It’s a tactic used to get children to do what they have been asked, but one psychologist has highlighted the negative effects of using a sticker chart.
Basically, a sticker chart involves your child getting a sticker every time the desired behaviour is achieved.
Despite its popularity, psychologist Erica Reischer writes in an article published in The Atlantic that the problem isn’t that they don’t work: the problem is “they can work too well”.
“Sticker charts are powerful psychological tools, and they can go beyond affecting children’s motivation to influence their mindset and even affect their relationship with parents,” writes Reischer.
In what Reischer calls a “reward economy”, children learn to exchange desired behaviours for rewards and can become “hesitant to give anything away for free” – including pro-social behaviours like “helping, cooperating, and sharing.”
In fact, previous research has found children who have used rewards systems were less generous.
So what can you do instead? Positive Discipline Educator, Kelly Bartlett suggests the following.
Make the task fun. Turn it into a game.
Offer a choice. When asking your child do something break the task down and limit their choices.
Validate their feelings. Offer empathy while showing you have faith in them. Say things like, “I know you can do this.”
Communicate. Ask your child what would make doing this job easier, but also take the time to model the behaviour while checking they understand.