7 Steps to Creating a Behavior Chart for Your Child

Use a behavior chart to change behavior fast.
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A behavior chart is one of the easiest and fastest behavior modification tools available. Kids love the immediate feedback offered by a reward system and a behavior chart can help keep them motivated to stay on track. Here are seven steps to creating an effective behavior chart:

1. Identify the Desired Behavior

Choose which behavior you want to address first. It’s best to start simple, by choosing up to three behaviors you want to address.

Working on too many behaviors at a time can be confusing.

Frame the behavior in a positive manner—state what you want to see your child do. For example, rather than saying, “No hitting,” try “Use gentle touches.”

2. Decide How Often to Reward Good Behavior

Think about how often your child is going to need feedback for his good behavior. Younger children may need a sticker, checkmark, or star to denote their progress several times a day, but older kids may be able to wait until the end of the day for feedback.

You may want to reward your child mid-morning, late afternoon, or evening. Or, divide the day up into three distinct segments: before school, after school, and bedtime. You may also decide it’s best to concentrate on the behavior during one part of the day only.  

3. Identify Larger Rewards

While sticker charts may motivate a preschool-age child for a while, most kids need to exchange those stickers for bigger rewards to stay motivated.

Rewards, however, don’t need to be expensive. There are many free and low cost rewards that can be very effective.

It’s essential to use rewards that your child is interested in earning. For some kids, electronics time could be an effective reward. For other kids, staying up an extra 15 minutes could be the best reward.

4. Establish a Goal for Your Child

Create a realistic goal that outlines when your child will be rewarded. You may want a daily goal such as, “If you earn three checkmarks today, we’ll play a game after dinner.”

Older kids may be able to wait a little longer for a reward. Consider a goal such as, “If you get five checkmarks for handing in your homework on time this week, we’ll go to the park on Friday after school.”

5. Explain the Chart to Your Child

Talk to your child about the behavior chart. Make it clear that the chart is about helping him, not punishing him. Talk about how it’s up to him to earn privileges and rewards for his good behavior. Give your child an opportunity to ask questions.

6. Use Praise for Added Reinforcement

It’s important to use praise in addition to the behavior chart. Then, as your child learns new behaviors and masters new skills, you can phase out your rewards and use praise only.

7. Adjust Your Behavior Chart as Needed

Sometimes, reward systems require a little trial and error.

If the behavior chart seems too easy for your child, adjust his goal to make it a little more challenging. If however, your child is really struggling to earn meet his goal after several attempts, the reward system may be too difficult. Make it a little easier so he can experience some success, which will motivate him to keep doing well.

As your child’s skills improve, phase out a specific behavior you’re working on and add another behavior. There are many behaviors that respond well to reward systems. If your child grows tired of a behavior chart, consider replacing it with a token economy system.

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