A class without stickers! Are you kidding me? Part II



Many people use various reward systems for behavior issues. Sometimes we think handing a reward to each child that behaves will encourage the other kids to think about their behavior. The problem is most kids who misbehave are struggling with some type of issue. Kids of divorce are notorious for having behavior issues.

Let’s take a look at using rewards, (stickers) for behavior issues. When a child has non-compliant behaviors or unruly what is your intent?

Is your intent to discipline and disciple (teach) or is it to punish and manipulate?

When your intent to discipline and disciple it

  • Teaches and models the behavior you want
  • Is consistent
  • Is based on love
  • Focuses on cooperation
  • Sets clear expectations
  • Has boundaries in place
  • Introduces solutions
  • It is helpful to the child and the adult

When your intent is to punish and or manipulate

  • You want to make the child feel bad or hurt
  • Your rules are inconsistent
  • Most of your interactions are based on fear
  • You focus on bribes and intimidation to get the child to act right
  • There are unclear expectations
  • You expect the child to “just know”
  • You expect the child to “get it right”
  • Blame is emphasized
  • You focus more on what the child didn’t do
  • Your interactions are usually hurtful to the child and to yourself

What punishment and reward systems don’t teach

  • Punishment and reward systems don’t teach the child what happens as a result of their behavior.
  • They don’t teach or create self-control in children.
  • The child stays focused on what happens when I’m good.
  • If I’m good enough I’ll get a sticker. If I’m bad then I don’t get a sticker or I lose a sticker or I don’t get to do what the others are doing.

The focus becomes on what to do to please the adult in the situation.

  • When children rely on adult’s judgment day in and day out they come to depend on the judgment of others as a basis for their own moral decisions.
  • In other words, they don’t learn from their mistakes.
  • They only learn to focus on the adult that didn’t give them the sticker.
  • They grow up trying to figure out what others want from them. “How do I please everyone around me?
  • Rewards create other control.

This will be the girl that gets pregnant at fifteen or the boy that gets into drugs simply because they have no moral code of their own. They do what others want them to do because they don’t know how to think for themselves.

When children are allowed to experience the consequence of their choices, good or bad, or they are allowed to make a mistake and be responsible then they can begin to connect the two. In other words when a child can see the connection between their behavior and the result of that behavior, then learning has occurred.

Rewards and the brain

  • The brain works best when it feels safe.
  • It operates differently when there is a perceived threat. Keep in mind a perceived threat is simply that – the perception the child has.
  • When under threat of either not obtaining the reward and or getting punished, the brain reacts with increased blood flow and electrical activity in the brain stem, the survival part of the brain; the freeze, fight or fight part of the brain.
  • When the blood flow goes to the brain stem, there is decreased blood flow to the higher thought processing centers.
  • When the brain is in the survival mode it becomes less capable of planning, pattern-detection, organizing or learning. It is all about my survival and me.
  • The survival brain is reactive and fast. It doesn’t have time to figure out how to act in order to get a reward.

What are your expectations?

  • Do you want a classroom full of children that only do something to please you the adult?
  • Do you want a group of children that are learning for themselves?
  • Do you want a group of children who only come to church to please you?
  • Or do you want children to come to church because they truly want to worship and learn more about God and Jesus Christ?


Instead of bribing with rewards think about doing celebrations instead. A reward is essentially a bribe, “If you bring your Bible every week, you’ll get a sticker.” The child brings their Bible in order to get the sticker.

  • A celebration is something that marks the occasion.
  • A celebration is done to celebrate an accomplishment. Instead of telling the child he or she will get a sticker, why not some Sunday morning celebrate the fact that half the class brought their Bibles today? Everyone gets to celebrate the kids that brought their Bibles.
  • Celebrations are fun.
  • They are festive, a party of sorts and a way to praise what has been achieved.
  • It shouldn’t be announced before hand. It just is.

Let’s go back to Breeanna and her Bible from Part I. What if Breeanna did bring her Bible and instead of getting a bribe the teacher whooped and praised and said, “Okay then, let’s celebrate. Three kids brought their Bibles today. Who wants to be the first to read today’s verse out of their very own Bible?”

If you feel you will need to detox from giving out stickers, candies and stars, then hand them out to everyone in class.

There are so many things to celebrate

  • Celebrate the birth of Christ
  • Celebrate Easter and the risen Savior
  • Celebrate spring and new life
  • Celebrate fall and the changing of colors in nature
  • Celebrate new friends that have come to class
  • Celebrate when someone brings a new friend to class
  • Celebrate answered prayers

Celebrations can bring joy and happiness to the group, not intimidation to some children because they can’t be good enough!





3 thoughts on “A class without stickers! Are you kidding me? Part II

  1. Pingback: Should You Give Kids Rewards for Good Behavior? (Weekend Reading) - Hope 4 Hurting Kids

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