Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2. Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3. Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at

    Potty Training and Rewards
    Laura Jana, MD posted:
    One of the most common techniques used in potty training has to be the use of rewards. You name it, parents have tried it, in hopes of getting their offspring to put their poop and pee in the potty -- from the promise of M&Ms, cookies, and ice cream, to stickers, toys, and even (in desperation, I suppose) trips to Disneyland.

    I am often asked what I think of these techniques. To tell you the truth, I have a hard time justifying them -- especially those that trade food for proper use of the potty. Sure, they may work at first. And yes, I have experienced firsthand the challenge of a potty-resistant child. I'll admit to succumbing to the temptation of offering treats in return for cooperation. But this doesn't change the fact that there are some fundamental problems with using treats and prizes to encourage children to use the potty.

    ? It is pretty hard to differentiate rewarding children to pee with M&Ms, from out-and-out bribery. Generally speaking, I'm not an advocate of bribery in the context of parenting (or any other context, for that matter). And it may work, at first. But at what cost?

    ? It's not uncommon for children's expectations to become grander over time. And even if they don't expect more and more, potty training shouldn't come with the learned addition of rewards.

    ? Rewarding children with sweet treats is hard to justify in light of everything I know about good nutrition. Health-wise, one of the best things you can teach your child is to eat food for food's sake, not for the sake of using the potty, or as a reward or a prize. And we're not usually talking about offering children a carrot, or anything healthy, in return for the desired behavior.

    I'm sure this will seem to some of you like the Grinch's approach to potty training. But I can't help it. I just don't recommend that candy and potty training go hand-in-hand.

    Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to post your two-cents (or two M&Ms). I certainly don't mean to leave you empty-handed as you tackle potty training. So if you've had potty training success without or with limited use of rewards, what was your secret for success?
    SoCalSuz responded:
    So funny! When my oldest was three, my husband dangled the "Disneyland" carrot. I have to say, it worked beautifully and we had a great time. However, we live by Disneyland and had free passes so it was realistic.

    Now 2.5 year old is ready-ish. So far, praise and "You're such a big girl now just like sissy!" is motivation enough. And much more affordable! No more free passes
    ginadc responded:
    My son's preschool teacher, for the 2.5-3-year olds, is known as the "potty whisperer." If you can't get your child to use the potty, she can.

    She uses food rewards but very minimally. When a child is using the potty independently enough to wear underwear instead of pull-ups to school, they have a "popcorn party"--she pops a bag of light popcorn and the kids all share and celebrate their friend's achievement.

    At the same time, she'll also put up a card with the child's name on it inside the door to the class bathroom, so that they can be proud every time they use the toilet to see their name on the roster of "big kids."
    fiannakyn replied to ginadc's response:
    my mom has this story in my baby book:

    "Joyce {the babysitter/daycare} brought Vicky home this afternoon. I went to change her and realized Vicky was wearing big girl panties. When I called Joyce, she said "oh yea we got her potty trained a couple weeks ago." I really need to take time off work to spend with my kids. "

    I have Cerebral Palsy, so doctors told mom that I probably wouldnt potty train till I was 5 or 6 at the earliest, if at all. This story was written when I was 3. Turned out I was super easy to potty train. I had even only started walking 3 months before that (which doctors said I wouldnt do either). Mom never said what method Joyce used.

    I thought you guys would like a funny story
    kmcarnag responded:
    When we first started PT DS, we tried potty charts (stickers to work toward rewards), but he was too young to understand that (22 mo). So, instead, we used lots of cheering and hugs and told him he was making us happy when he peed on the potty. We never told him he made us sad mad angry or upset if he had an accident. Around 26 months he had matured enough to understand potty charts and working toward a small toy prize. By then, he was almost never having pee accidents, anyway, but he needed extra encouragement for poop. By 28 months, he was completely trained. We now use progress charts with stickers leading to small toys for good behavior. He gets stickers for eating a meal without getting out of his chair, helping his little sister (getting diapers, toys, burp cloths) or when he either does something he's supposed to on his own or if he does something good the first time he's asked. These charts really work well now that he understands the concept.
    phoenix31674 responded:
    DD was very resistant. I would bring it up from time to time from about 2.5 on. after she turned 3, I decided to up the ante and roll up the carpets (we have tile) and let her go diaper free. I tried that for more than a week including having her sit on the potty and she just wouldn't go in the potty. I did use M&Ms as a bribe to no avail. I also told her she couldn't go back to daycare unless she was potty trained - which is true, they require 3 year olds to be trained - but even that wasn't working.

    I did finally just give up for a while, but would still ask her if she had to potty. after a summer away, DH came home and we decided to roll up the carpets again and after a couple of days involving big girls use the potty and M&M bribes she finally did catch on.

    She's nearly 4 now and nothing is working to get her to poop in the potty. She poops before her nap and before bedtime most nights, but seems perfectly content to only do so in her diaper in her room. I tried putting the potty up there, but she would wait until after she pooped to pull her pants down and just made a mess so I gave up on that. She has pooped 3 times in the potty, but then still found a way to poop in her room and shows no interest in continuing to poop in the potty. She loves Thomas the train and i have new playset waiting for her to hit a magic number of times pooping in the potty and I talk it up, but she still won't poop in the potty. I know eventually she will but it's frustrating to still be dealing with poopy diapers.
    ameliameastman responded:
    I don't think giving your child a reward for going potty is the greatest. Because its true they put it in their mind that they should get a reward for EVERYTHING they do. Your child should be pleased about making you happy and clapping and hugging and giving kisses should light their faces up when they do something good. It also helps when you scorn them because they see the difference earlier between good and bad reactions and consequences.

    My mother potty trained me by having me set my cabbage patch on the training seat. She told me to go get my doll some books because she has to read. I ran to go get them and while I was way my mom had pour some water in the seat and told me to look because while I was gone she thought she heard her go. So I looked and my jaw hit the floor. My mom picked my dolly up said your a big girl now. Hugged and kissed her. I wanted that love and POSITIVE attention from my mother so I went potty too.

    Helpful Tips

    Not as easy as some make it out by simply being the boss.
    Feeding therapy ideas and resources ... The phrase " oral aversion " describes the avoidance or fear of eating, drinking, or accepting ... More
    Was this Helpful?
    1 of 1 found this helpful

    Expert Blog

    Child Health 411 - Ari Brown, MD

    Educated parents are empowered parents! Get clear answers to your parenting questions from Dr. Ari Brown...Read More

    Related Drug Reviews

    • Drug Name User Reviews

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.