Tuesday, May 08, 2007

sticker chart

I feel a little like I've treaded over into the dark side. Me, a mom very opposed to behavioral modification unless absolutely neccessary, decided to use a reward-based system to try to further Jacob's potty training progress.

I guess I thought it was absolutely neccessary. I'm not so sure now. But I'm in the thick of it now, so onward we go. And as of today, I'm sort of even liking it.

My motivation for starting this method was because we seemed to have hit an impass in his potty training. He COULD get to the potty in the morning (and any other time of day) before peeing or pooping in his pullup/pants. He was CHOOSING not to if he was too tired, or busy with something more interesting. I very carefully studied the situation for a couple weeks before coming to the conclussion that it was a purposeful choice rather than just an accident (lack of control). He was pretty convincing that it was by choice, consistantly claiming "I was reading that book" or "I was resting".

First I appealed to his inner sense of competency, claiming things like "I know you know how to do this" to which he'd respond, cheerfully "ok, maybe tomorrow!". Hm. Strike one.

Next I tried food bribery. Candy in exchange for potty usage. Problem was, if he felt like candy, he'd use it. If not, why bother. Strike two.

I even went so far as to try to shame him (gasp!) into using the potty (like that in a million years would work, and I well understand why). What can I say, I was desperate. I refused to let him wear underwear, insisting he keep pullups on "like a baby" until he could prove to me that he could put all his pee and poop in the toilet. And Jacob refused to feel ashamed, cheerfully stating "ok, maybe tomorrow". Strike three.

So, in sheer desperation, I grasped onto the sticker chart straw while we were in Target shopping for a birthday gift for his cousin. He was standing in the Lego isle, oogling all the various lego sets. Having recently been rewarded with a lego set for the first time he ever pooped on the potty, the precedent had been set, and an idea sprang to mind. And as I often do, due to general enthusiasm and lack of a proper self-control mechanism, I blurted out, before I even knew what I was saying "Hey, Jacob, I've got an idea! How about if we set up a chart for you, and then every time you use the potty, you can earn a sticker, and when you have enough stickers, you can come back and pick out a lego set." Of course, he jumped all over that idea, eyeing an enormous Star Wars Jabba The Hut Transport Set with an outrageous price tag. I wondered what wheels I had just set carelessly into motion.

First of all, those lego sets are DANGED expensive. At least the ones he found appealing. I had been naively studying the smaller $10 sets. I hadn't looked as far as the bottom shelf with the large, involved, collector's edition sized sets.

Second, there are a million and one tiny pieces, and those pieces like to migrate all over my house and hide in unsuspecting places with the express intention of jabbing me in my barefoot in the middle of the night while I'm stumbling down the hall towards the bathroom.

Third, have I mentioned that I'm really quite opposed to behavioral modification methods? Sticker charts in particular? (True, I bribed Jacob with Marshmallow peeps for his intial potty training attempts, but somehow that seems like a more pure, quid pro quo sort of reward system. This sticker chart deal, it's pre-conceived and intimately planned. It's first degree bribery at it's finest.)

I backpedaled a bit, mumbling, "well, ok, we'll see" and rushed him out of the store.

Too late -- upon arriving home, Jacob promptly dribbled several drops into the toilet and said "so, how about that sticker chart?".

Time for damage control. I gave him two choices -- he could either earn a sticker for every time he used the potty, but he would need 100 stickers to earn a lego set, OR he could earn a sticker for every day he made it to the toilet before peeing in his diaper in the morning, and he would only need 10 stickers to earn a lego set. He chose door number 2.

The next morning, he ran for the toilet and earned himself a sticker.

The following morning, he was too late. He was pretty upset about not getting that sticker. Same thing the next day. And the next. I was starting to regret this whole sticker thing, thinking that maybe he wasn't really ready for that sort of control and I'd just misjudged the situation (although I could hear him talking to himself in his room for a good half hour before he actually got up to use the bathroom). It felt to me more like punishment than positive reinforcement, and that wasn't setting well with me at all. Worse that that, he was still pooping in his pullup during rest time in the afternoon, even though I assured him that he could leave his room to use the potty (his usual answer was "but I was reading a book"). He was discouraged, I was discouraged, we were both disgruntled.

So I decided to make it easier to earn a sticker -- I added on the fact that if he pooped on the potty, he could earn a sticker too (in addition to a quid pro quo marshmallow peep). And I started trying to listen for him in the morning so that as soon as I heard him, I could remind him to get up and use the potty. It didn't always work, he was sometimes still too late, but slowly he started earning stickers for his chart. Trying to take any undue pressure off, I stopped talking about the sticker chart other than to award him a sticker when it was appropriate.

We had a major breakthrough this week with the sticker thing. About the time he earned his 7th sticker, he suddenly took more of an interest in it. One reason is because I went out and bought a bunch of lego sets (realizing that if I let him into the store to choose, he was going to go right for an $100 set rather than a $10 set), and he caught sight of some of the possible choices, in particular a Spongebob set he REALLY wanted. I set out that set, along with a couple others, on the counter of the bathroom, and he spent a lot of time going in to read the backs of the boxes and talk about building the sets. He talked about how many more stickers he needed to earn before he got to pick a set. He got up two days in a row (yesterday and today) and RAN to the bathroom to pee in the toilet and wave his dry pullup in front of me and award himself a sticker.

This morning he earned his 10th sticker, and triumphantly paraded through the house with his new Spongebob lego set. He spent the morning building the Krusty Krab, alternating between serious construction and occassional time-outs to play with some of the characters with Zoo Boy. I took pictures of him holding the box and then playing with the set after he finished setting it up, and glued the pics to the sticker chart, then hung it in a prominant place in the bathroom. I replaced the Spongebob set with another set. Zoo Boy has requested that Jacob select a star wars set next time. (Happy fallout from all this is that Zoo Boy has FINALLY taken an interest in using the potty himself, something that had been totally lacking to this point, and is making rapid progress towards his own potty competence -- fortunately for me, he's all about the m&ms and instant gratification, so hasn't asked for a sticker chart of his own. Yet.)


At 3:27 PM, Blogger mcewen said...

I have similarly 'mixed' feelings about the reward system.
Well done!

At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is so funny, I just finished my blogwriting I started using rewardsystem for chors and food.

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was worried when I resorted to using a reward system that TJ was always going to expect the reward, and we would be on this path to him only exhibiting the behavior for a reward, but after a while I found it was not as hard to fade the reward as I thought it would.

My youngest, CR (NT, now 3.5) was very difficult to potty train. He had full control but simply refused to use the potty. He would stand in the corner and announce to me he was pooping in his pants. He wanted nothing to do with sticker charts or any kind of reward system.

He finally kicked it into high gear when I acted like I could care less that he was pooping and peeing in his pants. Pretty soon he started using the potty because he figured out I would react to that. I guess it was the attention he wanted.

Nice job, Harvest Mom, sounds you found something that is working! Won't it be nice to have them both out of pullups?

At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using the potty is a "behavior" so it makes complete sense to me to use a reward chart to motivate a child for it! Potty training was the only time so far we have used rewards for my son. We did a chart with a smile for every time he used the potty each day, and frowns for accidents. It gave him a visual way to track his own progress.

At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi - my 8.5 yr old daughter could not hold it through the night until just recently. I went through a phase at 5 and 6 where I tried everything from behavioral mod to a frightening wet bed alarm, all of which ended only in frustration for all. After some assurances from moms of 7 year olds in pull ups, I let it go. She hated her pull ups so much herself (sweaty chaffing and all), I had to believe that if she could choose to stop she would.
We have been on GFCF for years with many improvements, but that had kind of leveled off. We recently started another autism biomedical intervention -- the DAN reccomended DHA/Omega3 regimen -- that has made HUGE changes in her school and homework focus and maturity in general. An unexepected side effect has been her sudden ability to stay dry all night. The timing is so precise, its hard to believe that the DHA did not at least contribute to the sudden leap. Anyway, we could all use more DHA, so its worth a shot for those moms out there still paying out the nose for those blasted pull ups.

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here how I handle potty training and am potty training my daughter. I bought her girls pull-ups to wear during the day, that I make her wear and girls Goodnights to wear to be at night while she is sleeping, that I meake her wear. While my daughter is showering or swimming in a swimming pool or getting wet, I bought her girls Littleswimmers that I make her wear. Which are water proof pull-ups that you wear insted of regular pul-ups while the kid is in the water, swmming or getting wet beause regular pull-ups get soggy, puff up, get heavy, and absorbe water snd get soiled. Littleswimer won't there made to get wet without absorbing water.
I don't want to have to deal with having to potty train my daughter or my daughter soke her clothes or her bed or her self so I just make her wear girls pull-ups all day every single day, girls Goodnights every single night and girls Littleswimmer that I make her wear every single time that she is in the shower taking a shower, swimming or geting wet like playing in the water.
I don't care if my daughter ever gets potty trained. She is 13 year old now and is not potty trained and is still wering pull-ups Goodnights and Littleswimmers. I don't care thas why they make them! I just going to have my daughter wear them for the rest of her life not being out of them of even a a half a minute! I will never ever have her wear underwear! My potty training tequnique is the best and is working excellently and I am never going to stop doing it!

At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My oldest (boy) didn't potty train until he was about 3.3 years old. He knew how but he seemed to not like to go and go through the whole procedure. He had been randomly using the potty for over a year so it was something else. What I finally figured out was that he didn't really understand what to do - he was a real "rules" guy at that age and didn't do anything unless he could do it really well. He didn't talk until he was 4 and then was very conversant just a few weeks later. Anyway, I put up post-it notes with the steps on the wall in the right place. Once he could see the steps and walk himself through it, he was a lot more comfortable and dry in under 24 hours - no pullups ever. Of course, even at 3.3 he still wore a diaper comfortably - he's really thing. My next son was totally different and just wanted to be in underwear - he sort of decided that having them change him at preschool took up too much of his play time and he'd rather go with the kids that went at the potty times. Maybe interrupting them when they are into something they like to go potty would have the effect of having them prefer when to go and actively choose their own time.


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