Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pavlov's toddler

Okay, so you know the story. Pavlov was this Russian scientist of some sort (three sorts, actually). It was he who first reported on what we now call classical conditioning. Pretty cool stuff, and a great way to train animals, I suppose.

More importantly, it's a great way to train toddlers. You can use it for just about any behavior, but we at House of Smack choose to employ it to get Perp to pee on the potty. We manage to do so with little or no wailing, gnashing of teeth, or shattering of eardrums. I won't even try to describe how she reacts.

MIL hit upon this idea and it's pure genius. Instead of being the unfortunate party who has to physically drag the little blighter to the can, or bribe her (with your choice of nasty food-ish items), you set a timer. It's a neutral party, indifferent and amorphous. She can't fight it; she can't bribe it; it doesn't care if she (fake) cries. It dings and she goes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

We're now at the point where she even if she's just hearing the oven announcing it's reached the desired temperature, she trots off to sit on the pot. Crazy!

I know many parents use operant conditioning to try and potty train their tots, but I have to say, and in no way do I mean them to take this personally: that's fucking dumb. Well, wait. It's dumb if it's the ONLY method you use. I think you could actually combine the two, using positive reinforcement AND classical conditioning to obtain a fairly salutory effect.

Of course I'm talking out my ass, but so far it's working.

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