Parenting

The Best Behavior Charts for Kids of All Ages

This article has been medically-reviewed by:

You may notice something about your child and the way their mind works if they live with ADHD, which is that they are likely driven by things that light up the reward system in the brain, such as video games.

This shared trait among those who live with ADHD can be an advantage if we let it be. Focusing on the reward system in the brain can help promote good behavior and work toward other goals.

Behavior charts are one example of how to teach good behavior healthily with your child’s brain in mind. So, what is a behavior chart, and how do they work? Today, we’re going to talk about what a behavior chart is, when to use them, and how to create one that works for your child.

What Are Behavior Charts?

Behavior charts are tools that parents, educators, and other individuals who care for children use to improve behavior. These charts are a type of reward system.

Do They Work?

Behavior charts work. It’s shown that rewards are a strong motivator for kids who live with ADHD, hence why they’re commonly used in behavioral therapy. Another major advantage is that they’re a learning tool that’s both visual and tangible. Rather than saying, “do your homework,” a child can look at an aesthetically appealing behavior chart as a tangible reminder of the task.

Once that task is completed, or the child successfully engages in a specific positive behavior, they can add a sticker, cross the task or action off, or do something else, depending on what kind of chart it is, that serves as a visual representation of their success. Once the chart is filled out, they’re typically rewarded with a prize.

Using this method, a child gets to see their progress, which is particularly important if the reward is a prize that the child has to work up to rather than something that you give to them immediately. 

When to Use Them

You can use a behavior chart for your child with ADHD for a number of purposes. Some common examples of when to use behavior charts include but aren’t restricted to potty training, implementing or maintaining routines (which may consist of chores, getting ready for school, hygiene, and so on), and circumstances where you want to replace or correct unfavorable behaviors, such as yelling, with more favorable behaviors, such as quietly identifying and expressing emotions. 

Best Behavior Charts

The best behavior chart for your child will depend partially on their age and what you are looking to achieve. Here are some examples of the best behavior chart for kids with ADHD.

Sticker Charts

Sticker charts are exactly what they sound like. All that you will need is the chart itself (which you can create yourself or print for free online) and stickers to place on the chart when a child succeeds in the behavior you want them to engage in.

Weekly Points Charts

Weekly point charts can look a number of different ways, and they can be used for a range of purposes, like color behavior charts and sticker charts. This is a type of behavior chart where a child tallies “points” throughout the week when they engage in positive behaviors or complete designated activities. 

Color Behavior Charts

Color behavior charts, like sticker charts, are beneficial because they are aesthetically appealing. This makes it more likely that your child will be able to stay focused on or engaged with the chart. This is actually a fact backed by research

Routine Charts

Routine charts are meant to help a child stick to routines, which can be incredibly beneficial for kids who live with ADHD. A routine chart will typically include a group of actions like brushing one’s teeth, getting dressed in the morning, bathing, and household chores that you want to make a part of your child’s routine. Joon is a great example of a routine chart that helps children develop and practice daily routines.

Free Printable Behavior Charts for Kids

Free printable behavior charts for kids make it easier to implement this type of reward system into your family‘s life. You can find a wide variety of different behavior charts online.

These include behavior charts for kids of different ages, behavior charts with characters from movies or TV shows that your child likes, sticker charts, punch cards (a common alternative to adding stickers or checkmarks to a chart), routine charts, charts meant to help a child identify or express their feelings, hygiene charts, and more.

Ready to get started? Here is a website with a wide variety of free, printable behavior charts for kids: Free Printable Behavior Charts for Kids | Official Site

You can also use Joon to create a printable behavior chart! When you set up your account and your child’s routine in the app, simply select the ‘Print’ button to send the digital routine chart you built to your printer so you can hang it up somewhere in the house.

Explaining the Chart With Your Child

Once you’ve selected a behavior chart that you believe may work for your child, the question parents typically have is, “how do I explain this chart to my child?” There are definitely some dos and don’ts. Here are some tips:

  • Explain it as though it is a game. 

When you explain the behavior chart to your child, talk about it like it’s a game. Kids love games, and this will likely make your child more enthusiastic than it would if you were to simply bring up the behavior you want to change, which is something that kids with ADHD often hear about all too often.

If you use Joon, the app does this for you! It turns chores and routines into a fun game for your kids that will motivate them to beg you for chores.

  • Make the goal(s) clear.

Use simple, straightforward language when you explain the goals listed on the behavior chart. Make the behavior chart clear for your child to understand. So, when you write goals on the behavior chart, list something specific, like “finished homework” or “brushed teeth.” Tell your child that when they do this task at a designated time, they can add a sticker, cross the item off, punch their punch card, or add a “point.” 

  • Use positive language. 

The way you communicate with your child matters. It’s essential to use positive language as opposed to negative language. Both in your explanation and on the chart itself, highlight the behavior you want to see. Not the one you don’t.

What that would mean is that you wouldn’t write something like, “I didn’t yell at the store” on your child’s behavior chart. Instead, if you want to use positive language, you would write, “I used an inside voice at the store.” 

Appropriate Behavior Goals and Prizes

Behavior goals will range based on what your child struggles with. Some common behavior goals for kids with ADHD include using an inside voice, cleaning up after oneself, engaging in daily hygiene routines, and completing homework assignments.

One thing that is imperative when it comes to behavior charts and any other reward system or mechanism for helping your child with ADHD is that you have to make sure that the goal is something they are currently developmentally capable of. Selecting the most suitable rewards or prizes also plays a role in the success and benefits of behavior charts. Here are some examples of appropriate prizes that you can use for your child’s behavior chart:

  • Quality time. This might be quality time with friends, or it might be quality time with the family engaging in an activity that your child enjoys. 
  • Money. People are driven by money, including kids. This is actually a fantastic prize to use for a number of reasons because it is a highly motivating reward, and it can teach kids a little bit about the value of money and budgeting naturally. 
  • Technology usage. This may include things like an hour of gaming or watching TV.
  • Special experiences. Experiences that will excite your child, like heading to a local petting zoo or park, are excellent choices for rewards or prizes that a child can work toward with their behavior chart.

One last tip? Give your child prizes to choose from when you are building the chart (or, to them, “the game”). That way, you can ensure that the prize in mind is genuinely motivating for them as an individual. 

Conclusion 

Children, like parents, are not perfect. Some behavior goals will take time, and there might be ups and downs. Regardless, behavior charts are often an advantageous and worthwhile tool for parents and those who work with kids who live with ADHD.