Do you use behavior/reward charts? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 18 Old 09-09-2013, 06:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I avoid behaviorist stuff like behavior/reward charts, but I know they're popular with a lot of parents. I thought it might be worth a discussion, first of all whether you use them and why or why not, but then as well if you do use them please answer a few questions. I think some people come to this site looking for recommendations about behavior/reward charts and people's experiences here could help.

What ages do they work best for?

What kinds of behavior do you use them for?

How well have they worked in your family?

Have you noticed that some rewards work better than others? How good of a reward do you give?

Thanks!!
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#2 of 18 Old 09-09-2013, 07:13 AM
 
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I had never considered using one until recently. I had the idea to try one with my older two (ages 5&7), who were fighting a lot earlier in the summer. I used a big piece of paper and made a path like candyland. Along the way they had the rewards to work toward, which were a trip to a local ice cream shop that we all love, a trip to an awesome indoor pool, and a trip to the city to ride the light rail train. In order to get a star they have to have a 'kind and sharing heart.' I talked to them a lot about examples of this. The reason I decided to do this was to establish a HABIT of good behavior and I believe it worked. I am doing other things with them now to help cultivate self governance but this was a great way to get it started.
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#3 of 18 Old 09-09-2013, 02:21 PM
 
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I used a sticker chart with my son when he was, I think, about 2 1/2 or nearly 3.  At that point getting him ready and out the door in the morning had become an extremely difficult task.  He's not a morning person. Neither am I.  We were both dragging.  So I made a chart with the days of the week going horizontally and the activities (going potty, washing hands, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, getting dressed, brushing hair) going vertically, and I gave him a sticker for every activity we accomplished.  The only reward was the stickers and my praising him and telling him how much he was helping me and what a big boy he was, but that was all the reward he needed.  The chart helped to make the morning routine visual.  I think it helped me as much as it helped him, honestly.  As I said, I'm not a morning person, so I also liked to look at the chart and say to myself, "O.K., he's gone potty, he's washed his hands, he's eaten breakfast . . . . oh, toothbrushing, that's what we need to do next."  Maybe other people don't need that sort of reminder in the a.m., but at least at that point I did.

 

I know some people don't like sticker charts because it is giving the child an external reward instead of an internal motivation to do . . . whatever the desired activity is. I can see that point, but when I thought about it I realized, I like some external recognition occasionally.  It doesn't mean that I'm not internally motivated, that I don't want to be a good teacher and a good colleague for the sake of being a good teacher and a good colleague.  But when I get an email from a student saying that I really helped them, or when I get a silly little certificate acknowledging that I did some sort of service for the university, it makes me feel good.  It is nice to be recognized.  So I gave my son that, too.  Gradually he lost interest in the sticker chart and we let it go.  Now we can handle the morning routine without it, but it did help us get through a difficult patch.

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#4 of 18 Old 09-09-2013, 03:51 PM
 
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We have done sticker charts a few times, but maybe we were doing it wrong - the sticker kind of was the reward. We tried it first when she was toilet training.  It wasn't so much that she needed a reward, but a visual reminder and a way to celebrate success.  Sometimes I think there are so many things she's trying to do and track in any given day, a chart makes things clear and concise and easy to follow.  It's a visual cue and a reminder.  Now, using stickers in a way that ten stickers = one prize or you can lose stickers or whatever?  Or rocks in a jar?  That would not work for her.  I think she needs the chart as point of reference more than a reward system.

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#5 of 18 Old 09-10-2013, 08:25 AM
 
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I had never considered using one until recently. I had the idea to try one with my older two (ages 5&7), who were fighting a lot earlier in the summer. 

Same here.  Never used them until I needed *something* to get us out of a rut.  DD1 (8 when we started this) always has liked charts and levels and things like that, so I pulled the idea out to encourage them to be civil to each other.  It worked for her, for as long as we used it.  She was old enough to see that it was a trick we were using so that she could find the motivation to act appropriately-- because often a keen insult or slap can be more rewarding in the short term than any punishment or promise of a reward.  But it was only a trick-- she had in herself the ability to change her behavior, but like adults, sometimes we need a mental shakeup to find where we can find that ability and *use it*.

 

With DD2, then 6, the same system was abysmal.  Her behavior got worse, even as her sister's got better (coincidence?  Somehow I don't think so!)  So, we ultimately ditched it because we needed to have one system for everybody (our house is big on fairness, meaning "equal" unfortunately).

 

Things are much, much better anyway.  DD1's endless searing comments to her sister have nearly dried up-- it's more normal sibling stuff now-- and dd2 has stopped screaming at people, for the most part.

 

BTW, when I did the charts, there were carrots and sticks.  First stick--no star, second stick, lost a treat next day.  They could earn back the treat, but not the star.  7 stars earned an extra treat, a month of stars (28, not perfect) earned something like an extra half-hour of riding during lesson time.  We chose treats because those were the biggest motivators.

 

I hated starting the system, I felt like a total failure, but then nothing else I was able to do was working, and as imperfect as system as it was, it worked to some extent.  In general, I frown upon them as a de facto tool for encouraging behavior, but so much of our society works off this kind of reward system, that I don't see real harm in using it occasionally, having it as an option in your parenting "tool bag".  Sure, I think it can cause troubles down the road for kids who milk the system and don't really care about why they are doing it, but to some extent this could be an acceptable trade-off for a parent who desperately needs the kids to pitch in, to stop hitting their sister.  I think for me this is much like my opinion on parents driving kids around the block for naps-- once I frowned upon it, now I understand!

 

Where I wouldn't approve is areas where there clearly isn't much real control possible-- like using the potty if the skill isn't there, or behavioral troubles that are rooted in ADD, allergic reactions, family dysfunction or other stresses of life.  My approval would be entirely dependent on a healthy home environment, reasonable expectations, and a no "unusual" circumstances for behavioral problems.  

 

ETA:  I think it's * better* if we could try encouraging the positive behaviors without such obviously external reward systems, but I think that for some kids, they can be a real motivator, a physical record of their accomplishments.  Conversely, though, with another child or another circumstance, it can be a physical record of their failure, too, so I think parents really need to use this system judiciously.  I think that was why it didn't work in the long term at my house-- dd1 saw her victories, dd2 saw her failures.


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#6 of 18 Old 09-10-2013, 08:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Gracecody View Post

 The reason I decided to do this was to establish a HABIT of good behavior and I believe it worked. I am doing other things with them now to help cultivate self governance but this was a great way to get it started.

Exactly my thoughts and experiences.  Some behaviors become habits, and it can take a something out of the ordinary like a reward to chart to jump start new habits.  


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#7 of 18 Old 09-19-2013, 07:02 PM
 
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I'm not against the concept, but when I was teaching first grade, the principal required each team (grade) have the same discipline system.  The head teacher in the team had always used the card chart, so I made one up.

 

Frankly, it was pretty much there to take up space for me. 


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#8 of 18 Old 09-19-2013, 08:56 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracecody View Post

 The reason I decided to do this was to establish a HABIT of good behavior and I believe it worked. I am doing other things with them now to help cultivate self governance but this was a great way to get it started.

Exactly my thoughts and experiences.  Some behaviors become habits, and it can take a something out of the ordinary like a reward to chart to jump start new habits.  

:yeah

 

I'm generally an Unconditional Parenting fan, but I think there are situations where rewards can be helpful.  I've been trying out a reward system with my 7 year old that's working well.  He just couldn't or wouldn't keep himself from doing annoying things over and over again, many times a day, no matter how many times he was told that those things were annoying and that it was not okay to deliberately do something he knew would annoy another person.  (The other person was most often his sister, but sometimes it was me or DP.)  I wanted to motivate him to develop new habits and I also wanted to get some idea how much he was actually able to control himself.  I made a reward basket with a lot of folded pieces of paper that have rewards printed on them. Most of the rewards are pretty small (25 cents, being able to watch one video that's less than 5 minutes, etc.)  Some are blank - no reward at all.  But there are a few bigger ones ($5, half an hour of screen time.)  Other rewards include me doing anything he wants for half an hour, me teaching him a new card game, me making cinnamon rolls, and having a family Nerf gun battle.  Unpredictable rewards are more motivating than predictable ones.  That's what keeps people playing slot machines.  I was going for the slot machine effect.  I wanted him to want to keep trying to win.

 

I started out asking him to try going for half an hour without doing anything to annoy anyone.  If he succeeded, he could pick a reward from the basket.  I told him that we would start small, with just half an hour at a time, and gradually work up to longer periods.  He successfully completed his first half hour and later that same day wanted to try it again.  He was the one who suggested moving up to an hour.  (I think maybe he thought I wasn't going to let him do it again in the same day unless it was for a longer time.)  So we tried it again with an hour, and then he wanted to do it again.  I had been thinking we'd aim for one session a day, and gradually make the sessions longer, but when he wanted to keep doing it I told him he could try it as many times a day as he wanted.  For about a week he spent a good part of each day setting the timer for an hour over and over again and collecting rewards at the end of most of the hours.  So my question about how much he could control himself was answered and the answer turned out to be a lot.  This has been a busy week and he's pretty much forgotten about trying for rewards.  But he's been way less annoying than used to be normal anyway.  It appears that refraining from being annoying is already becoming a habit.  But I want to get back to encouraging at least one session a day of not annoying anyone, because I think the habit still needs a bit more work.  I think we should move up to 2 hours.  Maybe I'll add a few more biggish rewards when we do that. 

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#9 of 18 Old 09-22-2013, 08:47 PM
 
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 I never thought I would use one, but glad I did! For a year, DD NEVER let us brush her teeth, the only time we could brush them was when she was screaming/crying then she would sometimes open her mouth enough to get the toothbrush. We tried everything, she just had grown to hate it so much. It was so sad, I hated to force her but didn't want her to get cavities. Then we got a new tooth brush that came with stickers that she could decorate it with, I had the best idea ever and said "Ok, let me brush your teeth and then we can put a sticker on your toothbrush", she did no problem, and when she wanted to put another one on I said "Ok, in the morning we'll brush again and then you can put on another sticker" and from then on she has loved to get her teeth brushed. I ended up doing the same thing for potty training, when she was ready. We put one sticker her potty when she tried, and if she actually ended up going we put another one, and she started using her potty no problem. Now we are moving her out of the family bed in the same way, I pained a big tree poster to put over her bed and got glow in the dark stars for her to make a "star tree". The first week or so she wasn't sure she wanted to do it, so we did one star when she tried to go to sleep in her bed, and then one in the morning if she stayed in it (she always stayed in, IDK what I would do if she didn't cuz I wouldn't want her to feel bad). She loves her "star tree" so much, she is so happy to sleep in her "star tree bed".

It only took a few weeks of the stickers to make whatever we were using them for into a habit, then she sort of forgets about using the stickers and is happy to do it without them. Maybe there is a better way, but I'm really happy with this system & I'll use it again if something comes up that needs that extra push. 

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#10 of 18 Old 09-25-2013, 07:31 PM
 
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We tried, but they didn't work.

We gave a star for doing some part of the routine of getting ready, teeth brushing, being helpful, etc. After so many stars get a prize.

I didn't work. Well, it did for a day or so. But then she wasn't really motivated by the stars anymore and didn't care much about the gifts/surprises. And they were activity books....which she LOVES.

 

What did work well for helping with out routine is making a routine chart.

This wasn't about rewards, but a visual of the routine. And a way to make her feel like she had options or choces.

First we looked on-line for pictures together that signify the part of the routine (get dressed, brish teeth, washroom, pj's, eat breakfast, etc)

After choosing pictures we printed them out and laminated them and attached velcro to back of pictures and piece of large card stock.

Then when it was ready to start routine she could decide what order to do activities and move the picture from the "to do" strip to the "done" strip.

That worked wonders.


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#11 of 18 Old 09-29-2013, 06:19 AM
 
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Here we are just a few weeks later and my daughter has a teacher who HEAVILY relies on sticker charts and rewards.  There is a sticker chart and reward attached to literally everything in the class.  Everything.  My daughter - former straight A student, perfect conduct marks always, lover of all thing school - is a nervous wreck.  Even though the teacher has tried to present it as a "reward" system, my daughter is very much experiencing it as system of punishments.  I HATE it. 

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#12 of 18 Old 10-03-2013, 05:41 AM
 
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I generally don't like them because I think they are overused and end up rewarding kids for behaviors (kindness, reading, respecting the teacher) that should be expected and which should have internal motivations and rewards. We spend a lot of time in our house talking about these internal rewards when our daughters (8, 4 and 4) come home with prizes or stickers for these kind of things (yes, its great that you got to pick a pencil from the prize box for behaving well in class this week... its also great because you can be proud of yourself for making it easier for your teacher to teach and for yourself and your friends to learn!) you get the idea.  

 

That said, I also absolutely think there are times when a behavior chart/reward system has a place.  In school for example, there are just going to be some kids who learn some things differently or on a different time line than most others.  If it was reading, we'd expect the teacher to figure out another way to present that material.  If its behavior, then maybe the different way to "present the material" is in the form of a behavior plan that includes a chart/plan with tangible and specific rewards.  I just wish it wasn't the norm for all students for so many behaviors.  There is actually a lot of research that rewarding kids for behaviors that they would happily do anyway overtime makes them begin to forget WHY they enjoyed doing that behavior, and they begin to attribute their "purpose" to the reward.  Like, "I aim for good grades because I get rewarded when I get them, not because it's intrinsically satisfying to do my best".  

 

At home, I've used rewards with my kids on a couple of occasions, like PPs mentioned when we really had to either break out of a rut or instill a new good habit. With my older DD, it was getting herself dressed (with  no help or prompting) for school in kindergarten. By then I had a 1 year old and a new born, and she was fully able to get her clothes (a uniform with just a shirt and skirt) on in the morning (we did socks and shoes with her).  We did a chart where we added 10 cents to her allowance for every school day that she did this.  I also really needed something to break the cycle of me yelling at her about it and nagging all morning.  With my middle DD, she was crying before school/camp this summer (she goes 3 days a week when I work).  She was able to tell me that she was completely happy there all day, and happy as soon as I left, but she'd work herself up to a ball of misery all morning... it just seemed like a habit.  So I offered her a Squinkie for every morning she didn't cry (after making sure that there was PLENTY of time to talk through- with her and school- any possible actual issues), just to break the cycle, and it only took about a week. 

 

I think, for me, one of the keys to being comfortable with using rewards/behavior charts at home is being up front with my kids that they are TEMPORARY and that they were designed to create new habits and that they would be faded away once that happened (which is what we did).

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#13 of 18 Old 10-03-2013, 09:10 AM
 
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I used a sticker chart when we wanted to transition DD who was 3 at the time, to staying in her bed all night long.  So in addition to just calmly walking her back to bed, she got bonus stickers for not getting into our bed in the first place and not waking us up.  It worked like a dream,  and she was thrilled to get stickers.  We did it for about a month and then I just gave her the pack of stickers and said, have fun kid.  Because the stickers were just to sweeten the pot, but not the boundary itself, we didn't have any "regression" when we stopped doing the chart.

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#14 of 18 Old 10-03-2013, 09:23 AM
 
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Here we are just a few weeks later and my daughter has a teacher who HEAVILY relies on sticker charts and rewards.  There is a sticker chart and reward attached to literally everything in the class.  Everything.  My daughter - former straight A student, perfect conduct marks always, lover of all thing school - is a nervous wreck.  Even though the teacher has tried to present it as a "reward" system, my daughter is very much experiencing it as system of punishments.  I HATE it. 

 

My younger daughter saw the same system as a punishment while her older sister saw it as a highly motivating reward.  I can totally see how it can be seen as a punishment unless it works perfectly from the outset.

 

I also see a problem with using such a system out of the starting gate, so to speak, assuming there is a need when there really isn't one.  And using it like your daughter's teacher is... well, this is one of my main motivators for making homeschooling work for us.  Our elementary school uses rewards like this as a standard operating practice, and I hate the idea of it--and your daughter's experience justifies my initial feelings (since I have never sent them to that school).  I mean, give kids a little credit....


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#15 of 18 Old 10-03-2013, 11:53 AM
 
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Really agree with pretty much all the PP. Reward charts can be used well.

 

We occasionally use them, in conjunction with the kids. I mean they get to plan the reward etc. I think as others have said its just helpful sometimes for habit forming. 

 

Just to say too, use the same system of rewarding myself at times to get myself into new habits. It works. I think if a kid is in control, basically, it works. If the reward isn't something they can only get through jumping through the hoops, its better too. 

 

I think a common criticism of reward charts is that they take away your own motivation for doing things and replace them with a desire to get stickers. I'm really not convinced by this, if its handled well. I think it can be enormously helpful for a kid to learn how to form a habit.


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#16 of 18 Old 10-03-2013, 12:02 PM
 
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Really agree with pretty much all the PP. Reward charts can be used well.

 

We occasionally use them, in conjunction with the kids. I mean they get to plan the reward etc. I think as others have said its just helpful sometimes for habit forming. 

 

Just to say too, use the same system of rewarding myself at times to get myself into new habits. It works. I think if a kid is in control, basically, it works. If the reward isn't something they can only get through jumping through the hoops, its better too. 

 

I think a common criticism of reward charts is that they take away your own motivation for doing things and replace them with a desire to get stickers. I'm really not convinced by this, if its handled well. I think it can be enormously helpful for a kid to learn how to form a habit.

 

I like the idea that we are giving kids a model for how to help themselves form habits they want to form.  I also used similar incentive/rewards to quit smoking and get started with other difficult but healthy habits.

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#17 of 18 Old 10-03-2013, 02:53 PM
 
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 I also used similar incentive/rewards to quit smoking and get started with other difficult but healthy habits.

Me too, and I think that's a good example actually. With quitting smoking you have a big overall goal, which is really hard to meet at times. You need little doses of incentive to get you to ride out the endless little temptations and bit by bit, those ignored temptations add up to the kicking the habit both physically (which isn't too bad) but socially/emotionally (which I found much, much harder).

 

For me, the little rewards were just about giving myself a reason to keep going when it was hard, when I couldn't see the bigger picture. Its partly about recognising and acknowleging to yourself that what you are doing is hard. I think to be able to motivate yourself with extrinsics is a helpful skill, and can get you through a lot of things better than pure willpower alone.


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#18 of 18 Old 10-08-2013, 09:45 AM
 
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Yesterday I picked up a toy-like "Responsibility Chart" made by Melissa & Doug.  I'd been eyeing it for a couple of years, but we don't require chores (beyond helping pick up in-the-way games) and I didn't want this to feel top-down.  But, over the months, they have been eager to implement clean-up days and that kind of stuff, but with little follow-through.  

 

I saw the chart again at the store the other day and asked them what they thought.  They loved it, I bought it.  I immediately sensed that this reward chart needs to "belong" to them entirely.  They would have to work out how to divide things up between them (the chart is not designed with 2 kids in mind), they would have to decide what chores.  

 

And, Lo! and behold!  There is "no teasing" on there!  "Keep hands to yourself".  "No bad language".  We had to discuss that one, because I not only don't mind "angry words", we simply don't use them.  So we decided that it meant "no name calling" which is absolute for *everyone* in the house.  We decided "No whining" meant "no throwing grumps around" because they really don't whine.  And onward.  

 

I told them they got to decide the chores and whether or not they would "reward" themselves because if I stepped in, it wouldn't be so motivating.  Sure enough, dd1 helped set the table (just having her have that chore made me pull a decent dinner together just for her --I was exhausted yesterday).  I had an impossibly huge lunch, so all I wanted was a fat pear, so she set a plate for my pear.  She cleared the table, and when I handed the washcloth to her she said "I am just clearing the table.  You can do that."  :p

 

Today is dd2's day for chores.  That's how they divided it up.  That's right, the day they get to choose the morning video and collect eggs is the day they decided to get a turn to do chores (Tom Sawyer is immediately coming to mind here!)  They have already collected the eggs (written on one of the 2 handy blank tiles).

 

I know this is just beginning, but I am just thrilled even if it doesn't last with such enthusiasm.  And I'm interested in what they will do for "Homework", as we are unschoolers and have none.


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