Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sticker charts and "punishing" by rewards

So I mentioned in a few other posts that we were implementing a sticker chart for the girls. I thought it might be fun to let you know what we set up and how it's working.

The issue my husband and I are working on is the girls hurting each other's bodies. We decided that for each half hour increment when they are together that they don't hurt each other they will earn one sticker. They can earn up to two before school and ten after. The girls either both earn a sticker for a given time frame or neither of them does, regardless of who is doing the hurting.

When they earn 25 stickers they get to pick a "small" prize from a bag of things I already selected. The bag contains small toys and some candy, mostly in the $1-$2 range. I ended up getting almost all of it at the after-Easter sale at Target. So, every 25 stickers=a treat from the bag.

Once they earn 200 stickers they earn a "medium" prize, something in a specific price range that they decide on themselves. I think Iris already has her sights set on a Barbie Glam Vacation House. I intended to take some of their ideas for the medium prize and print pictures of them to post as incentive, but so far they haven't forgotten.

Then, once they earn a HUGE amount of stickers, we thought maybe 2,000 or so (basically I need to figure out a number that they can hit around mid to late summer) they get their "big" prize, also of their choosing. So far I think Eloise has decided on a Barbie Dream House.

We haven't thought past that point, but I fully assume the sticker charts will end after that. If for no other reason, we will be broke! Ha.

The girls are so far doing really well. I honestly thought making it half hour time increments would be really hard for them, but so far it isn't. We have now been through three full days and they have only lost two stickers (one because I got mad that Iris hit ME and one Iris hit her sister). I would call that a success, but three days doesn't make a pattern, so we'll see.

At our family meetings on Fridays we are going to talk about how the sticker chart is working and see if anything needs to be tweaked. If it was too unattainable for the first week we would gear it down. If it was a bit too attainable in the first couple of weeks we are going to make it a bit more challenging to hit their goals.

Matt and I were talking about Alfie Kohn the other day and his idea of punishing kids by rewards. His idea being that children who are motivated extrinsically get hooked on the rewards and lose their own sense of finding intrinsic value in doing whatever the thing is. I find this idea to be amazing, and a wonderful ideal. But in my opinion, that's just it. An ideal. As adults so many of us run on some kind of reward system. "If I count calories all week I can have dessert this weekend!" or "If I study really hard now I can go to the movies tomorrow night!" or, really, any number of things. I would venture to say all adults I know utilize both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to get through life. Well, kids are no different.

The fact of the matter is, with kids (or just A kid) who are difficult, who doesn't respond to the ideal ways of teaching right and wrong, need different solutions to problems. I am not saying sticker charts or other rewards and punishments are the right answer, but that Alfie Kohn's ideal of eliminating punishment and rewards isn't the right answer for every kid, or for every family.

I used to get sucked in to traps when reading parenting books (or my previous parenting class), and think that "OMG THIS is the way I need to parent!" and then I would try it and it either wouldn't work whatsoever, or it only one piece of it worked, or it only worked if I did it a little differently. And then I would think I somehow failed because the book (or class) didn't fix my kid. Or worse yet, that my kid didn't really fit in to the confines of the kids the book was trying to help.

It's different now.

Now I can recognize pieces that are going to work. I can do things that are out of my initial comfort zone (ie sticker charts!) and I can be absolutely thrilled when I find something that helps, no matter what it is (well, I do have some boundaries, of course). I feel like allowing myself to disagree with the "experts" was a really tough thing to do, but of course now I laugh that I ever felt that way. I will chalk it up to naivete No one knows my girls in the way I do, and even then they surprise me every day.


  1. It can be tough to discover some "system" or whatever that just sounds so... perfect. Nothing is perfect and nothing works for everyone. Good for you for taking what works for you and leaving the rest!

  2. I have felt the same way in regards to parenting according to various books or systems. Good for you to find freedom to use what works:)

  3. Thank you Holli and Jorje. It has been quite an intense process for me, getting to the place that *I* am the expert on my own children. It sounds so stupid, I realize, but there you go. Coming at it from that angle makes it so much easier to be open to suggestions and take what works and leave the rest.


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