This is one of the simplest yet effective tools to help turn around your child’s behaviour and reclaim your happy household!
So what is it exactly??
A reward chart is an individualised system in which tokens (e.g. stickers/marbles/smiley faces etc) are delivered when your child engages in specific target behaviours (that you have both agreed on) and exchanged later for a ‘backup reinforcer’ (the item/activity they REALLY want).
There are 3 basic steps:
1. Identify specific behaviours to be changed. What do you want your child to do less of? And what do you want them to be doing more of?
2. Design the Reward Chart. What is it going to look like? This will depend a bit on the age of your child.
3. Implement it. Teach your child the system and make it super easy for them to be successful. The most common mistake I see parents make is that they make the system too difficult/effortful for their child. We want your child to succeed and to be motivated by the system so lower the bar and set them up for success!
When I talk to parents about rewards charts the first thing I often here is, “buy my child doesn’t like stickers” or “I just think my child should do these target behaviours without the need for rewards”.
Let’s tackle these concerns one by one...
‘But my child doesn’t like stickers’ – well, first you need to first teach your child the system. And the system is this – the stickers/smiley faces/ marbles etc are a means to an ends – they are the ‘thing’ that gets your child what they REALLY want e.g. screen time or a special snack.
You need to become a motivation detective – what are things (toys/activities/food etc) that your child REALLY likes?? We will use these ‘back up reinforcers’ by associating them with the stickers so that they stickers become valuable in the same way money does.
Consider this – we aren’t born valuing money but we learn pretty quickly that money gets us the good stuff – the stuff we really want! Reward charts work in the same way – your child earns stickers (or ‘tokens’) by engaging in some specific target behaviours e.g. making their bed, getting dressed etc and can ‘buy’ the things they really want.
Ok, next concern; ‘I think my child should just do these target behaviours without the need for rewards’. I haven’t met any young child who will notice their bedroom is a tip and think to themselves ‘gosh, my bedroom is a bit of mess, I should really tidy that up….’ Have you??!
We all engage in behaviours because we are motivated . I go to work because I want job satisfaction and I need to pay my bills! I tidy my house (sometimes..) because I want to set an example to my children and I enjoy a tidy house. Most of the time kids do things for a specific outcome.
We can help motivate our kids by using a reward chart that sets out clear rules and expectations for them. For example, you will get a marble in a jar when you:
· Share with your sibling
· Flush the toilet after you’ve used it
· Ask for help when you’re stuck
But don’t worry – this doesn’t have to last forever!! This is a tool that we will fade out once we’ve reached a certain mastery criteria, in other words, once your child is consistently doing whatever it is you want them to do, then we fade out the rewards gradually until they aren’t required anymore 🙂