There are many things in a toddler’s life that they have to do but don’t want to. Safety things like holding someone’s hand when crossing the road or wearing seatbelts. Health things like brushing teeth and eating vegetables. Social things like potty training and wearing underwear.
I have never read a parenting book (I lie, I started reading What To Expect the First Year but hated it with a passion). However I’ve picked up an armory of tactics to, erm, encourage my daughter in these affairs. At lot of this is geared towards potty training but I guess could be applied to other things.
- Novelty. This is very important. When something is new it is exciting and hence it is fun to do. Potty training was awesome at first because when M discovered she could pee on a potty she was SUPER KEEN to do so. However 8 months down the line and the novelty is no longer there so we need to find other things to encourage her. Nagging was NOT the answer.
- Put them in charge. Or at least, let them think they are (within reason). Let them decide they need to pee; there will be more accidents at first but it’s less stressfun than trying to force a toddler to stop playing to try and pee once every hour. Let them brush their own teeth, at their own pace. The ideal is for them to WANT to do the task, but this isn’t always the case so sometimes other tactics are required…
- Stickers. We started off with just a sheet of stickers and a roll of wrapping paper to stick them to. When that became old we had a little book, then another different book. Change the set of stickers regularly to keep it fresh; animal stickers, Dr Seuss stickers, fairy stickers, school stickers; whatever works! We have never used a reward chart, but may do in future if needed.
- Other material rewards. We have a few Moshi Monster blind packs that are being saved as a reward for Big Things. Namely, a poo in potty or toilet. M knows they are there, and is super keen to get them, but still not pooping where she should be. Hey ho.
- Food. I will admit to using food as a bribe, but not often and usually only when it was food M was going to have anyway. Like when she’s baked a vake at nursery and knows she can eat it on the way home, we don’t let her have it until she’s in her car seat and has the straps on.
- Singing. We have a toothbrushing song; “this is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth. This is the way we brush our teeth, brush brush brush!” It’s daft but, for a while when M was younger, it worked! Plus it sets a time to aim for. Her nursery also has posters up by sinks saying you should sing ‘happy birthday’ twice while washing your hands.
- Books. Read half a story, do the task, read the other half. This is working very well right now!
- TV. If M doesn’t want to sit on the potty but we know she really needs so, sometimes she will happily sit on it while watching TV. It’s the one thing you can still do on the can. That or have a story read to her!
- Peer Pressure is amazing! M wants to copy everything some of her older friends do, so they often go to the toilet together. Similarly, at nursery she will happily go with her friends. At home watching E wee on the potty when we’re doing some EC will encourage her too. Also, she can be competitive with grownups. If I’m going to the loo she will often want to beat me to it and pee before me.
- Mirrors. It’s fun to watch yourself get dressed/brush teeth/pee!
- Change the environment. Public loos are, bizarrely, more attractive than the ones at home. Peeing outdoors is positively exillerating! A new toothbrush once a month might be excessive but it can be enough to keep the task interesting.
- Random rewards every once in a while are nice. “You’ve been really patient with mummy shopping today so shall we get an ice-cream?”. “Thank-you for brushing your teeth so well tonight! We’ve got some more time before bed so would you like to watch one episode of Peppa Pig?”.
- High-fives! I think teaching a baby to high-five is as essential these days as teaching them to clap or say ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’. High-fives are free, exciting an seriously cool and a great way to celebrate a brilliant pee on the toilet. Can be followed up with fist-bumps.
- A fun activity. Baking, the playpark, garden games, whatever floats your boat. It’s important to keep your promises, even if you think your toddler has forgotten!