All About Motivation
5/30/2008 | by By Teri Brown
Potty training is a big milestone for your child. It can be challenging and even confusing at first, but it also can provide a great sense of accomplishment. The trick is to keep your child motivated to continue trying!
Kristen Stewart, a mother of three from Plainsboro, N.J., found motivation for her daughter in the most unlikely place.
“My daughter was essentially potty trained at about two years and 10 months, but no matter what, just didn’t seem to have the confidence to go without [her training pants], even though she never had any accidents,” says Stewart. “Finally, at her 3-year-old doctor’s appointment, the doctor asked if she was potty trained. When I explained the situation he crouched down, looked in her eyes and said ‘Tomorrow it’s time for … underpants.’ She believed him and wore the underpants the next day and had no problem!”
Readiness and Motivation
Dr. Edward Christophersen, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., says no amount of motivation will make up for a lack of readiness. So before you and your child begin working on potty training, make sure your child is ready.
According to Dr. Christophersen, some readiness signs to look for are:
- The child is able to get on and off the potty chair or toilet.
- The child can get undressed by himself.
- The child knows the vocabulary needed for potty training.
- The child is at least minimally cooperative with parental requests.
- The child is emptying his bladder several times during the day. (For more readiness signs, read the article “Are You Ready?” available here: http://www.pull-ups.com/na/wtg/articles/start/special/ayr.asp.)
Once your child is ready, then you can plan on how you will keep her motivated. Children often lose interest very quickly. Keeping them enthusiastic will go a long way toward potty training success.
Treats and Rewards
It’s important that you tailor motivation to meet your own child’s personality. Shannon Cave, a mother of two from Puyallup, Wash., recalls that her son was particularly in need of motivation.
“He s also an instant gratification kind of kid who wouldnt have responded to telling him we d go buy him a toy at the store if he used the potty,” says Cave. “He wasnt interested in potty training and wouldnt even wear training pants or sit on the potty chair. He was, however, car-crazy at the time. So, we invested about $15 and bought a large package of small cars, a couple of medium-sized toy cars and one large car. These were prominently displayed and he earned them for each new potty training milestone.”
Cave says rewarding her child with toy cars was just the motivation he needed. In fact, it had him using the potty in no time. “The instant reward worked well, and after he d taken to each new habit we would change to a new milestone, like giving a medium-sized car for his first bowel movement in the potty chair, etc., working our way up to using the big toilet for a week with no accidents gaining him the largest car,” she says. “Worked like a charm!”
While the use of rewards may not work with every child, many people have found that using stickers and charts as a reward is very effective for children who are too young to grasp doing something for its own sake. Little ones adore stickers, and giving them a sticker to place on a poster-board chart they decorate themselves can be very motivating. Like Cave discovered, small toys can add incentive, as can treats they may not get very often, such as sugar-free suckers or frozen juice bars.
Another way to keep your child motivated is with training pants your child enjoys wearing. PULL-UPS® Training Pants with Learning Designs® feature fun graphics, like CARS for boys and Disney Princesses for girls, on the inside and outside of the pant. The graphics fade when wet to help the child learn to stay dry.
Children this age love to please their parents, and verbal praise for using the toilet is highly motivating. And remember your child understands nonverbal praise, too.
“A sincere hug, without saying a word, is rarely misinterpreted,” says Dr. Christophersen. ”Most parents talk too much. Many professionals who deal with children, in my opinion, place far more importance on what they say than the children to whom they are speaking do.”
That said, Dr. Christophersen says parents shouldn’t give a compliment and then take it away. For example, try avoiding phrasing praise like this: "I like the way you did that, but, in the future, I would hope that you would …" he says. “A simple hug and ‘good job!’ will suffice.”
The following tips from Dr. Christophersen will help you keep your child motivated to continue working on potty training:
- Make sure that your child is eating a diet that is consistent with their having regular soft-formed stools. Many children with potty training difficulties have problems with constipation.
- The vast majority of children in the 2- to 3-year-old age range do not really have the ability to act on a conversation that they have with one (or both) of their parents. So rather than having conversations with a toddler about the importance or the benefits of being potty trained, parents can start to show their toddlers skills such as getting undressed and dressed, getting on and off of the potty chair and learning the language skills necessary for potty training.
- There is no role for punishment with potty training. No other factor (the use of punishment) does as much to slow down or delay the potty training process. If your child can be oppositional, work on the oppositional behavior prior to beginning potty training.
Keeping your child’s interest in potty training high is an important aspect of success. Motivation, whether brought about by treats, praise or other methods, is a key to achieving potty training success.