Monkey Business/Fotolia

Do Reward Charts Really Work? Here's What You Should Know

Ad failed to load

When I was in elementary school, I lived for reward charts. Each shiny star beckoned to be placed next to my name for completing a particular task and I beamed when I earned one. I also discovered in my teenage and adult years that my craving for high-level accomplishment, albeit admirable, deeply contributed to the self-imposed pressure I routinely placed on myself to achieve perfection. Looking back, I can see where these systems helped me to accomplish goals, but they also may have made me, well, stressed. So I wonder, "Do reward charts really work?"

Rachel Robertson, vice president for education and development at Bright Horizons, says in a school setting "it is important to remember that the use of these charts can often lead to public embarrassment and shaming, even though this is never the teacher’s intent."

Robertson explains that even though teachers do not mean harm by using reward charts, there is an opportunity to look at these systems in a different way.  

Ad failed to load

"Given that educating is all about teaching new skills, challenging behavior should be considered an indication of a skill a child needs to develop (e.g. impulse control, emotional regulation) rather than a need for discipline," she tells Romper in an email interview. "With this mindset, and really engaging learning experiences, children are very often self-motivated to manage their own behavior without the need for potentially distracting and embarrassing external controls like a behavior chart."

Robertson says it is important to keep in  mind that reward charts typically lead to public embarrassment and shaming, even though this is never the teacher’s intent. "By adding an unnecessary level of stress for children to 'behave,' this system can interfere with the focus on learning," she says.

Ad failed to load

As for parents and caregivers who are curious about using reward charts, Robertson says they should instead focus on "building intrinsic motivation for children, not what can be a superficial motivator like a reward chart." She explains that reward systems can imply that a child will misbehave, as opposed to assuming that they are doing their best, "even if that does include some challenging or mistaken behavior at times."

"Charts like these can be misleading, assuming that all behavior is a choice and that a child should be punished if they behave in ways (e.g. they struggle sitting still for long periods of time) that are often developmentally typical," Robertson says.

But Amy Przeworski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology, noted in a Psychology Today article that "children learn about what behaviors are acceptable and not acceptable based on the consequences of them. If you want a child to do a behavior more often, a reward will help." Przeworski maintained that consistency, meaningful rewards, and clarity about what behaviors you are trying to change can make the reward chart a useful tool.

Ad failed to load

If you do decide to make a reward chart for the home, then consider involving your child so that it includes something they enjoy, like dot-to-dot (drawing a line for each completed task) or color by number. Be sure to also include a task that involves one-on-one time with you, according to Supernanny.

If your child's teacher is using a reward chart and it's causing anxiety about attending school, then have an honest conversation with them to explain your child's feelings. If necessary, include the principal and other administrators to get your point across.

As for me, I don't know if I ever will see the back-to-school section and turn the other way. Highlighters, color coded folders, and my label machine are what makes this world of mine go-round. I know, I know. But I'm happy to report that my 30s have meant relaxing the rules a bit — and I'm still in one piece.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Things That *Will* Go Wrong Every Time You Plan A Kid-Free Night

The last time my husband and I went out to dinner alone was… actually, I can’t remember. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a movie in a theater in the last year. Before we had children we used to go out all the time. But even with …
By Liza Wyles

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack