Community Psychiatric Centers
Monroeville, Greensburg, Monessen, and Wilkinsburg Pittsburgh

September 11, 2023

Seven Tips For Making A Sticker Chart Work

Sticker charts can be an invaluable resource. Kids love to get stickers, which are inexpensive, highly motivating, and can be used numerous times throughout the day or week. From my professional and personal experience, I have seen first-hand how kid’s eyes light up when they earn stickers (with an opportunity to cash in for some later reward).

However, sticker charts have their drawbacks. They can be cumbersome - parents rarely stick with them beyond a few weeks. It can be tough to figure out how many stickers to give before a reward is provided. And you may wonder, how often should stickers be earned and allocated in the first place? All good questions! Here are some answers and guidelines to a successful sticker or reward chart:

Tips For Success With a Sticker Chart:

  1. Before setting up a sticker chart, count how many times the problematic behavior is occurring per day (for example, hitting their brother). The child would then earn a sticker once every three hours if he has not hit his brother.
  2. Stickers are ‘cashed in’ or redeemed for a larger or more desired reward.
  3. Establish an ‘economy’ whereby the child has to earn at least 70% of all possible stickers to earn the ‘top prize’. However, they may earn lesser-valued items for some success.
  4. Remember: the rewards do not have to be items or toys! They can be a favorite food or special treat, an episode of their favorite show, or doing a favorite activity with them, like going to the park or playing a game. 
  5. Keep charts simple! Track no more than two or three targeted behaviors.
  6. One of the targeted behaviors should be very easy to follow, and easier to earn a sticker completing.
  7. Children younger than five years need stickers allocated at least two or three times per day, sometimes every hour in the beginning. At that age, stickers need to be cashed in at least once per day for a reward. Thereafter, rewards can be cashed in twice a week, moving toward once per week over time. The shorter intervals help keep up the younger child’s dedication to following the chart.

What About Older Kids?

Children older than 12 tend to prefer ‘point charts’ (child earns points, rather than stickers) that are added to determine if the reward is earned). Variations abound and include marbles being placed in a jar when chores are complete; if a child earns all seven jars in a week, then a weekly reward is given. Or, a marble in the jar determines if their favorite show can be viewed that evening.

Point charts are highly effective and motivating. Give them a try! Don’t worry if you only stick with it for a few weeks. In fact, you can tell your child that this “contract” (i.e. the sticker chart) is for only a few weeks until a desired reward is earned. Then you can feel free to take a break for a week or two and regroup. Also, don’t forget to get softer and closer with your child

In Summary….

Sticker Charts can be a very helpful tool in raising children. All you need is to follow the tips above, and of course, stickers! Here is a link to a basic sticker pack, but all you really need is a piece of paper to draw a chart, and stickers of any kind. God bless you and your little ones this fall. If you do try out a reward or sticker chart with your kiddos, feel free to leave a comment.

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