Some parents love and look forward to when their kids get older. It means they are more independent, and more expressive, so they can essentially entertain themselves and also tell you what they want using actual words.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed when my son Bash was a baby. He’s a lot of fun to hang out with now too, but before he could crawl or roll over, I could leave him under his little play gym for a few minutes without worrying he would go anywhere without me and possibly hurt himself. It was so much safer! Not to mention, when he cried, there were only a handful of options as to what could possibly be wrong. He was basically either hungry, sleepy, lonely, or had a dirty diaper.
A toddler, on the other hand, is a whole new ball game. Suddenly, you have this little person, who has so many new thoughts and feelings that they haven’t quite figured out how to control yet. And if they can’t control themselves, how the hell are you going to try and reign them in??
The answer is likely going to be BRIBERY! I, like millions of other parents in the world, am not above bribing my kid to do something he probably wouldn’t ever think of wanting to do for himself. Say, for example, potty training. Some kids DO decide on their own to stop wearing diapers, but I think it’s safe to say most kids don’t. (My own mother claims I essentially just stopped wanting to wear diapers at 17 months, started going to the potty, and never looked back…I still don’t believe it!)
Potty training is pretty foreign to a kid when you first introduce it to them. Imagine you’ve gone your whole life, taking a dump in your diaper, and all of sudden, your parents want you to sit on a seat with a hole in it, and try to drop a deuce where it falls out of you, in mid air into this pool of water? And then you push a button and it magically disappears down another smaller hole?? Inconceivable. You can imagine that it might take some time for a kid to get used to the idea. It could take a few days, weeks, or months even! Oh god, months??? No one has time for that!
Well, I have good news! You can significantly cut down the amount of time it takes to train your kid simply by bribing them to do it! Wanna hear even greater news? Here is, what I feel is the best kept secret to parenting a toddler: your secret weapon is STICKERS. Toddlers don’t need to be bribed with large things. You don’t need to bribe your kid with toys, or trips to the ice cream store or to McDonalds every single time you want them to go potty. You simply post a chart, and you give them a sticker to reinforce their behavior. They fricking LOVE stickers and it NEVER gets old.
We did it with Bash when we started potty training and he was fully trained in 3 days.
We also do it every time we have to re-train him to sleep in his own bed after he’s spent some time sleeping in our own bed because he was sick or we were on vacation.
I love stickers because not only are they relatively inexpensive, but kids are generally not sticker snobs and are genuinely excited receiving stickers. Getting stickers from Trader Joe’s is a treat, as is getting generic stickers at school from the security guards. With Bash, he gets super pumped about if we use “special stickers” for his chart. (Those are usually Star Wars stickers, or Avengers stickers, or some other character stickers that are too nice for me to allow him to stick on a piece of paper willy-nilly.) Those stickers ARE the reward. It may sound silly to those of us who have been in the world long enough to know that there might be better rewards out there, but I have never met a toddler who would ever say no to getting a sticker. In addition, stickers on a chart are tangible proof of a child’s accomplishments. You can instill a sense of pride in your kid for being so consistent by showing them all the times they did something good, which will then also positively reinforce the good habits you’re working on with them.
Aside from using as a training tool on a chart, they’re also great for distractions. Bash will happily spend some alone time sticking stickers on a piece of paper and making what he calls “a masterpiece.” A couple of good friends of ours have also tapped into the sticker love and given him a bunch of sticker activity books, which he absolutely loves doing. At the doctor, he had to get shots, and he started tearing up, and immediately stopped once the doctor offered him a sticker. Bash’s babysitter won him over very quickly just for bringing a sheet of happy face stickers. Stickers are so powerful!
They are your be-all and end-all.
If you want to potty train your kid: use stickers!
If you want to coax your kid into sleeping in his own bed: use stickers!
If you want to start giving your kid small chores: use stickers!
If you want 5-10 minutes of quiet time: use stickers!
If your kid is crying and you just want him to stop because it’s giving you a headache: use stickers!
When in doubt, USE STICKERS!
Do you use stickers for your toddler? What works for you? Sound off in the comments!