Sticker Chart Success

Posted by  | Tuesday, August 26, 2008  at 12:00 AM  
When I first started potty training our daughter (at the age of 2 1/2) my definition of potty training success was very misconstrued. I had the understanding after all the potty training stories I had heard, books I read, and opinions of others that a child could be trained easily within a weeks time period if a parent was diligent to set the week aside to strictly training and teaching. I was so excited to conquer this as a new stay at home mom and thought to myself, “Sure, I can give a week to strictly train and do nothing else.” One week went by, two weeks went by, three weeks went by…I think you get the picture. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t I able to train my child quickly like all of these other women I spoke to at playgroups and on the playground? The next stumbling block and question that I had was, “Is she considered potty trained even if I have to stop whatever I am doing to quickly run her to the potty and help her undress and wipe, etc.?” Again, I learned through my experience that the word “potty trained” can have many definitions! So before I tell you how we did get to the point where Katelyn was potty trained through a sticker chart method, I first need to tell you that the first definition to “potty training” is PATIENCE, PATIENCE, and MORE PATIENCE!! I am not sure Webster would agree but that is what the dictionary at the Weber household says! Your child will easily feed off of your excitement and disappointment with training. They can easily read your emotions and this can hinder or promote success. So be patient!! The second definition of potty training at the Weber household was: Have a sense of humor and a good bottle of Resolve carpet cleaner! We have an ongoing rule/joke at our house that Daddy didn’t want to know all of the spots on the carpet that had been Resolved throughout the day during potty training. There were many times when Katelyn had sat on the potty for awhile and NOTHING! But the moment I had put panties back on her and sent her off to play she immediately had an accident. Again, this is where the sense of humor and Resolve came into play.

There were many things that we needed to figure out by trial and error with Katelyn before we could officially start potty training. First, we had to figure out which type of potty she felt most comfortable using as well as enjoyed sitting on. We started with the small potty on the floor and discovered this was a no-go. We then moved to a little toilet seat on the big potty and a step stool, which she loved because she felt like mommy and daddy.

Second, we used books and movies to show her what it would be like to use the potty and how to do it. She loved this time and we read these books (the same two over and over) as we sat on the potty. After finishing the book, we would have “practice time.” This was Katelyn’s turn to show the character of the book that she could do it too.

Third, we had to discover her “pee-pee routine.” Meaning—how often did she go and when/what times of the day. This was the hardest part for me. She seemed to have no pattern and even after following the “put her on the potty after she drinks” routine, I realized none of this seemed to work. I therefore ended up putting her on the potty like clock work every 30-45 minutes. Once I got her to successfully go once in the potty—the training could begin!!

So “Potty Training at the Weber’s” looked like this:
I didn’t want to offer endless amounts of candy to my child, like so many suggested, every time she successfully used the potty, so instead we made a sticker chart. Katelyn loves to be encouraged and loves to make her daddy proud so this worked extremely well for us. She would be so excited to show her daddy the sticker chart every time he walked in the door after work. This would be the first thing they would do together even before I was greeted. She was so proud of herself. Our chart consisted of simple squares and she got to pick out the stickers at the store (something else that made her really “own” her chart). This is how the chart FIRST worked: Katelyn would receive one sticker on her chart for simply sitting on the potty and trying. If she went “pee-pee” on the potty she received 2 stickers (at this point I was not worried about her going poopy in the potty since this was a one time a day activity for her). Once she filled up her chart she received a small "dollar tree" toy. We went to the store for her to pick it out. After we then realized she was able to have more control we moved on to step two. STEP TWO: She received a new chart and this time she worked for the goal of Chuck-E-Cheese. There were a lot more squares on the chart since she had the opportunity to earn many stickers in one day. She would now only receive a sticker every time she went “pee-pee” in the potty (she no longer received the “sit on the potty” stickers. At this point she had no consequences since we were still in the “positive reinforcement stage.” If she had an accident we would simply tell her that we really needed to work hard on remembering to tell mommy that she needed to go potty so we could go to Chuck-E-Cheese. This was a big enough consequence/reminder for her! By the time she completed the chart, she was able to tell us when she needed to use the potty to go “pee-pee.” So off to Chuck-E-Cheese we went! (You can see that she was way more excited to go play then to pose for a picture with her chart!) STEP THREE: We completed one more chart with an additional trip to the dollar store to continue to encourage and reinforce this behavior.

On to the “Pooh Chart”:
Once Katelyn was successfully going “pee-pee” in the potty we moved onto the “Katelyn’s Big Girl Pooh Chart.” This Winnie-the-Pooh Chart was ONLY used every time she made POOH in the potty. There were only 12 squares on this chart since as I previously mentioned this was a one or two times a day occurrence. In order to prompt Katelyn to use the potty when she needed to have a bowel movement, we had to bring in a visual. We took her to the store to pick out a favorite toy. (This is something that she had her eye on for awhile.) We purchased the toy and set it up high where she could see it as a reminder each day but couldn’t touch. Every time she had a bowel movement in the potty we would place a sticker on the chart. Her goal was to fill the chart so that she could have the toy. We had a little more difficulty with pooping in the potty because she would like to hide to do her business. Once we realized that it was taking way too long to earn the toy and we were not being as successful as the “pee-pee” chart we knew she needed a bigger consequence at this point in the potty training stage. We then started to take stickers away for accidents. She quickly learned not to hide and do her business but instead go to the potty and earn a sticker! She earned her toy rather quickly after starting the consequences and at that point I can say she was “potty trained!”

From my experience, I can say…
* Every child is different! Try to find what makes them tick and drives them to want to succeed. Use those things to create opportunities for them to succeed- read books, make charts, watch movies, have a token jar etc. Be willing to change your plan if it isn’t working!

*Be patient! It might be a week long process for you and PRAISE GOD if it is. For us however it was not—it took us more like 9 weeks to master it from start to finish!

*ENCOURAGE and be positive. Even when we took stickers away at the very end of our experience we did it with stern but loving voices. It is easy to get frustrated, angry, and even to the point where you feel like yelling—“Didn’t I just ask you for you needed to go?” “We don’t go pee-pee and poopy in our pants!” “You are a big girl!”

* Be a team with your spouse! I was the one who did the dirty work of cleaning the mess, putting her on the potty countless times, washed the panties, etc. and my husband was the one who praised and encouraged her after work everyday by his smiles and hugs. At first I thought I was getting the raw end of the deal but after looking back I realize what a vital part he played in the success!

*Keep smiling—you can do it!


Krista said...

This is exactly what I needed. A step-by-step "how-to" that doesn't involve sugar and starts where Lydia is - she will gladly sit on the potty but she still has never gone in it! I have two questions:

1. What do you do about drinks at night? Do you cut them off after a certain time? Lydia is used to drinking a small cup of milk shortly before bed and I don't know how to break this.

2. It looks like we may be traveling to Germany for her surgery at the end of October. Should I start now or wait until we get back in early November? She would be 26 months at that point. (She shows signs of readiness - extremely upset when her diaper is dirty ie. must be changed immediately; and she goes LONG times without ever wetting her diaper. In fact, within in the last couple of weeks we have gone to usually just using a total of 4 dipes in a 24-hour period.) I'm just super frustrated with knowing her schedule like clock-work but her NOT going when I sit her on the potty (even if she goes every other day at that exact time) and I'll even get her to sit sometimes for 30 -45 minutes.

Thanks for sharing Pam!!!

Matt and Stacey said...

Just my opinion...If it were me i would wait until you get back. Especially with a surgery and just never know what that is going to involve. 26 months is still very early for potty training...don't stress.

oh, and for the drinks...we stopped all drinks after 7 pm with all of ours. I really think Madison and Meredith could have made it through the night with something to drink but Matthew could NOT. We just switched them to a SIP of cold water just before bed.

love ya!
love ya,

Andy, Pam, Katelyn, and Zachary said...


I would recommend waiting to really push the envelope of training until after surgery. I would start the process now since she is showing signs of readiness but not worry if she doesn't have it accomplished until after the surgery--continue to put her on the potty, give her a sticker if she goes, etc.

Drinks--We don't allow Katelyn to have anything to drink after snack which is around 7 p.m. This is her last cup of the day.

Can't wait to hear how she is doing! Let me know her surgery date when you find out for sure!
Love ya,

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