Saturday 15 January 2011

Obstinateness is hereditary

I don't like nudge-style policies that try to shape my behaviour.

Neither does my two year old.

First attempt at toilet training: a reward for successful task completion. A stamp or sticker. Stopped working after two successes.

Second attempt: carrots and sticks. A messy filled diaper put a toy in toy jail, but a successful task completion would get a toy out of toy jail (or a treat if no toys in jail). Worked twice. Then he decided it was fun to put toys in toy jail.

Rewards for inputs rather than outputs (time attempting task rather than achievement) predictably led to lots of time on inputs with no output, followed by messy diaper ten minutes later because he just prefers producing it there. Moral suasion has been useless. High salience rewards and punishments are illegal and probably inadvisable anyway. And who makes a Taser that's safe for toddlers anyway?

I think it's time to start rewarding him for producing messy diapers. Or just follow Gans's lead and leave it to the experts.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. No, no, no! Assuming he's not secretly reading your blog, he has obviously picked up subtle signals from you about the value of obstinateness. Freud taught us that little boys idolize their fathers (the phase in which they want to kill them comes later).

    (OT: As my response to your mail was bounced by your university's mail server, I put it in a comment to an old post here. Hope you've seen that one?)

  3. Ha, he might have. Will check for old post ... try mailing again. No clue why it would be bouncing.

  4. Good luck. What works for one child will not work for the next. We used to put the kids on the potty at times when we thought they should go. Some went almost at once. Others just sat there so we gave them books. They took a long time to toilet train but they are voracious readers!

    Greg (Yost)

  5. Sent for a second time. The error message said that your server "refused to talk" to my server, which suggests hurt feelings on the part of your server.

  6. I'd suggest you have a political not an economic problem. Give your child two more months without bothering on training and then try again. It sounds more like s/he/it is not ready to sort out the incentives. That or gor the Skinner way ;-)

  7. We're having a bit more success lately, keeping fingers crossed.

    @Lemmus: Found one in the spam folder. Will resurrect it.