Parents want their children to be responsible and respectful, but these things must be taught. Kids should be acknowledged when behavior is appropriate and experience consequences when they are not acting in ways that meet your expectations. One tool that can be effective in teaching children about how to behave is a behavior chart. How you design your chart will depend on your child's age and the behaviors you want to reinforce.
Choose Your Behaviors
Kids need to know exactly what is expected of them in order to be successful. Instead of handing out a reward for "being good," choose the specific behaviors you want your child to demonstrate. "Follow directions the first time" or "Say please and thank you" are examples of behaviors you may want your child to work on. For young children, choose one or two target behaviors that you really want to focus on. Older kids can have more, but each one should be explained clearly. Also make sure that the expectations you have of your child are developmentally appropriate. You will want to list these desired behaviors on the chart.
Choose Your Rewards
While many parents apply consequences, rewards are sometimes overlooked. Positive reinforcement can be an effective motivator for kids who are struggling with certain behaviors. Some parents might feel uneasy about using rewards if they see it as a bribe for good behavior. The Empowering Parents website explains that rewards are not bribes if they are established ahead of time and a child understands what he needs to do to earn that reward. In contrast, bribes are given in the moment that a child is misbehaving and are effectively rewarding the undesired behavior. When using a behavior chart, have your child help you decide the rewards she can earn. Rewards do not always have to be material things. Often, fun activities or time spent with you can be very motivating as well.
Choose Your Frequency
You will have to decide how often you are going to give a reward for your child showing the appropriate behavior. If he is young, he will need more immediate feedback and frequent rewards, so he may only have to do something a few times before being rewarded, while an older child will have to do more to earn the reward. If your child is working on a complex task, it may be better to break it down into smaller steps. Instead of earning one reward for cleaning his room, he could be rewarded for picking up the books and then again for making his bed. This is info you will specify on your chart.
Choose Your Chart
Once you have established the target behaviors, the rewards that will be earned and how often your child can earn them, you are ready to make your chart. A simple one can be created by drawing a grid on paper and writing down the behaviors expected along the side. Kids can earn stickers, stamps or smiley faces each time they show the appropriate behavior and then earn a reward when they have reached their goal. To make the chart reusable, use a cookie sheet and write the expected behaviors on it with a dry-erase marker. Your child can place magnets on it to mark the times they demonstrated the correct behaviors.
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