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Reward Charts for Children
KalliKids Champion and Ofsted registered Childminder Mellissa Lane shares how children from toddlers through to teenagers can benefit from earning rewards, structured through a reward chart, when they are used as part of an age appropriate discipline strategy
The Early Years
The early years benefit from simple sticker charts. Allow children to decorate their own charts to get them motivated to earn stickers. Then choose stickers together that your child will like and get excited about earning.
Make sure the sticker chart is displayed prominently in the house.
Young children are often very proud of their accomplishments and want to ensure everyone is aware they have earned stickers. Use praise to help keep them extra motivated to keep earning stickers.
Choose one behaviour to work on at a time. Toilet training and staying in their own bed at night works well. Provide a sticker immediately after you see the desired behaviour.
The School Age Child
School age children can handle a slightly more complex reward system. Stickers alone are not usually enough of a motivator.
They can benefit from exchanging stickers for bigger rewards.
For example, a seven-year-old can benefit from knowing that when they earn three stickers or buttons in a jar they can use it for time. Time on computer gadgets, time with a parent or with a friend. A play box containing some of your child’s favourite past times is a big winner in my home. Children of this age are able to delay gratification a little, but not too long. So make sure they can earn rewards on a regular basis.
Depending on your child, a reward may be necessary daily, every few days, or weekly.
Sit down with your child and explain the reward system and allow your child an opportunity to ask questions and become involved in how the system will work.
Reward Systems for Tweens
Tweens can benefit from more complicated systems with bigger reward and these do not have to cost money. Instead, you can use privileges that your tween already has in place. Allow your tween to earn privileges such as time going to bed, choice of meals, deciding what you all watch on television or what game you play. Computer and or video games time. Tweens earn marks or tokens throughout the day that can be exchanged for reward items. 2 Tokens may be equivalent to thirty minutes of family time.
Pick up to three behaviours to address at a time. Pick at least one behaviour that your Tween already does fairly well. This can help your Tween feel successful which is important in keeping Tweens motivated.
A behaviour chart is one of the easiest and fastest behaviour improvement tool available. All children love the immediate feedback offered by a reward system and a behaviour chart can help keep them motivated to stay on track.
Creating an Effective Behaviour Chart
Here are seven steps to creating an effective behaviour chart:
1. Identify the desired behaviour
Choose which behaviour you want to address first. It’s best to start simple, by choosing up to three behaviours you want to address.
Working on too many behaviours at a time can be confusing.
Frame the behaviour in a positive manner—state what you want to see your child do. For example, rather than saying, “No hitting,” try “Use gentle touches.”
2. Decide How Often to Reward Good Behaviour
Think about how often your child is going to need feedback for the good behaviour.
Younger children may need a sticker, checkmark, or star to denote their progress several times a day, but older children may be able to wait until the end of the day for feedback.
You may want to reward your child mid-morning, late afternoon, or evening. Or, divide the day up into three distinct segments: before school, after school, and bedtime.
You may also decide it’s best to concentrate on the behaviour during one part of the day only.
3. Identify Larger Rewards
While sticker charts may motivate a preschool-age child for a while, most children need to exchange those stickers for bigger rewards to stay motivated. Rewards, however, don’t need to be expensive. There are many free and low cost rewards that can be very effective.
It’s essential to use rewards that your child is interested in earning. For some children, electronics time could be an effective reward. For other children, staying up an extra 15 minutes could be the best reward.
4. Establish a Goal for Your Child
Create a realistic goal that outlines when your child will be rewarded.
You may want a daily goal such as, “If you earn three stickers today, we’ll play a game after dinner.”
Older children may be able to wait a little longer for a reward. Consider a goal such as, “If you get five tokens for handing in your homework on time this week, we’ll go to the park on Friday after school.”
5. Explain the Chart to Your Child
Talk to your child about the behaviour chart. Make it clear that the chart is about helping them, not punishing. Talk about how it’s up to them to earn privileges and rewards for their good behaviour. Give your child an opportunity to ask questions.
6. Use Praise for Added Reinforcement
It’s important to use praise in addition to the behaviour chart. Then, as your child learns new behaviours and masters new skills, you can phase out your rewards and use praise only.
7. Adjust Your Behaviour Chart as Needed
Sometimes, reward systems require a little trial and error. If the behaviour chart seems too easy for your child, adjust their goal to make it a little more challenging. If however, your child is really struggling to earn meet his goal after several attempts, the reward system may be too difficult. Make it a little easier so they can experience some success, which will motivate them to keep doing well.
As well as being the KalliKids Champion for County Durham and Tees Valley, Melissa Lane is an Ofsted registered outstanding child minder, award winning playgroup leader and Chairperson of North East Community Association. Parents in the County Durham area can follow Melissa's Facebook page to find out about new activities in their local area. To join KalliKids as an activity in the County Durham area contact Melissa here.