Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Poopy in the big potty

So far, the transition from the little Baby Bjorn potty to the regular toilet has been the most challenging transition we’ve faced so far. I thought the transition from bottle to sippy cup was hard, but that was just a painful day or two, then it was over. This is a much longer and potentially messier change. He had that little potty for over two years, so he had grown attached. And the big potty can be intimidating. It’s not the right size for little kids and it sucks to not have anything to rest your feet against, especially when you are taking a poo.

While I understand his hesitation, we felt it was time for him to make the switch. Primarily because I thought he’d be starting “school” this fall and I wanted him to be able to use the bathroom there (he rejects anything other than Bjorn little pots, even child-sized toilets). It’s getting tiring to carry around the little pot every time we leave for a few hours (not to mention carrying it off my handle bar on long bike rides!). And I wanted him to have time to adjust and be fully comfortable on the big pot before the baby comes. I’m hoping that will reduce the likelihood of regression in this area, and the odds of us having to deal with the excretions of more than one little person at a time.

Until now, we haven’t used rewards or bribes to achieve any desired behavior. We give him praise when he does well and consequences (warnings and time outs) when he breaks the rules. I didn’t want to encourage a system of doing things just for rewards, especially something so basic as going to the bathroom.

But example setting and encouragement wasn’t working and I had to admit that he was probably afraid. That’s a big, deep hole and it can be scary to let your poop fall into such an abyss. There are times I have overcome my fears due to the promise of a reward and that positive outcome was instrumental in helping me get past a blockage. Since I didn’t think he was just being recalcitrant, but probably truly nervous, I thought this might be an instance in which we needed to use rewards.

Mark took the lead since I was out of town for a week and a half. He used goldfish to get River onto the toilet and to sit there, and lots of praise when something came out. He seemed to have done pretty well while visiting relatives. But once we got home, the progress didn’t last.

We hoped we could still use the little potty once or twice a day. He could sit there and entertain himself for a good 20 minutes, which gave us time to shower in the morning or get things ready before bed.

I soon noticed River saved all his poop for his once-daily use of the little potty, holding it until he had a gigantic one and doing nothing on the big potty. He would say he had nothing (no pee or poop) when pottying before nap or bed, then we’d find his diaper especially soaked. This didn’t seem to be healthy and it also seemed like it would be a longer, more protracted battle than I wanted to engage in. So I upped the stakes.

First, we got rid of the little potties entirely. We as parents lose out on the convenience, but it’s time. With no little potty, that meant he’d either have to do it in the big one, do it in his diapers while sleeping, or have accidents.

So that the change would have more of a positive spin for him, I took him to Walmart with me and explained that he was going to get to pick out ten Hot Wheels. We’d bring them home and each time he did a poo in the big potty, he’d get to choose one. He seemed to understand and smiled widely. This was the first time I’d ever taken him to a store to choose a toy and to get 10 all at once – he was pretty psyched.

We bought two boxes of five cars (they are only a dollar per car – cheap reward!). Someone accidentally gave him a car for doing a pee, so then we had to reinforce they were only for poos. Every time he got on the pot, he’d ask for a car and I’d tell him he’d get one as soon as he did a poo.

Yesterday evening, he actually asked to use the toilet. I helped him up there, he did his pee, and then came a large poo. I made a big deal of it, clapping and congratulating him. Then he got to go choose a car, we made a point of showing it off to papa. He asked to put it on his car display case in his room, where it will be visible each time he wakes up. I’m hoping we’ve crossed the line and he’s seen that it’s safe to poo in the potty. More than safe, it’s fun. He gets a car.

He has eight more to earn and the hope is that by the time he earns all eight, pooping in the toilet will be a normal thing for him and no longer a cause for hesitation.

Mark said that after initially bribing him onto the toilet with goldfish, River got used to it and no longer asked for goldfish. Hopefully, it will be the same with cars. And if it works as planned, it is worth the $10.

If you have used rewards to change behavior, how do you decide when to implement them? How do you wean off the reward system?

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