I do not have all the answers when it comes to behavior management. Let me say that again. I do not have all the answers when it comes to behavior management. But I can say this – stickers do not work.
When we try to teach kids how to act, and react, we have to keep in mind the long term effects. We want to be teaching kids to do the right things because they are the right things to do. We want to build people that have an internal moral compass that guides them to make good choices BECAUSE they are good choices, NOT because we are paying them.
Paying them is a broad term, because we pay them in lots of ways. We pay them with praise, stickers, marbles in a jar, stars, candy, extra minutes at recess – you name it. We do this because we are at a loss for a better way. This is bribery, plain and simple. It is done with the best intentions, and we often see short term benefits. The kids get quiet, they stay in their seats, etc. But the fact is, they are doing it FOR the payment. They are concentrated on the prize, and when the prize is gone, they no longer have any reason to do it. When no one is “paying” them to take turns, be kind, or listen, they are left with a poorly developed internal motivation. Instead, we have been feeding the bribery center in their brain.
So please, please, please, stop with the stickers. Children should be taught precisely what we want them to do, and we should help them to recognize feelings of pride for doing good things well. I don’t have all the answers, but stickers don’t work.