So You’re Thinking About A Reward System To Help Behaviour? But Which One Should You Use?

As a teacher who has worked with many students who have struggled with behaviour, I’ve had the chance to try out lots of reward schemes. But the truth is that there is not a one size fits all solution. Instead it’s about experimenting and finding the strategy that works for the child. Below are some of my most frequently used go to systems and explanations of when they might be useful.

There is however one factor that I believe reward systems should have in common. And that is, that once a point or token is awarded it shouldn’t be lost. I believe in sanctions as well as rewards. However, I think the systems often work best as separate entities.

Token Boards

Token boards are most useful for very young children or those with limited language. They are perfect for encouraging task completion or for encouraging positive behaviours over a short period of time. The most successful token boards are based on a child’s individual interests. So for a child who loves Thomas The Tank Engine drawing a railway track on a piece of A4 paper and laminating it forms an excellent base. Then print of a selection of between 5 and 15 of your child’s favourite engines to become the tokens. Because the child is invested in the tokens as well as the overall prize, their chances of success are maximised. Printing off images of a selection of small rewards to put at the end of the board will also help as this provides a visual reminder of what success means.

Rewards can include anything from TV time, to snacks, from a game of chase to time spent on an electronic device. The important factors are that it must be something which the child will find rewarding, it must be available immediately and it must be tangible. Once a child has gained all of their tokens they should be allowed to immediately claim their reward.

Spontaneous Edible Treats

Although I am well aware that this is an issue that is open to disagreement. I am a big fan of edible treats. In fact at one point a member of staff told me that my classroom resembled Charlie’s Chocolate Factory! I like to use them spontaneously rather than as part of an official system. I also choose treats that are deliberately small as this increases the frequency with which I can distribute them without a) giving anyone too much sugar or b) upsetting the parents of students in my class. Raisins, Haribo, Popcorn and Ready Salted Pringles are among my favourites.

I produce them if I feel a student is working particularly hard, if a student has followed an instruction particularly quickly and if a student has been especially kind to someone else. But I also use them as a way of focusing on the positive rather than the negative. If five students have come straight to the table to work and one has refused, rewarding the positive is often far more effective than focusing on the one student who is refusing to participate. It’s also more likely to ensure that everyone comes straight to the table the following lesson.

Free Time

Everyone likes to be rewarded for their hard work. After all, if you didn’t get paid, would you go to work? Take that one step further, if your boss paid you more for accomplishing more, would it make you push yourself even further? So whilst I can’t reward my students financially, I like them to know that I recognise when they have done a great job. They are therefore rewarded at the end of each 50 minute lesson with five minutes additional free time for excellent work, and five minutes additional free time for excellent behaviour. It gives them an incentive to work as hard as they can and more importantly it shows them that I have noticed and care that they try hard. This makes them much more likely to want to do so again the next lesson.

Tick Sheets

Tick sheets are a more grown up version of token boards, perfect for those students who want their support to be discreet. A post it note is placed in a student’s book with the target of ticks per lesson being set in advance, as the lesson continues ticks are awarded for good behaviour and/ or hard work discretely by either the teacher or a member of support staff. Ticks can then be traded at the end of the lesson for free time or a tangible reward.

Praise

Whilst praise in isolation may not be enough to change behaviour, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used in addition to other more tangible rewards. Be sensitive though to the needs of the individual, some children love praise to be big, bold and shouted from the roof tops whereas others prefer their praise delivered quietly in a more personal manner. Delivering it in the wrong way can limit and even completely reverse the effect.

Points Based Systems

These are best suited for older children who can cope with delayed gratification. Allowing children to collect points over an extended period of time allows them to save up for larger rewards such a cinema trip or new video game. The reward should be agreed on prior to the chart starting and children should visually be able to see their points stacking up as a reminder that they are getting nearer to their target. Points should be rewarded frequently for behaviours that you are trying to encourage.

Reward Shops

These work really well with larger groups or siblings. Having a selection of treats available, each costing a different amount of points means that children have to think about when to trade in their points. The fact that someone else may buy their chosen reward first works as a motivating factor to keep trying hard and to keep saving. Points to spend should be rewarded frequently. I love to tie in the shop points to a child’s interest whenever possible Galleons for a child who loves Harry Potter, or Gold coins for a Sonic fan both work well.

Whichever you decide to use, remember timing and consistency are key. Recognising behaviours immediately and focusing in on the positive really will help children to want to make a difference to their behaviour.

If you have a reward scheme that works for your children, I’d love to hear about it, after all new tips and tricks are always welcome x

August 15, 2017

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50 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sally Akins

    August 14, 2017

    I think you definitely have to find the right reward for each child, and there’s probably a fair bit of trial and error involved. You’ve got some great suggestions here!

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 15, 2017

      Thanks so much, personality really does play a part x

  2. Reply

    Dena

    August 14, 2017

    I think more parents should use at least one of these methods. I really like the idea of the reward shop, it also kind of teaches them the value of money too! xo

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 15, 2017

      It really does x

  3. Reply

    Jenni

    August 14, 2017

    I like the idea of reward shops. I have recently started a reward system with my three nanny children but myself and mum are unsure on what the reward should be. She has definately said a no to food treats like chocolate etc being a nutritionist. I will pass on the reward shop idea as I think this could work quite well

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 15, 2017

      Little thinks like Pokemon cards, or bouncy balls work well in the shop x

  4. Reply

    Crystal (The Busy Mom Diary)

    August 14, 2017

    Kids are so different it’s important to find a tool that works for them and keeps you sane at the same time. You have listed some really awesome reward suggestions.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 15, 2017

      Aww thank you. It really is exactly that. Finding the one that works for the individual child x

  5. Reply

    Tamsin | Eco Fluffy Mama

    August 15, 2017

    Perfect timing for this post. We are having some issues with our son deliberately doing things we’ve asked him not to (like colouring the wall.. he’s nearly 5!). Going to try a chart.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Bless you, I hope it helps x

  6. Reply

    Rhian Westbury

    August 15, 2017

    I never had anything like this as a kid but I know my friend has a star board and her son gets stars depending on what he’s done and once he’s got a certain amount he will get a treat x

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      It can really help to encourage good behaviour x

  7. Reply

    Jenny

    August 15, 2017

    I was hoping my children would grow out of reward charts but we still find them really useful at home.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      I think we all like to be rewarded for our efforts – however old we are x

  8. Reply

    Dannii

    August 15, 2017

    I definitely think that people work harder if they know they are going to get rewarded for it. I know I do.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      I think it is definitely human nature x

  9. Reply

    sarah

    August 15, 2017

    we use stickers, similar to how they are rewarded at school so they dont get confused between different reward systems

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Yes consistency is really important x

  10. Reply

    London Mumma

    August 15, 2017

    All great tip on points system for rewarding your child. Just which to go for lol!

  11. Reply

    Katy Stevens

    August 15, 2017

    You’ve got some fantastic ideas here – my girl is 1 at the moment but one day I’d like to use a reward system that is based on points! Love the idea of that!

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Aww thank you, I like points too x

  12. Reply

    Louise Edwards

    August 15, 2017

    What a great resource for reward ideas! I agree it totally depends on the child and sometimes the circumstances. My two are older now but still love a reward system! x

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Thank you. I don’t think we are ever too old to be rewarded for our efforts x

  13. Reply

    Becca Talbot

    August 15, 2017

    When my mum was a foster mum, we had so many different children coming and going, she trialled many different behavioural reward systems. I think the right one to use really depended on the child, and what they considered to be a reward (a pudding after eating all their dinner, a star on a chart, being given some pocket money etc) x

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Yes I imagine foster care parents have to be very skilled at it. It really is about finding the right thing for the individual x

  14. Reply

    Mel

    August 15, 2017

    These are some fantastic ideas – and people will surely be able to find the one that fits them best. It is true that time and consistency is key too.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Thank you x

  15. Reply

    lisa prince

    August 15, 2017

    ive tried them lol, to be fare none worked for us but i think you need to give them something different to keep the momentum going or it gets boring x

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      That’s very true, such a lot of it is about knowing when to switch things around x

  16. Reply

    Musings of a tired mummy...zzz...

    August 15, 2017

    Most kids will do anything for stickers! I bribed mine for potty training with a tick sheet and then a toy prize when completed

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Totally agree that stickers are a great tool x

  17. Reply

    Lucie Aiston

    August 15, 2017

    Some awesome ideas here!!! A few are used for my son at school too. Not so much for behaviour but for motivation to complete work. Definitely agree that a reward system should be tailored to each child as they will all respond differently. Fantastic post!!

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Thanks so much, yes they are great for encouraging work x

  18. Reply

    Jeannette @autismmumma

    August 16, 2017

    We’ve used sticker charts at home for both children. D’s school has a house points system and she’s always very excited to receive one ?? Great post x

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 16, 2017

      Thank you, so glad you’ve found ways that work for you x

  19. Reply

    mandy

    August 16, 2017

    These are all great ideas. I am not sure which one will work for us, will need to see my girls behaviour to see which one will suit us best.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 17, 2017

      Exactly, it really is all about them as individuals x

  20. Reply

    Sarah Ann

    August 16, 2017

    Love some of these ideas. I don’t have children but having two siblings, I think the reward shop would have worked really well for us and is something I would definitely use.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 17, 2017

      Thank you x

  21. Reply

    Stephanie Merry

    August 17, 2017

    Love these ideas, we used to have sticker charts at home for me and my siblings x

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 17, 2017

      It really does make life more fun x

  22. Reply

    Abi - Something About Baby

    August 17, 2017

    My son is only 2, so I’ve not thought about reward charts before but I’ve always been a bit cautious of them. However, it is true what you say, as adults we get rewarded for things we do, so I guess it’s just a smaller version of that! We already focus on praise and rewarding the good behaviour and ignoring the negative behaviour, and I think my son would probably respond quite well to a reward chart.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 17, 2017

      I think rewards are just a part of life, this is just a way of making them a little more formal x

  23. Reply

    Stephanie Usher

    August 18, 2017

    When I was younger we had a sticker chart, which seemed to work quite well! xx

  24. Reply

    MELANIE EDJOURIAN

    August 18, 2017

    I have done a few of those and depending on the child and possible reward they give different results. I have a star reward chat for mine.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 20, 2017

      Exactly, they really do work differently with different children x

  25. Reply

    Jacqueline

    August 20, 2017

    How about the reward of finishing what you started. I don’t really believe in giving children rewards for much because life doesn’t work that way. I do believe in rewarding a child for hard work of any kind but they really have to do something above and beyond.

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 21, 2017

      I guess my question to you would be, are you rewarded for going to work? Not all children need tangible rewards though you are right. For many praise is enough. My post was writing with children who are struggling and so need extra support in mind.

  26. Reply

    Clare

    August 21, 2017

    There are some really good ideas here, we are currently trialling ways to reward our youngest (asd) what seems to be working so far for us is a ‘smiley face’ system, each day at school he gets a smiley face in his book if he’s had a good morning and same for the afternoon, he gets so excited to come show us at the end of the day, and we carry this over at home to by putting a smiley face in his book to let school know he’s been good at home. We also have started giving sad or wobbly faces for his not so good days. I’ve bookmarked this to come back to if we need a shake up 🙂

    • Reply

      Mummy Times Two

      August 21, 2017

      Bless you, that sounds as though you have a great system going. I bet he is so proud of his faces x

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