For years stickers have been the inexpensive “treat” for a job well done. But some kids are not incentivized by stickers.

One day, many years ago, a Mom came in to our retail store with her 4-year old who looked to have a very recent – and very SHORT – haircut. We would call it a buzz cut back in the day. Mom was a little weepy as she explained why they were there. She had given the older boys their haircuts with the clippers and they wanted “steps” cut into the side of their hair, all the rage in the 90’s – the photo here shows some creative clipping! So she took off the clipper guard and carefully cut down to the scalp to make their hair look like they wanted. Then she was called away to the telephone. Do you see where this is headed yet?

Mom returned, picked up the four year old and plunked him in the chair then grabbed the clippers – without putting the guard back on – and started in with a swipe down the middle of his head. And then screamed as she realized she had just cut his hair nearly to the scalp. Now what? All she could do was finish the job. And cry a little.

So, the reason for visit was because she felt so bad about his “buzz cut” she offered her youngest the opportunity to get “anything he wanted at The Bookworm” (her exact words). What did he do? He walked over the largest, most expensive toy we had and said “I’ll have this”. Mom realized her error.

This kind of thing happened a lot. We would step in and explain that the toy he selected was really more of a birthday or Christmas present and not a “I was good today” present. We would then take them to the ample supply of smaller and less expensive prize items, and that typically would work. When we get to the area with stickers, pencils, erasers, trinkets, and miscellaneous other bulk items, it was always interesting what they would pick. Many times they would pick from the rock and mineral display or they would want a book. The point is, what each child found as their reward was individual to that child. So keep a variety of items on hand – and know your kids. What will incentivize them to do a great job or finish on time?