Saturday, 8 October 2016

Reward Charts for Toddlers: Shaping our Children's Behavior

Positive reinforcement and reward-based techniques are generally more effective than any disciplinary measures and are the best means to moulding and shaping your child's behavior.

While the idea of reward charts isn't complicated, their actual implementation does require some thought and proper planning (ie. what behavior to reward and how to reward specific behaviors).

Reward charts, positive reinforcement and a continuous cheery and positive attitude at home worked wonders for my child, truly. My child was acting up - She wasn't listening, she was hitting other kids in school and she was testing me at every opportunity. In an attempt to curb my child's negative behavior I would have consistent "talks" with her, constantly explaining the importance of listening, of keeping her hands to herself. I would punish her with time-outs and by taking away her favorite toys for a short period of time. On rare occasions, if she was really giving me a hard time in public, I would cut the outing short and take her home (this may only be effective if your child is not trying to leave a situation by acting out on purpose). My tactics weren't enough. They were not working and not only was it exhausting and sometimes inconvenient to implement them, I often felt sad for my child, that she was consistently bombarded with negative reactions from her parents (and probably teachers). I was exasperated, starting to feel worn down and desperate for a solution.

I decided it was time for a big upheaval in the way I was doing things. It was time to change MY

I went online and printed out a reward chart and devised a plan, a new way of doing things. Fast forward to about a month and a half of consistent use of a reward-based system and my child's behavior has improved exponentially. It's night and day. That's not to say that she doesn't' act up on occasion, she is three years old after all. But her attitude is completely different. Her desire to please her parents and receive positive attention far outweighs any propensity towards obtaining any attention for negative behavior.

Here is how to do it:

1. Print out a reward chart (click here for some great charts). A 10-step chart is ideal; Toddlers normally understand the concept of 1 to 10 and have an idea that the goal is within their reach.

2. Put the chart on your fridge and explain to your child how it works. If you're trying to achieve specific desired behaviors (such as eating dinner nicely, taking a bath without a fuss, going to bed without crying, etc.) then write these goals down on the page and review them with your child. Explain to them that they will get a sticker for their good behavior.

3. Explain to your child that when they receive a certain number of stickers on the chart, they'll receive a "big" reward (for example, my chart has 10 steps - At step 5, I drew a picture of a muffin and wrote "Baking muffins with mommy"; At step 10, she gets a surprise). Try and find things that appeal to your child and reward accordingly. Activities with mommy and/or daddy are always best.

4. Give your child a sticker as soon as possible after the desired behavior. Don't forget!

5. On the first day of implementation of the chart, reward your child at least once for good behavior (even if you're pushing it or have to look really really hard to find something positive). Start your child off right.

5. Make a REALLY big deal when you reward your child. Big smiles, big hugs, and tell your child you are proud of them.

6. Let your child choose the sticker and let him/her put it on the chart. Count how many more steps they have to go before they get a big reward.

7. Reward them with a"big" reward as soon as possible after they're entitled to it.

8. *** Most importantly: Consistently remind yourself to check your behavior. Your child is learning from you. Your child is leaning on you. Keep calm and BE the example of positive behavior. Telling your child not to yell while you're yelling is nonsensical.

And that's it!

Of course there are variations of reward systems. I have two charts, one is a calendar where I allow my child to place smaller stickers for multiple good behaviors throughout the day, and the second is a 10-step chart where I allow her to place one big sticker at the end of the day if she was generally good all day. The "big" rewards flow from the 10-step chart. The idea here is to be constantly rewarding and praising with small stickers, and using "big" rewards more sparingly for consistent good behavior.]

Don't expect results in a day or in a week. It takes time for a child to take in exactly what it is we want of them and to start adapting their behavior accordingly. It took a full month of implementing my system before I really saw big changes in my child.

Essentially you are steering your child in a certain direction, showing how attractive positive behavior can be. Such a system obviously has to go hand in hand with a positive parental attitude and outlook. Additionally it should also be used in conjunction with other methods when required. It is important to talk to your children and explain to them the importance of acting in certain ways as opposed to others. It's also sometimes important to discipline when a given behavior calls for it. Certain things, such as hitting, are never acceptable. A time-out, confiscation of a toy, or even removing your child from a situation is sometimes necessary.

No matter how your child has behaved, no matter how tough or challenging the day has been, always remind your child that although you may be upset, may be really really upset, mommy and daddy still love them, always. 

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