Many parents struggle to find effective consequences while overlooking the benefits of using rewards. Positive reinforcement is a proactive way to encourage good behavior, and one that can be easily accomplished by using charts.
My kindergartener went from making excuses and refusing to participate in PE to looking forward to it and becoming an active participant, all because good behavior meant she could come back to her classroom and move up the behavior chart. It was an arrangement we worked out with her homeroom teacher. When I ran into her PE teacher last week, she threw her arms up and exclaimed, “It’s like she’s a completely different person.”
The degree of effect of a chart may vary from child to child, but charts speak the language of kids for the most part and can be very beneficial. Here’s why.
1. They set clear expectations. When you’re clear about your expectations, you set your kids up for success.
2. They’re a great organizational tool. So much goes on in a given day that sometimes your child may neglect to do something out of simple forgetfulness. Charts are a great way to remind your child and help him stay on task.
3. They instill positive reinforcement. Kids often misbehave to get attention. The idea behind charts is to pay more attention to the positive behaviors. By engaging in proactive parenting, there will be less need for reactive discipline, which makes life more easy and pleasant for everyone.
4. They provide immediate feedback. When kids receive immediate feedback about their performance, it allows them to self-correct as needed.
5. They provide instant gratification and teach delayed gratification. A simple checkmark signals a visual cue that your child has done something right and this can be very rewarding and motivating. But not only can charts be used to satiate instant gratification; they can also teach delayed gratification. To further reinforce good behavior, you can tally up checkmarks accrued during the week or month and have it translate into a tangible reward. This teaches kids the complex value of delayed gratification, which is critical for achieving success in life.
6. They help parents retain control. The difference between a bribe and a reward is that rewards are established ahead of time in a calm manner, in the absence of crisis. In rewarding your child, you might say, “I expect you to do your homework quietly and take a bath without complaining. If you do, you can watch your favorite show after.” Whereas a bribe might sound something like, “If you stop whining, I’ll let you watch TV.” A bribe puts the control in the hands of your kids, whereas a reward keeps control in the hands of parents.