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Feedback good, rewards bad
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As my readers know, I am not a fan of rewards given for behaving properly. First, any improvement in behavior that comes about as the result of reward is almost always short-lived. Second, rewards teach children how to be manipulative, to withhold proper behavior until an adult makes a sufficiently attractive offer. In effect, rewards are bribes, but one must be careful to distinguish between giving a reward and giving positive feedback. The latter is essential to helping a child “fine tune” his or her behavior.
A mother writes that things had gone from bad to worse in her attempts to toilet train her 30-month-old. The primary problem was that he wet his pants incessantly.
Then, in the midst of her toileting torment, she came up with a brilliant idea: “I used a marker to divide a note card into four sections. Then I began using a potty bell, a simple kitchen timer, that I set for 30 minutes. I explained to him that every time the timer beeped, I would come check his underwear. If it was dry, I would put a happy face sticker on his card — I called it his ticket – which I put up on the bathroom door. When he filled his ticket with four stickers, he could come out of the bathroom. Meanwhile, I filled him up with liquid.
“Sha-zam! His attitude did a complete 180. His underwear was staying dry and his potty was filling up.”
Mom closes by saying, “I hope this idea will help someone else who is at their wits end with potty training.” I do too, which is why I’m sharing her letter with my readers.

Psychologist Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site at
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