Home > parenting > Rewards, Stickers, and Praise

Rewards, Stickers, and Praise

Sometime ago I wrote about my wish to instill internal motivation in my son. Indeed, it is so important to me to raise a kid with a strong sense of self, who will not spend his life looking for other people’s recognition of his abilities instead of simply enjoying those abilities and letting them lead him. And in this context, I try hard to reduce the amount of praise I offer to my son to force him to discover that place within himself that will feed him and offer him all the praise he needs.

But here is my problem. So many childrearing advice is based on some sort of a reward system.

You ate a good meal, you get to EAT/HAVE whatever.

You behaved well when we were out, you GET whatever.

You did your pee-pees in the potty, you GET whatever.

Recently, my husband and I decided to try to potty-train our son who seemed to have a good understanding and control of his pee-pee and pooh-pooh needs but still chose to do his business in his diaper and not in the potty. Reading about the topic of potty-training, I found plenty of good advice. But, every single thing I read included at least a mention of some reward system: stickers, or treats, or at least a big verbal recognition.

My question is: How do I successfully potty-train my son in the light of the philosophy that he needs to start doing his pee-pees and pooh-poohs in the potty simply because that’s what big boys and big girls do so they don’t have to rely on their mommies to change their diapers? Or am I being irrational here?

OK, we did it – somehow – we definitely praised and emphasized the “big-boy” thing, but every time I offered a praise, I felt a little silly. Any thoughts?

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  1. September 7, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Do you, as an adult, feel good when you are praised for doing something new or difficult? If you try a new recipe and it turns out well and people say it tastes good and they thank you for making it, does that make you feel good and more likely to try new recipes again? If you learn a new skill or a new language and someone praises you for your time and effort, does it help encourage you?

    I’ve heard other parents dismiss praising children for using the potty as SILLY. I mean, it’s just the POTTY. Nobody cheers for THEM when THEY use the potty! But they aren’t little kids. And for little kids, using a toilet is a difficult and scary thing, a whole new skill set. There’s a lot to be aware of and coordinate. And praise DOES help. It helps reassure them and encourage them.

    We did use incentives like candy and toys when potty training our 3yo, but I don’t really have a problem personally with those kinds of rewards/bribes. And now that he’s really mastering the potty we’re really phasing those out and it’s been pretty easy over all. However, I still make positive comments about his potty use. I thank him for using the potty. I remind him that he’s a big boy. AND we talk about how much easier it is to wipe him and flush the potty and pull his pant back up than it is to change his diaper, how much faster it is.

    And, as time has gone on, even those bits of praise and positive feed back are getting less and less as he gets better at it. He just… uses the potty. He doesn’t need them.

  2. September 9, 2012 at 12:10 am

    I didn’t do stickers and stuff for my oldest. We did high fives and we actually made up our own “potty dance”. But I think you have to do what’s right for your child. It is an accomplishment for a child to control their bladder enough to get to the potty, so “good job” or some other positive comment shouldn’t hurt. But that’s just my opinion. : )

  3. September 10, 2012 at 1:30 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! Finally, that’s the place where we ended up – some positive reaction, sometimes more pronounced, sometimes less. But, I have to say, I always had this thought in the back of my head, Oh, am I training my little boy to do things simply to please me? I know the answer is probably some middle ground…positive response for sure…

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