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Do Behavior Charts Work?

by Lori Sciame | May 27th, 2013 | Elementary

checkmarkI’ve seen these used many times both in home and in the school: behavior charts.  Parents and teachers alike have used this system to keep order by rewarding children with stickers or special privileges for certain behaviors.  Do these charts work?  Some experts say yes, and some say no. I never used them for my own children, but some parents may find the system useful.

How do Behavior Charts Work?

These charts can document homework or chore completion.  The premise is that children see the chart and understand clearly what the authority figure wants.  For instance, some charts have space for recording time spent studying, while others list specific household chores for the child.  When the tasks are completed, stars or other stickers are placed next to the child’s name.  As one might surmise, there are literally dozens of different types of behavior charts available for purchase, but the concept is so simple, a parent could devise one him or herself.

Maybe your child hates sharing.  A chart might be devised to log each time your son or daughter shares with a sibling, a friend, or even with mom and dad.  Once a specific number of times sharing has been accomplished, you can reward your child with a special treat (of your choosing).  By doing this, a child can see that sharing can beneficial.

The Case for Behavior Charts

As the case above illustrates, a chart might give a parent a way to help a child learn a new behavior.  This might be especially helpful if a parent has tried everything else he or she can think of to help a child understand the importance of doing (or not doing) a specific behavior.  In essence, if used once in a while, charts may be a beneficial learning tool.  (They might be just the ticket to prompt your child to practice the piano!)

The Case Against Behavior Charts

Behavior charts tend to lose their effectiveness if relied on too heavily.  For example, a child bombarded with behavior charts at school and at home may come to think that life is only about doing things to earn concrete rewards.  This can be negative, as one must learn that the best rewards are non-tangible… basically, they are internal. As we have heard so many times, “everything in moderation.”

The Bottom Line

Using behavior charts can be beneficial in many cases; however, vow not to use charts too much. An elementary child needs to learn to be self-motivated to succeed in life.  External motivators are fine, but they should not be the only thing to help an young child mature into the awesome person he or she will become.

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
Margaret Mead

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