Toilet training of cats, dogs and children is an essential educational experience. It makes life more pleasant for both the parent and the child. The key is getting the idea across, having a good reward and then fading out with a scalloping so the behavior becomes firmly internalized. When Hope turned two she decided she wanted to wear underwear instead of diapers. All pretty well but her bladder control was not quite up to par yet. Still, I wanted to encourage her. The sooner she gets it fully potty trained the better for all concerned.
Hope earns money by saving returnable bottles that drivers on our road so thoughtfully throw out the window. These she takes down to the general store to get her nickel about once or twice a week. With that money she buys a penny candy. One for herself and recently one for each of her brothers. The rest she likes to save in her piggy bank.
Once the idea of money was firmly established as an appetitive I was able to introduce the next idea: Pee or poop in the potty and get paid a penny. This went over very well. Hope was quite excited to have a new way to earn money. Her toilet training instantly went from good to excellent with only rare accidents. She even figured out the trick of peeing a little, being all done and going back a few minutes to pee more. A great bladder control exercise. Believe me, this was worth a few pennies.
Once we had the system firmly established I added Hope paying me a penny when she had an ‘accident’. She thought that was fair and faithfully brings me a penny with a sheepish grin the few times accidents happen. Failure has negative consequences – just like in the real world.
The next stage of training is to fade and scallop the reward. Initially the student gets an appetitive reward every time they perform the action properly. Once the appropriate behavior is well established then you can start doing occasions where there is delay to the reward. e.g., We are at church, Hope goes pee on the potty and then she gets her penny when we get home. After that is established the reward gets scalloped further by not always getting a penny. Sometimes it just gets forgotten and the action itself is a reward. Note that random scalloping works better than fixed interval scalloping. This is why the Lotto works so well as a tax on the masses. They even do variable reward scalloping to get maximum addiction.
Some might argue scalloping is counter productive to training her to become a good capitalist but my real goal at this point is for her to internalize the process. It may seem like changing the rules, and it is, but the fact is the world does not always reward us and it is important to learn that. This actually strengthens the behavior over the long run. There is lots of scientific research to back this up and it is also my experience with training animals over the decades.
In the end I will fade out completely – she will no longer need me to reward her for a behavior she wants for herself. Her older brothers no longer get a reward for peeing in the potty. The act and the fact that their pants aren’t smelly and wet is enough reward in and of itself for them. The same goes with the dogs learning to guard the livestock. When they are young there is a temptation to wander off and go for a walk-about. As they mature and the training sinks in they spend more time off by themselves without my supervision until eventually they are free roaming guardians who protect their charges and drive off predators and pests. Even Killer Kita was able to learn this lesson. Someday I’ll tell her story.
Another important aspect of training is catching them when they are good. If they’re about to do the right behavior, give the command and reward it. This is a great way of getting the behavior started.
One other thing we use with potty training is stars on the calendar. We have a large month by month calendar hanging in the kitchen. Each day that is wet pants free and diaper free means a red start written on the calendar. This helps the child keep track of how they are doing.
If all of this feels too much like B. F. Skinner to you then don’t worry – Of course you don’t need to do training. But I would rather live with livestock that stays inside its pastures and come when I call. Dogs that do their work and don’t pee or poop in the house. Cats that stay down on the floor and do not get on the tables or counters. Children that are thoughtful, respectful, well behaved and happy. It makes life more pleasant for all of us. Behavioral modification training is very effective. I use it on myself, my spouse, our children, our dogs and even our livestock. A big part of training is setting up the rules so they are understood by everyone. All species like to have a framework that defines what are the proper ways of behaving. A lack of structure produces misbehavior. Misbehave enough and the universe will punish you well and good – it may even kill you. Living in a world where you don’t understand the rules and pianos appear to randomly drop on your head. That is far more stressful than learning how to behave properly.
When it comes to government, less is enough.
Thursday: 15°F/-1°F, 1″ Snow, Partly Sunny
Friday: 8°F/-5°F, Sunny
Saturday: 10°F/-9°F, Sunny