Last week, I mentioned monitoring my child’s progress through an incentive chart to achieve a certain goal – staying in bed for my older son and potty training with my younger one.  Incentive charts can be a useful tool for teaching a child a new skill or desired repeatable behavior, from picking up toys to folding clothes to clearing the table without being asked.  The key is consistency.

Charts are fairly simple to make.  With my boys, I created a simple grid for each of them.  The “title” of the grid was simply the desired behavior, such as staying in bed all night.  Then, I created a grid of ten rows, five columns.  Our charts hung on the side of the refrigerator, right at my son’s eye level.  This way, each child was able to view his chart and participate by putting a sticker in a box each time a the behavior was met.

Each time my son met his goal, he was given a sticker to place on his chart.  By the time he filled a row (in this case, five days), he was rewarded with a simple incentive.  Sometimes, it was a special trip to the Dollar Store.  Other times, it was a special playdate or an outing to the bowling alley or movie theater.  There was always a reward at the end of the “row”, though. 

In the beginning, it took my son well over a week to get his five stickers.  That was okay, though, because once he reached his fifth sticker, he was very excited to get his reward!  And, when he realized how simple it was to achieve that again, the desired behavior showed up more and more frequently, quickly becoming a natural habit.

When we finally filled the chart, we came up with a special reward.  In my son’s case, it was a sleepover at his grandparents’ house.  At the time, he had never been to their house to spend the night without my husband or I, so this was a GREAT reward for him.  And, by the time he reached that goal, sleeping in his own bed through the night was no longer an issue.

Using an incentive chart can work very well for children.  Keep in mind, though, that the focus should only be on one behavior at a time.  Trying to run two or more incentive charts for a child at a time can be overwhelming and confusing.  Once a behavior is mastered, then introduce a new one.  And, once a child finishes an incentive chart, move on to simply verbally praising him or her for their new skill.

Incentive charts are a great way to achieve a goal for a child!