Do reward charts work?

When do I use reward charts for my children?

When bringing up children, parents quickly realise that the maxim 'reward good behaviour and ignore bad' only goes so far. Apart from anything children need to be told that bad behaviour IS bad behaviour, it's not as if they're born knowing. So, inspired by supernanny, I have frequently fallen to the reward chart to try and improve my children's behaviour.

A few weeks ago, my 3 year old was quite unwell for a few days with high temperatures. He had to have 3 days off school and lay either asleep or languidly watching the TV. When he was well enough to go back to school he was much improved, but not his normal self. He had tantrums and generally his behaviour wasn't great.

What do reward charts look like?

Time to pull out another reward chart. My reward charts are generally quite simple and I let him choose what theme he wants. This time it was 'rockets' so we drew a big moon with 7 rockets surrounding it. Each rocket had to get 6 stars to reach the moon. So 6 stars and then he can have a reward (normally a couple of sweets). I have to say I arrange it so that he can generally get one reward a day. Reward charts don't have to be pictures on paper, we once had a reward 'treasure chest' that we had to put 'treasures' in.

What can I use reward charts for?

You can use reward charts for specific things such as 'keeping your room tidy', 'brushing your teeth', 'getting dressed by yourself'. But I also find them useful just for 'good behaviour' i.e. no tantrums and no snatching toys from your younger brother. That way, I am constantly reminding him what is considered good behaviour. So, a star for eating your breakfast nicely (and behaving well around that time), a star for eating lunch and dinner nicely, a star for behaving well at bath time and another for going to bed nicely. Plus a bonus star for 'something that I want to reward', generally being nice to his brother. (Not at all contrived!)

Supernanny says that you can also take away stars for bad behaviour. I sometimes threaten it, but rarely do, perhaps my children are a little young for that.

Finishing reward charts

The main problem that I have with star charts is finishing them. After a few days, we all seem to get a bit bored of them and forget to stick the stars down. But that must be a good sign that whatever bad behaviour was the issue is now resolved. I think they're really effective. And if all else fails, as a friend recently joked, you can always roll them up and use them to swat your child...

Post script. 2 years on and I'm still using reward charts, but this time for no 2. Read Dante's reward chart.