Behaviour charts are a great incentive to motivate your child to develop new skills and encourage desirable behaviour. They are used for a few weeks and then phased out. Start by deciding the behaviour or skill you plan to use the chart for, then make the chart yourself or with your child; use stamps, stickers or smiley faces, to show your child you like what they have done and to recognise their efforts. This makes children feel good about themselves and more likely to continue trying to succeed.
Here is a quick guide to some do’s and don’ts when using a behaviour chart to ensure it is a helpful strategy and some alternative methods to using a rewards system.
- Focus on one goal at a time. Decide and explain how often stickers can be earned with your child and what reward will be given for achieving an agreed amount of stickers
- Praise your child each time they receive a sticker and work towards their goal
- Think of rewards that your child will enjoy. These could be activities such as baking a cake together or a family bike ride. Some of the best rewards have come from the Pound shop!
- Make rewards easy at first and ensure you are able to give them immediately after achieving their goal. When your child becomes more competent you can then start to phase it out by making it a bit harder to achieve a sticker
- State goals positively. E.g. ‘talk nicely’ ‘touch gently’. This ensures your child knows exactly what is expected of them and has the added benefit of helping parents recognise when their child is behaving well and working towards their goal
- Give a sticker each time you see your achieving their goal. This can be reinforced with descriptive praise, describing back to them what they have just done to receive the sticker
- Have too many goals. This can cause lots of confusion when using the chart if your child does not achieve all the targets set. Parents are then in danger of focusing on what the child hasn’t done and ignoring their other achievements
- Take stickers away or criticise your child if they do not reach their goal. The chart works best if it is a positive experience. Do not put crosses or unhappy faces on the chart either
- Offer rewards that are too expensive or outside your budget. This could lead to your child working longer to achieve a goal or increase the time they have to wait to receive their reward. In turn this will make the behaviour chart less motivating for your child
- Make it too hard to achieve. Consider your child’s age when deciding when they receive their reward. Young children can quickly lose interest if they have to wait until the end of the week, something at the end of the day/activity might work best
- Set goals that tell children what not to do. E.g. ‘Don’t shout’, ‘No hitting’. Children need to know what is expected of them and how they should be behaving
- Bribe your child. In the long run this can increase the likelihood of bad behaviour. For example a child could learn if they throw a tantrum their parent will offer them something nice to stop
There are some alternative rewards systems to the behaviour chart that you could also try:
Take a picture of the reward your child will receive for reaching their goal, cut the picture up into 6-8 pieces. Each time your child achieves the skill or behaviour required they get a piece of the puzzle, when the puzzle is complete they receive the reward in the picture.
Pebbles in a jar
You will need a clear jar, mark lines on the jar that will indicate when your child has reached their goal. Your child can then place a pebble in the jar each time they behave well; they will receive the reward when the pebbles reach the designated line!