Are you a carrot and stick parent?
I never imagined I’d be one for carrot and stick parenting before I became a father, and realised just how effective it can be.
The most effective tool we have in our armoury at the moment is our sticker Star Chart – a concept many parents have explored, tried and found success with.
Jack has an opportunity to receive a sticker at the end of each day, or every couple of days, based on whether or not he is well behaved. Whenever we don’t give him a sticker, we’ll explain what the reason is. More often than not it’s a standout piece of bad behaviour we’d prefer him not to repeat.
Every ten stickers or so, Jack gets a small reward, such as an inexpensive toy, or some ‘pennies’ for his moneybox. Really, the quality of the reward means very little. It’s the anticipation of deprivation that appears to work so well.
In fact, this works so well, Jack will often highlight his own good behaviour verbally, before adding “can I have a sticker?” More often than not, he’ll loiter around the sticker board at about 5pm, waiting until he catches the eye of either me or my wife, before asking “can I have my sticker now?”
It wasn’t always this way though. I had been convinced for some time that Jack responded well to being told what behaviour is wrong and why. Quite often, this still works, and I’ve no doubt Jack understands when confronted why what he has done is isn’t good.
But few parents are fortunate enough to have raised completely, faultless angels, and for us, the reasoned approach failed on plenty of occasions.
Now though, you can almost see the thought of a sticker pass over his face as it dawns on him something he’s doing might stop him from getting one. This is especially true with apologies, which are quick to arrive, sincere and wracked with concern about the wronged person’s wellbeing.
I’m pretty certain this isn’t the only reason he shows concern, mind you. He has a fairly good ‘moral compass’. But in cases where he might be keen to ignore what we say, or carry on despite knowing its wrong, he definitely thinks twice.
Has the star chart worked for you, or is some other carrot and stick parenting technique more effective for your little ones?