Monday, 24 January 2011

Potty training: Smartie incentive scheme

"And it was fun, fun, fun, till his mummy took the Smarties away."

A while ago I mentioned that I was letting Hamish potty train himself. The reasons for this are twofold: (a) At Kita with a ratio of 1 staff member to approx 10+ kids I'm guessing Hamish wouldn't get the help he might need to get to the toilet on time, so I'd need to send him in with an extra 10 pairs of trousers and pants every day; (b) I'm lazy and don't feel any pressure whatsoever to have him potty trained by a certain age here. At home people would probably be starting to talk. Certainly with Orla as soon as she turned 18 months, doctors, nurses, and health visitors were saying "Is she not potty trained yet?". I thought it was far too soon, and she wasn't ready, and frankly I have far nicer things to do than to be washing knickers and other garments non-stop.

But, I'm starting to think I should get a shifty on with Hamish. He's completely perfected using the potty when he is nappy free, and given that he's now in the full throes of casting off his clothes at every given moment, that's pretty much all the time when he's not at Kita.

His stumbling point is that when he's wearing pants he tends to think they'll act just like a nappy. Every time. So today I tried a new tactic. Bribery. With escalating incentives. (I should be in sales, honestly).

He was happily running around naked and then at one point said his bum was cold, so I suggested that he might want to try out his new Disney 'Cars' pants. Surprisingly he agreed and I told him that if he remembered to take them down when he needed a wee-wee and go on the potty he'd get a Smartie. Then if he remembered again the next time, he'd get 2... and so on. So straight away the pants were down and he produced a wee-wee. Bingo. So I reminded him of the Smartie incentive scheme and this afternoon he was never off the potty.

Hamish likes to drink a lot anyway, but he really forced himself to take on liquid today. I hadn't bargained on that. For the first hour I felt I was never done cleaning out the potty, and I ended up having to cap the limit on Smarties when we reached 4. Then I brought it down to 2 and he didn't really complain. I feel like I am actually a genius.

I just have to teach him that he can just drop the pants round his ankles, rather than completely remove them and really I need to teach him how to put them on again. Every time he tried on his own he ended up with both legs through the same leg-hole and was wearing them in a kind of bum-bag style round his waist. It's a look that works for him, but unless I actually stop being lazy & train him, he could still be wearing them like that when he starts school.


  1. What a good idea, Master2 is quite happy to run around with a bare bum and he will go to the toilet, as soon as i put a pair of pants on him, he forgets and wee's in them.
    I shall definitely be trying the smartie trick/bribe.

  2. thank you for writing this. My son is 20 months and I have been thinking of potty training. I think he will fall for a bribe or two!

    JoJo x

  3. funny thing potty training. Just the other day I was at my friend's house and her 2 year old was doing his best when I arrived to do #2s. It really made me remember the days. those consistent hours spent with them, encouraging them, catching them at the right time, dreading the shops with them. But you know what, you forget a large % of it. I couldn't tell you when my kids were trained, I know that sometime before they were 3 they were both out of night nappies and it was easy enough.just lucky I guess.

    Best wishes, i'll email you soon re your questions too.

  4. Is there any empirical evidence of this scheme also working with husbands and washing up? I'm going to try it, but will probably have to replace smarties with beer.

  5. Sadly no. Research indicates that only 4% of men respond to the Smartie incentive scheme when it comes to washing dishes. When replacing Smarties with beer, this figure rises, as you would expect, but only by 2%. Long term studies have shown that 64% of adult males respond positively to washing dishes only when the 'reversed carrot/stick' methodology is employed.

    In 2006 Gray & Docherty presented a paper entitled 'Dishes: Don't think I'm doing anything for you, unless you start pulling your weight', which outlined the underlying psychology required for males to perform household tasks, normally associated as 'female' when priviliges are being withheld, or if there is a "real risk" that this outcome may be realised.

    Further research is being undertaken in the lesser-known field of 'hanging out the washing' and Gray expects to disseminate the results of the preliminary research in early 2012.

  6. We did the Smartie thing too! Only works when they're ready, though, so he must have been already. Way to go both of you!


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