Parenting: Using Reward Charts

I first introduced reward charts with my son when he was about, 2.5 years old. It was a new concept in our house, so it took a little bit for it to settled in, but soon it was working beautifully.

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Check out our DIY Reward Chart.

I made a super simple reward chart – it took me less than 10 minutes to make and I made it relevant to us – the daily “reward” was a little bunny. Bunnies have long been big in our house, so this seemed most appropriate. I think making it meaningful in this way to my son was a very important part of making it work.

Our tips to make a reward chart work:

When my son “does what we expected of him” (e.g. stay in bed after lights out), he gets one bunny “from the boat” and it goes in the house…

Getting them Used to it

To kick start it off and help him understand that there is a reward in sight, I put 2 bunnies in the house and he got his 3rd bunny relatively easily (I wasn’t too strict). As he started getting the hang of the chart, I enforced the rules more strictly. We then have a treat box that my son can choose a reward from, it can be anything from a Glass Awards to a small toy, to a piece of chocolate.

What we use the chart for

We used it whenever we need to “fix” a behaviour. E.g. we are getting him to stay in bed in the mornings until he can hear our alarm clock go off (rather than get up at 5:45am and try and wake us all up)… we have used it for going to bed nicely in the evening and for tidying up.

We have also used this reward chart for chores. The basis of the chore is that my son “chooses” to do the chore. I don’t force him, but remind him, that if he “chooses” to do the chore he gets his reward bunny. I am hoping that by making it a choice, there is less whining and reluctance about “having” to help. So far it is quite successful. My son will help me with the laundry most of the time. Then we have periods of 2-3 weeks when he doesn’t help at all. He then remembers the treat box (or sees his sister succeeding in getting a treat) and is spurned on again to help. I think the choice is key to us.

I think this chart works well as (for us):

  • It is simple, there is not too much going on (I have seen shop bought charts where you have to get 30 stars or more for a variety of different behaviours – all very confusing)
  • He saw rewards quickly at first and gets to choose something from the treat box.
  • It is big and fun and it has one of his favourite animals (bunnies) – I have seen people scribble a messy table on a piece of paper and stick it on the fridge – not pretty – not fun. Doesn’t work (so well).
  • We use it consistently for 2-3 weeks at a time. Once the behaviour is fixed we put it away.

The Reward

We have no been using the chart for well over two years (and still have the orginal) and one thing that it has made me realise is, that it is as not about “what” you give the children, but THAT they get to CHOOSE something from our treat box. We have a treat box, with small party bag type tat and sweets. Occasionally there will be a DVD or similar. Time and time again they surprise me by not choosing things of value, but a simple lolly. There could be a Glass Trophy in there or a £10 note… it isn’t the value, but the process of excitement of being ALLOWED at the box and allowed to choose. So reward charts are not about big expensive presents, but about making the child feel special and that he has earned something.

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