Encouraging your child to change behaviour can be tricky. Reward charts can be a powerful way of kick-starting that change.
Why a reward chart?
- encourage new behaviours or habits (no thumb or finger sucking)
- change or shape behaviour
- stop bad or inappropriate behaviour
- improve existing behaviours
- change habits
- introduce healthy habits
- set goals
…and so on.
Using your reward charts successfully
Discuss with your child (when you are both calm and controlled) what the goal is you want them to achieve (no thumb/finger sucking).
Choose short-term rewards. Most children enjoy collecting stickers. The stickers represent the small achievements they have made and are a great visual incentive to continue. Each time your child completes the required time period of no thumb sucking they receive a sticker. Once all the required stickers have been collected they receive a reward.
Long term rewards. You could let your child choose from a range of objects, events and activities – a family bike ride, special time with mum or dad, staying up late, a hired DVD, or buying a new book or small toy. Rewards don’t need to be big. Find your child’s currency and work with it. Every child has one, you just have to figure out what it is.
Repeat this process as often as your child needs to give up thumb/finger sucking.
Also, consider that the more involvement children have in the preparation toward the use of the reward charts, the more of a sense of “ownership” your child will have over the reward chart and the process of using it. We have found that this can often be the missing link leading toward the success of using reward charts. (Of course this involvement may be determined by your child’s age and level of development).
Stay positive. If your child doesn’t earn a sticker, just move on. Also NEVER punish your child if they slip up (especially at the beginning) by saying, ‘I’ll take a sticker away’, or ‘You won’t get any stickers if you keep that up!’ Focus on encouraging your child to try again.
Be Positive, Be Consistent, Be Realistic and Be Fair.
Some extra information about reward charts and thumb sucking
How and why rewards charts work
Reward charts work well for children aged 3-8 years. You can use reward charts when your child needs to work on changing their behaviour or a habit. Your child will collect stickers for the chart each time they avoid thumb or finger sucking. They then swap the stickers for a reward, or rewards, later on.
When your child tries hard to change their behaviour, a reward chart can show them when they have done a really good job and keep them motivated.
Reward charts can also help you to focus on the positives in your child’s behaviour. This might be helpful if you’ve become frustrated by your child’s thumb or finger sucking and have been paying more attention to negative behaviour recently.
A reward for good behaviour isn’t the same as bribing your child. The difference is that a bribe is given before the behaviour you want, and a reward is given after. Rewards reinforce good behaviour, but bribes don’t.
It works best to have frequent, small rewards. If the length of time between the behaviour (no thumb sucking), the sticker and the reward is too long, your child might lose interest or motivation. Thinking about how much behaviour change to expect can help you and your child stay positive and realistic.
Keep it interesting
If your child can get the reward in other ways, it won’t be effective – for example, if the reward is a special food treat they also get when they visits grandparents.