Sticker Charts

By Ryk Goddard
The following article has been reprinted with permission from the December-January 2011 edition of Kiwi Parent Magazine.

Consumerism is not caused by greed or advertising. Its not caused by free market economics and the idea of perpetual growth. Consumerism is driven by sticker charts.

I know this because we toilet trained our daughter on sticker charts and yes it is true kids will do anything for a sticker. She got one for every wee and 2 for a poo. At the end of the week if she had 20 she got a treat. Good system. Worked well.

But there is a dark side.

We’d been out, both kids had behaved well. In the car I said, I’m really proud of how you behaved tonight. And my 3 year old daughter says “what do I get?”

ummm…. my respect?

Oh she says gutted. Can I have a sticker?

No

A treat?

No

Watch more TV?

No

What’s respect Daddy?

Ummm…. what young people today don’t have any of?

The problem with positive parenting is we reward good behaviour with things. This means every time someone does well they expect a thing.

This makes good behaviour a commodity driven economy.

And this means that wont they wont have any of is respect.

Respect used to be beaten into people – if you didn’t behave right and fit in you would either be bullied, humiliated, spanked or fired depending on the environment.

Conforming to the rules and getting on with people was rewarded with NOT being rejected or beaten up. That warm feeling of relief we call respect.

I’ve done good so therefore I will not have bad things happen to me.

I’m not saying that’s a better world. But it’s a carbon neutral, cost-free low emissions economy.

Rewarding positive behaviour leads to a sense of entitlement. I’ve done good so therefore I should get something good.

Fast-forward to the workplace and you can see why young people have no respect. They know in their hearts that if they wee in the right place they will get a sticker. Well imagine what they expect for finishing a sales report on time.

Fast-forward to politics and you can see that if you want me to vote for you you’d better tell me what I’m going to get.

Fast forward to relationships and you get: “Shall I compare thee to a summers day?” “No verily thou shalt buy me an I-tunes voucher and a ring.”

Fast-forward to them being parents standing around wondering who’s going to give them a prize for getting up ten times in the night.

If we train our kids to rely on external rewards for basically behaving like a decent person we’re creating a future of venal, selfish, divorced people who’ll incur massive credit card debt because they need to be constantly reminded they are a good person by getting more things, requiring more manufacturing and more power to run them leading to increased global warming and the collapse of civilization.

Thankfully in highly populous Asian counties they still have concepts like duty, respect for elders and doing right by the family. If we want a sustainable global future we have to make sure parents in China and India never get on to sticker charts.

This doesn’t solve the problem of reclaiming respect in our own positive parenting sticker driven economy. How do you teach someone to do right by others if they aren’t going to get punished by their peers, parents, God or their own sense of guilt for doing otherwise?

And that’s why we created the STICKERMONSTER. If you’re bad he’ll come, in the night and steal your stickers. And the more stickers you have the more likely he is to GET YOU. But conversely if you do stuff because we ask you and get nothing, the sticker monster can never find you.

Got a better idea? Let me know at Rykgoddard@internode.on.net

Ryk Goddard is a father of two and is an expat Kiwi based in Hobart. He works as radio presenter for ABC Radio, writer, comedian and actor. He has two parenting series online; sneaking off to my shed and blogdaddy.

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