reward charts

Being a parent is not easy.  No matter the age of your children, there will always be meltdowns, power-struggles, and tension-filled negotiations.

We all want our children to be well-behaved, obedient, and kind.  Current research shows that positive reinforcement can be the most effective in gaining cooperation.  Harvard University conducted a study found in the journal Science that found rewards were strongly associated with compliance and cooperation.  Chances are, at one point or another, you have used some sort of rewards chart with your kids.

What about for yourself?

A good friend of mine introduced me to the notion and I had an “Ah-ha!  Why didn’t I think of that?” moment.  We are so quick to  pounce on our children’s bad behaviors, but sometimes ignore our own negative tendencies like:

  • yelling
  • nagging
  • giving the guilt-trip
  • losing patience
  • getting angry

Introducing the Parent Reward Charts!

The concept is exactly the same as a child’s reward chart and is meant to be done alongside your children.  From young children to teens, this is a great experiment in promoting positive behavior for the whole family.

How it works:

1) First do a little self-inspection.  What do you struggle with in parenting?  What would you like to work on or improve?  You can involve your children on the decision as well.  As a high school teacher, I learned that rules were much more respected and followed when the whole class got to choose them, instead of being mandated by the teacher.  As a family, have a discussion on what behaviors you would like to see in each other.

2) Next, choose a particular rewards chart.  There are hundreds of free charts out there.  Just do an internet search for “reward charts” and you’ll find many different options.

reward charts

 I liked this one that said, “I will try my best to _____.”  The more specific you are, the better.  My dear friend wanted to work on yelling less so her chart would read, “I will try my best not to yell.”

reward charts

 This one is great too.  It says, “Every time I ___________, I can mark my chart!”  You might fill-in-the-blank with play with the kids, listen to what you say, spend 30 minutes with you, talk for 15 minutes about your day, etc.

reward charts

3) Choose your fabulous rewards!  We let our kids choose rewards like going to the zoo, out for ice cream, or a special sleep over.  What little splurge would you enjoy working towards?  I chose a nice pedicure!

4) Then decide who/how/when your chart will be marked.  You can have your kids color in the bubbles each time they notice you doing something good, or decide if you earned your sticker for the day.  The most important part is to focus on the positive.  This teaches children to look for the good in you and each other.

reward charts

I found that my kids were extremely generous with their rewards.  It absolutely melted my heart to hear them singing my praises when I successfully loaded the dishwasher or poured their cereal.  It taught me a valuable lesson that I should be more generous in my compliments to their good behavior.  I’m not going to lie, it was also extremely rewarding to be noticed for once for all those banal chores!

She may just love coloring the smiley faces, but I sure earned a lot of them.  “Mom, thank you for giving me a hug!  You earn a smiley face!”  And, “Oh mom, you brushed your teeth, you get a sticker!”  Believe me, that really can be a big accomplishment some days.

reward charts

A favorite positive reinforcer is the “Poof Ball Jar.”  I usually just do it for my two toddlers, but this time added a jar for myself.  Each time someone does something kind, thoughtful, or helpful, we put a few poof balls in our jar.  When my little ones share a toy or listen to my instructions, I get out the poof balls and let them put a few in.

You can do this with any age, it seriously never gets old.  As a teenager, I would do about anything for an extra 30 minutes tacked on to my curfew!  And as a teacher, this was a miracle-worker for getting 16-year-olds to stay on task.

reward charts

 It’s kind of nice hearing how great you are instead of all of the things you did wrong.  What a valuable lesson for parents to learn!  This experiment taught me that:

reward charts

  • I shouldn’t ask my children to do things I’m not willing to do myself.
  • a compliment can make all the difference in the world.
  • when the whole family focuses on the good in each other, there is less arguing and more laughter.

reward charts

   Unfortunately, a lot of times as parents we focus on the negative.  Stop teasing your brother!  Can’t you just study a little more?  Your room is such a pig-stye!  

Parenting is full of ups and downs but the fact is, we are all trying.  Our children too.  They want so badly for us to be watching when they accomplish their successes.  Whether it be their first somersaults, the way they made their bed by themselves, how they pushed a sibling in the swing, ate all of their green beans, got 100% on a spelling test, befriended a peer, scored a goal, or made it home by curfew three times in a row.

Our families should be our best friends and our biggest fans.  Root for each other’s successes, whether they be tiny or grandiose and everyone wins!

reward charts

nicolette signature


    1. March 18th, 2013 at 1:52 pm
      Britney Mills says:
      Such an awesome idea! Since we are expecting our first, it might be a little bit before I put this one into action but I've never thought of it like this.

      Just saw your profile about finding random things that "look nasty now" and I totally relate. My husband is slowly getting used to my paranoia of throwing away any usable bottle or other random thing that could "potentially" be turned into something fun.
      • March 18th, 2013 at 3:06 pm
        Nicolette says:
        Haha, I know! My worst find was a wing-back couch I wrestled out of a dumpster and brought into our garage. My hubby later found a mouse had been in his car and totally blamed it on my. I plead the 5th:)
    2. March 18th, 2013 at 10:08 pm
      Shelley says:
      Why didn't I THINK OF this?! We are always trying to get our children to "be better", why aren't we reminding ourselves to "be better"?! I love that your kiddos were generous with their rewards. I am so doing this. Thanks for the sweet inspiration.
    3. March 19th, 2013 at 5:34 am
      Jennifer says:
      Such great tips...with 7 children living at home I am always looking for a way to help keep things...balanced :)
    4. March 19th, 2013 at 8:53 am
      Fara says:
      Great Idea!! Are the sheets available to download? Thanks
      • March 20th, 2013 at 10:34 am
        Nicolette says:
        Thank you. There are so many free charts online, but here are a few you could use:

        They really are all over the web. Good luck!
    5. March 19th, 2013 at 10:49 am
      wrapsidazy says:
      Love this! Going to do it today!!
    6. March 19th, 2013 at 11:41 am
      Rachael says:
      Thank you so much for posting this. I'm not normally a commenter on websites but this was so inspiring to me I just had to say thank you. I'm going to try this right away :)
      • March 20th, 2013 at 10:36 am
        Nicolette says:
        Thank you so much. I'm so glad that it struck a chord with you. It has really made a difference in my house and such a great way to teach by example.
    7. March 19th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
      Stephanie says:
      You got cheers for unloading or loading the dishwasher!?!? I'll take some of that! I can definitley use the parent reward chart so I can be more conscious of the little things (which really are the BIG things) like playing with my kids more.
    8. March 20th, 2013 at 11:04 pm
      Iolande says:
      I'm a teenager in my last year of high school (in Australia) I'm constantly looking for motivators and I love the idea of the poof jar! Every hour of study, good result and piece of homework I can put in one or two and save up for a book, free time, a sleep over or something cool like that!
      • March 21st, 2013 at 9:06 am
        Nicolette says:
        Good for you! What a great self-motivator!
        • January 26th, 2015 at 7:30 am
          Tracy Larkin says:
          hi Nicolette, I have just seen this post on Pinterest and thought it would be very helpful for the issues I'm having with my 7 yr old daughter. I'm from England and I know sometimes things are done a little different on the other side of the pond but could elaborate on the poof ball thing as I would like to use an extra visual tool, and I'm not quite sure how this works, many thanks in advance
          tracy x
    9. March 21st, 2013 at 3:46 pm
      Ashley says:
      Starting this! Such great ideas. Thank u.
    10. March 26th, 2013 at 6:35 pm
      Kathy says:
      Love the idea of the parent jar to work on things and also be acknowledged for all that we do. My husband and I are going to do this with our boys! Question- would you use a responsibility chart AND the poof-ball jar for the kids???
      • March 27th, 2013 at 8:35 am
        Nicolette says:
        Sure! A responsibility chart can be focused on more specific things like making the bed and cleaning up toys while your poof jar can be filled anytime your boys share with each other, listen to what you ask them, or any other positive behavior. I have used both with great results. Good luck!
    11. March 26th, 2013 at 7:20 pm
      Whitney says:
      What a cool idea! I love the idea of the children deciding whether we earn our sticker. It allows us to receive a (brutally) honest opinion and acknowledges when we succeed. I bet it definitely boosts the kids' self esteem when they get to gently remind Mom or Dad to remember their grown-up goals throughout the day. Great post. :)
    12. May 21st, 2013 at 9:30 pm
      Chandell says:
      Love this idea! But... the mom's chore chart caught my eye! Any chance this is a printable I could nab?? Thanks!
      • June 1st, 2013 at 8:49 pm
        Nicolette says:
        Hey Chandell! Sorry it took me a few days to get back to you, but here is a replica "Mommy" chore chart that you could use:

        I just wrote "Mommy" on the top of it:)

        Good luck!
    13. June 9th, 2013 at 11:57 pm
      Marielaina Perrone DDS says:
      Fantastic post and ideas. Thank you for sharing. We have tried this in the past but my kids are just at the right age now for this.
    14. September 20th, 2014 at 11:01 pm
      Sandi says:
      This is adorable! Their praise for you brushing your teeth made me laugh out loud! I could just imagine my 6 year old saying it.
    Chic Paper Rosette Backdrop Tutorial
    3 ALL NATURAL cleaning recipes you will LOVE!
    • Popular Round Ups