The potty dance, M&Ms and other potty rewards!
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.