Getting the Most out of Reward Charts

Today countless professionals and celebrity nanny’s suggest using Reward charts and Star charts. Reward charts work because they give children an incentive to change their behaviour. But there are some key tips to getting the most out of your efforts!
  • Use a chart that is age appropriate and understandable to your child. There are several types including: Homemade, Star or Sticker reward charts, Magnetic charts, Velcro charts and Toddler Reward Charts (all cartoons for children that can’t read).
  • Only offer rewards and discuss behaviours you want to change during a calm period. Never offer a reward during a tantrum; it gives the wrong idea.
  • Put the chart up together near where the behaviour takes place.
  • If it’s your first time using a reward chart, pick an easy topic to get your child used to how a reward chart works. Work up to tackling more difficult behaviours and remember consistency is the key.
  • Make sure the goal is attainable. Don’t ask a child to taste a new food, clean their plate and stay quietly seated throughout dinner. Tasting a new food = reward.
  • Reward as promised, even if the child forgets. This reminds you to praise them for their behaviour, which encourages them to repeat it.
  • Always start small. Expensive rewards are hard to reproduce. Sometimes a small reward in addition to a star/sticker is needed in the beginning. Work up to offering a reward at the end of a row or completion of a chart.
  • Never take away a reward once it’s earned.
  • If your child isn’t responding, adjust the goal. Example: Your child won’t taste new foods. Make the goal to lick a new food, smell it or touch it.
  • Don’t stop using a chart before your child has earned the end reward or they may be less enthused the next time you try to use a chart.

Some behaviour’s need ongoing encouragement (like tasting new foods, tidying up and doing homework). Other behaviours should only be rewarded on a short-term basis like potty training, staying in your own bed and getting dressed. Stop charting once the behaviour has become normal behaviour. As your child gets older reward charts can be used for earning privileges or even pocket money for good behaviour.

Written By Lisa O Duinn – Author of ‘Toddler Reward Charts’ - a book of 8 reward charts which is available online at

First published 4kids Summer 2008