Friday, January 26, 2007

Behavior Modification

When we were trying to toilet train Casey, we weren't having much luck. The Montessori school he was attending was really pressuring us-- and really not being very helpful in training him. And he was the youngest kid in his class. One weekend when Jason had the flu, I turned off the ringer on the phone, pulled Casey's potty into the kitchen, and proceeded to follow the directions in the book How to Toilet Train Your Child in One Day. The book is kind of old-school, and I was worried that saying things like, "Bad Casey. Good boys do not pee pee in their pants. You are a bad boy," and then making him clean himself up might be a little much. Not to mention that Casey didn't even have the skills to dress and undress himself at this point-- despite the fact that he was 3. But I went through the motions anyway.

We started by teaching Potty Scotty, an anatomically correct doll, how to go pee pee in the potty. And I tried having Casey sit on his potty every 10 minutes (or whatever the book said to do).

It wasn't exactly successful. At least, not at first. Of course, once Casey was finally ready to be toilet trained, that first, all-day training paid off. I'm still convinced it helped teach him what to do. But what really did it was Thomas the Tank Engine. One day Jason told Casey that if he went in the potty like a big boy, Jason would buy him a Thomas train (Casey owned maybe two at this time). Casey didn't listen at first. But Jason sat him in front of the TV on the potty religiously-- in fact, the only time Casey was allowed to watch TV is if he was sitting on his potty for a while (that's how we motivated him to try in the first place).

And then one day the stars aligned and Casey peed in his potty. Of course, we all did the potty dance. And then we went out to buy Casey a Thomas train. We started with the least expensive ones-- the battery-operated ones that come with the pieces of blue track (they sell at Walmart). And when we were there picking out a Thomas, we picked up more than one. We came home and set them up on the shelf above the TV, where Casey could see them but not reach them. A few times each day, Casey would "visit" the Thomas trains. We might let him hold the box, but he couldn't have them unless he went potty. It didn't take long before he'd collected them all. And we went out for more-- until we realized he was playing us. Holding it in until we were there to watch him pee, so he could demand another Thomas toy. I'm sure we spent more than $200 on this endeavor-- was it worth it? Probably. We probably saved that much in diapers, actually. Not to mention the priceless value of his self esteem at school. We did have to actually ask the preschool to please remember to walk him to the bathroom every hour. But once they started following through, he was toilet trained.

At least we thought he was. After we'd been in China for two and a half weeks and returned home, Casey went through a readjustment period which lasted, I'd say, about a week. During that time, he'd poop in his nighttime pull-up. Intentionally. He'd actually find a quiet, kind-of-private place to do it. I'm actually not sure what ended it, but he started using the toilet again relatively quickly, and all was right in the world.

Until Vegas.

When we returned from Vegas, Monday and Tuesday mornings he pooped in his nighttime pull-up again. On purpose. After I asked him to go to the bathroom, he slipped off into his bedroom to poop. In his pull-up. Yuck. In a moment of (I'm guessing) exasperation, on Tuesday Jason told him if he was a good boy and didn't poop in his pull-up on Wednesday morning, we'd take him to the Totally Thomas Toy Depot Wednesday evening. Of course Casey didn't poop in his pull-up on Wednesday, and so we took him to the store.

He was all over the place. He liked the Thomas tent. And the Truckee character (from Jay Jay the Jet Plane). And another plane character. And finally he settled on wooden rail train characters 'Arry and 'Bert. Just before bedtime, Casey asks me for the Thomas tent. The one that cost $35. The one we didn't buy. (He sleeps with a Lightning McQueen tent on his bed already.) I explained that we didn't have enough tickets to get the tent (Casey calls money "tickets). He seemed fine with that explanation and went to bed.

Then Thursday morning he asked for one of the planes. I reminded him we didn't get the plane-- he picked out some trains. I kissed him good-bye and I left for work.

After I left, he troddled off into our bedroom to tell Jason he didn't poop in his pants. As if to say, "so now I get another toy, right?" Apparently he responds well to rewards.

And so today marks the day we officially begin our behavior modification program. We have a chart. We have pictures of the things we want him to do (without screaming): get dressed, go to the bathroom, eat breakfast, brush teeth, wash face, wash hands, comb hair, be nice to the dog, avoid hitting Marcie, etc. For the next couple days, each time he completes a sequence without melting down, he gets a reward-- an extra book at bedtime, a 1/2 hour of Dragon Tales, etc.. And each item he completes earns him a sticker. When he gets to 10 stickers, we'll get him a Thomas toy. Then we'll up the ante-- some things won't earn him a sticker. And he'll need more stickers to get a toy. We're hopeful that this behavior modification will help him make better choices. Now if only it were a strong enough incentive to help him with his (lack of) impulse control. I swear, sometimes he just. can't. help. himself.

Oh! And if you're wondering, Marcie got a toy, too. She's been very well-behaved (if you don't count waking up at 4am). She picked out Ice Bat (an Ugly Doll toy), which she's been carrying around, hugged to her body. She's also been carrying around a little Marcie-sized gift bag, which she uses like a little purse. I have to get a photo of that!

And Marcie has definitely been holding her own with Casey. This morning when Casey swiped her stuffed bear away from her, she squatted in front of him and shrieked. Just once. He looked stunned and gave it right back. I couldn't help but think, "That's my girl!"

No comments: