Are behavior charts as effective as we think they are? What are the motivations behind them? If they are something that works well at home for you then you should go for it. But do they belong in schools? Let's look at behavior charts.

When it comes to behavior charts what are your thoughts? Did you have them when you were in school? How did they make you feel? 

They can also be called sticker charts, reward charts or routine charts (though for me, I think routine charts are just a visual reminder of what to do). 

I remember at school seeing the behavior charts on the wall and them causing anxiety. I never wanted to see a black mark or to be less than anyone else. Being a “good student” was important to me, to be perceived as well behaved. Seeing other classmates losing points or getting black marks also made me sad. Can you tell that it has affected me this much that I still remember it 35+ years later?

reward chart for children


A behavior chart is a type of reward system for keeping track of a child’s actions and choices that you like. It is one way to reinforce the good behavior that a child shows.

It is there on display as a visual reminder of how you are doing. 

They work by setting a goal for your child and then creating a chart that clearly displays the goal. You then mark it with stars, stickers to show the positive behavior. There might be other rewards when the behavior has been shown.

They can help with such things as toilet training, bedtime routines, learning new routines or the such. We used one for toilet training and it worked well for one daughter and not so much for the other. Now and then we have had reward systems in place for something they are working towards but it is not a common item in our house – they have honestly created more drama than help. 

Behavior charts are different to chore charts and routine charts. Chore and routine charts are visual reminders to do particular activities, perhaps in an order. You may or may not reward your child for completing the tasks. That’s up to you. 

As parents we want our children to grow in “good behavior”. We want them to see that there are appropriate behaviors for public, for home, for school, etc. 


Not all children respond well to behavior charts – it just isn’t the right motivation for them. (We have one child who isn’t motivated by them.) But sometimes we have fallen into the trap of trying to get our children to do something that they are not developmentally ready for.

Your child might also not understand what it is that you are expecting of them. Do they know what you are asking them to do? They might not. And maybe the reward just isn’t right.

It might help to invite your child into the process. Get them involved in the reward and what needs to be done. 

It might not work if you are not consistent in rewarding your child when the behavior is shown. Children are going to expect that reward, and if it is not given, they lose the motivation. 

There are many reasons why they may not work. Does that mean they have failed? Not at all. If you want to keep going with a behavior chart then you might just have to tweak it. 

Gold winners trophy with golden shiny stars


Behavior charts can be effective in achieving the short term goal of obedience or learning a new skill. But do they hit the goal of building life-long skills? If the reward is taken away, does the behavior remain? 

We should be aiming for long term skills, involving problem solving.


Don’t overdo behavior charts. They should be for the short term and they should make sense. I personally feel that using them at home is a good option (in the short term) some of the time. I don’t think you should have charts for everything. Pick one thing, one behavior, and work on that. Having more than one will overcomplicate things and muddy the waters of what you want to achieve. 

As I said earlier, we have had behavior charts now and then. They are not my favorite thing and caused me some stress in trying to stay on top of them. 

I think behavior charts are personal things and belong at home. Do I think they should be in classrooms? No I don’t. In my years of teaching in the classroom I didn’t use them. There were other ways to help my students learn new behaviors. I have seen children’s self-esteem struggle because of the charts. This isn’t shade on the teachers that use them. I just think we should be reevaluating the use of them in the classroom – especially when it is publicly displayed and the kids can see who is doing the best or worst. It can be demoralizing and demotivating – and that is from experience. 

If you want to use behavior charts, please do so as you need to do what works for you. You can check out some here: https://www.freeprintablebehaviorcharts.com/ or at https://www.stickersandcharts.com/

Michayla Best

For over 30 years I have worked with children in a variety of capacities, whether as a teacher or tutor, a babysitter, a camp leader, or family advocate. I have always found a way to connect with children, to help them understand themselves and the world around.

I am Mummy to trinational twincesses who keep me on my toes with their questions, their commentaries, their shenanigans and acts of spontenudity.

Wife, world traveler, musician, crafting queen and self-proclaimed nerd; I love to take what I see, glean, know and help families to find their groove and be successful.

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