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 a behavior.
how to change a behavior
I read about this reward system in Family Fun Magazine (June/July 2013) and knew that I had to give it a try.

Setting Up to Change a Behavior

  1. In both bathrooms I hung a sign (pictured above) in a spot where they would see.
  2. I cut the bottom into 10 tabs.
  3. Each tab is worth $1 ($20 total for both bathrooms).

Implementing to Change a Behavior

First, 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.
Next, I told them, “But each time I walk into the bathroom and the toilet isn’t flushed, I’ll have to rip a tab off. That 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 about who’s fault it was that they lost $1. So I made sure that they understood that it was a team effort.  If they walked in and it wasn’t flushed, that they should flush it and quietly, secretly remind their sibling.


At the end of week 1, we took all $20 to Chuck E Cheese with us. Yay! Now it is the middle of the second week 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. 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’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. This system can be customized to work in your home too to change a behavior! 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.
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  • Reply Jennifer@ Life As I Know It

    This is the greatest idea I have ever heard! I will be using this in my home daycare for everything!! Genius!!!

    June 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm
    • Reply The Activity Mom

      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.

      July 6, 2013 at 2:55 am
  • Reply Annette {This Simple Home}

    Great idea! I’m trying to think how I could use it…

    June 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm
  • Reply Loren Shlaes

    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.

    June 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm
  • Reply Amy Warrick

    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 🙂

    June 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm
    • Reply The Activity Mom

      That’s what I’m hoping for…We are starting week 4 now and it is our last week for the reward part. I’m so happy with how it is working.

      July 6, 2013 at 2:56 am
  • Reply OneMommy

    Love this idea!
    (have my own potty issues like that….) Mine have been begging to go to Chuck-E-Cheese, so this may just work….

    June 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm
    • Reply The Activity Mom

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes….Still working well over here during week 4!

      July 6, 2013 at 2:57 am

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