Using Reward Charts with children - a guide for parents

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Parents!  Is your child’s behaviour causing concern? Are mealtimes or bedtimes causing stress in your family? Read on to see how you can make life easier at home ...

Let’s take for example the Mealtime Nightmare.  You want the family to eat together, you want a relaxed and happy half hour of sitting together, so you prepare a meal ... and what happens?  Wee Jimmy decides he doesn’t want to eat what’s in front of him.  He doesn’t like carrots, he doesn’t like potatoes, he doesn’t really like anything on the plate. Everyone else at the table becomes stressed - well, after all, Jimmy has to eat. You can’t let the wee soul starve! Adults take it in turns to cajole him, to pretend to eat his meal with ‘mmm, this is yummy!’ expressions of delight, spoonfuls of food are aeroplaned from above for him to swallow. In the meanwhile, nobody’s eating their own meal, the food’s going cold, and the stress levels are rising.  The outcome is usually that the poor parent eventually gives in to wee Jimmy’s demands for reconstituted machine generated deep fried potato smiley faces (well, he has to eat something, we can’t let the wee soul starve, etc etc) and the cycle is ready to continue on the next night, and the next, ...

This can change!

However, behaviour doesn’t change overnight, so you have to make gradual adjustments, and above all, remember the Golden Rule:

Catch them being good!

Let’s look at how this could work, using reward charts.

  • Children respond best to praise rather than criticism.
  • Most children are born collectors - they’ll love collecting stickers on their charts.
  • Introduce the child to the reward chart and explain how it’s going to work.
  • Make it absolutely clear what behaviour you’re looking for. Give examples of what being ‘good’ involves - your child’s not a mind reader! Demonstrate what this behaviour looks like; children love to learn by copying adults.
  • Explain what you’re looking for in positive terms, so rather than say ‘Don’t shout at the table’, say ‘Use an indoor voice at the table’ or 'Speak quietly.'
  • You’re probably not going to turn your faddy eater into the world’s biggest Brussels sprout fan overnight, so you have to employ devious, I mean subtle, tactics. The hated vegetable doesn’t have to appear in its bald, boiled, natural state on the plate. Chop up raw carrots into crunchy sticks and serve with dip, make soups and think up clever disguises for the dreaded foods. There’s lots of help, with recipes, on the Internet, so have a look.
  • When your child behaves well, even if it’s just a small change at first, give him/her a sticker and lavish on the praise. You can’t really overdo it at this stage.
  • Don’t nag, notice - notice when he/she sits well, uses good table manners, joins in properly with the others at the table, because you’re following the Golden Rule of

Catch them being good!

  • Give the sticker right away, every time. Tell your child why they’re getting the sticker.
  • Be prepared to give lots of stickers to reinforce the behaviour you're looking for. Take the chart and stickers with you when you're out and about too.
  • Your child will enjoy putting the stickers on him/herself - it's their chart after all!
  • Look for little things to praise - nobody’s perfect, and remember, you’re trying to

Catch them being good!

Right at the beginning, tell your child what the longer term reward will be, for example, when they have collected 10 stickers, they can have an extra bedtime story, go swimming, have a special treat in their school lunchbox (Brussels sprouts! :) ) Ask what they’d like.

It goes without saying that lots of hugs, cuddles and praise along the way are so important to boost your child’s self-esteem and assure him or her of your unconditional love for them.

All of this can, of course, be adapted for different situations - difficult bedtimes, inability to play sociably with others, etc. What’s central is the Golden Rule, which I’m sure by now you know is

Catch them being good!

All of the charts and stickers above, together with lots of other designs, are available in my eBay shop, Teacher Toolbox, in the Reward Charts and Ministickers sections. The good news is that I have a special FREE postage offer on at the moment - buy any pack of reward charts and a pack of ministickers together and get FREE postage on both!

Good luck!

Karen

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