Rewarding good is easier than punishing bad

Recently my wife emailed me an article that said preschoolers respond well to charts and stickers as a means of positive reinforcement, so we’ve been giving it a try for the past 2 weeks and it seems to be paying off.

We have set up a simple system where The Girl gets a sticker when she does certain tasks. Full cooperation with her nightly routine (getting in and out of the bath, putting her pj’s on and brushing her teeth) earns her a sticker. Sleeping through the night in her own bed gets a sticker. If she does come down to our bed, crawling in quietly without waking anyone up also gets her a sticker. Fully cooperating with her morning routine (eating breakfast, picking clothes, getting dressed, etc.) also earns a sticker. Once she gets 10 stickers she gets a reward.

So far, we’ve done 2 rewards (a new bed for one of her dolls and a trip to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone). What we are planning to do for the rewards is write a bunch of them down on pieces of paper and stick them in a jar. Rewards run the gammut from the small like a package of gum or buying a piece of candy out of the vending machine after her swimming lessons, to medium rewards like getting a new book from the bookstore, to large like getting a new toy. To save our pocketbook (and to lower the risk of her expecting a big toy everytime she gets 10 stickers), we have way more small rewards than big. In fact, the buy a new toy is really the only big one. When she gets 10 stickers she can pick one from the jar.

It’s really amazing how much more cooperation we get with a bit of sugar than having to constantly bang our head against the wall and engage in a battle of wills to get the simple routine things done.

Bribery? Maybe so. But for the past 2 weeks we have had peace and cooperation in our house. And we have been laughing a heck of a lot more with each other than we had been in the previous month. And that, for all of us, is the real reward.

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