How do you get a toddler to do the things they are supposed to do? I’m happy to report that we have long been able to influence Trixie by not so subtle use of behavior modification techniques.
On the positive reinforcement side we have our 2005 Potty Incentive Program. This is the program that doles out out stickers for good bathroom behavior. It was extremely successful in the beginning, but then stickers begin to lose their appeal. So we had to move up to temporary tattoos, and wow, we got a great response rate. You combine that with 2.9% APR financing, and the potty training sells itself. But like stickers, the tattoos are slowly losing their power. The next step is piercings — but that’s only going to be for extremely impressive potty behavior. Like maybe holding it for a cross-country trip.
On the negative reinforcement side, we have learned that the hand that controls the TV remote, controls the world. In Trixie’s worldview, threatening to turn off Sesame Street is the worst thing that could ever possibly happen. Ever. The best part is that the TV doesn’t have to be on. Matter of fact, we don’t have to be anywhere near a TV; we can simply threaten to not turn it on at some indeterminate point later in her life. This is the most powerful force in Trixie’s universe.
What causes us to resort to this nuclear option of behavior modification? It’s usually simple things that we know Trixie would agree to — if she could only get over the initial hump. Case in point: her favorite food. We’ll set out something that we know she loves, like vanilla yogurt, and she will scream, tears streaming down her face, like it’s the end of world. Fortunately, the end of Sesame Street trumps the end of the world, after one good “Do you want to see Batty Bat?”, she’ll acquiesce and take one bite. The anguish melts away to confusion, and she rediscovers her favorite kind of yogurt. She’ll then eat the rest of the bowl herself without any more outside influence. I don’t get too excited though; so far we’ve had to reintroduce Trixie to vanilla yogurt about 35 times.