Are Reward Charts A Good Idea?

are reward charts a good idea

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Reward charts. Such a popular parenting tool. We’re trying one out with the twiglets at the moment, yet I’ve always felt quite conflicted about them. Are reward charts a good idea? I’ll try to explain why I have some reservations about reward charts in this post… 😊

are reward charts a good idea

So the reason we’re using a reward chart at the moment is mainly for C’s benefit. She’s been a complete nightmare at bedtime recently.

More bedtime battles

Up until a little while ago, we were in quite a good place in terms of the twigs going to bed. They don’t nap anymore. And as long as they hadn’t sneaked in an illegal power nap in the car, they were generally sufficiently exhausted to crash pretty quickly at bedtime.

However, for the last few weeks, C has been reverting to their old ways somewhat. I’ve written posts before on what an absolute nightmare bedtime used to be – I used to dread it. And it’s been slowly heading that way again. I think the problem is actually that she gets overtired. There’s no reasoning with her; she just turns into some sort of miniature demon. Making loud noises, shouting, kicking her bed, etc.

The twiglets still share a room…

Something I don’t feel ready to change just yet. However it does mean that we’re paranoid about C waking H up. He usually goes off to sleep almost straightaway. But when she’s in full-on mini-demon mode, if we were to leave the room, she would literally jump on him, pull his hair etc. Basically wake him up very unceremoniously! Obviously not ideal as he then screams the house down.

She just seems to do anything for attention when she gets in that mood. We try as hard as we can not to give it to her as it just adds fuel to the fire. But it’s very difficult not to get wound up. It’s hard to explain just how irritating it can be 🙈😂

And if we’re worried about her waking H up or stopping him going to sleep, we sometimes end up threatening to put her in a different room, then actually having to carry out that threat. Then somehow it ends up escalating in an upward spiral as she’s getting the attention she wants, and her behaviour just gets worse and worse.

Eventually she’ll crash but it can take ages. And it’s STRESSFUL 😬 We felt like this was becoming a bit too much of a habit every night. So we needed to do something to try to break the habit.

are reward charts a good idea
(📷 by my friend Lisa – @littlenathanp on Instagram 😁)

This is where the idea of a reward chart came in…

Giving consequences didn’t seem to be working as it was giving her more attention and just escalating the behaviour. So we wanted to try something a bit more positive.

But are reward charts actually a good idea?

Well Supernanny would definitely say yes! On her website it states that: ‘Positive attention and praise are the most effective rewards for good behaviour because they reinforce good behaviour on the spot and help a child make the connection between what you are saying and what they’ve just done.’

Now I’m all for being positive with children. As a teacher, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of giving children positive encouragement and focusing on the things they’re doing well as much as possible.

So why do I have reservations about reward charts?

What I’m not sure about is the concept of giving a tangible reward for behaviour which really is nothing that amazing. It’s just what you would expect from your children. Being calm and quiet at bedtime is something I would just expect my kiddies to do. Is it really something they should be getting a reward for?

Surely if you start giving children rewards and prizes for things that they just should be doing anyway, aren’t they then going to start expecting that all the time? Won’t their motivation for behaving well be to get an external reward, rather than an internal feeling of pride at having done something good?

I want to raise children who behave well because they know it’s the right thing to do

Not just because they know they’ll be rewarded for it! Surely then if you were to take the reward away they just wouldn’t bother to behave anymore, if that was their sole motivation? And wouldn’t that in turn lead to very entitled young people? Young people who believe that everything should be handed to them on a plate? And they shouldn’t have to work for what they want, as they should be rewarded basically just for existing?!

Ok maybe I’m being a little over the top (who, me?! 😱) It’s just a little reward chart after all 😂 But this is why I’m never sure whether they’re really a good tactic to use.

This article from Psychology Today lists some more reasons why parents should be wary of reward charts. Including the fact that they may just not work! Some kids may just reject the reward because they don’t want to comply with the behaviour being asked of them. Also, they’re hard to keep up – most families would only keep them up for a few weeks.

So is there a place for reward charts?

In our case, the reward chart for C does seem to be working for now. C is very motivated at the idea of getting stars on her chart and when she gets a certain amount, she’s going to be able to choose a little toy to buy.

But pessimistic old me feels quite sure that once she gets that toy and the external reward is removed again (cos we ain’t gonna keep buying her toys forever 😂), she’ll revert right back to her old behaviour. The hope is that she won’t – that she’ll have formed new, better habits in that time and will continue going to sleep calmly and quietly as she’s got so used to it.

And to be fair, although we didn’t use reward charts during potty-training, we did use chocolate bribery. And actually once we stopped giving the chocolate, they didn’t immediately go back to weeing and pooing themselves! They just continued with what they’d learned. So maybe it will be similar with this. Or maybe that’s not really a good comparison – I don’t know. All I know is that we were desperate and something needed to change, so this is what we’re trying for now.

I think there can be a place for reward charts, but maybe on the understanding that they’re just a temporary measure.

What do you think about reward charts?

What are your thoughts? Are reward charts a good idea – yay or nay? Have you found them to be successful? Feel free to let me know – I’d be interested to hear your experiences 😊

Til next time!

Hannah x

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