opportunity to participate in some play activities that are not always offered at home like finger-painting and other messy play. However, everything that a quality preschool offers can be offered at home by a loving, involved and active parent, if they would like. At times I think parents are sent the message that they are not capable of providing the necessary experiences for their child to develop well and be successful in school. Parents feel inadequate in the task of preparing their preschooler for academic success. This is simply not true. Attending preschool will not insure that a child will be more successful in school and unfortunately will not guarantee admission to Harvard! More important than letters and numbers, a preschooler needs to develop life skills, social skills, self-confidence, and emotional maturity to be successful in school. To help with success in kindergarten, a child needs these basics:
- Good physical health so their natural abilities can grow and mature.
- Appropriate emotional maturity and self-confidence so they can accept new challenges.
- Good language skills so they can ask questions and participate in group activities.
- Good social skills so they will be able to share and interact with other children.
- Good listening skills to be able to follow directions.
- Familiarity with letters, letter sounds and numbers.
- The ability to sit still for short periods of time.
We are finding that a child does not need a structured academic program in a preschool; he or she needs the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills. Children who do not have that opportunity at home will benefit from a preschool program.
Young children learn best through playing, exploring, and discovering. Imaginative play will actually improve high level thinking which improves a child’s chances of school success. Forcing pencil and paper academics and academic drills too early might actually decrease a child’s natural desire to explore and learn!
What makes a good preschool?
- A preschool should be convenient for parents! If it causes stress to get to school because of location or time of day, it will not be worth it to you or your child.
- Children should be active in the classroom playing and/or working in groups or stations.
- There should be hands-on materials and activities available. Pretend play items; dress up clothes, water play, easels, painting, clay etc.
- Children should have individual time and group time with the teachers. There should be 1 adult/teacher for every 4 to 5 children.
- Children should have their work displayed in the classroom…and it should not all look the same! Children should have the opportunity to be creative with projects.
- The learning of numbers and letters should be embedded in activities throughout the day, not in concentrated lessons or drills.
- There should be outside play daily (weather permitting).
- There should be a developed curriculum that provides some structure to the day.
- Teachers should have an Early Child Development background/education.
- There should be a stable teaching staff with little turnover.
- Music should be incorporated into the curriculum.
- Daily life skills should be incorporated into the curriculum like buttoning, shoe tying, putting on jackets, picking up toys, sitting for short periods to listen and following directions.
- There should be opportunity for children to socialize in play with other children freely learning sharing, taking turns, and other social skills.
- Children should be read to in groups and individually.
- “Field trips” to experience the world should be included in the curriculum. Trips to apple orchards, parks, the zoo, nature centers and other community destinations are important.
What can you do at home?
- Provide time for imaginative play. Be sure that you have toys that encourage creativity and imagination.
- Provide time to use paint, clay, scissors, crayons, chalk, water play, and other tactile fine motor play.
- Provide outdoor play daily (weather permitting).
- Expose your child to the world by going to the grocery store, post office, library, zoo, park, nature center, apple orchard, pumpkin patch, and other places. Talk about your outings!
- Read daily. Provide books that your child can “read” alone.
- Talk about stories that you read. Ask your child what will happen next! Let your child tell you the story.
- Provide music. Sing songs and dance.
- Point out letters on signs, talk about funny words, find words that rhyme, talk about the sounds that words begin with.
- Point out numbers, count items when playing, incorporate counting into everyday life.
- Have a routine at home; following routines will help when your child has structure and routine at school.
- Allow your child to dress himself. Practice buttoning, shoe tying, independently going to the bathroom, hand washing, and other independent life skills.
- Give your child directions to follow. Start with one step directions and then move to two steps, and three and four step directions.
- Give your child developmentally appropriate chores or responsibilities. (Pick up toys, carry dishes to the sink, put dirty clothes in the hamper etc.)
- Provide sorting and sequencing opportunities. Use a muffin tin for your child to sort different cereal, colored pompoms, letters, or other items. Let your child help you sort socks!
- Help your child recognize his or her name in print.
- Talk about shapes your child may see around the house or outdoors.
- Provide opportunities for your child to play with children his or her own age.
We all want our children to be successful in school. I believe however that the most important skills our preschool aged children need are not academic but social. Children are very pliable; we can teach a child to do many things at a very young age. We can teach a 2-year-old to recite numbers and letters, and we can even teach many 4 year olds to read….but I question at what cost? Will our children develop those skills that are truly needed for success in school? The skills that will allow him or her to problem solve, interact socially in a respectful and appropriate manner, follow directions and listen, and think with innovation and creativity; those are what are most important. So whether your child is in preschool or at home, be sure you are opening up the world to him or her, not pressuring academics too early and then your child just might end up heading to Harvard! What are your thoughts?
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Tragically, we sometimes see in the news a report about a child’s injury or death in a day care setting. This is certainly rare, but the safety of child care is a topic that needs to be discussed for all new parents. As parents, there ARE times that we will not be able to care for our child. Some of us work outside of the home, and all of us need and deserve the occasional day or evening away. Finding daily child care or just occasional child care is a source of worry and anxiety for most parents. How do you find a caregiver that you trust for your precious child? First START EARLY! It takes time to do your research and find the best caregiver for your child! Do not rush the process and always trust your gut! If a child care center, home or sitter does not feel right to you, then it isn’t! Ask friends, family members, and other parents for their suggestions. The best referral comes from a parent that uses the child care provider.
There are resources in each state that will help you get started with your search. Child Care Aware is a website that you can access. This site will direct you to your area’s child care referral system. This will give you the local licensed and unlicensed day care centers, in home day cares, and church ministries. By using the Child Care Aware website you will also be able to access any violations these centers may have. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care produced a list of guidelines for parents that are looking for childcare. These guidelines are as follows:
- Are children supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping?
- How do the caregivers discipline children? (Hint: Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent, and fair.)
Hand washing and Diapering
- Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom or changing diapers?
- Is the place where diapers are changed clean?
- Do caregivers always keep a hand on the child while diapering?
- Do caregivers remove the soiled diaper without dirtying any surface not already in contact with stool or urine?
- Do caregivers clean and sanitize the surface after finishing the changing process? (Hands should be scrubbed with soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds and then rinsed and dried. The water faucet should be turned off with a paper towel.)
- Does the director of a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
- Has the director worked in child care for at least two years?
- Does the director understand what children need to grow and learn?
Lead Teacher Qualifications
- Does the lead teacher in a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
- Has the teacher worked in child care for at least one year?
- Does the teacher give children lessons and toys that are right for their ages?
Child:Staff Ratio and Group Size
- How many children are being cared for in the child care program?
- How many caregivers are there? (Your child will get more attention if each caregiver has fewer children to care for. The younger the children are, the more caregivers there should be. For example, one family home caregiver should only take care of two infants.)
- Is your child up-to-date on all of the required immunizations?
- Does the child care program have records proving that the other children in care are up-to-date on all their required immunizations?
- Are toxic substances like cleaning supplies and pest killers kept away from children?
- Has the building been checked for dangerous substances like radon, lead and asbestos?
- Is poison control information posted?
- Does the child care program have an emergency plan if a child is injured, sick, or lost?
- Does the child care program have first-aid kits?
- Does the child care program have information about who to contact in an emergency?
- Does the child care program have a plan in case of a disaster like a fire, tornado, flood, blizzard, or earthquake?
- Does the child care program do practice drills once every month?
- Can caregivers be seen by others at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver?
- Have all caregivers undergone background check?
- Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?
- Does the child care program keep medication out of reach from children?
- Are the caregivers trained and the medications labeled to make sure the right child gets the right amount of the right medication at the right time?
Staff Training/First Aid
- Have caregivers been trained how to keep children healthy and safe from injury and illness?
- Do they know how to do first aid and rescue breathing?
- Have they been trained to understand and meet the needs of children of different ages?
- Are all child care staff, volunteers, and substitutes trained on and implementing infant back sleeping and safe sleep policies to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, crib death)? (When infants are sleeping, are they on their backs with no pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, or other soft bedding in the crib with them?)
- Is the playground regularly inspected for safety?
- Is the playground surrounded by a fence?
- If there is a sandbox, is it clean?
- Are the soil and playground surfaces checked often for dangerous substances and hazards?
- Is equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (1-800-598-5437)
What do you do when you need an occasional babysitter?
- Start early—don’t wait until the last moment to try to find a sitter.
- Recruit from relatives, friends and neighbors. Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for suggestions. You can ask churches, high schools, your doctor, local colleges. Network!
- Think about “training” a sitter. Use a “mother’s helper” while you are in your house. Have a younger sitter come to your house and help you out while you are there. Gradually give more responsibility until you are comfortable leaving for shorter and then longer periods of time.
- Ask questions about a potential sitter.
- What other childcare experience do you have?
- What are the ages of other children you have watched?
- How would you handle certain, possibly difficult situations that might occur?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with children?
- Tell me about school, sports, activities etc.
- Do you know CPR or emergency procedures? If you have a sitter that you may use frequently—why not pay for him or her to become CPR certified and take a safe sitter class?
- How much do you charge?
- Questions for me?
5. Orient a new sitter to your home. Point out where phones are, fire extinguishers, circuit breakers, first aid kit, what is off limits to the kids, how to lock doors etc.
6. Discuss how they are to get in touch with you.
7. Review rules of the home including those for meals, pets, TV, computer time, and play.
8. Explain possible behavior problems and how you would want them to be handled.
9. Introduce the sitter to your child and let them get to know each other. Allow some time together before you leave.
10. Leave a list of activities that your child would like and any bed time routine.
11. Make sure you leave your address, nearest crossroads, and any emergency numbers written by the phone.
12. Discuss what food is available to the sitter and what activities for the sitter you feel are appropriate once the children are in bed.
13. When you return home ask the sitter how things went and if your child is verbal, ask your child how he or she liked the sitter! Children are very honest!
Your work is not finished once you find the child care facility or occasional sitter for your child. As a parent, you must stay involved. Continue to ask questions and make surprise visits. Your child is your most precious possession, and you must be your child’s advocate for safe and loving care when you are not there!