The Power Of The Sticker
Parents and educators alike, you’ll appreciate this one.
A sticker goes a long way. Back in my full-time piano teaching days, I was constantly stocking up on stickers. You practice, you get a sticker. Play well, have a sticker. Listen, sticker. I didn’t give these things away for doing nothing, oh no! You had to EARN that sticker. It’s amazing what a little piece of tacky paper can do for a child.
I’m not big on rewarding kids, and I’m not big on punishing them either. I like to meet somewhere in the middle. (Falls right into place of my whole motto: Everything in Moderation. See My First Blog .) Kids are spoiled when they’re given something for doing nothing, when it comes to anything, really. When it comes to actually earning something, well, that’s a different story. Reward all the way! Positive reinforcement definitely is more effective than criticism, at least with the children I’ve known in my lifetime. I find stickers have a lot more meaning when they’re actually earned.
We go to doctors’ offices, play centers, libraries, visiting friends…my children often come home with stickers. In this house, a sticker means you’ve done something great, or you’ve been a “good girl or boy” and you’re welcome to a “prize”. Not all the time, but not never. Moderation. You see, if kids get stickers all the time, the value decreases. They aren’t as special. I’ve seen what mass production can do for kids. With my students, they could get stickers anytime, anywhere. What good were my special piano glitter-infested stickies when they got them all the time?! I have to say, it’s all in the delivery. Enthusiasm matters most whether the sticker is solid gold or torn & tattered.
The sticker wouldn’t be so popular if they were, in fact, just given away. Sure, parents can buy them, teachers can use them, anyone at all can reward a child. We all must be doing a pretty good job of dispensing these rewards. And we all should. Seems like it’s not such a big deal, a little sticker. But heck, I’m writing an entire post about it! But what it stands for is the true beauty of the sticker. A sense of accomplishment. A good deed done. A thank-you. Children need that in their daily lives. I often think of the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer…great movie. (I’m a sucker for gifted-kid-genius movies!) If you haven’t seen it, skip to the next paragraph in case of spoiler…throughout the film, the main character/child wants so badly to receive a certificate his instructor deems the ultimate prize. He yearns for that super special certificate, only to be told it’s a mere copy & he’s not so special after all. A terribly mean thing to do to a child. His instructor had a real “jerk” moment & in turn, took all that magic away. LIVE THE MAGIC. Give the children around you something to believe in, something to work toward. Stickers can help do that (along with Santa and the Easter Bunny :)).
Crazy post, I know, but it’s the little things sometimes. Around here, we use the back of Tavia’s drawing pad as a place to collect the stickers she’s earned. Maybe it’s from finishing a page in her workbook, or a chiropractic adjustment…lots of different reasons. She can see her developing collage and reflect on the when & where of each sticker. It’s pretty amazing how much she remembers! Sometimes I need that sticky cardboard montage to remind her of the how & why. How & why are we a good girl? How & why do we behave in an appropriate manner? It’s a win-win! (*Sidenote: We don’t reward for going on the potty or eating a meal, things like that which are daily routine activities. To me, that’s mixing the lines between deserving and earning. And, let’s face it, it isn’t reality to be rewarded for something we are supposed to do, something that’s not above & beyond, something special.)
What encouraging tidbit to you use to teach your children & students? With a two year-old, I’m always looking for new ways to avoid criticism & punishment. Don’t like to do that here. We want to reinforce the good rather than harp on the bad. Good idea?