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  • Allison

Rewarding vs. Bribing


There are a lot of mixed feelings over whether or not to offer rewards during potty training. Maybe you feel like you don't want your child using the potty because you feel like you are bribing them to do so. Maybe you feel like you are willing to try anything to get potty success! As with everything parenting-related, everyone has their own reasoning which is perfectly okay!


I'd like to clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding the topic. Many would argue that there is no difference between bribing your child to use the potty and rewarding your child for using the potty. There are some subtle (yet very important!) differences. Let's start with the Oxford dictionary definition of each: Bribe: persuade (someone) to act in one's favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducements.

(Feels kind of dirty right?) Reward: a thing given in recognition of one's service, effort, or achievement (That sounds much better!) There IS a difference between bribing your child to do something just because YOU want them to do it at that moment and you acknowledging their progress in the form of a reward. A bribe is a cause, a reward is an effect.


Children are rarely motivated to try new things if there isn't some form of reimbursement for their efforts - it's natural human nature! Even adults are more likely to take action and do something if it means they will get something in return! Do you think of your Christmas bonus as a bribe? Of course not, you earned it!! See the difference?


That being said, many parents don’t want to use edible rewards during potty training and that is perfectly understandable! (If you do, don’t worry, I used them with my kids!)


Here are a few ideas of non-edible rewards that are still creative and FUN:

  • Stickers

  • Stamps

  • Fake tattoos

  • Matchbox cars

  • Gift wrapped dollar tree gifts that are “mystery items”

  • Pencil erasers

  • Hair ties

  • Bookmarks


There are also other strategies that we can use to encourage our kiddos to go pee and poop in the potty!


Here are some helpful tips for getting your child to go potty on the toilet WITHOUT having to bribe them:

Offer choices – Instead of asking your kiddo if they have to go potty, let them know that it is time to go sit on the toilet but give them a choice. For example: “It’s time to go potty! I see that you want to play with your Matchbox cars, which one would you like to bring to the potty with you?”

Press pause. Literally. – Teach your child how to “pause” playtime so that they won’t feel like they are missing out on anything when it is time to go potty by using your TV remote! This will give your child a sense of control, and ease their FOMO while they go to the potty.

Special activity – Get a fun, new activity and keep it designated for potty time only to encourage your kiddo to sit. Likewise, you can reserve a fun activity for after potty time with an if/then theory. For example, "If you use the potty, then we can bake cookies together!"

Make it FUN! – Playfulness is the language of kids. And anything can be made into a game! On your way to the potty, practice walking like animals or have a race to see who can make it to the bathroom first! These fun tricks will help to not only distract your child from any fear of the potty but can create positive connections around potty time!

Potty training without bribing can be done! Sometimes we just have to get a little creative and think outside the box. What is your child's favorite reward while potty training?