Children are foolish and willful, as every parent knows, but under certain circumstances you can leverage their foolishness to stem their willfulness. For instance, you can often make them do what you want them to do by rewarding them with worthless trinkets such as stickers on a chart. Some parenting theorists argue that this strategy is misguided—that rewards undermine children’s intrinsic motivation and replace it with crude bribery. Others argue that rewards can help children form benign habits and acquire confidence, and anyway I just need her to brush her teeth in the morning without needing to be reminded eight times every single day. So it’s fair to say there’s some debate about sticker charts.
Neither side of that debate, though, has thought to suggest rewarding children for doing things they already love to do, things they’re constantly asking to do, things that parents are advised to prevent them from doing too much. Congratulations, then, to Netflix on the conceptual breakthrough represented by its new “patches” feature, which gives children digital badges for watching television. Parents can now look on with pride as their offspring rack up accomplishments like “watching every episode of Fuller House” and “watching every episode of Skylanders Academy” and “watching every episode of the Trolls spinoff show that they have now.” Finally, one of the big tech platforms is putting its programming magic to work building grit and persistence in the next generation of Americans.