Behavior Charting, Positive Reward Systems and Praise

Introduction by Marisa Kaplan of

The concept of rewards and consequences is usually a controversial topic amongst educational professionals. I have sat through many school meetings regarding school-wide systems for behavior management and the one thing I can say for sure is that there is never a simple answer. Some professionals believe that materialistic rewards such as stickers or allowance are appropriate for students. Others believe that only those non-materialistic rewards are appropriate. This article is an unbiased piece written by a school psychologist who wishes to offer tips to families at home. You can decide for yourself which types of rewards are appropriate for your child. My personal advice:

  • Always put intrinsic motivation at the heart of any behavior system
  • Always aim to develop a child’s sense of morality through modeling what makes something right or wrong
  • Teach children to make positive choices because they believe it is the right choice to make, rather than because they want extra allowance 

Charting and Improving Behaviors at Home – Emma Savino, NYS Certified School Psychologist

Behavior and sticker charts are a great way to reward and positively reinforce desired behaviors.  Not only does the child learn new strategies to manage their own behavior, they can visually see their progress and simultaneously work toward a goal.  The benefit for adults is the ability to consistently monitor a child’s progress over time.

The best part is that you can chart any behavior! Your child’s behaviors will vary based on their age.  Therefore, the type of chart you use and the rewards provided will change as your child grows. Older children might work towards a goal to obtain allowance or extra time with friends, while younger children can work for small tangible prizes or time on the playground.

Keep in mind; rewards do not always have to be tangible items.  A reward can simply be verbal praise or affection.  This applies to all positive behavior; not just behaviors you are tracking or looking to improve. Be sure to reward progress, not perfection. If your child is making gains, they should be rewarded in some way.  Address one or two behaviors at a time.  If you try to manage all undesirable behaviors, you will be unsuccessful.  Choose the most salient behaviors. For example, if your desired goal is to have your child put their toys away each day, you can create or print a behavior chart, similar to this one:

Minnie Mouse Chore Chart

I suggest writing the desired behavior somewhere on the chart to remind the child daily of what is expected.  Even if your child is not yet reading, exposing them to goal oriented language is important when improving behavior.  Your goal can simply state: “Molly will put her toys away each day.” If Molly cleans up her toys after playtime, she would receive a sticker on the day she completed the task.  If your child plays more than once a day, you can divide the chart into times and provide a sticker after each play session.

You can also rate your child on a scale from 1 – 4, or use picture icons such as smiley faces (J L), particularly if they are resistant to change at the start of the intervention or if they partially engage in the desired behavior.  This will visually show them where they need improvement.  After rating them, explain why they received a 2 or a L face.  Decide on an appropriate number of J faces or number range (i.e. 20-28 points per week) for your child to receive a reward.

For younger children (roughly PreK-1st), rewards should be more immediate and given directly after the desired behavior is observed or at the end of each day that the plan is in place.  Young children are not as mindful of goals as older children, and many cannot think past the present.  That is why direct and immediate rewards are important for that particular age group.  If your child is older (roughly 2nd grade and up), let them create a “reward menu” of what they enjoy.  At the end of the week, they can choose a reward from the menu. Use your judgment when rating behaviors, when giving rewards and determining the time frame to earn a reward.  This will vary with age and one particular plan will not work for all children.

Use of positive language is important when changing undesirable behaviors.

  • “I really like how you are cleaning up your toys and putting them in your toy box”
  • “You are really helping Mommy keep the house clean by picking up your toys.”

Try to avoid negative or direct comments like “Put away your toys!” or “Look what a mess you have made!” Rather than criticizing behaviors, teach and model how to behave appropriately. The more you praise, the more automatic the behavior will become.  Rewards can be gradually reduced as the behavior becomes more habitual.

Possible Chart Ideas: 

  • Homework Completion
  •  “Penny a Page” – I am stealing this idea from my mom, who used to make a chart for my brother and I to encourage summer reading.  She paid us a penny for each page we read at the end of the summer.
  • Anger Control
  • Potty Training
  • Sibling Argument
  • Whining/Crying
  • Picky Eaters
  • Going to bed on time


This website has a wide range of charts available.  Plus they are free! There are behavior tools for all ages that can be used at home and school.

Coming Soon: Classroom Wide Behavior Management

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