Reward Charts - the tricks of the trade!
It is tempting to use a reward chart to target a long list of behaviours we want to change in our child all at once. Reward charts are a great tool when they are used correctly. Here are some tricks of the trade that make a reward chart really work!
1. Use a reward chart with your child 3-8 years old.
2. Choose only one specific behaviour to work on at a time.
3. Define the behaviour in positive and clear terms, e.g. "put my plate in the sink after breakfast and dinner".
4. Display the chart somewhere visible and obvious to allow your child to keep focused on the behaviour you wish to encourage.
5. Rephrase negative behaviours into a positive desired behaviour. For example, rather than saying "do not get up after you have been put to bed" you could say "stay in bed once Mum and Dad have said goodnight".
6. Make the chart with your child. Get them to decorate it and invest in the process.
7. Give rewards immediately after the desired behavior (e.g. sticker, tick, stamp).
8. Decide together on a realistic short-term reward for a week of the desired behaviour, e.g. one-on-one time with a parent, choosing a favourite dinner, a bike ride with Mum, etc. The best rewards are those than involve time with you, rather than just material things.
Note: If a full week does not seem realistic, you can start with something more achievable, e.g. at least 5 stickers in the week.
9. Phase out a reward chart after two or so successful weeks, but continue to praise the behaviour you wish to see.
10. If you don't see an improvement in behaviour then review the following: Is the desired behaviour realistic for your child? Have you been applying the rewards and reminders consistently? Are consequences for negative behaviours being confused with the reward chart? Would your child be more motivated towards a different sticker or a different short-term reward? Aim to remain neutral and unemotional about the outcome and have a break for a couple of weeks before trying again.