Monday, July 31, 2006

Bribery and Other Failed Parenting Techniques

I have discussed my appreciation for Mr. Lionel Richie – he of the “Can’t Slow Down Fame” - and the strange ways that our lives seem to parallel in a previous post (here). In my ongoing chronicle of inexplicable parallels between our lives, there is yet another chapter.

Recently, I read this story, discussing rumors that the man who lulled us with the smooth tunes of “Penny Lover” has apparently promised his waif-thin daughter, Nicole, a Caribbean yacht cruise if she will put on some weight.

I will admit that, at first, I felt a bit judgmental about all this. I mean, how is that going to make the child eat? Wouldn’t sending her to a specialist - a very expensive specialist that only mega superstars such as Lionel can clearly afford - be a better option?

And then, after a minute, I understood the desperation of such an offer. I’m sure the family has been exploring conventional routes – i.e. doctors, therapists, etc. - for quite some time. I suppose if I thought that a trip to Sesame Place would cure Zane’s asthma and food allergies, I’d be all about it – and I wouldn’t care what the doctors said.

Zane last year at Sesame Place – unfortunately, the trip didn’t help his asthma and allergies.

And then, after another minute, I realized that I am engaging in the exact same bribery-for-their-own-good type of behavior. Except, it’s not a cruise to the Caribbean to force the ingestion of food. No, at our house, it’s the giving of “potty prizes” for the excretion of pee-pee and poo-poo.

In attempting to get Zane potty-trained before he has to go to preschool this fall - since it’s a condition of entrance – I spoke to my wise friend BQ. She related the potty training method which has worked for both she and our good friend, Elengant. It involves a three-day long stint at home with your child naked from the waist down. Every 15 minutes you put sweet child on the potty and read them a story– if they don’t go potty, that’s okay. They get up and play for 15 more minutes. If they do go potty, they get a prize.

I’m not talking about a new tricycle kind of prize. I mean a gift of the dollar store variety. For example, here’s a pic of Zane with one of his potty prizes.

I got it at Target for 99 cents

BQ assured me that her daughter totally didn’t care about the prizes by Day 2 of the regime. It was just a way to get her started with the idea that going on the potty was a good thing. Well, apparently Z is of a more consumerist mindset. He likes his potty prizes, and he will make himself tinkle on the potty every 5 minutes to get one.

The problem is that getting a prize seems to be Zane’s only motivation at this point. He will jump on the potty in a minute if the slightest urge to pee hits him – so that he can get a prize, but he doesn’t care one bit if he wets himself in public. After all, he knows he’s not getting a prize in the middle of the grocery story, so why put forth the effort?

Z with one potty prize in his hand and his foot touching another

It was all getting a bit ridiculous, so we – my bank account and I - put our foot down. Friday was the last time Zane got a potty prize. From now on, he has to potty because it’s the big boy thing to do not because he gets a present.

It’s working – sort of.

But the whole experience has brought me around to a greater understanding of how bribery may – or may not – be effective.

So, my hats off to you Mr. Richie. I don’t think your strategy will work, but I understand: We’d do anything to get our children to take proper care of themselves. You do it with yacht trips. I did it with potty prizes, but we’re both speaking the same language.


Mom said...

#1 rule of parenting - do whatever works.

Anonymous said...

My mom bribed me with M&M's. She said it worked. This may be why I'm not a fan of M&M's now. I realize you can't bribe Little Man with M&M's, but "Chicky Nuggets" might work!

Dustin said...

I just have to say, that rotovirus reference from last post is probably the most effective form of birth control I've ever seen.

Zany Mama said...

Ah, the inspiration you give. I'm honored to follow in your whatever-it-
takes-consequences-be-damned footsteps.

Sounds like you were raised back in the 70's before candy was considered evil and soda pop was thought to be more "nutritious" than water. Good times.

I'm always happy to keep other folks from breeding. Although truthfully, I cannot overstate the foulness of rotovirus - it has to be experienced to be believed.

Anonymous said...

I think my prizes were much more boring! Maybe that's why she lost interest. "Here's your prize, have fun with that new toothbrush." I forgot to mention---push those fluids--any drink he wants---just drink all day!


Anonymous said...

And oh my god, I second the foulness of rotovirus---the most repulsive of all childhood illnesses we've experienced-- It may haunt me forever!


Zany Mama said...

Ah geesh, I didn't know they were supposed to be utilitarian prizes. I would have loved to have given him toothpaste, socks, and a new spoon to eat his breakfast cereal with. Crud. I missed fabulous parenting moments on that one.

Consider liquids pushed.

Rotovirus may indeed be the devil.