How to successfully use rewards and goals charts for your family

I have had a lot of people ask me for advice on how best to use goals and rewards charts for their children.

Goals and rewards are a great way to reinforce good behaviour and encourage your child. Giving praise and merit where needed for them to achieve their goals and reduce negative behaviours all while understanding consequences. They help to set expectations and build a predictable routine, which kids crave.

We all want our children to have the skills to cooperate and understand expectations. We want them to be confident and self motivated. Parenting is not easy. 

Before You Start

If you haven’t used these before, or know what you need. You will need to try different strategies- and be prepared to adapt. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. Some children are driven by a sense of accomplishment, where as others are driven by working towards something. The best approach is to start with a few goals and rewards. Or just use the rewards chart that you can use as a general praise and reward. (Rewards is also great if you dont know where to start, or find the goals chart to specific) See how your child reacts and learn what works best for you and your family. This will put you in a great place to update your goals and rewards as your child grows. Try to look for signs during this time, for example, if a goal is too hard you may want to consider changing it slightly to make it a little easier. Perhaps replacing the goal with another one is better suited to your child’s current development stage. What works will be unique to you and your family.

It’s also important to make sure rewards and goals aren’t used to bribe your child or provide unnecessary rewards. This may lead to your child needing constant praise or to expect a reward to complete a task. I’m sure bribery is something we have all tried at some point and there is no judgement here. 

Tips to Setting Goals

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help work out a starting point.

  - What behaviour are you wanting to encourage?

  - What developmental stage are you going through?

  - Is your child resisting something, or afraid?

  - What expectations are you trying to set?

  - Are you trying to establish a daily routine or habit?

  - What motivates your child?

 Tips to Setting Rewards

For younger children you don’t always have to have a reward. Make a big deal about the chart, give praise and get excited. Let them know how great of an achievement it is to mark off a circle, place a stamp or sticker onto their chart. They may not quite understand it in the early days, but it doesn’t take them long to start associating your positive reactions with the chart.

When it comes the time to use rewards, here are some tips that have worked great with our daughter:

  •  Use rows of a chart as a path to a reward, use stickers or stamps. Complete the row, earn a reward.
  • Allow your child to place the sticker or stamp on the rewards chart themselves, for a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Rewards don’t have to be a physical item, pick an activity or reward them with their favourite game.
  • Write your child a note of encouragement from the fairies, or event Santa. Let them know they’re trying their best and doing well.
  • Have a list of activities as rewards that you can pick from together.

 Using Goals and Rewards Charts

Start with small achievable goals to build confidence. Focus on the behaviours you are currently wanting to improve. Continue to add goals over time for continuous growth and independence. You don’t want to make goals too hard, your child may start to lose hope and motivation. To keep your child interested:

  •  Get excited and make it a big deal. Children need to gain confidence, and are generally resisting if it’s something that they are unsure on. These are all achievements.
  • You need to react in the moment so that your child can associate the behaviour or goal, and the achievement.
  • Don’t focus too much on when they haven’t achieved certain goals.
  • As children get older, reduce the frequency of rewards. And change things to be more routine while still offering encouragement.
  • Recognise negative reactions, they may be a sign of your child protesting or having difficulty with the goal.
  •  Always use positive behaviours to associate achievement of goals and rewards.

 Which Chart Do I Use? Goals or Rewards?

We have a tiny protester in our house, with sensory and sleep issues; so we get a lot of resistance with everyday basic tasks and our schedules.

For young children, we’ve found it’s really important to respond to behaviours and acknowledge success in the moment. This can be anything, so you can actually introduce rewards charts really early on. I personally found the rewards charts more practical initially. It’s just one sheet of circles that you can fill in as achievements as you need to. And it can be used for anything! As we have grown; a goals chart is now being used to set individual specific goals and build daily routines.

We found the fridge the best place our goals chart as it’s the central point of our home. Rewards charts became very effective in toilet training: place a rewards chart on the toilet wall. In the end, both charts can effectively be used for the same thing, it just comes down to what is going to be more adaptable to your family. 

 Where Can I Find Some Examples?

We have included a sample sheet of goals in our goals charts to give you a starting point, as well as a blank goals sheet so you can write your own. This way you have the option to cut out the goals and glue them onto the blank space. Or, if you are wanting to reuse, you could laminate your chart and use dry erase markers or use adhesive velcro or magnets to change goals over time. With our digital downloads, you can print as many copies as you like for your household, you can have a different chart for every child, or different charts for morning and evening schedules. It can even be used as a routine planner for daily chores. It’s up to you.

 Further Reading: 

Using Rewards Charts for Aspergers and Autism 

How and Why Charts Work- Raising Children Australia 



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