When it comes to teaching children about good habits and behavior, the best way to go is positive reinforcement. This means that instead of handing out punishments when your kid does something bad, you reinforce them with a prize or praise when they do something good.
The idea behind this is that children, in general, will be a lot more willing to perform an unpleasant or tiresome task, if they expect a reward by the end of it. And over time, this can help create good habits that are ingrained into the daily routine!
There are many different ways in which you can use positive reinforcement, with all sorts of methods and tools available to parents. One of the most popular, however, is the sticker chart.
The sticker chart is essentially just a chart, full of tasks, behaviors, or similar, and every time your child completes something correctly, they receive a sticker on the chart! This creates a visible and accumulative form of positive reinforcement, which can be very effective.
Do Sticker Charts Work?
First of all, let’s start by answering the question of whether sticker charts actually work or not because as with everything, there are those that might doubt the method.
The best way to get a child to learn and perform good behavior is to help them understand why this behavior is good, and get them to be involved with the tasks, all while staying motivated. A sticker chart can do all of this.
A sticker chart visibly shows your child when they are doing a good job, so that they feel seen and appreciated, and each sticker is a proud success. It also keeps them really motivated, as it is a lot easier to perform an unpleasant task when you know you are going to receive something in exchange for it, essentially, it makes it worth their while.
As the child collects stickers, eventually, they will add up so that your child is entitled to a prize, and this is a great way of reinforcing good behavior so that they will want to keep acting that way. It also brings focus to the positives, rather than thinking of when your child fails to perform a task or behaves badly.
So it’s more about progressing and improving, rather than getting caught up in the negatives.
So as a general rule, sticker charts are proven to work and can be incredibly effective.
However, it is also important to note that sticker charts do not work for all children. Usually, they work well for children aged between 3 and 8 years old.
They will also only work if the child is actually involved in the process. So make sure you set up the chart together, pick out attractive stickers, and think of suitable rewards.
This means that the child is partly responsible for creating the reward system, and it will make them far more likely to adhere to it and want to make it work!
How To Create a Sticker Chart
So…how do you create a sticker chart in order to use it with your child? It depends on the type of sticker chart you want to use, and the design possibilities are endless, as they can be completely personalized to suit your child and the behavior you are trying to reinforce.
But to help you out, here is a general step by step that will work as a standard sticker chart:
Decide on the Behaviors or Tasks you are Going to include in the Chart
First of all, you need to think about what kind of positive reinforcement you are going to be doing. What tasks, behaviors, or habits are you going to include within the chart? You have to be careful not to overwhelm the chart by having too many, keep it simple, and slowly increase it over time if needed.
Depending on what you are going to have in the chart, you can pick out a design.
One idea is to have two different sections, one for everyday tasks that should be performed, and one for habits or behaviors that are seen as good, and that you want to reinforce.
Create or Buy a Board for the Chart
Next, you need a board on which to write down all of the tasks and behaviors that you want to reinforce, with enough space to place the stickers next to them. For this, you can use all sorts of things, and you can either make one or buy one.
If you are going to make one, we recommend using a piece of cardboard and drawing or painting the sections and columns on. Alternatively, you could use a whiteboard, sheets of paper hung on the wall, or similar.
As a general rule, we recommend having a column in which you list all of the tasks and behaviors, one under the other. Next to them, you can have rows (divided into the days of the week if you specifically want them performed daily), and this is where the stickers will be placed.
If you are going to buy one, here are a few products that we recommend:
Get Some Fun Stickers
Gold star stickers are the traditional go-to, but you can choose any stickers you want to. It is best to let your child pick them out, to get them more involved!
Come up with a Prize System
For some children, simply getting stickers is enough of a reward. However, for most kids, the stickers should add up to eventually get them a prize. You could have it so that if they receive a sticker for every single day of the week they get a prize, or so that if they reach a certain amount of stickers they get a prize.
You should then also determine the prize beforehand so that it is an established goal for the child. It could be getting to pick out a toy in the shop, picking a movie, getting their favorite meal, or anything else you come up with!
Find the Right Placement for the Chart
The last step is to put the sticker chart up, and it is important that it is somewhere visible, so that it remains present in the child’s mind. Usually, it is best placed in the kitchen, somewhere like on the fridge, or near the child’s bedroom door. Up to you!
Tips for Using a Sticker Chart
Here are some do and do not tips for when you are using the sticker chart with your child:
- Be extra perceptive of your child’s good behavior, and make sure to always praise it and reward it with a sticker! If it goes unnoticed, the sticker chart will stop being relevant.
- Reward them with a sticker straight away. If you wait too long to give out the sticker, the child will lose excitement, and it will not be as effective.
- Stay positive. If your child doesn’t get a sticker, give them plenty of encouragement so that they try a little harder to get one, or lower the expectations slightly so that they gain motivation.
- Stick to the reward system. Always keep your word on the prize that your child has earned, or else the sticker chart will mean nothing.
- Do not use rewards that are simple or that can be received in other ways. They need to be special so that earning stickers is the only way to get them.
- Do not use the sticker chart as a bribe. The child needs to want to earn stickers and should earn them by performing the tasks by themselves. Don’t go nagging them about how you will give them a sticker if they do a certain thing.
- Do not overuse the chart! There will always be bad behavior, so if you overuse the chart to try and eliminate all tantrums and uncompleted tasks, your child will see it as too “perfect” and might rebel against it! You have to allow for imperfections to have their space.