Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bribery---Er, Postive Reinforcement

There may come a time during your potty training adventure where your child begins to miss for no apparent reason. Usually you'll figure out what the reason is; normally it's either teething or hitting a developmental milestone. But occasionally you might not figure it out, and you may be tempted to do what we did, and that was bribe our child. Our firstborn had started having some poop accidents, and this was very strange. We couldn't figure out the reason, but we figured M&Ms would be a motivator. Miraculously, the accidents ceased happening. But now we had a bigger problem on our hands: he expected an M&M every time he pooped on the potty, which is really not something he deserved. After all, he'd been pooping on the potty his whole life, so he was clearly capable of doing it without the reward.

We ended up slowly weaning him off of our brilliant bribery rewards system. We went from an M&M after each poop, to an educational youtube video after each poop, to a youtube video at the end of the day if he stayed clean and dry, to nothing at all. I regret that we did this, for philosophical reasons. Pottying is a behavior that shouldn't need a reward, or rather it should be a reward unto itself. We don't reward our babies for nursing, or bribe our kids to walk or crawl, so we shouldn't bribe them into going to the toilet.

Hindsight is 20/20 though, and I hope others can learn from our mistakes. What I wish we would've done is communicated more clearly with our son about his misses, and kept a closer eye on him to make sure he didn't have accidents.


  1. I feel your pain. I agree, but then too, if it works...

  2. True. It's a fine line between encouraging and bribing. As my husband points out, we all do things because there's some sort of reward in it for us. (We work because we earn money, etc.)