Should You Give Your Child Rewards for Going Potty?
Okay, brace yourself, things are about to get real: giving rewards for going potty is a contentious point in the toilet training world. And I mean, a really contentious point.
On the one hand, you have the faction that believes a child will rely on rewards forever. These parents will tell you that you’ll 100% spoil your child and that even when she’s graduating college she’ll demand a Reese’s’ Mini before hitting the rest room.
On the other side of things are parents who allow children to self-direct to the point of toilet training at four or five.
In the middle are the majority who just aren’t sure. I’ve been on potty training and parenting forums and have worked with thousands of families person-to-person, and I’ve seen the passion every possible side has in regards to potty training rewards.
Should you give your child rewards for going potty? Or can that encourage manipulative behavior? Let’s explore this idea.
In This Article:
- Pros of Giving Rewards for Going Potty
- Cons of Giving Rewards for Going Potty
- How to Use a Potty Rewards System
- If You Need More Help
Pros of Giving Rewards for Going Potty
There’s an old story about two parents who told their little boy that if the toilet trained, they would go to Disneyland.
The child showed up the next morning in dry pants, holding a packed suitcase.
While that may be a tiny exaggeration, it’s true that children may give their all if there is a reward at the end. (Just like adults do!) Here are the pros of giving rewards for using the training potty:
This follows the above. If a child knows there will be a reward, they’re more likely to sit on, or “go” in, the potty. Of course, there’s a downside to this; we’ll discuss it in a minute.
It’s All About Simplicity
When you work hard at your job for a few hours, you take a break. (I hope you do, anyway!) You may read a book, stream a movie you’ve been looking forward to, or take a quick walk.
All of these are rewards. Looking forward to them keeps you going when the going gets tough. It does the same thing for toddlers who are potty training. There are no complex hoops to jump through.
It Can Encourage Bonding
When potty training is no longer a kid-on-adult showdown, you’ll be surprised how much more relaxed you will both be. Instead of being at odds with your little one over pottying, you will be going through this amazing milestone together.
Cons of Giving Rewards for Going Potty
It Can Be Tricky to Phase Out
Some kids and parents get stuck in the idea of a “treat” for every toileting success. The key is to gradually change the circumstances that earn a reward. I’ll talk more about that below.
It Might Be Tiring for the Parent
Parents or caregivers can quickly run out of new ideas for rewards. After all, you’re helping your child to the potty upwards of 10-15 times a day.
I’ll give suggestions on great rewards to give below.
It May Result in Manipulation By the Child
One thing your friends and family are probably telling you is true. Rewards for sitting on or going in the training potty can mean your child hops off and back onto the seat multiple times a day. Why wouldn’t he? That’s how he gets the reward. That’s just smart thinking — but it’s not going to help your child learn.
How to Use a Potty Rewards System
The rewards system doesn’t mean you’ll be giving your child treats indefinitely for “going” in the potty. Instead, you should give rewards for milestones. After your child is using the training potty regularly, you can phase rewards out.
- At first, reward your child for sitting on the potty.
- After a few days of your child doing this, reward them for staying on the potty for a few minutes, and limit the sittings to 8 or so times per day. (Otherwise, you and I both know our smart little guy or girl will be hopping off and on over and over again to get tons of treats!)
- Continue this way until your child pees or poops in the training toilet.
- Once your child is using the potty regularly, gradually phase out the treats. (Want more info? Contact me!)
How to Choose Effective Rewards
Important: Do NOT use food as a reward, unless the food is part of going out for your child’s treat. This should only be occasional. Using food for rewards if fraught with don’t-go-there future baggage, so avoid this method if possible.
Instead, try these:
- Positive reinforcement: say “good job!” and give a high-five.
- Plan an hour with just Mom or Dad: this can be at bedtime or any time that works.
- Let your child put a very small sticker on their potty for each “go.”
- If your child “borrows” your phone or other device (with parental controls on), reward them with a half-hour of screen time.
- Play a favorite game together.
- Have a favorite friend over.
- Let your child decide what dinner will be that night. Have them select from three or so options.
- Sit down together and watch half an hour of their favorite movie.
- Read a few pages of their favorite book.
NOTE: Try for rewards that aren’t complex, time-consuming, or set too far in the future. Only offer rewards you know you can keep up with.
If You Need More Help
Still wondering how to make a plan to give your child rewards for going potty? I’d love to hear from you. I have helped thousands of little ones achieve the milestone of pottying all by themselves. Your child will get there — I’m here to help!