Monday, June 28, 2010

Delayed Gratification

So, a few weeks ago, Big Brother wakes up from his nap and says,

"I want to wear underwear."

I look at him through the tired eyes of a mommy with a one-month old and think, "Couldn't you have timed this a little better?"

But, as any mom knows, you never refuse the offer of a child willing to wear underpants! We had been broaching the potty-training subject off and on for more than a year but the idea had never taken hold. Since I'm a very firm believer in 'potty-willing' rather than 'potty-training' (meaning: Wait until they are ready. Don't force the issue) I had just been waiting for him to decide it was time.

Now he's suddenly in underwear and really doing pretty well except that he's not willing to listen to Mommy & Daddy when we say, "I think you should try to go potty". Then he gets distracted playing and has an accident.
Aha! Time to offer a reward (and a learning experience hidden within! woot!). He'd been asking for a new bike for several months. (He only had a trike and wanted a big-boy bike so that he could keep up with Daddy better.) I figure potty training is a big thing...deserves a big reward!
For tracking his progress, we converted a magnetic chore chart into a potty chart. Every time he went, he got a magnet. If he got all his magnets for the day (7), he got to have ice cream after dinner. And the 'piece de resistance': if he kept his underwear dry all day long, he got to put a magnet on a rectangle. Once he filled the rectangles (7), he earned a new bike!!
Here's the chart:

This worked wonderfully. He was very motivated both by the prospect of ice cream and especially the new bike.
It was his first significant lesson in delayed gratification. It was also his first lesson in working for something he wanted (more than 'if you pick up your toys now, you can watch tv now'). For the first couple days he wanted his bike at the end of the day when he put the magnet on the rectangle. We had several discussions about working hard for things and he seemed to catch on after a bit. It only took him 8 days to get all 7 magnets (just one non-listening mistake!). He earned his bike just in time for Grandma & Papa's arrival and for our first summer trip to the beach. We hauled everyone out to Toys R Us and he got to choose the bike himself.
Here is the proud boy on his inaugural ride:
And here he is practicing his pedaling on the boardwalk (much easier than the hills around here!):
We are proud of him and the work he did to earn his brand new bike!

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