How to use reward charts for kids and do they actually work?

Right now I’m grappling with how to get the kids to do what they’re asked without tears (mine) or tantrums (theirs). It’s a classic parenting challenge and every parent I ask tells me that reward charts are the way to go. But how to use rewards charts so it actually works?

I’m slightly worried that using rewards seems a bit like bribery but parenting experts highlight that there is a difference; whilst bribes are given to get the behaviour you want, a reward is given after. And whilst some might say that teaching children that they only get rewarded for good behaviour may kill any desire they might have to be good for its own sake; ask just about any parent and you’ll be told that the reward system works.

Reward charts, which can help shape children’s behaviour – have been used for years.  The traditional approach has generally involved pinning a chart somewhere in the kitchen and doling out stickers or stars for good behaviour.

As with everything in life, balance is key; rewards can be useful in some situations but not in others.  By keeping a simple framework in mind, and using a reward chart as just as one part of your parenting tool kit, it can become an instrument to effect long term change. 

  • For most kids, a timeframe of one week, one goal is manageable
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Check in daily
  • Celebrate the wins and don’t dwell on the failures
  • Ideally, the whole family should aim for the same goal to encourage a shared growth mindset
  • Re-visit the same goal in order to turn behaviour into habit
How to use reward charts for kids and do they actually work? #rewardcharts #parentingtips #parenting

Psychologist Alan Kazdin calls this ‘repeated behaviour’; in other words the more a child behaves positively in response to reward, the more routine the positive behaviour becomes.  Eventually, good habits become ingrained.

I have a friend who adds a piece of dried pasta to a glass jar every time one of her children does something positive. That’s a pasta shell for being kind, another for being helpful or listening. When their glass jar is full, her children choose a fun activity for the family to do together. It would seem that my friend’s approach works (to the outsider, at least, her kids seem well-mannered likable little people).

But times are changing.  Parents have a whole new world of technology at their fingertips and the good old star chart has received a 21st Century update from family parenting app Family5.  For those of you who, like me, rely on your phones for everything from getting fit (thanks Strava) to self-care (mindfulness fitness app Calm is my go-to) this modern parenting tool is a godsend! 

My family can now work on positive behaviour and build good habits easily whether we are at home or on the go. The reward chart is no longer confined to the fridge door and, what’s more, the kids love it! Setting goals and building good habits has never been easier than with my new favorite app.

To take a look at Family5’s Star Charts and its range of other features, click here to download the app.

Picture credit: Children photo created by freepik –

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