In 2000, I wrote...
I have a daughter
who is turning 3
in August. We have been potty-training
her for the last few months. It's been a difficult process; sometimes she goes for days without an accident
, but other times she won't go potty
unless we ask her every hour. We got the feeling that she was physically and psychologically capable of being potty-trained, but that she sometimes got distracted or lazy (depending on how you look at it).
Finally we resorted to positive reinforcement, or what non-psychologists often call bribery. We told her that every time she went potty, she would get a chocolate-covered raisin. This led to an immediate change in her behavior--not only does she start using the toilet much more frequently (sometimes with the words, "I want a candy...I'm going potty!") but she seems much more disappointed when she did have an accident.
I have wondered, however, what will happen when my daughter is potty-trained for good. I expect that it will take some effort to wean her off the expectation that she's going to get a candy every time she uses the bathroom, and that she'll be getting candy long after she doesn't really need it to motivate her anymore. I have this picture of getting a call from her kindergarten teacher complaining that she is having a temper tantrumin the girl's room because she isn't getting the Raisinette she's entitled to...
It occured to me that this little parental effort is not that different from a successful government program. The government often provides money to companies or individuals so that they'll do something useful. In theory these programs are meant to go on only for a limited time, to get projects off the ground. But since the recipients of this aid will complain if they're cut off, and since it will take other people a while to realize that the aid is no longer useful, it's practically a given that every government program will eventually turn into corporate welfare. We can try to reduce the useless lifespan of a government program, but we're not going to eliminate it--ever.
So she just entered kindergarten, and in fact she is totally potty trained
. However, I think we weaned
her off the Raisinettes because she had the attention span of a 2-year-old
and, over time, forgot that she ever got the reward in the first place. So while I was able to avoid it in this case, I still find it to be a useful example.