Using reward charts to encourage behavior change in our children can be a highly effective behavior change tool, but what happens when the reward charts lose their power, or they stop working? Or what if the the reward charts never really started working for your child in the first place? What course of action should be taken when this happens?
Firstly lets look at some of the reason why the reward charts might not be working or why they might be loosing their effectiveness.
Why the Reward Charts Might Not be Working
- Your child might simply be too young to start with such a reward plan: Using a reward chart requires your child to have a handle on a few fundamentals such as patience, the difference between “now” and “later”, self control, and delaying their gratification. When these things are lacking the effectiveness of the reward chart will be limited.
- The reward isn’t enticing enough: The kick-start to the reward chart is the motivation your child has in wanting to complete the behavior chart. Of course the main aim of a reward chart is to tap into your child’s “inner motivation”, but that’s a developing process. To effectively start and maintain a reward plan your child needs to desire the reward.
- The behavior is too hard for your child to change at the moment: Sometimes your behavior change expectations are too high. Your child might be too young, they might be affected by other things happening in their life (starting school, new baby in the house, divorce etc), or other tensions in the house which may be preventing the reward chart working to it’s full effect. Dealing with these underlying feeling first will help the reward plan. Sometimes setting the bar a little lower might also be considered.
- Not everyone is consistent with the reward plan: Could it be that other adults and care-givers in your child’s life aren’t completely on the same page when it come to administering the rewards chart? If you’re being consistent with your expectations, praise, and rewarding but some other significant adult isn’t, then the full effect of using reward charts will not be realized.
- You’re trying to stop or change behaviors that others are performing: It’s unlikely that you child will stick with the reward plan for very long if others are doing what they’re meant to stop. For example are they expected to stop hitting if their older sibling hits, or do they stop using inappropriate language if Dad let’s a few expletives slip around them?
- Your child is attached to your response to their bad behavior: This can be a tough concept to grasp, but often a child becomes attached to negative attention. It can easily become their “pay-off”. It stems from the concept that any attention given from a parent is an extremely powerful motivator.
- Your child’s personality might be a factor: Some kids hate the feeling of being “controlled”, and might consider a reward plan an attempt to control them. It’s true that using reward charts are in some ways an attempt of controlling our kids – for example “if you stop doing that then I’ll give you this”. The trick is to enhance your child’s Independence throughout the whole process. Put the control firmly back in their hands, then it becomes “their” decision to stick with the reward plan and reap the benefits.
Our next article will deal with ways of troubleshooting the reward charts when they don’t appear to be working and providing some example of how to get them back on track.