Friday, July 02, 2010

Bribery Only Works Sometimes

A lesson we’ve learned this week is that all bribery is not created equal. And we learned it the stinky way. Literally.

Caedmon is a smart boy. He knows when he needs to go. It seems that he also knows exactly how long he can hold it, and tends to wait until the last minute. He gets busy and doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing (I have the same problem sometimes). And for some reason, even though he’s had success with #2 in the past, he developed an aversion to actually pooping in the potty and decided it was better to go in his underwear. And he was kinda proud of it.

So Husband and I talked about it. He thought the M&Ms weren’t enough of a reward, and that we needed something bigger, badder, and better. I wasn’t convinced, but I was willing to try new things until we figured out what worked. We decided that it was time to nix the M&Ms at each potty trip and shift to something special as a reward for Caedmon keeping his undies dry. My plan was to give him something at lunchtime, dinnertime, and then again at bedtime.

And then I tried to actually put it into practice.

First, I took Caedmon with me to the grocery store and he chose his special potty snacks…Toy Story 3 gummy snacks. Oh, how he loves the gummy snacks. I explained that he wouldn’t be getting M&Ms any more, but he could have the gummies if he kept his undies dry. In theory, he loved the idea. By the time we got home it was already lunchtime, so I decided his first reward would be after dinner.

And then he went to the potty and was reminded there would be no M&M. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The promise of TS3 gummies was little consolation. It was so far away until dinnertime.

Each potty trip was met with the same travesty. But he kept them dry and received his gummies. There was much jubilation. And once again, sadness at the loss of the little candies that melt in your mouth and not in your hand. (Which, by the way, isn’t exactly true. In the hands of an almost 3-year-old, they tend to get melty and turn his hands beautiful, bright colors.)

Tuesday came and I realized that practically, breaking up the day into three chunks and giving him gummies three times just wasn’t going to work. So I shifted it to once a day. It was easier to understand and implement. But it was still almost unbearable for the boy to wait until after dinner for his reward. But wait he did, and he got his gummies.

Wednesday morning, as Caedmon was sitting on the potty and crying over the loss of his M&Ms, Husband suggested that we allow both the M&Ms and gummies. I was surprised since he was the one who suggested doing away with the M&Ms in the first place, but I agree that taking chocolate away is a horrible thing. But before we could re-implement the M&Ms, the boy removed himself from TS3 gummy eligibility for the day.

Still, I went to the grocery store to re-stock our M&M stash, as we were almost out. Any excuse to buy M&Ms is a good one, I think. And Caedmon was overjoyed to find out the chocolate had returned.

He’s had one accident since then. In which he partially made it to the potty, then asked for an M&M. Part of my new strategy was to implement an immediate consequence for wet/dirty undies. So I told him that when he peed or pooped in his undies, I got to have his M&M because I had to clean it up. He was not happy.

Yes, I took candy from my baby. Chocolate candy. Go ahead. Say bad things.

But you know what? Since he found out that I could eat his chocolate if he didn’t do what he was supposed to, he’s had zero accidents (knock on wood), and has had three, count ‘em, three successful #2 trips, all of which were voluntary. As in, I didn’t have to beg, bribe, or force him to sit there. And? Afterwards he was exceedingly proud of himself and promptly asked for his M&Ms.

See? Eating his chocolate worked. Now take back those bad things you said. Go on. I’ll wait.

We’re not “there” yet. I won’t consider us “there” until we’ve had a few weeks without an accident, probably. And I still have zero expectation of him staying dry during naptime or overnight. That will come later. But occasionally he does stay dry during his naps, so his little bladder and brain are learning. Plus, he’s still in a crib and training him to sleep in a big boy bed will be enough of a challenge without having the “I have to go pee” excuse. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Also, I do not claim to have all the answers. What works for him might not work for anyone else. But that’s the beauty of kids. They are individuals and all have their special soft spots. Caedmon’s seems to be chocolate. And I am just fine with that.

Pin It


  1. This sounds exhausting to me - thankfully I have a little time between now and then.

  2. auntie11:10 AM

    Way to go mommy

  3. Hey-progress is all you can ask for! Haha. Chocolate works for Matt too!...he no longer needs that for potty purposes but it does help on the "honey do list". (c: