Do Behavior Charts Actually Work?
Depending upon the child, yes behavior charts can absolutely work towards improving daily attitude and actions. Some kids will really take to the use of a behavior chart. Right away that child will correct behavior in the moment, knowing it may affect getting that check mark on the chart. I’ve been using a behavior chart with my son (now 8 years old) since he was 2 years old to great effect.
In order to be used effectively, your expectations must be clearly expressed to your child. The good behavior chart is not a way to shame your child. Behavior charts should be a positive way of redirecting your child and reminding them of personal goals. While printable behavior charts seem to work best for preschoolers, they can be very effective in redirecting behaviors in toddlers and elementary aged kids as well.
For preteens, try using this free printable daily checklist, to minimize nagging and encourage life skills.
Free Printable Behavior Charts for Kids
Behavior charts must be used consistently in order for them to be effective. If you print the chart but never use it, then it’s probably not going to work!
Place the printed behavior chart in a prominent place (on the fridge, near your child’s bed) so that it’s not going to be forgotten. I make it a habit to mark up my kids’ charts before they get up, documenting the previous day. Checking the behavior chart is usually my son’s first stop in the morning so he can see how many stars he received!
Getting to the Root of Behavior Issues
Naturally your goal in all this is to work towards NOT having to use a daily behavior chart. Good behavior and the skills you’ve been working on will start to come more naturally with time and with age of your child.
Adapt the good behavior chart to suit your child when they start to lose interest. Change up the skills, point system and incentives to encourage better behavior if you see lagging.
Focus MORE on the good behaviors! Keep the behavior that you want to see at the forefront, constantly praising the good behaviors that you see throughout the day. If you’re seeing a lot of meltdowns, read more about stopping tantrums in toddlers and preschoolers.
If inappropriate behaviors surface through the day, remind your child about the behavior chart. Sometimes all I have to do is ask my child if they want to receive a star for a particular task. That’s enough to redirect them and remind that they won’t get the star if they don’t meet their goal.
Explaining the Chart With Your Child
Before beginning, work with your child to create the most successful chart. These are the steps to take when introducing a behavior chart:
- Show your child these free printable behavior charts for kids. Let them choose the one they want.
- Set a goal together. Setting an attainable goal is important when it comes to these good behavior charts. Otherwise kids won’t have anything to work towards! Decide how many “points” each child should receive in order to receive their prize. When first implementing a good behavior chart, consider making the first week “easy” for kids to succeed by choosing behaviors you know won’t be too challenging.
- Explain the expected behaviors to your child. For non-readers, the child should be able to memorize their daily goals. At first you might just add two items to the list, eventually building up to 5.
- Kids can only earn points, but can’t lose them. Resist the urge to remove points when kids backslide or act up. Consider offering bonus points for excellent behavior that goes above and beyond what’s expected!
Kid-Appropriate Good Behavior Goals and Prizes
At the publish date of this article, families are in self-isolation. This can limit what activities you and your child can do as a prize for good behavior. I’ve including rewards that can be done now as well as behavior prizes that can be used later when self-isolation is lifted.
RELATED: 65+ Things to Do with Kids at Home
Prizes should not be expensive or elaborate. The idea is that it’s a small incentive for kids to better themselves. After all you want children to behave well even when they’re not getting a reward! I’ve included a list of good behavior rewards that you can choose from, based on age-appropriateness of your child:
- Acquired time on electronics
- Later bedtime
- Special dessert
- New book or e-book
- Digital movie purchase
- Package of stickers
- Pizza for dinner (or child’s choice for that meal)
- Puzzle or game
- “Treasure Box” – fill a box with appropriate prizes you already have
- Money for piggy bank
- Dollar Store visit
- Play date with a friend
- Fast food lunch
- A physical toy that’s already been purchased (put it in a place where the kids can see it but can’t touch it yet!)
- Movie theater
- Outfit they choose at the store
- Frozen yogurt
- Souvenir money earned for next vacation
Need Printer Ink?
With all the distance learning schoolwork lately, my printer is going into overdrive. I minimized the heavy colors in these free printable behavior charts so the printables won’t suck up all your ink in one page! But having a printable that feature your kid’s favorite colors can be important to them, so I did include color in the behavior charts. You can change out to print in black and white if you prefer.
One awesome option is to sign up for HP Instant Ink. It’s a mail-order subscription service for printer ink so you’ll never run out! On the HP Instant Ink program, you printer is connected remotely to HP through your HP Home Printer so they’ll send you ink before you need it. You’ll be able to amend based on your printing needs. And the cost is really great (plus it saves you a trip to the store). Sign up for HP Instant Ink and receive a free month on the program!
What Behaviors to Fill In?
When designing these good behavior charts for kids, I decided to leave slots open for parents to complete. Naturally each child has their own issues and personal struggles. Find a good balance of items to work on with your children. Our goal is to get kids to succeed and improve! Add at least one “slam-dunk” item to your list that you know your child will be able to achieve daily. Seeing that check mark, star or sticker each day will be encouraging.
When considering what items to add to the printable behavior chart, think about the daily struggles you have with your child. What are the things you’re repeating day after day to remind your child? Are there skills you’d like to encourage in each kid? I’ve included a few ideas of items you might want to add to your daily chart, including personal care, housekeeping, and behaviors.
- Took a bath without struggle
- Brushed teeth – morning and night
- Dressed in the morning without prompting
- Washed hands after using bathroom
- Quiet play time
- Went to bed without struggle
- Stayed dry overnight (not wetting the bed) – Are you potty training? See this post for toddler potty training tips.
- Made their bed
- Cleaned up toys
- Helped with household chores (add in specific items, like dusting, bringing laundry to washing machine, emptying dishwasher, cleaning bathrooms, taking out trash, etc.)
- Pet care
- READ MORE: How to Get Kids to Help with Housework
Encouraging Life Skills
- Slept in own bed all night
- Cooperated with siblings
- Used words to explain frustration (without temper tantrums or meltdowns)
- Practiced instrument
- Truthful and honest
- Followed parent’s requests the first time
- Kept hands to themselves
- Good sportsmanship
- Ate dinner without fussing or complaining
- Used an inside voice
- 20 minutes of quiet reading or story time
- Using please and thank you without prompting
Free Printable Behavior Charts for Kids
I’ve created 9 behavior charts that you can fill in yourself. Some of the charts are only tracking behavior during the weekdays, leaving the weekends uncharted.
How you choose to mark off the achievements is up to you. I usually do a star or a check mark. You could also opt for a sticker that the child adds with your help.
Being the big Disney fan I am, I just had to create a few Disney themed behavior charts for kids! You’ll also find kid-friendly themes like unicorns, race cars, space ships as well as colorful generic themes. Let your child see the options and choose the theme that resonates with them. Just click the title link to print at home!