Bullies & Cyber Bullying
Behavior Problems
Classroom-Student Behavior
Extracurricular Activities
Internet & Technology
Kids Health & Safety
Parenting Styles & Skills
Positive Discipline
Potty Training
Sibling Rivalry
Sleepovers & Bedtime

Incentive Charts

Parents want to know that they are doing the right things to encourage positive behavior in their children. If you are looking for ways to improve your child’s behavior, consider using incentive charts, which are tools used to reinforce positive behavior in children. There are a wide variety of behavior charts that focus on chores, daily goals, or specific actions. You want to select the type of chart that is appropriate for the behavior the child that you want to target. Every child is unique, so allow flexibility in modifying the chart to your child.

Incentive Charts for Children

Charts are used mostly for small children. Younger children need clear and direct reinforcements, with simple organization that helps their understanding of the chart’s purpose. Use pictures and colorful designs to demonstrate the desired behavior, while making the chart fun and positive. Detailed, long-term incentive charts that track progress towards a larger goal are appropriate for older children.

Common Incentive and Behavior Chart Characteristics

Although kids charts will depend on the child’s age, there are some common characteristics of each type.

  • The multiple behaviors or tasks to track are listed.
  • The intended goal is noted in hourly, daily, weekly or monthly intervals.
  • Space is provided to note successful items, perhaps with stickers.
  • Reminders for children on the purpose of the chart, such as titles or legends.

Effective Uses for Incentive Charts

Selecting the right behavior chart is just the beginning. You also have to effectively use this great tool in order to achieve the results you are seeking: changed behavior in your child. Discuss with your child the purpose for using behavior charts, focusing on the positive aspects of using the charts. This will motivate your child to reach the goals once they have an understanding of the purpose.

How to Use Incentive and Reward Behavior Charts

Place the incentive chart in an easily noticeable area, such as the family bulletin board, refrigerator, or the child’s bedroom door. Other family members will also see the charts, and can help when necessary. One thing that will discourage positive behavior is a lack of consistency. Mixed messages dilute the importance of the chart and the behavior it is tracking. Sometimes it helps to give the child control over the chart. Placing stickers on the chart or coloring spaces encourages ownership of the behavior. Daily reminders of the goals and successes will reinforce positive behavior, and show your happiness at the child’s improved behavior.

Change Rewards and Incentives Frequently

Children can loose their enthusiasm and patience with frivolous items that do not challenge behavior change. However, goals that are too difficult will quickly loose the child’s interest. Offering a range of difficulty levels will help children feel successful. Vague language is also confusing. Try to use objective words such as “say please” when asking for something and it becomes clear when the behavior occurs. While you want your child to be patient, it is important that you remain patient with allowing the behavior chart to work. Behavior is rarely modified over night, or even within one week. Even with the best charts, children need time to learn the new behavior patterns. Expect to use the charts for at least four to six weeks before new behaviors are cemented.

Set Realistic Rewards and Consequences

Children are motivated best when there is a system of rewards and consequences. Again, consistency plays an important role to ensure the behavior charts result in the desired behavior change. You can have simple rewards that are inexpensive to maintain, such as candy, extra play time, a chance to stay up late, or being excused from a weekly chore. Rewards and consequences give children a goal that is easily understood. You are not simply telling them to change their behavior; rewards are clearly stated and both you and your child know the end result when the behavior is achieved. Older children can have more complex rewards. For example, point values for good and undesirable behaviors. The reward is earned when the predetermined number is reached. Do not put more focus on the negative behavior. The purpose of the reward is to motivate your child to continue in the new behavior, and not revert back to old behaviors when the reward is gone. A behavior incentive chart work best when both parents are on board with the purpose, rewards and consequences. A united front will limit tactics that most children use in playing one parent against the other and will help you be on your way to improving your child's behavior.