A nudge is better than a nag for toilet training.
Moms know nagging kids endlessly only backfires. They end up deaf to everything. And harassing boys about peeing straight is a losing battle.
So I decided to give my boys a nudge by using choice architecture to get them to pee into the toilet … and not around the bathroom.
As a mother of twin boys, aged seven, I know pee. I’ve cleaned it up, wiped it down and sat in it more times than I want to talk or write about. It’s made worse because my boys love to chat while they’re peeing. See photo at left to see how a giggle can distract.
The solution to my problem came when I read the book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Professors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. They wrote about how airport officials in Amsterdam realized men and boys daydream while they pee and lose focus.
The result? A smelly mess that cost a lot to clean up.
When janitors at the airport put an etching of a fly on the wall of the urinal, spillage was reduced 80%. You can see examples of how it works on the Nudge blog.
Do try toilet training at home
I decided to try the same thing at home.
I wrote AIM with a big, red Sharpie pen on the wall of the toilet bowl, see above, in a spot cannily designed to avoid the boys splashing the seat or rim above.
It worked. The smell and odor has improved. It isn’t twin-proof, as the photo shows.
Spillage, not the word we use at home, has decreased markedly.
Only problem, my Sharpie pen keeps washing off. Next time, I’m going to try putting a sticker on the back of the toilet.
We read Nudge for book club where the pee idea was a great hit. Trust me, when I say we are the Queens of Pee.
Our book club includes four mothers of multiples, including two lots of 7 year old boy twins, one girl/boy set, and a younger set of triplets and a mother of four.
Now, if only Nudge could come up with a way to encourage boys of all ages to lift the seat before taking aim.
Any ideas? …
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- Articles by Julie Power on raising boys and juggling work and family.
About the Author: Julie Power is a writer and editor with experience in both the United States and Australia. After living in the United States for 16 years, she recently returned to live in Sydney with her husband and twin boys (9 years old). Follow @juliepower