Creating a tailored reward chart

Reward chart finished article!

For a while now I’ve been thinking about the best way to encourage my kids to move to the next level with their behaviour and the way they think and act. To be fair to them (particularly JJ who is obviously no longer a threenager), they are generally good boys and can be sweet, loving and thoughtful. However we do have plenty of meltdowns – often when tiredness or hunger kick in, but there are certain issues which do come up time and again and it can be really hard to negotiate with a small child when they decide to be stubborn!

I’ve thought about the idea of reward or behaviour charts before but it wasn’t until this weekend that it suddenly felt like the right time.

We have begun to visit our local recreation ground often – nearly every day some weeks now the weather has improved so much. That’s great and I have no problem with it, however there happens to be a lovely café down there which sells delicious home-made ice-cream and the kids have developed a taste for it. At £2 a cone/cup however, it’s more than I’m prepared to shell out every single time we pop down there and I’ve had to put my thinking cap on.

I began telling the children that if they wanted an ice cream they would have to use the money from their piggy banks which they have been doing on occasion, but that’s now beginning to run out. I devised the tailored reward charts as a way for them to earn a weekly £2 pocket money which they can then choose to put towards an ice cream at the weekend if that’s what they want to do.

Reward chart stickeringThese charts work on several levels: they will hopefully allow me to tackle a couple of areas where problems often arise – sibling sharing being a biggie; they will allow me to introduce some very basic household chores; the creation of the charts is a fab collaborative craft project which gets the children invested in the concept; and they very gently introduce the idea of earning your keep – the value of money and how gratifying it can be to receive positive feedback and be rewarded for it.

I read up a bit on different ways to tackle the project. Some, (such as Jo Frost ‘Supernanny’) suggest that you include the concept that achievements can be rescinded if your child behaves badly but I go along with other commentators that this is essentially a ‘reward’ chart – a way of promoting good behaviours and not a way of tackling negative ones.

Reward chart tasksI decided to stick with five ‘tasks’ for each child because I don’t want to overwhelm them and I’m hoping that the tasks are simple enough that JJ at least can tackle all five every day. His tasks include getting his own breakfast (cereal and an Actimel), sharing nicely with his little brother, doing at least one good deed a day, helping with the washing up after dinner and eating up his vegetables every day!

I have had a harder time narrowing down EJ’s tasks although they also include sharing and letting his brother alone when he asks for some ‘quiet time’! I want to encourage a slightly less demanding start to the bedtime routine and I’d also like him to start down the road to a little more independence in areas like getting his clothes on and off in the run up to starting school.

At the time of writing we haven’t put EJ’s chart together yet and I’m not sure whether he will respond to it in quite the same eager and invested way that his big brother seems to have done but from what I’ve read, between the ages of 3-8 is the best time to do this kind of thing and EJ turns four in July.

As a mother of boys I really want to begin introducing concepts of shared responsibility around the home at an early age and this seems like a good first step towards that although I do worry that tying any kind of household chore up with monetary reward may encourage a work ethic but not, ultimately, empathy and selfless participation in family life.

The ‘chores’ I’ve chosen (and those I wish to tackle elsewhere as well) are less ‘jobs’ and more things which encourage the children to take responsibility for themselves, the mess they create, the meals they consume, the rubbish they generally shove into my hands – it’s all the very early stages of self-awareness and an awareness of what others do for them and the time and work that goes into everything from cooking a meal to planning a day out, to getting everyone from A to B within a deadline.

Reward chart craftingI’m also going to try and be as realistic as possible about this. It may not work. The children may get bored of the chosen tasks and the novelty will inevitably wear off. Despite all of these possibilities I still believe that this is the beginning of positive parenting with a plan and not just on a wing and a prayer. Ideas can be tweaked, new tasks can be devised if/when the old ones become second nature, and if nothing else it will encourage the children to just think about the consequences of their actions a bit more.


13 thoughts on “Creating a tailored reward chart

  1. I wish you success! Looks like you’re off to a good start.

    In our house we have 3 kinds of chores: first is self-maintenance chores like brushing your teeth, which everyone is expected to do just because they’re people who are alive. Second is family chores like pitching in with after-dinner cleanup, which are expected because they’re part of the family. Third is allowance chores, which they do get paid for, and they’re jobs I would ordinarily do like deep cleaning something or organizing the kitchen cabinets.
    Jenny at Unremarkable Files recently posted…34 Things I Know for SureMy Profile

  2. Great idea Sam. We had a monster meltdown over tidying the other day and it was awful. She did it in the end but so hard. I think a reward chart with a few jobs in the future may promote positive reinforcement for being good and helping. Good luck and thanks for hosting x
    Sarah Howe recently posted…I’m Going to BML16My Profile

    • Yes, not sure if these three year olds are a bit too young for the concept to be honest. I guess it depends how suggestible your child is which kind of means that the children who would do best with a reward chart are the ones who don’t really need one. *sigh*

  3. This is a lovely idea. At the moment, Piglet is not quite two, so he’s a bit young for a reward chart, but it’s something I will definitely consider when he’s older, although as he’s an only child, there won’t be much in the way of competition. #thetruthabout
    Min recently posted…I Am Not A Strict Parent.My Profile

    • Well you never know, maybe ‘sharing’ is equally as important in an only child because they don’t have anyone to practice that with? I think even three going on four is a bit young for a reward chart. I’m just not sure EJ is going to be anywhere near as eager as his brother to fulfil his ‘tasks’ at this point…

  4. Very interesting point you make about wanting to nurture a genuine interest in participating in family life over a work ethic. I’d not really considered that before. I’m going to have to give this more thought as we kinda have been encouraging our eldest with offers of financial reward. I hope, by the way, that you are more successful with reward charts tan we were. Ours got used for about two months after which it simply gathered dust! Thakns as ever for hosting #truthabout
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    • I have a strong feeling that we’ll be lucky if we even get two months use out of ours John! I’d be interested to know what the average length of time children aged 3-8 actually do use reward charts for… It’s day two and JJ is still well into his – he told me that he’d helped a Year R child who’d fallen over in the playground and taken him to a teacher today (which was his ‘good deed’). He’s so excited about getting a gold star. I just hope that this is actually acting as a way of encouraging him to think about other people and be kind and good and not just because there’s a reward at the end of it.. Gosh it really is a bit of a minefield isn’t it, thinking about it!

  5. This is brilliant Sam. I’ve always gone along with the feeling that we are a family unit that should all help each other out and be part of that team. Yes that will mean doing some age-appropriate chores! I do tend to take money away for poor behaviour refusing to do what has been asked but my kids are older now and to be honest, taking money away or refusing to do a lift is the only thing that works! Good luck with this. I do think that kids shouldn’t grow up with this feeling of entitlement – you’re instilling this in a great way. And they get an ice cream at the end of the week!
    Suzanne recently posted…Take 5: On Being BraveMy Profile

  6. Seb had a reward chart for years and loved it! Positive rewarding has always worked best for him and helped his behaviour is lots of ways. Although these days it seems to be a constant battle to try to get Seb to remember to do his ‘tasks’ without reminding him ALL the time. Making his breakfast, taking bowls through to the kitchen after eating and making his bed are his regular tasks for the day but I often find bowls left on the coffee table and an unmade bed. My husband thinks I should put consequences in place for not doing tasks but I’ve always been a positive parenting fan and don’t like to focus on the negative. We’ve just introduced drying up as we don’t have a dish washer at the moment. he moans a bit but it’s great to get him chipping in. I think boys have a tendency to be a bit lazy and let their mums run around after them! As I only have one child I have to stop myself doing this too. xx

  7. Hope it goes well! I have done various charts before but they never seem to work for me. I currently trying to encourage the boys to tidy their rooms before bed – with varying amounts of success. Middle man just gets distracted and gets more out!

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