I admit, as a first time mom, navigating a strong-willed toddler is something I had no idea how to navigate. I’ve sat in business meetings, negotiated my rate, and strong willed some of the toughest people. Hey, I’m a Taurus, what do you expect? But living day in and day out with a toddler so similar to myself was eye-opening.
I struggled with behavioral consistency. In the morning, I would be as strict as a ship captain. By the end of the day, I would say, “do whatever you want to do”.
My “ah-ha” moment came when I discovered sticker charts.
One of the reasons I love social media so much is the connections we can make with one another. I had asked my community of parents on Instagram what is the best way to keep a toddler seated for meal times. A lot of the responses were funny but one really clicked. One mom suggested sticker charts. So I did a little bit of research and headed over to Michaels for some supplies. I got construction paper, stickers, a ruler, and a sharpie. I made 88 squares and listed his responsibilities I expect from him every day. Our sticker chart is a month sticker chart but if you scroll to the bottom, you will find some templates for weekly sticker charts or you can create your own like I did.
I’m not big on toddler punishment
Punishing a child, in my opinion, is the quick fix. If a toddler does something wrong once and they’re immediately punished, they have no idea what they did wrong. A toddler needs an explanation for what they did and why it was wrong. Cash just turned 4 and I want him to be his own human. I want him to learn right and wrong, his likes and dislikes, etc. I want him to know that if he jumps off a high rock, he’s going to fall and hurt himself. Growing up, my parents expected me to “do as I was told”. So I couldn’t experience life on my own. This led to a lot of questions when I was older and soul searching for who I was as an individual. There are definitive things I expect of him like listening, being kind to others, and sitting down during mealtimes. If he wants to make a mess, go ahead and make the mess, but you are responsible for cleaning it up.
There’s less punishment in the real world
Unless you’re getting caught by the cops, there isn’t going to be a parent disciplining your every mistake. There will be consequences for your mistakes but no one is going to tell you to go sit in time out. My point is, I want to raise Cash to be a successful human. To make his own decisions without me hovering over him.
On a side note, I have the sweetest story about Cash’s good choices. We were at my Grandpa’s funeral and he was running around with his cousins. They all stopped at the food table to grab a snack. They all assumed they were unsupervised so most grabbed a sugary cookie or dessert. But I watched Cash and he grabbed a carrot and some grapes. My heart was so full with joy. He made a decision on his own to choose the healthier option. I wouldn’t have gone over there and said no had he grabbed a cookie but seeing that he can make good choices on his own is very reassuring.
That’s why I decided on a toddler sticker chart for positive reinforcement
If I’m not going to punish him for bad behavior, I need to praise him for good behavior. And if you’re wondering, there are still those occasions where Cash gets in trouble for doing something he knows is wrong. But for the most part, he’s a great kid who listens.
This is a picture of Cash’s sticker chart. Every night we evaluate his behavior on all the things listed on the left side of the column. Once he gets a full sheet of stickers, he gets something special. During our nightly evaluation, I ask him if he “listened well today” or if he “sat down during breakfast”. We have a conversation about it and he’ll get a sticker if he did. If he didn’t do well in a certain category, I tell him there’s room for improvement and we can work on it more tomorrow. I initially had high hopes he would succeed at all things every day so I wrote the days on top. But going forward, I think it’s best to leave that part blank and just do a collective line of stickers.
Cash gets so excited to put his stickers on at night, he reminds me every day. He doesn’t even know that he gets something special at the end! He feels accomplished at the end of the day when he see’s his hard work pay off. Sound like anyone you know? I certainly love when my hard work is acknowledged!
Sticker Chart Printables
All you have to do is save them and print! A couple of the spaces are left blank so you can write in your own behavior tasks