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Behavior charts can be used for anything from potty training to chores and routines. Kids respond well to routine and structure and a sticker chart to track specific behaviors is just a visual manifestation of that structure. It is satisfying for both you and your toddler to see the progress with each sticker that is placed on the behavior chart.


How it Works

Changing a behavior works best when you focus on one area at a time. Depending on age, you can focus on a few tasks within the same area, but try to avoid filling every part of the day with different charts.


Choose one focus, like a routine, and include tasks like brushing teeth, getting dressed, and combing hair. For this age group, pictures work better than text. Make a grid with a column for each day of the week and a row for each behavior. Try to stick with a number of tasks equal to your child’s age in years, so three tasks for a three-year-old and four tasks for a four-year-old. If your little one is up for the challenge, add no more than one extra task.


Where to Put It

Post the behavior chart somewhere convenient based on the activities to be performed. A bedtime routine chart can go on the back of a bedroom door and a potty training chart can go on the bathroom mirror or inside a cabinet door.


Choose a dedicated home for the chore chart that is at eye level with your little one. Pick a set time each day that makes sense for the routine and consistently add stickers or stars as your child completes the task.


Types of Behavior Charts

Behavior charts come in many different varieties. The same principle can effectively target problem behaviors in two-year-olds or ten-year-olds with a slight tweak of the goals, milestones, and rewards.


Sticker Charts:As the name implies, this type of chart uses stickers as the reward for completing simple tasks like picking up toys or going to bed without a fit. Sticker charts are the most effective with the toddler age group, especially if you match the stickers with something they are interested in like monster trucks or mermaids.


Chore Charts:Sharing in the responsibility of household tasks strengthens family relationships and personal responsibility. Many parents agree that assigning chore responsibilities is an important part of teaching responsibility. The best age to start a chore chart is as young as possible using age-appropriate chores. For the toddler age group, a sticker chore chart provides visual motivation for simple tasks like picking up toys.


Routine Charts:Similar to a chore chart, a routine chart helps young children complete repetitive tasks to solidify a predictable routine. Bedtime routines like brushing teeth and using the potty before putting on an overnight diaper are important steps to winding down and going to bed. Many little kids who have trouble going to bed will benefit from a structured bedtime routine that helps them transition and prepares for sleep.


Behavior Chart:In the literal sense, measuring your child's performance in good or bad behavior might be appropriate in some situations. If your child is having trouble acting out at school or throwing tantrums frequently at home, a behavior chart can help bring awareness to their emotions and open the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling.


Effectiveness of Behavior Charts

Behind every popular trend is a tale of two opinions. Behavior charts get their fair share of naysayers, and we certainly aren’t trying to sell them as a one-size-fits-all solution. There will be individual children and specific situations where behavior charts will not work effectively.


For most, the psychology behind behavior charts is something that can be applied over and over again with similar results. This versatility makes behavior charts pretty hard to beat when it comes to tangible ways to improve or change specific behaviors.


Reward Expected Behavior

Many parents push back on the idea of using behavior charts or sticker charts to modify behavior because they feel that their child should do what is expected of them without being rewarded. Some parents worry that the extra rewards spoil the children and lead to impulse control issues down the road.


Behavior charts are just a tool. It is up to the parent to decide how to best use that tool. Children do not need a sticker or a smiley face for every routine task that they complete on their own. But, if that same child is struggling with sticking to a routine or displaying appropriate behavior, a chart can help.


Set Clear Rules and Communicate them Upfront

The ground rule of incentive systems - the make or break caveat - is clear and consistent rules. If you are going to try a behavior chart do not skip this step. Decide what behaviors you will target the behavior chart and what rewards you will offer. Determine how performance will be measured and when rewards will be given. And, outline the consequences of failing to meet the targets. Communicate the rules to your child upfront and apply them consistently.


The Takeaway on Behavior Charts for Toddlers

Behavior charts, in all of their incarnations, are one of the many useful tools available to shape behavior. These charts effectively encourage positive behaviors with a rewards system while simultaneously discouraging negative behaviors with consequences.


The best way to implement a behavior chart is to tie specific behaviors to short- and long-term rewards. For a toddler, you can award a sticker or star each time that a task is completed for a short-term reward. Then, if the child completes all of his or her tasks, you can offer a larger reward like a sucker as a long-term reward.


These charts, specifically with stickers, work very well for the toddler age group. Oftentimes toddlers are pleased with simple rewards like a fun sticker or a dum-dum sucker. But these charts are only a tool, their effectiveness is directly tied to how they are used. A simple set of rules that are clear and consistent is the best approach. No one should need a flow chart to follow the system.