How to Use Behavior Charts to Motivate Children

How to Use Behavior Charts to Motivate Children

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Similar to how adults use written goals to accomplish things, behavior charts are the children’s version of written goals with progress marked on it. It can be a great tool to have a visual representation of what you expect from your child and how much they have lived up to it. If you are thinking of making one for your child, this article has all you need to know about behavior modification charts.

What Are Behavior Charts

Behavior charts can be really useful tools for parents and teachers who need to motivate children struggling with certain responsibilities or behaviors. Typically they are used between the ages 2 to 10 years and can be as simple as a chart with stickers pasted on them as a reward for every good behavior. They can be used to reinforce new skills or remind children to do their homework, chores and encourage positive behavior in general.

Types of Behavior Charts

There are several different types of charts you can choose from depending on the age of your child. Here are the most popular ones:

1. Sticker Chart

A sticker chart is an ideal good behavior chart for toddlers as they tend to be large with big colorful stickers posted on them. It works well if you place the chart somewhere prominent where others can see and appreciate it as well. What works best is a brightly colored paper that is associated with the behavior you are trying to inculcate.

How to Use It

To use a sticker chart, you have to identify one important behavior in which they need to be trained in. The chart is a visual representation of your appreciation potential and the stickers are concrete appreciation points. Give them a sticker every time they learn a desired behavior in areas such as potty training, picking up toys, or lunchtime without making a mess.

When to Use It

Sticker charts work best with toddlers and young kids as the simple reward is enough to act as a strong motivator. You could also ask your child to pick the type of stickers that will go on the chart and any chart material they fancy.

2. Chore Chart

Chore charts work with older children and is a list of chores they need to complete every day to earn points and privileges. It can help children become more responsible in the long run when started at a young age

How to Use It

A chore chart is a bit more detailed with weekly goals and days marked on it. Every day when your child completes his chore, he gets a tick on the day and a score on how well it was done. On the weekend he gets a star and a total reward. The reward can be anything from extra screen time to a movie or something he enjoys.

When to Use It

Chore charts work well with children of all ages. It is helpful to keep track of how much they have worked and how much allowance has been earned. You also need to make it clear that it is not only about earning allowances but also a responsibility, however, avoid nagging them about the chores.

3. Routine Chart

A routine chart is similar to a schedule for your child that is followed every day. It is best made by dividing their day into morning, after-school, and evening routine slots. The chart should include items such as homework, brushing teeth, getting dressed, picking up after playtime, putting on the pajamas for sleep and other tasks you want them to do independently.

How to Use It

A schedule can help children of all ages to be more organized and responsible so it can be started as early as your child can comply with one. A preschooler routine chart can involve simple items that they can handle. An older child can have more detail such as when to put away the electronics, when to do the chores and homework time.

When to Use It

Routine charts work with all children. For younger children you can make the chart look more attractive by adding pictures to depict activities and hang it in their room, perhaps the back of the door or someplace that is clearly visible. It should be adhered to every day and ensure you check up on it regularly.

4. Weekly Behavior Chart

A weekly behavior chart is used specifically to build a habit or to work on changing one or more behaviors. It can be anything from “close the front door gently” to “getting homework done before bed time”.

How to Use It

Since the chart works for specific behaviors you need to narrow down the items to one of two and have them on rows on the left. The columns on the right for each day of the week get a tick or smiley every time the desired behavior is repeated.

When to Use It

Weekly behavior charts work with older kids as they are able to comprehend the idea better. If they are struggling with a behavior, dividing the chart into morning, afternoon and evening works well.

Tips to Create a Behavior Chart

Here are the essentials of a behavior chart:

1. Pick Only a Few Behaviors to Reward

Especially when starting out, a simple chart is what you need to get your child in the habit of it. You can make a sticker chart for each behavior as they grow older and hang the charts where they belong.

2. Choose a Reward of Value

When offering a final reward, make sure you discuss with your child about what it is that they would most like to have. You can also surprise them now and then depending on how good they have been throughout the month.

3. Establish a Link Between Behaviors and Rewards

The rewards need to be consistent with the behaviors followed rigorously. Do not allow slack, for example, they get to have ice cream on the weekend only if they have brushed their teeth twice every day.

4. Make Your Own Chart

Get your child involved in the chart-making process so they have a sense of investment and responsibility towards it. Buy the paper and spend time decorating it and choosing a place to hang.

5. Work Towards Outgrowing the Chart

As the behavior gets incorporated, try and phase out the chart and the associated reward mechanism with it. This helps with cementing the learning process and removing the scaffolds to allow it to stand free.

Do Behavior Charts Really Work?

Behavior charts work very well in the short term as evident from the preschool behavior chart of children and the gold stars they aspire to achieve. This is because children love to get the approval of adults and the praise that comes with a job well done. However, in the long run, many critics contend that children won’t engage in helpful behavior unless there is something in it for them in the form of a prize. This happens because every time they get a reward for a task accomplished, they are motivated extrinsically. So they end up expecting something to pull or push them towards a goal. On the other hand intrinsic motivation, which is the drive that comes from within, is developed when they engage in an activity without expecting a material reward. Intrinsic motivation has long term implications in learning, memory, meaningful pursuit and life satisfaction.

How to Help Your Kid Succeed With a Behavior Chart

How to Help Your Kid Succeed With a Behavior Chart

To help your behavior chart work, these are the things you need to keep in mind:

1. Set Goals That Are Attainable and Age-appropriate

If you find that your child is struggling to meet with the goal set for them, examine if the goal is realistic or appropriate for their age. If you give your three-year-old a task that’s appropriate for a five-year-old, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they fail despite their best efforts.

2. Break It Down Into Milestones

A bigger goal is best broken down into chunks of smaller milestones each with its own reward. If you are potty training your four-year-old with the final reward being 30 stars, they would lose motivation early on. Set milestones for 10 stars so the task seems less daunting.

3. Place the Final Reward in View

If the final reward is a new toy they’ve wanted for a long time, place it somewhere visible so they can see it every day to keep their motivation high. Choose a place such as the top of the refrigerator or a high shelf they cannot reach.

4. Use Praise As a Reward

An “Amazing job, honey!” instead of material reward now and then is a good idea. Offering them things all the time can make them dependent on it and cultivate an unpleasant habit.

5. Instant Rewards

On reward day, no matter how big the prize is, give it to them as soon as the milestone or goal is reached. This sets up a strong positive association with rewards earned through the chart. Delaying the reward could demotivate or frustrate them with the system and they may refuse to participate it in the future.

6. Do Not Take Away the Stars or Rewards You’ve Already Given

Even when your child makes poor choices in the short term on the next goal, never take away what they have already earned. Instead, explain to them that hiccups are common and they need to make efforts to correct it.

7. Stay Consistent

Once the rules have been agreed upon, avoid changing them in the middle of the task. Consistency is key to making this work.

Sample Behavior Chart

Here is a sample behavior chart for a child:

Behaviors I will Try to Work On
I must remember to Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Get dressed, make the bed
Speak nicely to my friends and not fight
Finish homework before dinner
Pick up my toys

Behavior charts are very good motivating tools to help children work toward their goals to earn rewards. However, caution should be exercised with the type of reward offered as giving them material prizes often can hinder intrinsic motivation.

Also Read: 

Daily Routine for Children
Good Habits That Parents Must Teach Their Kids
How to Teach Your Child to Behave Well