If reward charts are used in the right way they can work wonders, either with the bedtime routine, overnight sleeping, or both. Praise and positive attention are much more beneficial and effective for your children than negative remarks.
Where to begin using a reward chart
The first thing to consider when thinking about a reward chart is whether your child is old enough to understand the concept. If they are not, it’s going to lead to a lot of frustration and will probably be counter-productive. I would suggest the earliest age a child could understand the concept of the reward chart would be two years of age.
If your little one is old enough to understand how the reward chart works, it’s really important to sit down and explain to them exactly what it’s for and exactly how it will work.
The expectations should be specific for example lying in bed quietly and staying in bed all night. If your little one lay in bed quietly they don’t get a reward. If they don’t stay in bed all night, they don’t get a reward. It’s very important, however, to make the reward achievable, especially for younger children. You could consider making the initial ‘goal’ something they already do, like cleaning their teeth. After a couple of nights add ‘going to bed quietly’ as something extra to achieve before the reward. This way they will understand how it works and it won’t be too unachievable.
With toddlers and children it is vital that the reward is consistently and fairly given. There is very little point in planning to reward children for sleep related behaviour but then giving them a reward because they were well behaved at the supermarket, for example. Children thrive on consistency so inconsistent rewards will confuse them!
The reward chart should be in clear view so your little one can see when they have received a reward. It’s vital, however, that reward charts are not used to compare children, especially siblings, because this again will be counter-productive and unfair for the child. It is only for individual behaviour.
How to make the reward chart work for you and your child
Although some children respond well to a simple star chart that you can make and decorate at home other children need slightly more input. The tots up red bus has been developed with an educational psychologist to further include your child and get the best out of the reward system.
The idea is that you create a story, perhaps a trip the bus is going on, and name all the people that are waiting at the bus stop. This creates more of a journey and relationship between your child and the reward. The reward could even be linked to the story for example if the big red bus is going to the seaside with the passengers, the reward could be a bucket and spade. It is best to avoid sugary and sweet treats; the best rewards are one-on-one time with parents so perhaps a trip out or on uninterrupted one-on-one time playing a game of your child’s choice would be the best reward for them.
The reward will need to take into account their age and understanding. Younger children will need more of an immediate reward, whereas older children can save their rewards for one big reward at the end of the week or a specified time.
However you choose to reward good behaviour, make sure you do it consistently, get everybody involved and make it fun! How you react and choose to use the chart will have a huge impact on your little ones motivation and, ultimately, success.