Home » Lame-Ass Sticker Chart: Don’t Knock It, ‘Til You Try It

Lame-Ass Sticker Chart: Don’t Knock It, ‘Til You Try It

So I don’t want to terrify any of you “newish” parents but THREE IS THE WORST!


At least until 13-ish.

Anyway, Mac, I’m happy to report, seems to be developmentally on track:  meaning he’s continually whining, crying, resisting, bargaining, and generally attempting to get his world to work FOR HIM everyone else be damned.

And it’s lead to some moments I’m not proud of.. .There’s been a little screaming on my part and the threats. . .Don’t even get me started on the threats.

Earlier this week after a particularly horrific episode involving what he was wearing to soccer skills, (Him:  underwear and one sock and a “blanket for the car.”  Me:  You MUST wear pants and shoes at a minimum.) which spiraled into a bitter power struggle of hitting, screaming, time outs, undressing and redressing, elevated blood pressure, taking away of all treats and privileges, I felt HORRIBLE about my parenting.

Mac finally collapsed in my arms, holding me close, and said, “I feel sad.”

Me too, honey.  Me too.

Mac and me?  We’re a lot alike.  So it’s really easy for us to push one another’s buttons.  Things can escalate rapidly.  And while I’m pretty good at remaining relatively calm, I realized I was still becoming too emotional at certain points, making everything worse.

But how could I take the emotion out of these confrontations?  How could I get Mac to go along with the program?  We were already offering him as many choices as possible to let him feel as if he had some power of the situation.  Sometimes I try humor to diffuse a situation but it rarely works for me.  (Or maybe I don’t use it soon enough?)

So I started to pay more attention. . .to our problem interactions:  

And I realized, frequently, I was saying the same thing over and over and over in an increasingly loud tone.  “Please use the potty.  We have to get ready.  Please use the Potty.  Mac!  Now please?!”

I NEED a way to ask once and only once.  

Repeating was not working and making me, if not him too, really annoyed.  Plus, it was giving him “power” I didn’t want him to have.  All that asking was putting all my attention on him – which he craves, even if it’s negative attention.

And the TREATS?  Oh my word, he wants a TREAT for every.  damned.  thing.  I was getting REALLY sick of using “treats” as currency.  Plus, the treats were diminishing my authority.  He wasn’t doing something because I asked, he was doing it because there might be a treat involved.

What to do?  

He listens to his teachers at school.  He’s great at soccer.  In fact, the very day we had that epic battle before soccer, his coach pulled me aside to praise Mac for being such a wonderful listener and mature for his age.



I know Mac is eager to please and he’s always very proud of himself when he is a good helper.  Yet, at home, I often don’t give him opportunities to be a helper.  Often we’re too rushed to tackle chores together or the chores are actually punitive.  (Intentionally and spitefully dump cereal on the floor?  Clean it up!)

What I needed was a way to make the attention I’m giving him be more positive.  Of course, I always look for ways to “catch him being good.”  Still, because he’s three, a typical day involves ten episodes of negative attention and maybe 2 episodes of praise for stellar behavior.  And with odds like that, chances are he barely remembers the positive praise.  (I have a hard time myself sometimes.)

So we’re trying something new:  A visual reminder of all the positive things he does every day.  We’re trying a GOOD WORK!  GRID.

It’s a lame-ass sticker chart. . .but so far, by gawd, it’s working.

It clearly lists his responsibilities for every day of the week.  The basics stay the same:  getting ready in the mornings, evening routine. . .Some days have extras.

Turns out Mac loves helping me unload the dishwasher and cook.  (I know this because I asked him how he liked to help our family work as a team).  So a couple days of the week he can earn stickers by doing this.

To encourage kindness towards Teddy, he can also earn a sticker by reading a book to Teddy a couple of times a week.

Each day as several blank “BONUS” spots that Chris and I can use to encourage compliant behavior in a pinch.

And each week has 2 other overarching goals:  Puts shoes on himself, hangs up coat, etc.

Mac understands that when he does good work, he’ll get to put a sticker on his Good Work Grid.  The chart is prominently displayed on our refrigerator.  Mac also understands that when he earns 100 stickers, he can get a new book. (He LOVES books.)

(That might sound daunting, but based on the chart, if Mac is 100% in his good work, it works out to about 2 new books per month.)

As soon as I showed him the chart the other day, he was practically quivering with delight.  “Mac can get new books!  Mac can get stickers and books!”

I’m not sure how well this will work long term, but if it does work, I can see how this would be a nice way to transition him into understanding teamwork, making informed decisions, allowances and spending habits.  . .

We’ll see?

Meanwhile, I am personally praying I have to BUY OUT BARNES & NOBLE. . .because this Momma’ still has 6 more months before the tyrranical three-year-old turns four. . .


Doing some good work. . .or plotting his next coup

Doing some good work. . .or plotting his next coup