Free Downloadables! Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively

Free Downloadables! Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively

Here on the Parental Support Line, just about every call we get involves a  question about consequences. Many  parents struggle to find effective consequences while overlooking the importance  of using rewards. We recommend establishing rewards or “incentive systems” for  kids, which can be done easily using a behavior chart.

To  download our free Empowering Parents Behavior Charts with instructions from our  Parental Support Line Advisor Team included, click here.


Behavior charts are important to consider for several  reasons:

  • Clear expectations. When your   expectations of your child are crystal clear, they are more likely to be   successful.
  • You get more of what you pay  attention  to. James Lehman felt that if you pay more attention to positive   behaviors, you get more of them. Conversely, ignoring some of the less   desirable behaviors causes them to fade away over time.
  • Immediate feedback. Kids get   immediate feedback about their progress. They can see how well they’re   performing simply by glancing at the chart, which allows them to self–correct   if needed.
  • More motivation. Incentives   are often more motivating for children than the threat of losing something they   value, which can cause some kids to go into a downward spiral. If a kid makes   one mistake and believes she will lose her phone indefinitely, then she might   think, “What’s the point?” This is particularly true for elementary aged   children and kids with ADD/ADHD.
  • Fewer Consequences.  Many  parents who call the Support Line feel  as if they have nothing left to take  away or that they are really limited when  it comes to privileges that they can  restrict.   Using incentives gives kids something to earn and helps parents  who are  feeling stuck.

Recently, the Support Line Team realized that we were  recommending behavior  charts quite often, but when it came to creating and  implementing this  system, up until now parents were left to their own devices.  With that in mind,  we decided to create some behavior charts to give parents  easy access to these  wonderful tools—and, of course, to make it easier for  parents to put into  practice.

We created a few different types of charts, each with its  own specific set  of instructions to explain how to implement it:

  • Single  Behavior Charts. These charts  are best if you want your child to  work on one new skill at a time, such as  doing things when asked or not  interrupting when others are speaking. We created  one for younger children and  one for older children.
  • Multiple  Behavior Charts. For  those of you who have trouble with morning or  evening routines, this one’s for  you! This chart would also be suitable for any  other multi–step process you  want your child to work on, such as cleaning his  room.
  • Chore  Chart. Our chore chart  will help you establish a chore schedule  for your child. This is suitable if  your child has multiple chores to do during  the week.
  • Homework  Progress Charts. These charts  are intended to track your child’s  homework–related tasks. There is a simple  version and a more complex version,  so you’ll be able to choose the style that  is suitable for your  child.

To download our free Empowering Parents Behavior Charts with instructions  from our Parental Support Line Advisor Team included, click here.

We also wanted to stress that there are some important  things to consider  when implementing a behavior chart. The first thing to keep  in mind is that  rewards are not bribes.  A reward is established ahead of time, at a  point when things are calm and  going relatively well. For example, saying to  your child, “I expect you to help  me find the items on the grocery list today.  If you stick to the items on the  list without asking for anything else, you can  choose a special snack for your  school lunches when we’re done.” In contrast, a  bribe happens in the moment. If  you’re bribing your child, you might say, “If  you stop asking me to buy extra  snacks and keep quiet for the rest of the time  we’re here, I’ll buy you that  cereal you wanted on the way out.”

Furthermore, many parents feel like they shouldn’t reward  their children for  doing something they’re supposed to be doing.  If you’re  considering using  a behavior chart, though, that tells us your child is  not doing what she is supposed to—so it’s important to find a way  to  motivate her. As James Lehman said, “You have to start where your child is  and  coach them forward.” A behavior chart is not a forever thing—it’s just the   first step. The purpose is to use positive attention to shape your child’s   behavior over time.

We also recommend that you stick with one chart at a time.  If you have too  many charts going all at once, it will be too confusing and  overwhelming for  both you and your child. Remember, too, that your child will  need your help at  first to stay on track and learn how to use the chart. It is  not realistic to  expect your child to do the chart on his own right away. Trial  and error is an  important part of the process. It can take some experimentation  to discover  what types of rewards work best for your particular child. Keep in  mind that behavior   charts are not a cure all. They work amazingly well for some kids, and they   don’t work at all for others. So you need to be realistic in your  expectations.

We are very excited to be able to provide these behavior  charts for you. We  hope you find them to be a helpful tool to add to your  behavior management  system at home. Please feel free to leave your comments  here and let us know  how it’s going!


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