BEhavior Charts, reward charts, chore charts, potty charts just to name a few....
It's great that parents come up with many different ways to get our kids to comply with our rules. One way we do this is by creating a chart that is a visual reminder for kiddos to stay on task, or be motivated to do whatever it is we are requesting. Little Johnny goes to his room and the first thing he notices is his chart, and boom "magic" he does what is displayed and gets his sticker or candy, right? Wrong!!
Online forums will tell you to make a list of all required task or chores you want done, and all day the child is to follow to your expectation to get the reward. Well this is not totally wrong, but can be totally unrealistic. How challenging is it to be perfect all day as a 5 year old? Even I as an adult cannot stay on task, or follow all orders requested by my boss daily. Sometimes as parents I believe we forget how young our child's mind can be, and how immature the brain functions. We expect for them to comply, 99% of the time, with little room for error. This can be a major set up for the child to fail, and increase stress on the parent. Well I am here to tell you we all have had it wrong. Allow me to share some effective tips when creating any type of chart that will increase the behavior you are seeking, all while making your child motivated to do so.
Chart Making Tips
1. ONE behavior at a time-This is the most effective tool of them all! Very challenging because most parents lump a lot of behaviors together. As parents we place every negative behavior on a chart, and tell Johnny if he doesn't do all those negative behaviors he can get a reward. For a child this can be overwhelming. It's just too much, and so when they fail at one they are not encouraged to do the others. I would start by thinking about your child's most challenging behavior, the behavior that is primary to the others or drives the others. For instance when Kennedy was in preschool she would bite and hit. For me biting was more "bad" then hitting. The goal is to focus on one, fizzle the chart out, and work on another. The child is empowered to complete the next task because they feel good about completing the first. If you're really effective, the most challenging behavior, if tackled, will diminish the others.
2. Positive Reinforcement-When you label the chart, use a title or word of the behavior you "want" to see. This is like the red button in the elevator. You're told not to press the red button and somehow it makes you want to touch it more. Stating what you would like to see, makes it easy for the child to follow. Example: When I tell Karter "no throwing", she immediately throws. But if I say "calm hands", she shows me her calm hands. This takes practice. Before creating the chart think about the behavior you want to see "more" of. Begin using it in your everyday conversation so your child understands what it is you're asking of them. So for a kid who doesn't listen, I would place "listening ears" on the top of the chart. "No hitting" change to "gentle hands", kids who scream "soft voice". Again this encourages them to succeed because they know exactly what mommy/daddy is expecting. It feels positive and promising.
3. Small and Simple-Make the steps incredibly small and simple. I really like to allow my kids to feel like they can do it. Great to help build your child's self esteem! It can be tough to follow a rule all day. Notice the times your child negative behavior increases or is most present. So if your child screams more in the afternoon, simplify your chart only focusing on the 3 hour period in the afternoon and reward with a sticker every half hour. I love to do this for homework time at my house. Kennedy loves to complain after school about homework, even though she knows she has to do it. Her chart is labeled "Positive homework vibes"- the behavior I want to see. I created a chart that marks off 4p-6p, 30 min increments. Every 30m that Kennedy displays "positive homework vibes" she places a check mark. The more specific the better. Again be realistic, once the child has mastered a few hours you can continue to increase, and increase, until it is no longer needed.
NOTE: if your child can earn 6 stickers/checks/etc during the allotted time, I would not expect for them to get all 6 to get the reward. You know your child best. If your child is very defiant, start small allowing them to earn 2 stickers. This increases there motivation to want to strive for more. Rule of thumb is to cut in half, and increase the challenge as you see them increase the behavior. This is the same for weekly rewards. Kids need to have a since of pride,"Mom I can do it, so I want to do it more" (hopefully).
4. Daily and Weekly-Make daily and weekly rewards. This is pretty self explanatory. Children NEED instant gratification. No way can a child wait until Friday for an accomplishment produced Monday. Similar to a dog, when he does the trick/goes to the potty we reward right after to encourage them to do it again. Daily rewards can be simple and no cost at all. Ex. Stay up 15 minutes past bedtime, read an extra story at bedtime, extra electronic time, etc. Most importantly allow your child to help you come up with rewards. Nothing is more painful then rewarding your child with something they don't like. This is the easiest way to lose the child's interest. Should you go out and purchase expensive toys, NOT AT ALL! The point is to increase something they already enjoy. Weekly rewards can be low cost. Be creative and practical.
IDEA: Together me and Kennedy made a list of fun inexpensive rewards she would like. Ex: Special play dates, pick her favorite meal for dinner, $1 Target section greatness, etc. We placed in a box, and she had the ability to pick out a reward weekly. Super fun craft idea as well (have the child design the box to their liking)!
5. No Double Consequences-Do not mix rewards with punishment. If your child does not do the task, they simply don't get the reward. Double consequences is never a good idea. Again this gives the child little motivation to start over. I love positive reinforcement. Kids know when they are bad, they rarely are praised for being good. Everyday is a new day to start over. Never allow the frustration from the previous day impact the child's ability the next.
6. Fizzle Out-Lastly! Gradually decrease rewards with social acceptance. Children are creatures of habit. After a few weeks/months of heavy rewards for a specific behavior soon it will become part of their routine. Just be aware of how much your child is motivated by the reward, and make sure it's more focused on accomplishing the behavior. Praise them heavily, continue to make a big deal out of it when they do it, but don't offer a reward. You can then begin your new behavior/task you want to work on.
We are all motivated by something. Adults work hard to get rewards out of life. This is the same for children. Some parents argue kids should do what's told simply because they don't have a choice. This is all well and good, but it's just not true. They do have a choice, and if they choose "no" each time, you are then left frustrated, and non effective. We are raising children in a different generation. Advertisements are heavy, and the need for gratification has increased. Allow this to work in your favor. In the end it will save you from lots of stressful moments. And at the end of the day, you're the one who really won!
FYI: All resources below we're found on Pinterest! Click my Pinterest link to see some of my favorite charts to use!