It’s a scenario that’s played out in bathrooms across the country: Toddlers express interest in “big kid” undies, parents buy a potty seat, and anticipation runs high in both camps. You’re ready, your child is ready, so let’s go, right?
Well, not so fast.
All the pieces can be in place, but children, by their nature, are sometimes reluctant to try something new. They sense change coming and dig in their little heels, literally and figuratively!
Let’s face it: they’ve been in diapers since birth, so giving them up feels uncertain and unknown. It helps when you can make the upcoming change fun and have your child participate in the process at their own level.
And a reward system is a great way to help the potty training process. We’ve heard from parents who feel that rewarding their children for potty training is almost equal to bribing them. But we encourage you to consider that rewards follow a desired behavior, while bribes precede a desired behavior.
It’s an important distinction. A reward should be something that works with your child, in small steps, toward a desired goal. And it should be enjoyable!
Five Fun Ways to Motivate Your Child
- Stickers. Children love them! Let your child choose stickers of his favorite animal, color, or television character. Download a sticker chart or draw grid lines and days of the week on a piece of poster board. Let your child place a sticker on the chart every time they successfully use the potty seat.
- Dazzle with Science. Children love making something happen, so create a teaching moment. Before your child uses the potty seat, let her squeeze a few drops of blue food coloring in the bowl and she can see the water change color after she goes potty.
- Activity Jar. Fill a jar with strips of paper labeled with your child’s favorite activities: A trip to the park. Playing with clay. A simple craft. When your child successfully uses the potty, she can choose an activity from the jar to do together. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Books. Keep a stack of books next to the toilet for your child to look at while he uses the potty. Read to your child as he waits to go, making this not only a bonding time, but a way for him to relax and feel at ease on his potty seat.
- Pizza Party! Is your child getting the hang of potty training? It’s time to extend the rewards by creating a longer-term goal. For example, if your daughter uses the potty seat for three days without having an accident, the family can enjoy pizza on Friday night.
Before you develop an extensive reward system, start small. If stickers make your child happy, that’s enough. The goal of rewards at this stage is to be simple, fun, and encourage the behavior you want: day-by-day steps toward successful potty training!