Intrinsic Motivation is Overrated

2021 July 14

1st Child: Textbook execution of the three-day-method. Rewarded with a single M&M when she was fully potty trained.

Middle Child: I have no recollection whatsoever of potty training her. One day she decided she was done with diapers and that was that.

3rd Child: The three-day method turned into the three-month method. Three months of stops and starts, rewarding, punishing, bribing, public praising, public shaming, and a whole Target aisle of princess panties, now in a landfill somewhere. (Sorry Sierra Club, but life is too short to spend any time reviving Moana panties that have been disrespected).

Those three months were followed by three more months of potty training purgatory wherein she spent HOURS in the bathroom with her beverage of choice and the iPad, streaming Disney+. Then IF (if!) the magic happened, she was rewarded with a hot fudge sundae from McDonalds.

But we are finally making progress. These days, each bathroom event no longer requires the level of pomp and circumstance she once demanded. We weaned her off the iPad, the excessive fanfare, and celebratory trips to The Golden Arches. Now she gets an M&M for one outcome and a jumbo marshmallow for the other.

Last week I sent her to a day camp that required campers to be potty trained, praying she’d not make her mother seem like a liar rise to the occasion. And she did! She came home wearing the outfit I sent her in, and told me I owed her three M&Ms and a marshmallow.

I predict she’ll call home from college, give me updates about her classes, her professors, sorority life. . . and the tally of how many marshmallows she’s earned.

Moral of the story:

Parenting is tricky.

Kids are all different.

Intrinsic motivation is overrated.

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