Behavior charts are typically used for kids from age 2 to about 10. A behavior chart can reinforce new skills, remind kids to do chores or homework, and generally encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative behaviors. Follow our 5 simple tips on how to use behavior charts effectively. Download our free printable behavior charts and chore charts, and use stickers or markers to reward good behaviors.
Psychologists have long known about the power of positive and negative reinforcement. When a behavior is followed by a reward, it is more likely to occur again. When a behavior is followed by punishment (or negative reinforcement), it is less likely to occur again.
Behavior charts that track positive or negative behaviors are a simple way to apply this principle at home. And they are remarkably effective!
Here are 5 simple tips on how to use a behavior chart with your child most effectively.
Tip #1: Pick a small number of behaviors to track
Are you working on one particular skill, like teaching your child to brush his or her teeth twice a day, or doing homework without prompting? If so, a single behavior chart like “I brushed my teeth” or “I did my homework” would be most appropriate.
Are you trying to get your child to help more around the house? Are you finding that getting your child to do chores is, well… a chore? Pick 3-5 chores that you want them to do consistently, and track them with a chore chart.
Trying to work on more than 5 behaviors (all tracked in a single behavior chart) at a time is too much even for an adult, let alone a child.
Instead, pick no more than 5 behaviors that you care the most about and work on them. Once the behaviors stick and become automatic, move on to the next item on your priority list.
Whether you track 1 behavior or 5, definitely stick with having just 1 behavior chart at a time!
Tip #2: Choose rewards that your child finds motivating
In case you’re feeling squeamish about using rewards with your child, don’t be.
Rewards are sometimes equated with bribes, but they are not the same. If you agree with your child in advance that earning 5 stickers for doing chores gets them a trip to an ice cream store or an extra 30 minutes of iPad time, that’s a reward, not a bribe. (A bribe would be promising a child the trip to the ice cream store in the heat of the moment when she’s having a meltdown and refusing to do her assigned chore).
For your reward system to work, the rewards need to be something your child finds motivating.
It doesn’t mean that the reward has to be big.
Is your child a big Minecraft fan? Give him 15 minutes extra of screen time. Does your child enjoy play dates? Extend her play date by an extra 15 minutes.
Or let the rewards accumulate to something bigger, like a trip to the Zoo or an ice cream store or a trampoline park.
Just pick a realistic time frame so that your child doesn’t have to wait for a year for her reward. (She won’t!)
Tip #3: Establish a link between the behavior and the rewards
Let’s say you’re working on your child’s toothbrushing behavior, and you want him to brush his teeth twice daily. Let’s say the reward is a trip to your child’s favorite park.
Now all you have to do is to be clear how many stickers your child needs to earn to get the reward.
An example could be “brush your teeth twice a day for 3 days in a row – without skipping – and I’ll take you to your favorite park”.
Voila! You have your reward system.
Remember, if you agree on the reward system in advance, it’s not a bribe!
Tip #4: Get a behavior chart and some stickers
This is an easy step.
Buy or make your own behavior charts. Or download and print some free behavior charts, like the chart templates below.
Clicking on the thumbnail picture of the behavior chart or chore chart that you want:
Buy some stickers. They can be stars, smiley faces, motivational stickers, or your child’s favorite characters. You can find stickers on Amazon, at the Dollar store, and at any stationary or school supplies store.
Or you can keep it simple and use markers to draw a star or a smiley face. Get creative, and have fun!
Tip #5: Be consistent and patient
It sounds simple, but it’s the hardest tip to implement.
There’s a famous Peter Drucker quote from business: “What gets measured, gets done”. It applies equally well to your child.
You need to be consistent and track the behavior daily. Putting a sticker on a behavior chart takes literally a few seconds, but the impact is lasting and big. So stick with your measurement, and don’t skip days.
And be patient. Children (and adults!) will have some bad days.
The beautiful thing about a weekly behavior chart is that even if your child slips one week, that week will soon end. And the next week will start with another clean slate. So keep at it, and before too long you’ll start seeing results.