How to Change a Behavior

Confession…both of my kids have this habit of not flushing the toilet. Gross, I know! After continual reminders and reprimands that didn’t seem to be working I knew I had to try something new to change behavior.
how to change behavior
I read about this reward system in Family Fun Magazine (June/July 2013) and knew that I had to give it a try.
In both bathrooms I hung a sign (pictured above) in a spot where they would see it to serve as a reminder. I cut the bottom into 10 tabs. Each tab is worth $1 ($20 total for both bathrooms).
I told the kids, “On Friday we are going to Chuck E Cheese. Each of these tabs is worth $1. If all of these tabs are still on these signs on Friday we will take $20 to Chuck E Cheese for tokens.” They were jumping up and down and cheering. “But each time I walk into the bathroom and the toilet isn’t flushed I’ll have to rip a tab off which means there’s one less dollar for tokens.”
The best part for me was that I didn’t have to give reminders anymore. The reward system works on its own. However, I could just imagine the kids blaming each other and yelling about who’s fault it was that they lost $1 so I made sure that they understood that it was a team effort and that they needed to work together. I told them that if they walked in and it wasn’t flushed that they should flush it and quietly, secretly remind their sibling (not report to me about who wasn’t doing it).
At the end of week 1, we took all $20 to Chuck E Cheese with us. Yay! It is now the middle of week 2 and I’ve had to take 2 tabs. Not perfect, but still a huge improvement. My plan is that we will do this for an entire month because it should take that long to form the new habit. I like that this reward system puts them in charge of their own actions. I don’t feel like I’m bribing them to flush the toilet (although in a sense I guess I am). I feel like I’m giving them an incentive to help form a new habit.
I realize not everyone struggles with the gross, flushing the toilet issue like we do, but this system can be customized to work in your home too! Your sign could be a reminder to pick up certain things or to complete a chore. The tabs could even be worth minutes towards doing something special.


    • says

      Thanks! Can’t take the credit for it, but so glad I found it in the magazine. We are on week 4 now and I’m so happy with how it is working and what happens when it doesn’t work. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

  1. says

    I’m wondering if the reason they don’t like to flush is because they have difficulty tolerating the sound it makes? I work with children who have sensory processing issues and one of the questions I always ask parents is whether the child can flush or not. Auditory defensiveness can markedly impair a child’s ability to learn.

  2. says

    I like that you are openly working not towards just rewarding them for something that is a normal function, but setting the goal of helping them to create a habit that hasn’t been set in stone in their minds 🙂 It’s a good idea – helping them while they need it, so they won’t always have to have it once the habit is formed – they won’t think about it, even after the CEC page doesn’t show up on the back of the toilet 🙂

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