Friday, 29 March 2013
The magic of stickers
I know, I know, I have been blogging a lot less lately and I keep having inspired ideas about what to write about…and then I forget them. So I apologize for slacking on the blogging lately but life is busy!
I’ve come to a new realization about parenting toddlers…. Having a baby is physically exhausting – you spend a lot of time carrying them around, lifting them in and out of their cribs, and if your child is anything like me, you have many sleepless nights. But having a two-year-old is mentally exhausting – they may be more physically independent but their burgeoning language, social and motor skills require you to always be “on.”
When my son was a baby, when my brain was tired I could tune him out…plop him in his high chair with some Cheerios or set him up with some toys and just ignore him for awhile. Now I’m sleeping better (hurray!) and I spend far less time carrying him and attending to his physical needs – but I am constantly in behaviour modification mode. We talk and chatter, he tries daring new things like flushing the toilet or reaching into the cutlery drawer to find himself a knife, I have to reward his good behaviour and manage his not-so-good behaviour. Ignoring him and tuning him out is simply not an option. Because if he’s being quiet, you can bet he’s up to no good. It’s freaking exhausting!
In an effort to try and understand the psyche of a two-year-old and see how I could best navigate this golden age, I read the book by Dr. Harvey Karp “The Happiest Toddler on the Block.” I must say that Dr. Karp provides some very interesting ideas. They’re far from revolutionary and definitely nothing new, but it’s nice to have a summary of ideas for communicating with a toddler, managing tantrums and encouraging good behaviour. And since implementing some of these ideas, I have to say – they work!
One of the tried and true methods I decided to implement this week is the infamous sticker chart. The idea is that you want to encourage and reward existing good behaviours and teach new ones. One thing that we have been trying to teach my son is to clean up after himself, especially following a throw-everything-on-the-floor rampage. Those little scenes had been happening more than I care to admit recently and both my husband and I agreed that it was time to get him to clean up his act.
So taking a cue from Dr. Karp, I purchased a whole whack of stickers, drew up a chart with three behaviours that I want to encourage – two of which my son already does fairly well, but that I want to continue to encourage and one new one. The three things are hand washing, tooth-brushing and cleaning up. So since Monday, every morning before we leave for daycare, I tell my son it’s time to do our “sticker stuff.” We go wash his hands, brush his teeth, and then clean up whatever mess he has made in the two hours he’s been awake. Let me tell you, this thing works like a charm!
I will admit that the first two days, he was not interested in cleaning up but with repeated promises of stickers, he grudgingly did it. After seeing his accumulated stickers posted on the chart on the fridge, he started getting really excited. Now he loves sticker time! Heck, we’ve even thrown in a bonus sticker for when we want him to do something else, like finish his dinner.
What a cheap and easy way to motivate good behaviour! Obviously, I’m far from the first to do this and it’s not revolutionary by any stretch. But I’m pretty amazed that it actually works. At first my husband was worried about this being too close to bribery. But I don’t see it that way. It’s motivational – aren’t we motivated by incentives after all? Points and loyalty programs, bonuses at work…you get the picture. I don’t think giving stickers for good behaviour are going to spoil my child. Especially if you consider that we had started to go down the old “if you stop crying, I’ll give you chocolate” route! Now that is bribery.
So to come back to my original point, things are just busy around our house these days because we are always in teaching mode. It’s hard but at this stage of life we just can’t let our guard down if we want to teach our child to behave well. There is so much more that we have to do on a regular basis than just giving stickers, but this small win has made me feel like this week, I’m doing something right.
…ask me how I feel next week!
What are some of the methods you use to encourage good behaviour with your children?