Change Your Child's Habits with a Simple Item that Costs Less than $1 to Make

Family Matters on 09.23.11
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Photo Credit: Sarah Fernandez

If you want your kids to volunteer to do things they normally won't ever do, give them a sticker. A sticker? Yes, it's true. For some reason--which I have not yet been able to determine in my five and a half years as a parent--kids respond to receiving stickers.  It seems so basic, and yet it works like magic in my house. Here's how we do it.

I use an Excel document to create a chart which lists the seven days of the week across the top. In the column farthest to the left, I list all of the things that the kids need to accomplish. The big ones for my son are brushing teeth, washing hair, and getting dressed by himself without a fight. Now that he's getting older, we've added putting dishes in the dishwasher and making his bed as well as some others. I kid you not when I say that my son who will happily get in the tub every night, but will only wash his hair with a giant fight about once a week if I'm lucky, has cheerfully asked me to help him wash his hair twice this week so that he could get a sticker. My daughter who is only two and a half has a more basic list which also includes brushing teeth and washing hair, but has a heavy focus on using the potty as well since she's potty training.

There are lots of sticker/magnetic charts on the market, but we've found the ones we make at home on the computer are much better. With the magnetic ones, I'm constantly trying to keep my daughter away from them because she just likes to take all the magnets off. Plus, for things like brushing teeth, they only give space for one sticker and because it's something the kids do twice a day, they want two stickers for it. It's great to be able to customize the chart to exactly what your child needs to work on the most.

The other benefit of the DIY Sticker chart is of course that it's free (other than the paper and ink it uses from your printer)! And you can give your kids exactly the stickers that will get them the most excited whether it is fire trucks, gold stars, or flowers. I bought a 200-pack of motivational stickers for 69 cents. Studies say it takes three weeks to form a habit so print out your three weeks worth of charts, and I guarantee you'll be well on your way to seeing the behavior and habits that you want in your children with little argument.

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