It's really, really hard to create the right kind of economic incentives — even if you're a professional economist, and all you're trying to do is teach your kids to use the toilet.
On today's Planet Money, we talk to economist Joshua Gans and his 11-year-old daughter.
Gans, who wrote a book called Parentonomics, tried to create a toilet-training economy for his young children. He rewarded them with candy for sitting on the toilet — and the older ones got candy if they helped the younger ones.
But, like tiny Wall-Street bankers, the kids figured out how to work the system for maximum advantage.
His daughter managed to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes, all day long. For a while, she got a treat every time.
She also wrung everything she could out of her brother:
I realized that if I helped my brother go to the toilet, I would get rewarded, too. And I realized that the more that goes in, the more comes out. So I was just feeding my brother buckets and buckets of water.
Note: Part of today's podcast is a rerun. It first ran in August, 2010.