DAD BLOG: Sticking to stickers

We’ve decided to pay Derek in stickers.

Well, we’re not paying him. Rather, we’re doing what our pediatrician referred to as “positive reinforcement.”

If Derek brushes his teeth in the morning, he gets a sticker. He gets another if he brushes his teeth at night, too.

If Derek goes to bed without a fuss – bed time has been a bitch – he gets two stickers. If he eats his dinner, he gets a sticker. Same for if he puts his clothes away and gets dressed by himself. And he gets yet another for doing something special. The other night he helped me clear the table and do the dishes. A few nights later he vacuumed his room without being asked.

If Derek collects enough stickers by the end of the week – at least 50 – he gets a special treat on Sunday. Maybe it’s some ice cream or a trip to McDonald’s or a visit to a bounce house in Tampa.

I was against this at the start. Rewarding a kid for brushing his teeth? I was afraid that would create a sense of entitlement, that Derek would grow up expecting someone to throw him a dollar every time he tied his shoes.

Then I thought about the positives. First, this creates good habits. Yes, Derek brushes his teeth and puts his dirty clothes in the hamper because he wants to be rewarded. But if he does those things often enough, they’ll become automatic.

And then there’s the idea of earning something. My first job was working as a summer recreation counselor one summer, and it may have paid something like $160 for the whole season. But when I bought something for the first time with the money I had earned, I felt euphoric. If Derek wants to spend his Sundays doing something fun, he’ll have to earn it.

It’s worked well so far. We keep a chart on the fridge, and Christina and I are strict when it comes to handing out stickers. Tuesday night, for example, Derek kept coming out of his room after bedtime.

Sorry, bud – you just cost yourself a couple of stickers.

We’re going to stick to it, and we’re sure Derek will, too.

He’ll have to. Because in our house, there is no such thing as a free Happy Meal.

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