Star charts can be a great interactive visual to develop good habits for your child. Whether they are used to achieve potty training, eat new vegetables, or improve manners, here are a few tips to get started.
- Straight and simple: It can be as easy as a piece of paper with a picture or title and a sheet of stickers. You could take a picture of your child doing the activity, and then place a sticker below each time the activity is completed, even letting your child pick out the special sticker for that time. After a week or two, a task may become “habit” and can be phased out as necessary.
- Consistency: Begin the chart when you know you will have at least two weeks to give attention to it, for an unfinished chart sets an example of not following through.
- Specifics: Vagueness leads to misinterpretations of expectations, whether this is “being good” or “being nice.” Instead, focus on something specific, such as a sticker for every “please” and “thank you”.
- Special stars: Once there is an understanding of what is to be expected, be stingy with your stars, and only give stickers and rewards when they truly are earned, making sure the effort of the task will be rewarding. Once the habit is formed, you can phase out the chart, giving both you and your child a break before starting a new one.
- Upping the stakes: If stickers lose their magic and are no longer motivation, bigger incentives can be given for a completed star chart. For instance, if there is the goal of reading 10 short books, once the chart has 10 stickers, the child can have a small candy bar of his choice.
Star charts not only help specific behaviors, but they also have a generally positive effect, giving the child a way of getting your attention in a positive way and encouraging parents to reward good behaviors rather than focusing on discipline. This positivity improves parental behavior as well as the child’s.