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Sticker Charts

"I'll do it later." "Just a minute." "You're no fair." These are just a few of kids' favorite lines that, upon repetition day after day, can drive parents to the very edge of sanity. After Mom's asked Johnny to clean his room for the tenth time, and after receiving the same response ("In a minute") while Johnny works the controls of his PlayStation, she gives up, teaching Johnny that if he just procrastinates long enough, he'll win the battle.

Sticker Charts Improve Behavior

Sticker charts are a type of behavior chart that are an effective solution to improve hehaviors. These charts have been used successfully by parents, teachers and child-behavior experts worldwide. The system involves having kids earn stickers each time they perform a (previously agreed upon) task or goal, and when they've earned a certain amount, they receive a reward (also previously agreed upon). The stickers can be bought at a store, or printed on any color printer on sticker paper. This reward system much more closely matches the real world's system of rewards and consequences, which Johnny will someday be a part of when he has to work for a living.

Not only do the kids charts prepare children for the adult world, but they also make for a calmer and more balanced home life and improved family interactions, and give children the emotional and psychological tools they can apply to veritably every other aspect of life, including school and social activities. In fact, teachers and daycare providers can also reap the benefits of using these charts for their students. Just some advantages of behavior and sticker charts:

  • Clear, fair, and unambiguous terms and conditions
  • Kid-friendly format, with visible icons that children and teens can appreciate
  • Helps kids work for specific goals in small, achievable steps
  • Teaches kids foresight and planning, and to look further beyond today
  • Is unique to each child and can be adapted accordingly
  • Provides the child with consistency and a sense of control over his own world
  • Several children can have their own programs, providing for easy organization

Kids are notoriously good at acting first and reaping the consequences, often negative, later. The parts of our brains that teach us to look around the corner and think about next week or next month rather than the current hour or minute, are often the last parts of our brains to develop – sometimes not until well after adolescence. Sticker charts helps this developmental aspect to mature, forcing kids to consider the consequences of their actions BEFORE they act. It makes for improved judgment and smarter choices, which then lead to more rewards, which reinforces the benefits of thinking first, and so on. It's an increasingly positive cycle, and while there are setbacks, of course, the setbacks simply result in not earning the rewards as quickly as they could have.

Because children need almost instantaneous results of their consequences in order to receive an impression, behavior charts provide these results in a way that's tangible, allowing them to visually see where they're at in the process. For example: Susie is rewarded with a sticker each day she completes her homework, with the goal being that when she earns five stickers for the week, she'll be even more highly rewarded with the new Candies shoes for which she's been begging you. This is a much more effective method than simply telling Susie that if she does her homework all week, she'll get the shoes. With the behavior charts, she has a viewable measure of her progress, and each time she completes the smaller goal (doing the homework for the day), she receives a reward that brings her one step closer to the bigger payoff (the shoes).

Note that the larger rewards don't have to be expensive; they can include such things as extra privileges (staying up later on weekends, extra TV or game time, sleepovers with friends, not having to do a chore they particularly dislike, etc.). So long as the rewards consist of things that are valuable to your child, the sticker charts will be effective; tailor the payoffs to what motivates them. A few Dos and Don'ts:

  • Do follow through on every reward
  • Don't change the rules midstream
  • Don't nag; let the kids be responsible for earning their rewards all by themselves

Though your kids may have some initial resistance to starting this program, once they see how quick and effective it is in helping them earn what THEY want, they'll like it as much as you do!