Thursday, May 25, 2017

In Defense of Sticker Charts

My kid will do anything for stickers.  It's crazy.

What is equally crazy is how often she receives new stickers.  I would estimate that she receives 5-20 new stickers each week. For example, last week, we went out to dinner at Olive Garden, and Millie received a sheet of 10 new "Italian Food" themed stickers, which included ---I am not making this up--- a cartoon breadstick.

Look at this guy.

At our house, I developed a very simple sticker chart to convert this gum-backed waste stream into something useful. We hang her chart on the fridge, and each time Millie does something really impressive, she gets a sticker.  Lately, we've been using the sticker chart to try and teach her to be more independent before the baby arrives.  The other morning, Millie woke up, dressed herself, went to the bathroom, WIPED HER OWN BUTT, and then played quietly until Sean got out of the shower.  He gave her an olive garden sticker. (I think it was a cartoon marinara sauce.)

Millie's Sticker Chart in Progress

My older sister Kelly has a son named Felix who is now nearing a year old,  and the other day I thoughtfully sent her an email, attaching the file for Millie's sticker chart, so that she can adapt it for her own use when the time is right. Worried, she sent me an email back and linked out to this article.  She had been reading the debate about sticker charts and wanted to know my perspective.

Here is my perspective:
WAIT. THERE IS A DEBATE ABOUT STICKER CHARTS? That's crazy.  That's like having a debate about whether the Cincinnati Zoo should continue posting pictures of Fiona the baby hippo on their instagram account. OF COURSE WE WANT TO SEE MORE PICTURES OF BABY FIONA. DID SHE GO SWIMMING IN A TINY HIPPO POOL TODAY? WE NEED TO KNOW. There cannot be two opinions about this.

So, judgy masses of moms on the internet.  Let me make a few points in defense of sticker charts.

1. Sticker charts help our kids, by encouraging them to wipe their own asses.  This is good for everyone. In our house, Millie doesn't expect a sticker every-time she does any good thing.  We reserve it for times she tries something new, or shows development in some way.  So, unless you plan on coming to my house and assisting my daughter every time she needs an ass-wiping, (which I can assure you is quite frequently,) or puts on her shoes (an activity that can inexplicably take 5 minutes or more, even though, you know,VELCRO.) I'll continue to incentivize her in the ways that are most effective.

2. Sticker charts can encourage good behavior from YOU too Parents. There are a number of incentives listed on Millie's chart, but it's all stuff I choose. Most of the stuff on there is wholesome crap I should be doing with her anyways-- trips to the playground, fishing trips, zoo, etc.. Millie earning these rewards makes sure I get my shit together and focus on doing some fun things for her sometimes.

3. Sticker charts can help kids earn indulgences, without expecting them daily.  I'm not a crazy strict mom, but I do not let Millie watch TV very often.  Truth be told, this is not just because of the dangers of excessive "screen time." It's also because she has terrible taste in TV shows.  Have you ever seen the new Ninja turtles show? It's fucking awful. It's basically just poorly animated mutant turtles screaming at each other, because their adoptive rat father was awesome at teaching them karate, but apparently sucked at helping them with their anger management issues. But, Millie loves it, and I don't want to totally isolate her from pop culture.  So occasionally, I let her earn the right to watch a TV show.  The same goes for candy (the only item people seem to give to my daughter in greater quantities than stickers.) Millie receives buckets of unsolicited candy at the following holidays: Halloween, Christmas, her Birthday, her friends' Birthdays, Valentines Day, Easter, Summer Solstice, Fourth of July, and United Postal workers Day. Of course she wants to eat it all, but I put it on her sticker chart, and she has to earn it, a few pieces at a time, until she forgets about it and I throw it all away.

I'm no child development expert, so I may be very, very wrong.  But I do have some expertise as a mom-who-absolutely-cannot-tolerate-wiping-any-more-asses-today. Based on my experience, I'm going on the record as Pro-sticker chart.  I think everyone should have one, including FIONA THE BABY HIPPO from the Cincinnati Zoo. Fiona's keepers, if you're reading this-- I'll mail you Millie's sticker chart, and-- to get you started-- I'll throw in a pack of Olive Garden stickers too.

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