Between the ages of 0-5 years, children are driven by 3 key developmental goals: 1. Pleasing you and receiving your praise and approval, 2. Growing up and, 3. Being able to do things on their own. These powerful drivers are influencing your child’s interactions, preferences, relationships, choices, identity, self-esteem and basically everything in between. Knowing how to tap into these drivers can make potty training an easier and more positive experience for you. Here’s how.
The need to please
Children are programmed to seek your praise and approval. It’s their way to stay safe, understand how the world works and maintain a healthy attachment to you. I reckon this is why babies smile at 6 weeks, just when you’re at your most sleep-deprived and overwhelmed and you need a reminder that they do love you!
You can tap into your child’s need to please you by showing them you are pleased with their efforts. Teach them what you expect them to do, how to do it, and then let them have a go! They will enjoy showing you what they can do. Embrace mistakes – they are an important part of the learning process.
The need to grow up
That’s why being 3 1/2 is so much more important than being 3! Children know they need to grow up, and they want this to happen as fast as possible. They look to older peers and adults as inspiration.
You can tap into this desire by telling them how much more grown up they are becoming, or will become, when they potty train. Your natural authority as an adult should make the basis of a great role model.
The need to do things on their own
Children will often repeat something until they have mastered it. Whether that be play, stories or whatever they are working to understand and do themselves. Once they have got the hang of it, they will looking for the next thing to learn. Being able to do things independently is the main goal in this, even if they seem incompetent.
Give them opportunities to practice, and note their efforts. Make sure the bathroom is accessible to them, so they can do things independently. This might mean looking at your bathroom from your childs point of view – can they get to the potty or toilet themselves, sit on it, reach the toilet paper, turn on and off the taps, use soap and a towel etc? . Can they turn the light on and shut the door? Do they need privacy to show you how much they can do alone? Let them make a few mistakes as this lets them take responsibility for their own learning.
Praise is key
One of the best ways to tap into these drivers is to offer your child detailed praise on the things they are working on. You can describe what you see (“wow, you did that all by yourself!”), acknowledge their efforts (“that was hard but you kept going, and you did it!), tell them how it has affected you (‘its been fun learning this together, thank you for helping me out”) or tell them you can see how they are ‘growing big’ etc. All these things tap into these 3 needs and potty training offers many opportunities to do so.
Knowing these key influences and how you can tap into them will help engage and motivate your child in a much deeper, more meaningful way than a superficial sticker chart. Lasting motivation and willingness to persist at a difficult task only comes from within.
Need help to understand your child’s behaviour and how to motivate them? You can contact Rebecca for a one to one consultation or you can check out our online materials to support your potty training journey.