Rewards are a very important part of creating an effective chore chart and can be incredibly effective reinforcers. They should be used in unison with an effectively crafted chore chart. Just to be clear, we’re not saying you should hand them a bar of gold every time they make the bed. However, using rewards will better help you shape your child's behavior.
Think of your chore chart as more than just a chore chart. It can also be a behavior chart. Charts can describe positive behaviors that parents want to see just as much as the chores they want their kids to do. Positive behaviors are just as important, and so these could be great additions to incorporate into a chore chart for kids.
Some positive behaviors to reinforce and reward might be:
Saying “please” and “thank you”
Washing their hands after using the toilet or before eating
Brushing their teeth without being asked
Doing a chore or request without having to be asked more than once
Being kind to a sibling(s)
Cleaning up after themselves after eating
Consider adding the behaviors above to your chart. This way your chart is not just about getting chores done, it’s about reinforcing positive behaviors in every regard.
This is a major reason why many chore routines and charts fail — they focus solely on completing negatively-perceived tasks (because let’s face it, taking out the garbage will never be fun), rather than consistently highlighting positive behavior and routines.
Here’s what child development expert Dr. Laurie Sperry says about the effectiveness of this type of positive reinforcement:
The key (and sometimes trickiest challenge) is finding the right reward for your child. A good place to start is by considering the four types of positive reinforcers:
Natural - direct results (e.g. high test grade)
Token - items that can be exchanged for something of value (e.g. points)
Social - expressions of approval (e.g. “Wow! You made your bed so nicely this morning!”)
Tangible - physical items (e.g. money, toys, or treats)
Each child is unique, so it’s important to provide a reward that they respond to well and has a long-lasting influence. Activities are often overlooked, but can also be a type of effective reinforcement. Special trips to a favorite playground, bonus time on the trampoline, a chance to dance to a favorite tune with dad; these all can be motivating rewards for children, especially those who have a need to move!
To make your chore reinforcer even more effective make sure it is only given when your child completes the task(s), is given immediately after they finish, or is big enough to motivate - something they have an actual appetite for.
Ashley Lavoie is a mom of three and manages both child and adult ADHD and neonatal diabetes. She is advocating for awareness and loves writing and connecting with other families like hers.
Editor's note: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as needed, with a qualified healthcare provider and/or BCBA.