Your brain processes a goal better when it is clearly thought out and written down, complete with rewards for every milestone you achieve. Similarly, your child is likely to learn or unlearn a behavior if there is a visual system that monitors their progress and motivates them through rewards. One such system is a Reward Chart that helps you keep track of your child’s routine or behavior while encouraging them to keep making progress.
If you would like to establish a routine or behavior for your child, this article reviews reward charts, how to use them, and why they are effective.
What Is a Reward Chart?
A reward chart is a tool utilized to encourage or change a child’s behavior by showing the required behavior and recording how often your child displays it. It can come in the form of a wall poster, notebook table, or app. Generally, you can use a reward chart to:
- Encourage good behavior
- Discourage bad behavior
- Teach your child new skills
Let’s say you want to teach your child to say ‘sorry’ when they do something wrong. You can indicate this behavior on the chart and tick or add a sticker next to it every time they do. If you choose an app, it might show stars every time your child exhibits positive behavior. You can also set up a reward system where a certain number of stickers or ticks earns your child a reward.
How Reward Charts Work
Reward charts work best for children between 3 and 8 years old but can be modified to work for older children. Generally, the chart sets out a goal – no more than two – and records every instance your child makes progress, showing them they have done a good job. This system is more motivating than only pointing out when your child does something wrong and can reinforce good behavior.
Besides helping your child, a reward chart can also keep you motivated as a parent because you focus on their good behavior rather than the negative.
Tip: Your reward chart will have more chances of success if you involve your child in setting it up. Try to talk to them about your goal (e.g. brush your teeth every night), why it is important, and how you will track and reward their progress.
Reward Chart Templates
How to Use Reward Charts
Step 1: Describe Positive Behaviors
Start by identifying the behavior you would like to enforce (rather than the one you would like to eliminate). For example, ‘brush your teeth before bed’ is a better goal than ‘stop going to sleep before brushing your teeth.’ You should also be very specific in your description. Say ‘put all your books on the shelf’ instead of ‘clear the table.’
Step 2: Find a Chart
Next, find a chart to record the goal you have identified and the progress your child makes. You can create one from scratch or download a printable reward chart. If your child is older, you could also let them create their own chart.
Step 3: Determine the Short-Term Rewards
A reward system will keep your child motivated to work toward the goal you set. However, working toward one ‘big’ reward that might be weeks or months away can easily tire out your child. Establish smaller rewards for short-term milestones. Examples include a movie night, a toy, or a camping trip.
Step 4: Decide How to Denote Rewards
Common ways to indicate a reward on your chart include stickers, ticks, tokens, and starts. Younger children will often prefer stickers and starts, while older children may respond better to ticks, markers, and points.
Step 5: Find a Location for Your Chart
Your child will want to see their progress, so don’t shove your chart between the pages of a book. If your child is younger, hang it up in a public place like the kitchen, where they will feel the proudest when everyone congratulates them. If your child is older, consider hanging it in a more private location like their bedroom.
Step 6: Give Stickers After Good Behavior
Give your child their reward (sticker, ticks) immediately after they display good behavior. Doing this will reinforce the behavior, making them likely to repeat it. Additionally, try to accompany the reward with words of praise, e.g. ‘I like how you said sorry when you bumped into me. Here is a sticker for your chart.’
Step 7: Encourage Your Child
Your reward chart won’t immediately improve your child’s behavior. Be patient with them and encourage them to try harder every time they don’t get a reward. You should also never use the reward chart to punish them, such as by threatening to take away their rewards.
Pro Tip: You can determine whether your chart is working by tracking your child’s progress. For example, if they were hitting three times a day, record how often they do it as time passes. This will help you gauge the effectiveness of your chart.
Step 8: Phase Out the Chart
You want your child to behave well because they want to, not because you reward them when they do. As such, it is advisable to gradually phase out the reward chart when your child’s behavior improves. You can do this by reducing the frequency of rewards, such as one every three days instead of one every day.
Types of Behavior Charts That Motivate Kids
Several types of behavior charts exist to help you encourage your children to change their behaviors and stick to a daily routine. The following are the most effective you can use today:
A Harvard study shows that kids who do chores learn important life skills and become well-adjusted, independent adults. A chore chat is an excellent way to teach your children responsibility and the importance of picking after themselves.
To make a chore chat, start by listing the chores you would like your child to do. Keep track of their efforts and reward them with markers when they do well. You can make things interesting by allowing them to redeem their points for privileges or counting the rewards toward their allowance.
Tip: Avoid shouting at your child when they don’t do their chore or harassing them when they are late. Give them adequate time to complete the chore and teach them to apologize when they fall behind.
Sticker charts are best suited to preschoolers and toddlers who are still learning how to behave and adhere to a routine. They can also help children with chronic health problems adhere to their treatment regimens. To make a sticker chart, select a behavior you would like to reinforce in your child and place a sticker on a simple piece of paper every time they display it. Consider hanging the chart in a prominent location and letting your child put the stickers on the chart as a reward.
Weekly Behavior Chart
A weekly behavior chart can come in handy when you want to modify your child’s behavior. Start by identifying a behavior you would like to change, phrase it positively, and place it on a chart. Every time your child displays the desired behavior, mark the chart with stickers or ticks. You can even allow them to redeem their points for larger results.
Important: Never use a weekly behavior chart to shame your child if they haven’t made progress for a while. Instead, encourage them to do better next week.
Routine charts are effective in solidifying bedtime, morning, and daily routines in your household. The chart indicates the specific steps of a routine and records their progress every time they stick to the process. Depending on your child’s age, you can write down the activities or illustrate them in pictures.
Printable Reward Charts
Printable reward charts are model behavior chart samples that you can download and print out to help train your child. They come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and formats from which you can create your preferred reward system.
Reward Charts are an excellent way to modify your child’s behavior, teach them a new skill, or make them more responsible. It creates a structure for reinforcing good behavior and eliminating negative tendencies. When making it, keep your kids in mind and involve them in the process. You want them to understand why the chart exists and how they can earn rewards.