Star charts for teenagers

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Wednesday 11th January 2012

The shelves of my local bookshop are groaning with parenting guides. They range from Potty Training in One Week (I’m not at all convinced!) to Divas and Dictators: The Secrets to Having a Much Better Behaved Child. When my children were little I bought lots of titles like these, before chucking them (the books, I mean) aside and realising I was better off muddling through the parenting minefield without their advice.

The one thing I never understood was the idea that parents should reward good behaviour by putting stars and smiley stickers on a special chart. I tried it a few times but my independent-minded duo refused point-blank to go along with this idea for a second. Even at the age of four or five they couldn’t care less about sparkly stars.

I was so aghast at my failure that when I interviewed childcare expert Professor Tanya Byron a few years back I asked what she thought. To my utter relief she admitted that sticker charts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

“The big error in parenting is that we give too much attention to the behaviour we don’t want and not enough to the behaviour we do,” she said. “Sticker charts are very good for getting parents to focus on specific activities for specific periods of time. But to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever done sticker charts with my kids. They once did a grumpy Mummy, nice Mummy sticker chart for me though – only I took the stickers and stuck all the smiley ones on.”

Phew. That made me feel an awful lot better. My daughter’s twenty now but I’d love to see my son’s face if I suggested a teenage sticker chart. He’d get a smiley face if he tidied up his room, switched off the bathroom light and brought his washing down. Somehow I don’t think it’ll catch on…

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