If the potty training process has stalled or ground to a halt in your house, take heart. Potty training requires your child to hit key emotional and physical development milestones, and it’s perfectly normal for a child to experience accidents and setbacks.
That said, no one wants to step in a puddle of pee!
Even the most patient parents can easily become frustrated during potty training. (And the fact that there’s so much conflicting advice on the subject only adds to our frustration!) Many experts, however, recommend the use of rewards to incentivize the process.
There’s just one catch: You don’t want your child’s quest for a token or treat to take over the process. If you choose to use a reward system, there are a few simple tricks to keep the focus on becoming a big girl or big boy — not on the reward.
First, remember that your praise and enthusiasm are the ultimate reward. Show that you're proud of your child even when she attempts a step — sitting on the potty, for instance, without producing anything. Encouraging small successes goes a long way.
It's a good idea to keep rewards small and inexpensive. Don’t overdo it or your child will start expecting big prizes for something that happens multiple times a day! You may want to stay away from offering edible rewards, like candy, as this can teach your child to see treats as something she gets for being good, which is a slippery slope with many children.
A reward board, instead — to be filled with checks or stickers — is a great visual reminder of your child’s potty training goal and how much progress he is making.
No matter what you choose as a reward, be sure to give it instantly. Most children cannot make the connection between a behavior and reward if the two are separated by several hours.
Above all else, don’t punish your child for potty training slipups. Be prepared with a change of clothes and try not to make it a big deal. Saying something like, “Oh, you had an accident. That’s OK! Let’s clean it up and try again later,” boosts your child’s confidence and encourages him to move forward.