It’s the biggest question any parent of a toddler about to begin potty training will ask: Should we use potty training rewards to motivate our child to use the toilet?
Whether or not you use rewards for potty training is a personal choice. Neither option is right or wrong, and your child will wind up knowing how to use a toilet regardless of your decision.
Having said that, there are some things to consider!
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PROS AND CONS OF POTTY TRAINING REWARDS
- Rewards may get results faster. It’s amazing how much a single M&M will motivate a 2 year old!
- Getting an immediate reward for something is also more likely to make the process “click” sooner for younger children than if you chose to train them using natural consequences and intrinsic motivation.
- However, one of the downsides of using rewards is that it can be tough to wean them off once you’ve started. You might wind up using “potty treats” much longer than you’d like, or face a very upset toddler when you inform them that they’ll no longer be getting a piece of candy every time they use the potty.
- As a rule, you’ll usually get the best behavior results if you teach your kids in such a way that they feel like they have ownership over the process and are self-motivated as a result. Ideally, you want your kid to want to go potty on their own, not just because someone is dangling a treat in front of them. If you use rewards from the get-go, self-motivation is not likely to be a big motivator.
TYPES OF POTTY TRAINING REWARDS
You can totally get creative and use whatever rewards that will motivate your child. But here are some examples:
- Candy: a single M&M for going #1 and two for going #2 will more than sufficient as a reward!
- Stickers: Create a chart and have them put a new sticker on with each success, or let them wear the sticker on their clothes with pride!
- Praise: Lots of clapping, singing, dancing, and general celebrating can be a reward in and of itself.
- Activity on the potty: If you have a child who doesn’t want to sit on the potty at all, a special activity that they’re only allowed to use while on the potty can be a good reward.
- 5 minutes of screen time: If there’s a special show on Netflix or game that they like to play on the tablet, by all means let them enjoy of few minutes of it as a special reward for going potty!
HOW TO USE POTTY TRAINING REWARDS
If you decide to potty train using rewards, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Only give rewards for the desired behavior that you’re working on at that time. If your child is nervous about the potty and is scared to sit on it, then a treat for sitting on it for a couple of minutes (with or without actually going potty) might be appropriate.
Once they’re comfortable on the potty, then you can move on to rewards for success going on the potty.
If you have a kid who doesn’t mind sitting on the potty at all, then it wouldn’t make sense to reward them for that – you would skip straight to rewarding them for peeing or pooping on the potty.
You could also choose to reward “staying dry” rather than “going in the potty”. This may seem like a subtle difference, but the focus on keeping their clothes clean may reduce some confusion for the child. If you reward peeing and pooping in the potty, it may take them awhile to understand that going IN the potty is the behavior that you want, not going just any time.
HOW TO STOP USING REWARDS
Once your child has the hang of things, eventually it’s going to be time to stop using potty training rewards. No one gets potty treats in college!
But if your kids are anything like mine, it can be tough to stop giving them their treats once you’ve created the expectation that they’ll get something each time they go potty.
You have a few different options for getting rid of potty training rewards:
1. Go cold turkey. I don’t recommend this, as it could result in a very upset child who then chooses to regress if they’re no longer getting a reward for their behavior.
But you could be successful with this method if you show them that the treats are almost gone, and that there will be no more potty treats when the bag or jar is empty.
2. Only give them the reward when they ask for it, and hope they forget eventually. This is pretty much the method that we did with our kids. It might not be the healthiest, since it can drag out the potty treat process for quite some time.
But eventually, going potty does become so routine and ho-hum, that they forget to ask for the treats.
3. Gradually phase out rewards. If you’ve been in the habit of offering a piece of candy for every potty success, try stretching out the amount of time that they have to stay dry before earning a treat. Instead of every time they go potty, they earn a treat for staying dry all day.
Once that’s a success, you can move to a longer period of time, like a week or a month. Eventually, they won’t need rewards at all.
To keep it interesting, you can offer bigger rewards for longer periods of successfully going in the potty. Instead of a small piece of candy after going potty once, they might earn two cookies for a whole day of success. If they stay dry for a week, they might earn a new toy they’ve been wanting or a trip to the zoo.
HOW TO POTTY TRAIN WITHOUT REWARDS
If this all of this talk about potty training rewards sounds like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, you might want to consider potty training without any rewards.
I haven’t tried this method, but from what I’ve researched, it usually requires that the child be slightly older and have the ability to be reasoned with.
Instead of offering rewards:
- You’ll discuss with them the importance of being potty trained, how they’re a big boy/girl now, and ask if they’re ready to be done with diapers.
- Make going potty at regular intervals an expectation and part of the daily routine.
- Involve them in cleaning up the mess when they have accidents, so that they understand the natural consequences of not using the potty.
Whatever method you choose, potty training is tough. Be encouraged, and know that your child WILL eventually use the potty. This too shall pass!
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Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.