So I am trying to create a "Sticker Reward System" for my 3 year old son. The idea is that he accumulates stickers as a reward for doing tasks and being self reliant and when he accumulates sufficient stickers, he can trade them in for rewards. How do I do this? I mean what should be appropriate awards? I am looking for constructive things -- not a bunch of cookies and TV.

asked 16 Oct '09, 00:29

Gosia's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 22 Oct '09, 00:21

Rewards are nice, but I think it's important to keep in mind the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. This is especially true if you're rewarding your child for things you see as standard (not excellent) behavior.

Joel Spolsky has a great discussion of different motivation types related to the workplace, but I think a similar principle applies to children.

Your son already wants to make you happy, show him that being self-reliant makes you very happy and proud of him. If you start giving rewards instead, I think you'll confuse him about the reasons he should be doing tasks and being self-reliant. He'll think he's being good to earn rewards, not because it is the right thing to do.


answered 16 Oct '09, 15:41

Brien's gravatar image

accept rate: 11%

I didn't expect Joel Spolsky references to appear here! What could be the reason that so many of us fanboys are on this particular parenting forum? :-)

(22 Oct '09, 08:12) Paul Stephenson

The key to setting up these systems is that you have clear, concrete goals and clear rewards.

  1. What are the behaviours you are rewarding? As I mentioned these should be concrete (e.g. peeing in the potty, sitting at the table throughout dinner) but also easily attainable.
  2. Set the a chart in a visible place so your son can see it. At 3 years old if it's not visible they will forget it.
  3. Make sure the reward (sticker) immediately follows the behaviour. Especially at such a young age, if you delay the reward your son is less likely to associate it with the good behaviour.
  4. Plan rewards with your son. All children are different, what are the things that he values?
  5. Finally consider that setting up a sticker chart with a child so young is going to be a challenge because of the delayed gratification. The sticker itself (and only if your son likes stickers) will really be the reward. It will be difficult for them to understand that they have to earn so many stickers to get their prize.

Here's a good reference to give you more information


answered 16 Oct '09, 00:51

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Tammy ♦♦
accept rate: 18%


Great comments! I think that sticker / reward systems can work more effectively in enviroments where children can compare themselves to each other like pre-school nursery or playgroups, than at home, because it can seem less challenging / exciting for them.

(16 Oct '09, 20:44) Emi

Actually I was trying to minimize whining. I guess I have made a mistake in the past and always offered him help when he had hard time lets say putting on his slippers. Now he doesn't want to do things for himself. I tried various methods. None of them worked. Until I tried to use stickers to motivate him to dress up, brush his teeth etc. I was shocked with what speed he did all these things. So I am looking at using this system but in organized manner and do not want to make mistakes while setting it up.

(22 Oct '09, 00:19) Gosia

The only rewards we give our children (18m & 3y) for a behaviour we appreciate are "Congratulations" and a big sincere smile (sometimes with a hug). They are very happy with this.


One point about this is that children do want to cooperate (as said by John Gray in Children Are from Heaven). We just want to encourage this natural inclination.

The other point is that I refuse to make the apology of stuff by giving stuff rewards.


answered 16 Oct '09, 09:03

mouviciel's gravatar image

accept rate: 7%

edited 17 Oct '09, 14:48

We do the same at this stage but I understand that some children and behaviours are not as easy as others.

(16 Oct '09, 11:34) Tammy ♦♦

Giving stickers they can trade for something else is really no different from giving money. I'm not saying it's bad idea but you have to be extremely careful what you give reward for. You certainly don't want to "pay" your child for washing their hands before mealtime, eating their vegetables or so.


answered 16 Oct '09, 01:02

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accept rate: 0%

Hello Lubos, and welcome to moms4mom! If you have a moment, please read about our "Back It Up" Principle: Everyone has opinions, but we are only interested in opinions backed up with references or personal experience. Would you be able to edit this answer and offer some references? Thanks!

(16 Oct '09, 01:10) Tammy ♦♦

@Tammy - I see absolutely nothing wrong with this answer, and I see no reason why lubos should have to modify it.

(16 Oct '09, 17:22) Graeme

@Graeme The answer is an opinion. He does not make reference to his personal experience or provide a reference for why stickers or any other "payment" is bad.

(16 Oct '09, 21:13) Tammy ♦♦

@Graeme: It seems quite clear to me. "You certainly don't want to pay your child for washing their hands before mealtime, eating their vegetables or so." Why? I'm not saying it's wrong, but it's a statement with no evidence (even anecdotal) to support it. It's not misleading, so I wouldn't vote it down, and it's not abusive, so nobody will delete it, but if lubos modifies it in the way Tammy has suggested, it will be more helpful, and helpful answers get voted up.

(17 Oct '09, 00:00) Scott ♦♦

Chuck E. Cheese has a few different reward charts you can use for different things like cleaning your room, brushing your teeth, being good at the dinner table, etc. After the cart is full, you can take it in and get 10 free tokens. We've had good success getting our 2 year old in the habit of doing these things. We just made sure that she knew the reason she was getting a sticker on the chart was for the certain thing. There were times where she didn't get a sticker too because she didn't do whatever. I think that helped her to recognize that the reward was related to when she did well.


answered 16 Oct '09, 15:49

jeffl8n's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

Thanks that was helpful. It gave me some ideas.

(22 Oct '09, 00:14) Gosia

We've tried a number of approaches. Some rewards we've had, apart from simply the praise and stickers themselves:

  • a special trip to the play park (or other enjoyable cost-free activity)
  • the child gets to choose what the family has for dinner (perhaps from a list of two or three options)
  • the family has a takeaway for dinner and the child gets to choose which one (fish & chips, Indian, Chinese, etc.)

Our focus has been both that the whole family shares in the success of the child, and also that it is not competitive between siblings -- it's not "who has the most stickers" but rather "when your personal chart is full, you get to choose the dinner".

We've experimented with loads of variants over the years, always coupled with as much attention and praise as we could muster. It's not an easy area for us.


answered 22 Oct '09, 08:28

Paul%20Stephenson's gravatar image

Paul Stephenson
accept rate: 4%

Paul thank you so much those are great ideas. My little boy loves sushi and always wants some at home or wants to go out to a sushi restaurant. He would truly consider that a great reward.

(24 Oct '09, 01:27) Gosia
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Asked: 16 Oct '09, 00:29

Seen: 9,594 times

Last updated: 22 Oct '09, 08:28