It is sometimes difficult to change a child’s behavior. The motivation chart can then be an effective tool for bringing positive change to a toddler older than 3 years. The principle is simple: when it acts as it was asked, the child accumulates on a board points or stickers that will then allow him to get a small reward.
How can the motivational chart help the child?
Of course, a child must above all be heard and understood. But if that is not enough, the motivation chart can be useful for changing certain behaviors that require special interventions. This small external reinforcement will then motivate the child a little more to adopt the behavior that is expected, but which is difficult to change for him. For example, the motivation chart can help a child to:
- Say “please” and “thank you”;
- Pick up his toys
- To brush your teeth
- To dress
- Stop sucking his thumb
The motivational chart helps the child understand what his parents expect of him. In addition, since the board is usually posted in a prominent place, the child can easily see his achievements and be proud of him. When used properly, therefore, this tool can promote children’s self-esteem, improve their interactions with their parents, and teach them how to progress towards a goal. For the parent, the motivational chart can reduce frustration by emphasizing the positive behaviors of the child. It is also a good excuse to congratulate the child and tell him that we are proud of him.
Is the motivation table still necessary?
For some parents, offering rewards to change a behavior may seem like a manipulation or a way to “buy” a change. Another possible approach, before using a motivational chart, is to first give positive attention to positive behavior. For example, if the child plays quietly sharing toys, you can make a positive comment to reinforce this behavior. Sometimes this positive attention is enough.
The keys to the success of the motivation table
To set up a motivational chart, it is important to be well prepared and respect a few principles so that your child can achieve his goal. The following steps are good ways to start.
Choose or make the motivation table
The motivation chart can take the form of a calendar on which tights is placed if the child has reached his goal of the day. Several types of tables exist on the market. You can also make one. Your child will feel motivated to participate in the choice of the painting and may want to make it himself.
Feel free to be original in the design of the painting. Choose a theme or character that your child can easily identify with. Then choose tights for toddlers or a points system for the older ones. Display the board in an easy-to-access place for the child, for example on the fridge. For the older child, it could be a private place, like his room.
Determine which behavior (s) to change
In the company of the child, name the behavior to be changed and describe clearly and positively the desired behavior. For example, tell him, “You have to pick up all your toys on the floor of your room. For the youngest, determine some behaviors to change at a time, that is, about 2 or 3 goals. For the older ones, it is possible to increase the number of behaviors to improve up to 4 or 5.
It is also important to be realistic in the choice of behaviors to improve. If you ask your 4-year-old to dress alone, you must make sure that he is able to do it without difficulty most of the time. If he succeeds less than 4 times out of 5, it is because this change is too difficult for him, and he risks becoming discouraged. Remember that the motivation chart is a way to develop the discipline (do a good behavior at the right time), not a learning tool (learn new behavior). It is important not to put the child in a situation of failure, as this could affect his self-esteem.
Encourage and support
Congratulate your child often. Emphasize his successes more than his failures. Feel free to make positive comments like “You are a champion to get dressed! This type of commentary allows the child to build positive self-esteem. This increases the chances that he will dress himself later, without the need for reinforcement, as he seeks to reproduce this positive self-image.
Also, avoid punishment if the child does not do the expected behavior. You must also support your child so that he can achieve his goal. Even though the motivational chart should not be changed along the way, you can help your child when he/she has difficulty. It is also advisable to remain flexible by adapting the objectives if you find that they are too difficult to reach.
Follow up and be consistent
The use of the painting must become a ritual. Immediately praise your child when he does the desired behavior. This will promote the acquisition of this new behavior. For a toddler, the strengthening should take place the same day. When the reward comes only at the end of the week, his motivation may decrease. Indeed, the child does not have the notion of time and therefore loses interest. Also, remind your child why he is getting tights or dots on his board. For example, tell him, “You brushed your teeth tonight. Congratulations, here is your star! ”
And for the brothers and sisters?
When there are several children in the family, it is better to make a motivational chart for each of them. Otherwise, brothers and sisters may see this as an injustice, as they also want privileges for their good behavior. It is important to personalize goals and rewards for each child. A 3-year-old girl can not have the same goals and rewards as her 5-year-old sister.
Choose the rewards
At first, most children will be happy to accumulate tights or dots, but over time, the habit will take the place of novelty. The addition of a reward can then motivate your child. By making sure you choose the right reward, you will increase the effectiveness of the motivational chart. A privilege that the child desires will make him more inclined to change his behavior. However, this reward should be proportional to the behavior to be changed and does not need to be monetary or expensive.
In fact, spending quality time with a parent or family is often the children’s favorite reward. Therefore, it is preferable to favor rewards that allow the child to share a special moment with his parents. You can offer him to go to the movies alone with dad, go to the park, bowling with mom, and so on.
Rewards can also be privileges (extra play time, sleepover, dinner menu), special activities (going to the park, visiting a zoo, eating an ice cream) or small affordable items (pencils or erasers, games for travel, trading cards). It also allows moving from a negative intervention (removing a privilege if the child is not behaving in the right way) to a positive intervention (gain a privilege by having a good behavior). Thus, the tights accumulated in the motivation chart can be used for the child to buy minutes to listen to the television or to go to sleep a little later. The child learns to gain privileges that he took for granted before.
Watch out for haggling
When using a chart, avoid entering into a bargaining relationship where each good behavior represents an opportunity to obtain material rewards.
Handling by congratulations and rewards can indeed have detrimental consequences on your relationship with your child and on his development. For example, the child could become addicted to gifts. Only motivated by rewards, he will not learn to take responsibility and make choices on his own. When the rewards person is present, he will have good behavior, but in his absence, he will cease his good behavior.
To avoid this pitfall, encourage the child to develop a pride and motivation that comes from him, for example by asking him: “Are you proud to have been able to prepare yourself to go out? ”
Finally, remember that the motivational chart remains a tool among others. If this strategy does not work, it may be that this tool is not appropriate or that the time is not right to change this behavior.
A temporary measure
It is preferable to limit to a few weeks or months the time it takes to use a motivation chart. This tool must remain a temporary support to allow the child’s own motivation to develop. To do this, when the child has acquired the desired behavior, gradually replace the tights and awards with congratulations while gradually putting the table aside. Then, encourage the child to evaluate himself by asking him if he is proud of what he has accomplished, and invite him to congratulate himself.