Friday, June 17, 2016

Why Sticker Charts Don't Work When Your Child Has An Attachment Disorder

Somebody finished a chart and finally received her prize. Now her big sister wants a chart as well, I don't think Kiana realizes there is hard work involved in changing habits and behaviors. 

I haven't done sticker charts for a long time since they have such detrimental affects on children with trauma and attachment struggles. When B's mobile therapist Miss D, began coming twice a week, she was certain a sticker chart would fix everything we were dealing with. What child doesn't like to put stickers on a chart and earn rewards? A child who is trying to control everyone and everything, that is who! We split the days up into three sections and when B had a certain amount of stickers, he would receive a prize. He actually managed to earn a sticker or two, but about then it registered in his brain that mom wanted him to earn stickers and receiving a sticker meant he was complying with mom and dad's rules. His behavior went down hill from there. He made certain he didn't earn any stickers from then on. When Miss D came out the following week she looked in puzzlement at his chart. "You got two stickers at the beginning and none since then," she said, "What happened?" B of course, just shrugged and I took the opportunity to educate her once more on why sticker charts do not work for children with attachment disorders.

When B earns a sticker, I explained, it goes against his self image of, "I am a bad person," so he actively sets out to prove his opinion of himself is correct by acting out. His negative behavior is what keeps up the wall he has built around his heart and when the sticker chart suggests he isn't doing a good job of keeping that wall up, so his behavior becomes worse. 

Another reason is, the simple control factor, earning a sticker for whatever reason means following the set guidelines, children with RAD don't comply with guidelines, because they must be in control.

Sticker charts made the negative behavior worse on multiple fronts so they were permanently removed from our therapeutic techniques.

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