Posted on

Why do reward charts work?

Charts work because they harness the power of positive reinforcement – using encouragement and praise to help someone change or modify their behaviour.

In simple terms, we all like the warm feeling when people say nice things to us and we are all constantly learning from our life experiences. So when we do something in a new way and people around us react and say nice things – we are very likely to repeat that behaviour. If we do this enough times our ‘new’ behaviour will embed and become our normal behaviour.

You don’t need a chart for this to work – but a chart is a way of focusing everyone on a behaviour they’d like to change.

For a child, a chart provides

  • A way to say “I want to do this”

It’s setting a goal and provides an engaging way to talk through with the adults close to them why a change in behaviour would be a really good thing.

  • A physical thing to celebrate success and show others their progress

A chart harnesses the power of “show and tell” and gives the child a way to talk to adults about their achievements – this is very useful for young children who will often struggle (quite naturally) to verbalise their achievements

  • A reminder to keep trying

A chart can be on hand as a positive reminder – and avoids nagging (negative messages). Take the example of a child using a chart to encourage tidying up toys – rather than an adult saying “you should tidy those toys up now” or “Have you forgotten to tidy up?” you can say “Where’s your chart?” and then “Do you want to tidy up your toys now?” and then when the tidying is done “Well done – you did a super job tidying up today”

  • An extra motivation
    The promise of a reward when the chart is finished keeps up motivation and is a future event to be exited about.

For adults, charts work because they:

  • provide a physical thing to talk around
    Everyone can sit down and study a chart and talk about a change in behaviour
  • keep everyone focused on one task
    In a busy life it’s often very hard to focus on one issue – a chart provides a simple way for everyone to concentrate on an issue
  • keeps everyone positive
    this should not be underestimated – the real power of a charts is there focus on positive messages, constantly praising good behaviour

That’s why charts work – for some practical tips on how to make them work please click here.