Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Sticker is NOT always Positive Reinforcement.

We have Zane on a sticker program for his potty training. Zane goes potty on the toilet, he gets a superhero sticker, which is supposed to go on a chart. After so many stickers, Zane gets to go to his favorite place, Chuck E. Cheese, or he gets some other wonderful prize if we are too tired to brave a room full of overstimulated children.

Zane recently started to ask us to go to the potty. My husband and I were doing small victory dances over this, until we noticed something.

1. Zane would ask to go to the potty.
2. We would take him.
3. Zane would 'go'.
4. We would perform proper cheerleading routines.
5. Zane would get a sticker to put on his chart.
6. Zane would put the sticker on the chart.
7. Zane would ask to go to the potty.

The third time this happened in a fifteen minute period, we had to face facts: our little con artist was gaming the system. (If you stop and think about that for a second...a three year old boy figured out how to con his parents into getting what he wanted without anyone teaching him. That's pretty smart. I'm sort of proud of him, in a weird way.) We decided to let Zane earn all the stickers he could stand for now, and start changing up once we were sure that he had the habit established.

So the other night, Zane asks to go potty, and my husband takes him. I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. I heard Larry tell Zane to go get a sticker from me, and my proud little boy comes racing into the kitchen.

"I pee-pee in potty, Mama!" He announced.

"What?!! That's amazing!!! Yay for Zane!" I pretend to be completely enthralled, but I am in my "cleaning" zone and a bit distracted. I get the sheet of superhero stickers, and ask Zane to pick one. Zane picked the Invisible Woman sticker. I remember making a snarky comment that it wasn't really invisible since you could see her on the sticker. I gave Zane the sticker, pointed out the spot on the chart where he needed to put the sticker, hi-fived Zane twice, and then went back to cleaning the kitchen. Zane had done this routine before, so I figured that he could do the task independently and didn't need me to be standing right there.

At some point I realized that Zane wasn't wearing pants or a pullup, but since he was going to be taking a bath shortly, I didn't worry about it because apparently I am apparently a bad mom. There was no sound coming from behind me, and this vaguely registered as a bad thing, but I was determined to get the kitchen clean so I didn't have to do anything later.

Suddenly, I heard an "Ow", and a horrible thought popped in my head: a boy without underpants and a sticker for a job well done...

I suppose that my son wanted to offer a reward of some sort. Or maybe he did it to follow a variation of the No Pants rule. Whatever the reason, the "Ow" had come when Zane decided that he didn't want to leave that sticker "there", after all.

They don't tell you about stuff like this in the parenting books.

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