While watching the Today show this morning Jenna and Sheinelle talked about how they both bribe their kids when necessary. I get it, we have all been there as parents. That moment, as Jenna described, when her daughter came into her room far too early while she was sleeping, so she told her daughter she would get ice cream in the morning if she went back to bed. I can completely relate! With four year old twins and a six year old I too was resorting to bribery or delving out consequences too often. There wasn’t a good balance.

Now our family has a way of doing things that is a form of bribery that works. It is a reward system that is SUPER easy and you can begin with your kids today. It is called the CHART method.

This method of parenting allows you to reward your child with the toys, treats, and fun activities that THEY want, by them earning. It starts with a chart (see the FREE printables below) and the CHART method.

The chart has either 30 or 50 boxes for them to earn check marks. The completion of an entire chart is rewarded with whatever you determine at the start. You want to select a reward that the child really wants. For my kids, they began with 30 boxes and when the chart was complete they got to go to Walmart or Target and pick any toy priced at $20 and under. You would have thought I was giving them a million dollars. They were ecstatic! It’s because they were in control of choosing exactly what they wanted. They also had control in earning it sooner or later based on their behavior. The CHART method gives kids clear expectations while also giving flexibility for the parent to delve out bribes (now in the form of check marks) when needed.  The CHART method below spells out all the details on how it works.

Tip-Start with the 30 box chart to get them going, so they get rewarded sooner and understand how it all works. Then move up to the 50 box chart for ages six and up. For kids younger than six keep using the 30 box chart. They need rewards sooner for the system to work well.

FREE PRINTABLES:

Here is my daughter Brielle showing off one of her chore charts. I let my kids fill in their own check marks as they earn them. They also like to “decorate” or color their sheets to personalize them.   

Brielle and Alex

Here is how the earning of check marks works with the CHART Method:

CHART METHOD

Chores daily

Hygiene

Acting as asked

Reading

Time to eat

The CHART method spells out how kids can earn checks marks. CHART spells out chores daily, hygiene, acting as asked, reading, and time to eat. Below is an explanation of each and how you can let your kids earn check marks under each category.

CHORES DAILY

Throw out those complicated chore charts! One blank chart is used for all behaviors and categories of the CHART method. You as the parent can add to it as you want. For example, our daughter who is six, has three daily chores right now. They are memorized since it’s only three. Her chores are cleaning her room (making her bed and opening the shades), feed the chicken, and unload the dishwasher. If there are other things I want her do on a particular day then it falls under the “action as asked” category.

Keep the daily chores simple to keep your kids motivated. Select chores that are age appropriate and keep it at five daily chores or fewer. This makes daily chores become part of their routine and it isn’t a fight to get your kids to do them. Each chore is worth one check mark. If they don’t do their chores, then they risk punishment, like getting their IPad time taken away or their favorite toy put away for the day.

Keep the chores consistent for a while, so they get the hang of doing the same thing every day. The routine of doing the same chores every day creates good habits of doing things you would like done every day like cleaning their room or feeding the pets. Don’t expect them to do the chores without reminding them. My daughter has been making her bed by herself for over a year, but I still have to ask most mornings if she got it done. Some days she remembers and some days she says she forgot and will get it done now. Either way it gets done, but I know as a parent my job is still to enforce the rules. No check mark unless it is done, even if I do have to remind her to do it.

Reminding does not mean nagging. One rule set up from the start is that if there is complaining or whining then the check mark is not earned. This helps to keep me from becoming a nagging mom. They need to be compliant and do as asked when it is asked. There have been times my kids have grumbled and they lost the check mark. Its sad when this happens because they still had to do the chore regardless. However, setting the standard that no whining is allowed and that there are consequences for the complaints helps to minimize it from happening.

HYGIENE

This involves all the basics you want your kids to do without having to nag them: brushing their teeth, putting their dirty clothes away (keep the germs in the laundry basket and off the floor), and getting themselves dressed. If you fight with your kids about what they wear then pick it out the night before. Have it laid out. If they get dressed in the outfit without argument then they have earned the check mark. For my four year old twins they earn their check mark for dressing if they get dressed without asking for my help.

This system is made to motivate kids to want to do things on their own! Creating independent little humans who make good choices is what the CHART method teaches and hygiene is one of the basics.

ACTING AS ASKED

This component of the CHART method is like gold. You will wonder why you weren’t using this system earlier becaue it works so well!! It’s for those moments like Sheinelle described with her daughter that happened recently. She wanted her daughter to go to an activity where Jenna was talking to a group of kids and her daughter was fighting her on it. She promised her daughter a trip to Toys R Us to get whatever toy she wanted, if she went, behaved well, and was a good listener. If she starts using the CHART method, the next time she has a situation like this come up all she has to do is offer one or even two check marks if she does as asked. It is amazing how motivated kids become to do what is asked of them if the reward is something that they truly want.

If the reward is too meager then the system doesn’t work. That’s why it is important for parents to figure out what their child wants most (within reason and parental means).  Is it a trip to the water park? Is it a mom and son day out? Is it that toy they have been wanting or is it money? Figure it out at the start and put it on the top of the chart, so they know what they are working toward from the get-go.

Our daughter recently earned a pink kayak for our camping trips. It was $99 and took her months to earn. She hadn’t earned it by our first camping trip, but that’s ok. It made her want to earn it even more for the next trip. She was asking what she could do around the house to earn extra check marks every day. Using the CHART method we created an environment where our daughter wanted to work hard to earn the thing she wanted.

One way that “acting as asked” is most helpful is in public settings. That moment when your child is crying at the store for something that they want. Use that opportunity to let them know that they need to calm down. You will count from 10 to 1 and during that time they are to stop crying. If they do this then they will earn a check mark. It is rewarding their good behavior- emotional self control- which makes this a parenting win.

“Acting as asked” also includes all of those tasks around the house where you want willing helpers, so you reward them with check marks. For example, when the playroom gets especially messy I let the kids know that we are cleaning it together. Good helpers will get a check mark. Those who aren’t good, willing, and eager helpers will not get a check mark. The goal is to motivate good behavior and a healthy work ethic. These skills are valuable, as they get older you want them to be successful members of the work force. Using the CHART method to motivate good behavior, and helpers with a good attitude is a skill that can benefit children for a lifetime.

READING

Reading is vital to healthy childhood development. Readers become leaders! It is important to start teaching them to make it a habit of reading daily. The CHART system helps to reward kids for their daily reading.

Our daughter can now read since she has completed Kindergarten. She earns a check mark for each book she reads out loud. Using check marks created an easy motivation for her to read every day. We set a goal of reading three books each day.

For younger children who cannot read you can use your daily family reading time as a way to earn a check mark. If they sit and are good listeners they can earn a check mark. If this is too easy, then you can integrate reading comprehenision to earn check marks. After you read a book to your child ask them some questions about the book. Have a conversation about the book and what was read. This will help improve their reading comprehension skills. Give a check mark to them if they participated in the comprehension discussion.

TIME TO EAT

Last summer our daughter was diagnosed with a pediatric eating disorder called ARFID (Avoidant Resistant Food Intake Disorder). While in the hospital program last summer they used a chart and check mark system to motivate small children to eat. It worked quite well with our daughter! We carried this into the CHART method. It can work with all children. Which is why we use this with our twins as well.

For example, our twins have a vegetable to eat each night at dinner. If it is one that we know that they struggle to eat we will reward them with a check mark if they eat a certain amount. Usually it is half. For our daughter she must eat her entire main course portion in order to earn a check mark. She also earns a check mark for drinking the healthy smoothies I make each night. She gets 13 minutes to drink the smoothie. If she does so without complaint during the time period then she earns her check mark that evening.

This system can work with whatever you want your child to eat. For example, if your child struggles with vegetables then start rewarding them with check marks for eating a portion of the vegetables at dinner. Start small to help the child feel the “win”. You can increase the amount required over time. For the twins we began with three bites of the food we wanted them to eat. After several weeks of them successfully eating the specific food we then increased it to half a portion in order to earn the check mark. The CHART method works to help your child learn to eat different foods and get used to them over time.

SOME TIPS

MONEY

As your child gets the hang of this system and begins to understand the value of money you can make a completed chart worth a specific amount of money. For our daughter who is six she earns $20 for each completed 50 box chart. She is working on earning a  $99 toy called “Roaring Tyler”, an electronic tiger.

TAKING AWAY CHECK MARKS

We try not to take away check marks from our kids very often. Instead we motivate them toward good behavior with check marks. We also still use time outs and taking away toys and electronics (such as the IPad). Threatening to take away checkmarks can be discouraging to kids. They begin to feel like “why bother trying to earn them, if they are just going to take them away”. However, I do keep the removal of check marks in my back pocket if needed. For example, our twins were being especially naughty at swimming lessons recently. They had already lost their IPad privileges that day. It was a rough day in general. The moment I threatened to take away two check marks if they didn’t listen to the instructor and finish the lesson they perked up and listened. They obeyed and finished the lesson. It was the threat of losing what they worked so hard to earn that made them obey.

Save the removal of check marks for when it is truly needed. Save it for those emergency situations when all else has failed. How do you remove check marks? White out. They can always earn them back to complete the chart.

WRITE IT ON THE CHART

If you can’t keep track of what child is assigned which chore then write it on the chart. There is space on the bottom of each printable chart where the CHART method is spelled out. You can write next to each letter what is requires for that child. For example, our daughter has different chores than our sons. They also have different reading requirements for earning checkmarks. All of those details can be written on the bottom of chart under the specific category.

Make sure you fill out the line at the top of the chart. The system won’t work unless they know they are working toward earning something specific. Be sure it is something that they are willing to work for or the system will fail.

KEEP THEM MOTIVATED

When you begin the CHART method be sure to remind your kids what they are working towards (a specific toy, money, etc). This will help keep them excited and motivated. Use lots of enthusiasm when you start the method so that they are excited as well. You want the process of starting the CHART method to be a fun, rewarding, and a positive experience for your kids from the very start. After doing the CHART method for a while and experiencing a reward or two they will become more self motivated and it will take less effort on your part. In the beginning it is very important to keep the enthusiasm high. Cheer for them and praise them when they earn check marks. Your extra efforts in the beginning will go a long way toward making the system work successfully in your home.

Please note that the CHART method is an original idea and creation by Dr. Magdalena Battles. She is a parenting expert and writer for www.lifehack.org and www.livingjoydaily.com. Please reference this article and provide the link back to this original article if you are share this parenting method in your own writing or website.