concepts

Benefits of using reward charts

Reward charts are a powerful tool to incentivise children to modify their behaviour.
(Not sure what is a reward chart? Head to this page for an introduction)

They are incredibly useful even in situations where children have been showing ADHD behaviour.

In terms of benefits, the list can be summarised as: fun, motivating, and fulfilling.

Why are reward charts fun?

There is a simple reason why reward charts are fun: they are visually appealing and draw the instinct of curiosity children naturally have.

By allowing children to put their own stickers to the charts, or maybe draw their marks, they will have fun mixing colours and faces to match certain patterns established in their minds.

They are also fun for children because they shift the focus from completing tasks and chores to accumulating markers and stickers, which leads us to the next point…

Why are reward charts motivating?

Motivation to complete reward charts comes simply from the sense of progress they provide at all times.

As a parent, make sure to put the chart easily visible in the kids bedroom or in the family living room so they will have a constant reminder of the two important elements on the chart: the reward and the progress.

If the appropriate balance between challenge and frequent progress updates, kids will eventually complete the chart and claim their reward, which leads us to the next point…

Why are reward charts fulfilling?

It is well known that adults benefit from small rewards when accomplishing personal goals in life.
So why would children be any different?

Completing a reward chart yields two important outcomes: the reward initially set (the obvious result) but also gives children a strong sense of accomplishment for their hard work.

This means that your job as a dedicated parent is to also provide motivation while the chart is being completed incrementally, not only when it is done. Remember that!

Summary

By internalising the three reasons above, you can provide your children with the appropriate motivation and will set yourself for success.

It can also be helpful to remember our collection of tips to use a reward chart successfully.

How to use reward charts with children

Reward Chart example

Using reward charts wisely can provide the correct framework for kids to form long-lasting good habits.
(check this blog post in case you want to know what a reward chart is)

Through a very didactic way, young kids can start learning the importance of accomplishing basic tasks such as homework, cleaning up toys, brushing their teeth; all important steps for a good bedtime routine.

Providing positive reinforcement for tasks that kids usually have trouble with can definitely help with the desired behavioural change and at some point in time it will come naturally to them.

Here is how to keep your kids motivated and use a reward chart to get results:

Keep it simple

Don’t overwhelm yourself or your kids. Start simple with just one, or maybe two, behavioural tasks that you would like your kids to work on. If the chart is too long or complicated it will be harder for you and your children to stick to it.

Be clear and specific on the behaviour

Make clear what behaviour you are trying to achieve with your kid, for example, instead of “be polite with people”, you can try a simpler “say thank you more often”.

Be specific on the prize

The prize must be something that the kid gets excited about, also make sure to let them know how many stickers or positive marks on the chart they need to get to the prize, so the expectations are clear for everyone.

About the prize, be realistic and choose something they can earn after a week or so.

Frequent reinforcement is key!

As an added bonus you can try to offer healthy prize options such as more time at the park, riding a bicycle, playing with friends, or going to the beach.

Be consistent and keep it positive

Make sure to mark the chart or put a stick on it immediately after you kid showed the desired behaviour. In case you are out, bring the chart with you when possible.

Also, remember to keep it positive! You don’t want the experience to sound like a punishment to your child. It’s also best to set up the chart in a way so your child gets a sticker every time they engage in the behavior rather than making it a daily yes/no chart. Bonus points if they can stick and mark their progress directly onto the chart.

Progress

A few months later (one or two), once your child has mastered the target behaviour, you can move to different tasks or phase it out slowly by replacing/removing one or two tasks.

Always remember to tell your kids how proud you are of them and all the hard work they had done!

What is a reward chart?

Reward charts, sometimes also known as behaviour charts, are listings used to track and organises house activities in order to teach values and discipline to children of different ages.

The basic form incorporates a particular positive behaviour to be achieved (the goal), combined with granular actions that reinforce the demonstration of such behaviour.

Parents can choose simple actions like “say thanks” or “say please“, or sometimes age-appropriate chores like “set the table” or “make the bed“.

Here is a simplified example of how a reward chart can be used to stimulate a consistent bedtime routine:

Reward Chart example for bedtime routine

To track progress using the chart it is possible to use ticks, happy/sad faces, or even stickers to make it super visual.

Finally, a reward is also to be set by parents and children together in order to generate the appropriate motivation to reach the expected goal.

General tips and tricks

  • Be positive
    Don’t phrase the goal as something negative like “stop leaving your bedroom a mess”; a positive version of that could be “have a nice and tidy bedroom”.
  • Be realistic!
    Children need time to change their behaviour and they also need (no pun intended) baby steps in order to hit these goals.
  • Be creative!
    Getting the same reward over and over again is a guaranteed recipe for failure in the long run.
  • Be consistent!
    When a reward is set, make sure your children cannot get the same reward in other ways. For example, if the reward is to go to the swimming pool but they will go with the neighbours whenever they decide to go, the effect of the reward is lost.
  • Be timely!
    Children probably will lose interest in the activities and reward if they have to do something hundreds of times before receiving the reward.
  • Be visual!
    Kids are visual learners and naturally curious. You can stick pictures related to their behaviour or the reward to make the chart more attractive to them.

For a more detailed guide, we have also published a more comprehensive text explaining how to use reward charts effectively with children.