Have you ever struggled with getting your toddler to do something, accomplish a new task, or tried everything you can to avoid a meltdown? I definitely have, and these are some of the things I have tried and succeeded at with my toddler
1. Potty Training Motivators
I tried using a Potty Chart rather than a typical behavior chart when I was potty training my son. He is in love with Lightening McQueen and Mater from the Cars movie so I created my own little chart. I cut out some of the characters to place on the chart as he peed, pooped, washed his hands, sat on the potty, and told me he had to go potty. My son is pretty stubborn, and wasn’t quite ready for the whole potty training experience when I used this chart so I was not able to fully execute on the chart, but in the beginning he was really excited to earn his treats, then he decided he just wasn’t ready to continue the potty training process and regressed so we stopped for a few months. While we didn’t continue to use this method, it was working while we were using it. I feel like it was a great motivational tool for my son while he was interested in potty training.
Fast forward about 4 months (2 weeks before his 3rd birthday) he decided he was ready, but I took a different approach as daycare was a big help. Not necessarily the teachers themselves, but he had a friend who was also potty training and was doing really well with it. The teachers would send the two boys to the bathroom together so my son could learn from his friend. After a few days, my son decided he wanted to be just like his friend. I only wish I could have taken his friend home with me as he would not go potty without his friend. He held it all evening, night, and morning until his friend got to daycare. This happened for about 7 days, and then it started to click and within 3 weeks of going potty with his friend at school he was fully potty trained. He had been staying dry at night since he was about a year and a half so the hard part was already done naturally. Who would have thought daytime training would be the tough part, but it was?
The best motivators for him were:
- Being really ready
- Having a friend to learn from even though he is in the bathroom EVERY time I go and learns from me too. Sometimes they just need that peer level connection to make things happen.
Sometimes motivators come in all forms and are not the expected concept we would think of so think outside the box to help your toddlers learn a new task or developmental milestone.
2. Special Food Treats
Above I talked about my son earning special treats when he was potty training. I don’t typically give him candy and if I do it is for a birthday party or a special occasion. He was so excited to earn 1 piece of Reese’s Pieces for going pee, 2 for going poop, and 3 if he went both pee and poop. He was so excited and would jump up and down when he earned one. When the potty chart stopped working for me we went the food rout straight away rather than earning 5 cars on the chart to get the candy. This helped, but as I said above he regressed and we stopped. The best motivator for him was
3. Give Transitional Warnings
I have found that giving my son a warning on when we will be going somewhere, cleaning up, getting into the bath, or going to bed sets a level of expectation that motivates him to complete what he is working on. If he is playing and I tell him “Okay 5 more minutes until we have to get in the bath.” He is a lot more receptive to changing activities when he is given a warning. Sometimes he will ask me to set the timer so he knows when time is up. Setting the timer and giving transitional warnings has helped with meltdowns and tantrums a lot. He knows what is going to happen and when. I usually will set the timer for 5 mins. When it goes off he asks for 2 more minutes so we set it for another 2 minutes, and then another minute. I can hear some people saying, “Oh My Gosh! You are totally letting him run the show.” Not at all. I know he likes to do this as it makes him feel empowered and important and grown up. I deliberately set the 5 minute timer 10 minutes before we need to move on to the next task/ or activity. This gives us that extra time to set the timer for the additional minutes.
4. Change location to get a task completed
So one of my biggest struggles with this strong willed child is teeth brushing. You would think I was causing real harm to him while attempting to brush his teeth the way he would cry or scream or try to get away from me. Every time we would brush his teeth he would have the biggest fit. I would have him stand on his step stool and almost every night he would fall off while fighting me. I didn’t feel safe having him stand on the step stool any more so I had to find another location to safely brush his teeth. It finally dawned on me the alternate location was in our bed. I always brush my teeth, get my hair dried, etc. while he plays with his cars in our bed so he is already laying there. I thought one night why don’t I just have him lay back on the pillows while I brush his teeth. This was a magical moment! He was watching the tablet on this particular night, and I was able to brush his teeth 3 or 4 times without a fight, a tear shed, or him falling off the step stool. We had a break through! I now brush his teeth in the bed every night without much argument. Don’t get me wrong he still pushes my hand away, but this is a big improvement from doing it on the step stool in the bathroom.
5. Lead by Example
If you want your child to be motivated to do something, then by all means lead by example. If you mention you need to get something completed then do not procrastinate, do not complain about getting it done, just do it and do it with a smile. Do it with enjoyment so that they can see house cleaning is not “all that bad” even though we as adults dread it every time we have to do it…or maybe that is just me. If you are doing dishes ask them if they want to help, or outside sweeping off the patio ask them to help. Toddlers can do “chores” too. We can encourage them by letting the help. This gives them a feeling of being a big kid and that they are helping mommy or daddy.
What toddler motivators do you use? Let us know your tips and tricks for motivating you toddlers, tweens, or teens in the comments. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest too for more tips.