28 answers

Stickers at Preschool

Recently we have been struggling with our 4 year old and his behavior.. He is in 5 day 3 hours a day preschool and he loves going sometimes.. Lately he has been struggling to get that coveted sticker at the end of the day. At first the teacher said that he totally knows he is doing the wrong thing because as soon as he does it he says oh oh i did not mean to do that.. now he just does it and goes along his business thinking it wont matter. The teacher said she thinks some of that is the influence from less mature students showing him bad behaviors and they look cool so why not .. BUT it seems he is the one that is caught and does not get the sticker not the ones that obviously do it wrong.. I totally get accountability from him and the teacher but wow what do we do..

we have tried taking about toys that are his favorite.. the 30 minutes of tv that we allow a day gone, earlier bed times, no treats and you know the list but none seem to work..

He is smart and knows all the answers to questions that you ask him but he struggles to sit in a seat for long periods of time.. I worry about down the road issues with that but right now we would just like to see him consistantly listen and behave.. And it is not like the behaviors that he is doing are all that terrible but the tears and sobbing fests of no STICKER are just killing me.. Any thoughts?

1 mom found this helpful

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Featured Answers

Part of it is 4 y.o. boy--trust me, I have one.

Instead of using punishment, how about a carrot? Like if you get stickers all week, you get a trip to the __________ ice cream? pizza? bakery?

Just an idea.

We have had better luck with the carrot method.


I had that problem with my son who is now 8. The stickers did not work for him, as not receiving one caused a meltdown. What we did was break th day into 30 min to 1hr intervals, depending on what works best for him and the teacher. Each interval he was able to behave appropriately he was rewarded points. If he had a successful day which I think was 120 points he was rewarded. If he had an unsucessful day there was no reward BUT he was able to see where he went wrong and correct the beahvior with a chance of still receiving a reward. I hope this helps.

I agree with with the other mom's out there. As a former teacher, and mother of 3 (ages 4,1, 3weeks) it is important to catch them being good and reward that too. Maybe you can break the day down into it's parts (circle time, story time, free play...) or time incriments and ask the teacher to give him a stamp/smiley face on a chart for each part he is good and you give him a sticker at the end of the day for a certain # of stamps. Then slowly increase the # of stamps he needs for a sticker. It may help to show him he can be good, and when he tries it is rewarded. I have a similar system at home for my 4yr old for his daily responsibilities at home and it works well for us.

Good luck,
C. G

More Answers

Okay, I'm a little unclear on what your son is doing "wrong" at school...except not being able to sit in a seat for long periods of time. Personally, I don't think it's necessarily productive for a four year to sit still while being bossed around for hours at a time.

His "behavior" (at least as I understand it) sounds perfectly normal, and frankly very, very healthy. I should confess that I'm a huge proponent of althernative methods of education (like Montessori) for this reason. I think learning should be fun and exciting and that some children HAVE to move in order to think. Just as some adults do. Children are just little people, and even though I was always a very good student, I have discovered that I am ten times more productive in any environment where I am not forced to sit still, etc. There are hundreds of real world jobs that do not involve "sitting still", and it scares me that too many children are being pathologized (and drugged!) for things like ADD or ADHD, when their only "problem" is that their personalities do not mesh with the very narrow views of personality and conduct as defined by public educators.

Secondly, unless his conduct at school extends into genuine behavioral issues (biting, hitting, being unkind, etc.), I see NO reason to punish him at home for things he does at school. He is already being "punished" by being deprived of the coveted 'sticker'. Would you expect his teacher to punish him for not making his bed? Or not picking up his toys at home? Don't get suckered into HER displinary issues with your son. His school life is his first opportunity to explore himself independently. And again, unless he doing something that is truly troublesome I would let him work this out on his own. Explain that if he really wants a sticker, he knows how to get one. But please don't punish him for not being able to accomplish that. I think it sends the wrong message.

I also think you might enjoy the following video -- It's about how children learn differently, and also tells the true story of a little girl who was nearly marginalized because she couldn't "sit still" in class. She went on to become a famous dancer, and a very wealthy and well-known choreographer (it's short --20 min-- and entertaining, and I hope will give you food for thought):

best luck! cheers, M.

1 mom found this helpful

Two of my three boys were active, impulsive, and had trouble sitting in chairs until they could read or do something that entertained them sufficiently.

My oldest was a happy sweet boy until he started kindergarten and was criticized for not being less wiggly. The more he got in trouble, the angrier and more frustrated he felt. He went from happy to saying he was a criminal who was going to blow things up. Luckily, he was very verbal. One day, he told me that everyone was mad at him all day at school, that the only person who ever smiled at him was the janitor (and I thanked him personally for that), and that having me mad when he got home and I had received the phone call or he didn't have the sticker on his chart was making him sad everywhere. So I became his ally without undermining the teachers. I explained the reasons for their rules. It became a game. He would burn off energy by doing jumping jacks in the bathroom at school. I made home a peaceful and safe place to unwind and only addressed the problems he had at home, in front of me.

I tried meeting with the teachers. Thinking about what you say and do and then taking action is a difficult concept. Many adults haven't mastered it or they wouldn't be yelling at each other or at kids. I taught him to pay attention to the faces of the grownups to see whether they were happy. He was caught misbehaving because he didn't alter his behavior in the presence of adults. The other kids were more careful and aware of when the rules were enforced and the mood of the adults.

He was happier at a different school where wiggly kids were given something to do and where differences were respected. I placed my youngest at that school and never received a single phone call or complaint. I volunteered a lot and would see him standing up doing his work or walking around helping other kids. He never felt bad about being wiggly, is happy, and has lots of friends. I can't tell you how amazing it is to be able to relax and just enjoy my son for who he is.

Good luck. If you want to read some great books, try "The Spirited Child" or Dr. Sears book, "The Discipline Book."

1 mom found this helpful


It sounds like you're doing all the right things already, which tells me that it may just be a phase your son is going through at the moment. So don't be so hard on yourself. A lot of boys go through this at the preschool & early elementary age. They mature slower than girls when it comes to attention span, patience, and often times behavior.

Good luck!

Yeah why dont YOU bring him a sticker when you pick him up, but dont give it to him in front of the teacher.
Ask the teacher how he was that day and then, in your car, ask HIM how his day was.
Explain to him that you know its hard to be good and that if he can at least TRY really hard to behave, then mommy will give him a "TRIED REAL HARD" sticker and tell him: "good job for trying really hard." At the same time you must also explain that if his behaviour doesnt improve that he will also lose mommys sticker.
Its worth a try, because if a simple sticker will help him behave then it will be worth it.

But I have a question for mothers of FOUR year olds. After reading some responses DO you really think a FOUR year old is capable of remembering for every second of those 3hrs in school that he has to behave the whole time in order to get a reward 5days later??? And even if he might remember does he really have the self control every single time to walk away from the bad behaviour??? I just dont know if a FOUR year old is capable of that, mine are only 2 and 3 right now. So I think taking away the toys and all that might be a bit too much if a FOUR year old cant remember and control for 5 days. Life for them is a daily even hourly learning process, Im not so sure they can grasp the long-term big picture??? How devastating to a small child to bring up a Carnival and then at the end of the week take it away, :( thats so sad...

Some children are very affected by social contagion. Your child may be subjected to more temptation than he can handle. Have you considered keeping him home? To homeschool at the preschool level is much fun. Another year at home under your loving care may give him the strength and security to face public school next year. He can win lots of stickers with you and be happier. AF

Hi, D..
Unfortunately the "sticker" issue is something that will likely be a part of your life for many years to come. It sounds like your son is bright, curious and energetic. Everything that a little boy should be. It is natural for him to "test" new behaviors.

That said, if the behaviors he is exhibiting at preschool are not terrible, let the teacher hold him accountable. All children are going to slip up every now again--especially when they are pre-school age. If he is not hitting, biting or creating a huge distraction all of the time, it's probably normal little boy behavior.

Reward the positive so that he begins to see that there are both good and bad consequences for behavior. Establish your own sticker chart at home, and be sure to include little things so that he is sure to be successful. Keep it positive.

Stay in close contact with the teacher, and try to determine if the other children are also being reprimanded. Too often, teachers tend to be harder on those who are typically well-behaved to "set an example" for the other little ones.

Although I am an advocate of addressing anything that happens at school with reinforcement at home, I also believe that the if you dwell too much on the negative, you run the risk of hurting self-esteem and inadvertently create new negative behaviors.

There is a reason that schools have age recommendations for beginning kindergarten, and many teachers will tell you that with all the new requirements for the first year of school that age should actually increase to six rather than five.

Four year olds need to run around and learn through their play--not be forced to sit still for long periods of time. They need to be creative and color outside the lines. There will be plenty of time to learn to read and write sitting behind a desk. But there is only one chance to be four--to explore all of the new things you see in the world by touching and smelling and yes, even tasting them.

Try not to look too far down the road. Enjoy your four year old now. Chances are he will settle down and be a wonderful student. He should think of school and learning as fun. His teachers should cultivate that creativity and natural desire to learn.

My youngest daughter is 7, and her second grade teacher lets her do her math under a table in a corner of the classroom. It sounds silly, but she loves it. It's her own little corner of the world and she feels secure and comfortable there--inevitably she scores very high on her tests. She is doing her own thing--and what the teacher wants all at the same time! It's a good lesson in control.

Many teachers are resorting to taking time off of PE or limiting recess as a discipline tactic for rowdy youngsters. When my son would get too active and rough, I actually required him to run laps around the house to burn off the energy. Or came up with some other creative activity. It worked wonders!

Good luck. Be Creative.

Read Harold and the Purple Crayon!

Enjoy being four--together!

I can remember stuggling with this when my Son stated to have behavior issues in pre-school. Although, I was grateful for the feedback given by the teachers, it would frustrate me when he looked at me sincerely and said but Mom I tried my hardest and I still didn't get a sticker. He is six years old now and has been diagnosed with ADHD, so we do alot of creative things to keep him motivated on a daily basis with a token and reward systems. Has the teacher made any reccomendations to help him in learning? I've always been told that if they can't take something away or deliver the punishment for the behavor whether it is sitting on the wall at recess time or time out in class, then it isn't effective for us as parents to ask them to recall something that happend hours ago at school. Maybe you can work something out with the teacher? I hope this helped a bit.

I feel your pain my 4 yr old is in the same boat. I tried taking outdoor play away, movies, toys etc...so I just started with BIG things. My son is knows what he is doing I know for sure. For instance I told him he had to get his sticker everyday for a wk or he wasn't getting the carnival...well he was horrible on the last day. Even after I gave him a talk all the way to school about it being carnival night. So when he got home after dinner I took him upstairs on my bed and asked him what he did...he FINALLY told me. I said well NO carnival, WOW!!! The evening was horrible he screamed in his room for 2 hrs. But now I know I have to stick by what I say. Right now I have started my own calendar at home. If he is bad at school he knows he will get a "X" on the calendar and if he is good he gets smiley face put on the calendar. I let him draw it on there after bath time if he is good at school and the rest of the evening for us. If he makes bad choices I put the "X" on there. So far we only have (1) "X" and he knows if he gets (3) this month there will be NO pumpkin patch. My son is hyper and very intelligent so I have to challenge him to keep him focused. Good Luck!

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