how to make a reward chart work - Bubbablue and me

How to get kids reward charts to work

Ever since we started thinking about potty training we’ve had a reward system. And before now it’s never really worked before. N just wasn’t bothered.  Stickers have never really been his thing, even though he knew there would be something at the end after he got so many. I’d be in awe of other parents I knew whose children were just happy to fill a sheet with stickers.

We ended up just letting him do potty training himself, and he did one day with no rewards required. Since then, he’s generally just done things when asked, or more likely just not done them (tidying up being the main one).

how to make a reward chart work - Bubbablue and me

But last year in reception at school, I really struggled to get him to do his reading. They were meant to read each day but N just wouldn’t. So I ended up bribing him with a sweet. Which isn’t great for his teeth. He just wasn’t motivated by a reward chart despite us agreeing what reward he would have each time he filled a row, and then when he filled the sheet. He’d been asking for a toy chain saw for ages, so I thought he’d try harder but no.

Until the last few weeks of the holidays, when I started the reward charts. I was determined that N would get the hang of doing his homework without complaining and faffing, and I needed rewards to work. But a chocolate bar for a row of stickers wasn’t working. Instead, we’ve found a new reward which has totally changed N’s motivation about rewards and being keen on doing chores and homework.

So if you want to have a reward system for your children, and it’s just not working, try our magic method.

[bctt tweet=”Reward charts can work with children who weren’t bothered before. Check out this secret reward that works” username=”@etusty”]

The Magic Method for reward charts

1, Decide on tasks you want your children to get to do and have marks or stickers for each time they achieve it. We have a sticker for:

  • reading a book
  • writing (anything)
  • doing homework worksheets without moaning, and completing them correctly
  • getting rewards or certificates from school or activities, or good mentions from the teacher to me directly
  • helping around the house which can be tidying up, setting the table and unloading the dishwasher, helping cook or anything else
    – completing his morning routine, which is teeth, pyjamas under the pillow and making his bed.

2, Get hold of a suitable chart, or make one. We have some which have space down the side for the tasks, and across they have days of the week, but we just fill up across the row until we reach the end.  You can find similar reward charts at Amazon or Kiddy Charts, or make your own.

summer and school reward charts

3, Agree what stickers they will get for which task and write the tasks on the chart.

4, Agree the reward for completing a line and for completing the sheet.

5, Have the chart readily available and have plenty of stickers.

6, Give plenty of thanks when the child does something helpful, and praise when they’ve done something well and got a sticker/reward.

Ok, it’s nothing unusual. It’s a method that everyone probably follows, but the twist was the reward. Knowing what the reward was just didn’t work for us. But a shopping trip around the supermarket and a quick browse around the toy department found us the perfect rewards for completing a line…

Any little toy that is a surprise.

Yes, no cars, or figures, or chocolate. Just a little egg or pod with something that’s a surprise inside. Who’d have known.  Think Kinder Surprise style – it always amazes me how many children love watching kinder surprise opening on Youtube!

The first rewards N had were Mashems – in particular we found Paw Patrol ones, little collectable squashy characters in little tubs. We’ve now got most of them, so we’ve tried TMNT (not as good a toy, and not something N is a fan of particularly), and are now onto blind bags – of Lego, Trolls, Minions. Anything that’s little, relatively inexpensive, and is a lucky dip. Although I’ve now got a variety which were reduced in Tesco, so where before I’d just produce one on the table, he now gets to put his hand in a bag to pull one out.

blind bags as kids rewards

Ok, so they’re more expensive than a chocolate bar. But costing between £1 to £3, they work for us at the moment and don’t rot his teeth.

Things to remember about reward charts

1, They need to be flexible.

Once the child has achieved something, is finding it easy, or doing it regularly, you need to mix things up and hopefully they’ll continue doing the original through habit or want. We started off by giving 2 stickers each time N read a book, but now he’ll happily read 2 school books a night, so we’re down to 1. As your child gets older they’ll also get wise to changes in the rules, so you may need to reassess the rules of rewards each time they get a full sheet.

2, If one line is filled first, just continue filling across another line.

The whole point is completing the sheet for the child. For us, N realised he got more stickers for reading, so did more of that, but then would ask to do easy things around the house to fill up the sheet.

3, Keep reminding them about their goal

You might have to remind the child that there are rewards to be had, they don’t always remember.

4, Be clear

Be clear on the tasks and have clear criteria on what gets a sticker (the extent of completion. It needs to be black or white for kids.  They need to know exactly what they have to do to get the sticker.

5, Know what makes your children tick.

For some, stickers may be enough, for others you might have to start rewarding after only a few stickers.  And others may be happy just to continue filling a sheet before they get a reward.

6, Make sure you follow through on the reward

That reminds me, I need to locate a small John Deere telehandler for N’s completion of his reward sheet.

Do you use rewards in your house? How do you do it and what rewards do you provide?


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