If you stay dry in bed for n nights, you get a reward.
If you control your temper for n days, you get a reward.
If you bathe yourself for n days, you get a reward.
Bribes vs rewards? Thin fine line.
I usually use this method for things which I can’t really force the kids to do, or things which I can’t even really get angry about. Yet I know they are ready to do it. For example, Kor Kor was reluctant to start bathing himself. He said he did not know how to do it. OK, I don’t really mind bathing him, so I just dangled a carrot. If he’s keen to get the reward, it provides the extra push for him to start doing it. Like going without diaper at night – I can understand he feels safer with the diaper, in case he incurs my wrath for bedwetting. Plus, it’s much easier to just pee in the diaper than to wake up to go to the toilet! Carrot again – if you want, you try. If you would rather continue wearing diaper, so be it, I can live with it.
In order to encourage him to keep trying and to make it a habit, I give him a reward once he achieves the desirable behaviour for about three days. Then a second reward if he can do it for five days. Then a third reward if he manages 15 days. By then, it should be second nature and there will be no more reward. Say, he manages to control his temper for a stretch of 15 days, that means he has the ability to do it! It also depends on the level of difficulty – for bathing himself, it was only one reward for a stretch of ten days and that’s all.
I am willing to splurge on slightly more expensive presents, rather than many small items for daily behaviour, because my goal is to get the problem over and done with once and for all. Once it’s clear that he CAN do it, I expect him to do it without any reward. Instead, he will get punished if he fails to do it, e.g. time out for throwing tantrum or refusing to bathe himself. (Doesn’t apply to bedwetting though, cos it’s normal to wet the bed once in a while, and it can be caused by many factors. To be dealt with gently. So far so good though!)
What are the rewards Kor Kor has received thus far? A Transformers toy which cost $19.90 for three days of good temper. A pair of walkie-talkies ($20+) for staying dry for 15 consecutive nights. (He also got smaller rewards when he stayed dry for shorter stretches, but I can’t recall what they were.)
At five years old, I think Kor Kor has the ability to think ahead for longer periods and to be more self-disciplined. How about Didi? He’s only 3.5 years old, and I don’t expect much of him yet. He’s still wearing diaper to bed at night though the diaper is actually dry most mornings. We asked him whether he wanted to stop wearing diaper and he said no, so we shall just wait for him to be ready.
However, there is one behaviour which I really cannot stand anymore! No, it’s not whining. Not that I like his whining, but I think that’s too huge an issue to tackle at his age. But recently, he has started screaming, as in those high-pitched AHHH..! I have promised him to buy him his chosen Transformers toy when he can stay scream-free for ten days. Since he’s so young and ten days probably feels like an impossible eternity to him, there is also a bait of a small piece of chocolate every night if he’s scream-free for the day. His progress? Urmm, maybe it is impossible to hit ten days?? He has eaten many pieces of chocolates, but after a few days, he loses it and goes back to zero again. But it’s still good. At least now when he screams, I just need to remind him, “you are screaming. Can you stop?” and he’s ok most of the time.
My favourite takeaway from this blatant bribery? When I see Kor Kor swallowing his tantrum when I remind him to be of good temper! 😛