Reward charts are a great tool for changing children’s behaviour and come in a variety of different forms, from paper based Reward Charts, to Magnetic Whiteboard charts or even apps. The aim is for your child to obtain a certain number of stars, ticks or stickers that add up to a reward.
But do they actually work?
According to Psychology Today, the data overwhelmingly indicates that Reward Charts DO work to help a child to change his or her behaviour, as long as you are using the correct method to implement it.
What are the benefits of a Reward Chart?
- Reward charts help to encourage behaviour you want to see more of eg sharing toys with a sibling, and discouraging behaviours you don’t want such as hitting
- They teach children what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours
- The reward shows them when they have done a good job and reinforces good behaviour, making it more likely to happen again
Types of Reward Charts
There are 2 main types of Reward Charts.
Reward Chart Type A
The first is where just one behaviour is focused on at a time and needs to be very specific. A behaviour could be:
“Sharing toys nicely with sibling” and every time the behaviour is achieved a star is awarded. When the chart is full, the reward (which is agreed upon in advance and noted on the chart) is given.
Reward Chart Type B
The other type is a weekly reward chart and can contain a number of different behaviours to work on. This type of chart works well for behaviours that need to occur every day such as "cleaning teeth without a fuss", "getting dressed in the morning without any arguments" or "trying all the dinner on my plate".
How do you use a Reward Chart?
- Make it clear what behaviours you are trying to change and only choose a few to focus on at a time.
- Be consistent. For the first behaviour chart (Reward Chart Type A above), give your child a star or tick every time they achieve the desired behaviour and make sure you communicate to them why they are getting the star “Mummy is very pleased with the way you shared your digger with Jack, so I am adding a star to your reward chart”.
- Keep the Reward Chart positive. If your child doesn’t achieve a star on a particular day, move on. Don’t take stars away for bad behaviour and avoid telling your child “you won’t get your reward if you keep behaving like that!”
- Identify the reward ahead of time and give your child a choice of what they would like to work towards. Children are more motivated to work towards something they have chosen themselves, so give them a choice of a few rewards within the same price bracket, such as a new book or puzzle. It is much better to have the actual prize decided on rather than just using the word “reward” or “prize”, which to a child is harder to understand.
- Set a short time frame for the Reward Chart, up to a week as anything longer and the child will stop working towards the goal. You can keep repeating the same behaviours for a few weeks on the Reward Chart, but choose a new reward.
- Work out how many stars or ticks are required to get the reward, but make it achievable. For example, if you’re using the weekly reward chart (Reward Chart B above) and your child has three behaviours they have to achieve in a week and get one star per behaviour, don’t make the goal 21 stars (3 x 7) as to a child this will feel unachievable. Set the target at 80%-90% of the maximum, to allow for some off days. So a realistic goal would be 17 stars out of 21.
- Involve your child as much as possible with setting up the Reward Chart. If you’re purchasing a Reward Chart, choose one that your child has buy in to. If they love dinosaurs or unicorns, let them choose a dinosaur or unicorn reward chart. These can quite often be personalised, so add their name (and even photo) to it and let them choose the colours they like. Work through the steps with them before you begin so they understand what is expected of them and how that will result in a reward.
- If the reward is something tangible, purchase it ahead of time and keep it in a visible place on a shelf to serve as a reminder. Other good ideas for rewards are: fishing trip with dad, family movie night, board game with Mum or a family outing
- Keep the Reward Chart in a visible place, the Fridge is ideal so that it is in full view of the family and is an important reminder to everyone. A Magnetic Whiteboard Reward Chart works really well as it’s easy to wipe clean at the end of the week and update it with new behaviours.
- Don’t suddenly stop using a Reward Chart. If you feel that your child has made good progress with a behaviour keep including it on the chart but perhaps give a star every 2 days.
What ages are Reward Charts for?
According to Raising Children Network, Reward Charts work best for children aged 3-8 years. Children older than 8 may benefit more from a Chore chart whereby they are achieving “pocket money” for completing chores each week.