Motivate Kids Without Bribery, Candy, or Charts


Are you looking for an effective way to motivate your child without bribery, candy or charts? 

This may be the solution you are looking for.

One day, I reached my capacity for the potty conversation.

I just couldn’t rehearse the script one more time: 

Me: “Do you have to go to the bathroom?”

Child: “No.”

Me: “Are you sure? You’re doing the potty dance. I think you should go.”

Child: “Alright…”

Me (moments later): “Did you put the seat down?”

Child: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom. loud crashing sound)

Q: “Did you flush?”

A: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom. flushing sounds)

Q: “Did you wash your hands?”

A: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom. hand-washing sounds)

Sound familiar?

How do you work your way out of this conversation? How do you train your child to do all of the things and move along?

Back in the day when I only had one child, I used motivational charts. We used charts for every little challenge life brought her way – “going potty” or “saying please” or pronouncing her beginning “s’s” correctly.  I gave her stickers, took photos, and rewarded her with treats along the way. Charts helped my firstborn to reach each every great aspiration. It was beautiful.

These days, with six kiddos to keep track of, there are no more charts. I’ve tried –  but I am just waaay too distracted and inconsistent.

For a minute, I moved onto candy: quick, easy, instantly-satisfying candy. 

“Mommy, I went potty and did all of the things!”

“Oh, good! Have some candy!”

Easy-peasy. My kids will do anything for candy. (Like their mother, ahem.) But then I found out that sugar is poison. Experts say it’s more addictive than cocaine. They say that being hooked on sugar is like living in a blur, but living without sugar is true living. They say giving candy to children is the worst possible thing a parent could do.

Well, that’s a bummer.

What to do now?

Introducing a bribery-free, candy-free, chart-free solution…


…the bell.

Kids love to ring bells. In fact, everyone loves to ring bells. (Just think about the bell-ringing system at Trader Joe’s. Bells get everyone excited to “Help!” “Dance!” “Wear a Hawaiian Shirt!”)

I wondered if my kids would enjoy ringing a bell when they successfully accomplished all of the steps of potty-going.

Guess what? They did!


It totally works! This little sign and this little bell have changed everything about “going potty” in our house.

Ringing the bell is a shiny reminder to follow each step. It’s a satisfying reward that the child is able to get for himself. It’s not poisonous or addictive. (Well, it’s slightly addictive. Some kids can’t. stop. ringing. the. bell. Alas, there’s a downside to everything. I’m just being honest.)  But I like that I can hear it from across the house and know that all-is-well concerning toilet seats, toilet bowls, and clean hands. I can encourage my child and say, “Hey, I heard that bell! Good job!”

The funny things is that everyone uses it, including guests. They excuse themselves for a moment and then we hear that endearing little, “Ding!” Who could resist?

You can use a bell to motivate your child in all kinds of areas. Try it! Put a bell in the place where you feel like a broken record and see what happens. It may just be the cheery hand-up that you and your child need. (BTW: Get creative. It doesn’t have to be a little silver bell like this. I have friends who also tried the “easy” button from Office Depot. What’s your idea?)

Here’s to you, mama! Keep nurturing your child. Teach them how to thrive for the glory of God. These little everyday things matter. Your creativity and enthusiasm are helping to shape your child, in humble and magnificent ways.

Don’t miss a post!

I’d love to connect with you through email. I’m not on social media, so email is the best way for me to let you know what’s happening at I cherish your trust and I’ll work hard to respect your time and attention. 🙂