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.

7 comments:

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...

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

Anonymous-
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.

Dustin-
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!

BQ

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!

BQ

Zany Mama said...

BQ-
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.