Rewards System Gone Wrong

Not having a clue how to go about this potty training business with Princess Toddler, I bought a book on the subject a few weeks ago. Firstly, I read up on signs to look out for that indicates your child is ready to commence potty training. It seemed all systems go, according to the book anyhow. Except for the part on your child following instructions.

It’s not that Princess Toddler is incapable of following my instructions. It’s more a case of her not always choosing to do so – a politely put way of describing the new struggles with dressing, having her nappy changed and putting on shoes. As she comes close to her second birthday following instructions is something she, along with a million other toddlers, is determined NOT to do.

So, the book was great on this front. It recommended creating a star chart, saying it’s useful for toddlers from the age of 18 months. I was a bit hesitant at first about the rewards system idea, but it was starting to sound like a good idea, as daily tasks increasingly became a trial. So I set about busily writing up a few instructions like ‘getting dressed’, ‘packing away toys’ with the long-term goal of adding ‘sitting on the potty.’ I bought a packet of stars and away we went.

The first star offering went pretty well. There was the usual battle about having a nappy change so I drew a cross on the star chart next to ‘nappy change’ and told Princess Toddler that she could have a star after having her nappy changed. She promptly lied down for the change. A first for her I can tell you. I then proceeded to place the promised shiny star over the cross. But then Princess Toddler wanted another star. And not one stuck to a page. I quickly diverted her attention to another activity and all was calm again.

Next was getting dressed. Princess Toddler ran away from me the moment I even mentioned the dreaded words. Usually dressing involves a lot of racing around on my part, and putting clothes on dolls and myself before she concedes to wearing them herself. So again I dangled the carrot; a star for getting dressed. Dressing had never been so easy. A star was again placed over the cross. This time Princess Toddler was not so easily diverted from the stars though and demanded ‘star,’ ‘star.’ I eventually gave in and handed her one gold star. The demands for ‘more star’ continued for a while until food provided a welcome distraction.

The last and final attempt at the star chart came before bed when I asked Princess Toddler to pack up her toys. I asked her to put her Little People in the box and then she could have a star. All seemed to be going exceptionally well. Three Little People made it into the box. That’s three better than the previous night. But then the last two did not make it to the box. Instead, the mechanic was slid down the slide, walked up the elevator and toppled from the roof. My gentle reminders about packing away toys in exchange for a star fell on deaf ears and Princess Toddler did not settle well into her usual evening routine.

After a failed attempt at reading a story (something she will usually sit happily for) and an uneaten bedtime snack, I put Princess Toddler to bed. Usually she settles very well. If she doesn’t fall straight to sleep she’s usually happy to entertain herself, talking away, until she drifts off into the land of nod. But not this night. This night she cried and called out. When I went in to resettle her she was really distressed. She was crying out what I thought was ‘bath,’ ‘bath.’ I was patting her on the back, telling her she’d already had a bath. But it turned out the cry was not for a bath. As her screams turned to sobs she became a little more intelligible and I discovered the word being uttered was ‘star,’ ‘star.’ She was distraught because she had not received that last star. What an awful mother! I raced out and got her a star, gave her a big hug, told her what a good girl she is. She settled straight to sleep after that.

Needless to say, the star chart has been pulled down. The stars have all now been happily stuck on paper – with a little help from Mum. And I guess that potty training might have to wait a little longer.

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