April Moments

Maybe, just maybe, telling the story is just as important as the story itself

The sticker saga

If you don’t think the presence or absence of a measly sticker can make or break a 4-year-old’s day, you are wrong. Just ask my Elliot.

A few weeks ago, Elliot’s preschool class began a sticker chart in preparation for a field trip to the bowling alley.

To achieve the reward of the bowling trip, the children had to earn 14 out of 18 stickers over the course of a few weeks. To obtain the daily sticker, the children had to follow the classroom rules – obey the teachers, clean up when told, stay quiet at naptime and be kind to each other. Pretty basic, right? Well, apparently, when you’re 4, these requirements can become burdensome. I get it. Nobody likes to be told what to do all day long.

During the first few days of the challenge, Elliot was golden. He received his sticker every day, and, as far as I knew, he was behaving without any problems. Then, one day as I was in the office signing him in, his teacher told me that the past few days hadn’t gone well, and Elliot needed to earn his sticker every day for the rest of the sticker challenge, or else he wouldn’t be allowed to go bowling. This put Mike, Elliot and me into a sort of do-or-die mode.

Every day on the way to school, I would remind Elliot that if he didn’t earn his sticker, he would have to stay at school while the rest of his classmates went bowling. Grandparents and even one of my coworkers became curious about the sticker saga, asking, “Did Elliot get his sticker today?” When Mike or I picked up Elliot, he would beam with pride, “Guess what? I got my sticker today! I’m getting the hang of it!” Again, all seemed to be going well.

While there was a small scare the day before the challenge ended, Elliot achieved the sticker goal and participated in the bowling trip. Despite feeling a little under the weather that day, he had a great time. I must admit, I was relieved that the sticker saga was over!

A couple days later, Elliot told me, “We’re going to have a new sticker chart for the movie field trip.” Knowing his class was planning to see “The Lorax,” I simply replied, “Oh, really?”

Here we go again, I thought.

Thankfully, though, Elliot seems to have cracked the code of earning the daily sticker. While I still give him reminders, lengthy sticker discussions are no longer required.

Who knew a silly sticker could cause such drama? I have written before about my indifference toward Elliot’s teachers’ standard reward/consequence system that gives and takes away paper dollars. The sticker chart has definitely brought about some worrying on my part (and my husband’s), but I think it may work better than the dollar system, at least for Elliot.

What sorts of incentives work for your child(ren)?

Originally published on ovparent.com.

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