How reward charts can motivate toddlers towards positive behaviors.

A couple weeks ago my son decided he didn’t want to sleep in his toddler bed anymore. He begged to sleep with us and we gave in. Mistake! Parents I get it, you love your child so much and you dont want to give up those cuddles, you dont want to give up the fact that your child prefers to be next to you sleeping at night. It brings a sense of comfort to you and your child and it also may remind you of the times when your child was a baby.

But let me tell you from experience, that gets old real quick! Lol. When your toddler starts to kick you in the head, farts in your face, chokes you from hugging you too tight in their sleep. You will want to find anyway to get them back to a level of independence and sleeping in their own bed!

I was desperately searching for solutions to my sons sudden sleep regression and as I was searching Google I came across “sticker reward charts”. I researched it for a couple minutes until I was sold on the idea. I hurried off to Target bought all the supplies needed and made the chart on my own. Now you can always buy a chart to save time, but I’m a creative so I enjoy the crafting part.

I began by making the chart, explaining it to my son and I actually allowed him to be in on the creativity aspect. I’m always trying to encourage my son to explore his creativity so anytime I have the chance to let him help me with a project, I do. He picked the justice league stickers and he picked the color of the poster board. After we finished I stuck the chart to his wall next to his bed, above his desk area so he would always be aware of it.

He was super excited to embark on this journey because I really amped it up for him. I explained to him that big boys sleep in their beds and that if he slept in his bed at night he would get to put a superhero sticker on his reward chart. I also explained that he would receive a peanut butter cup or a small pack of Annie’s gummies (two of his favorites) if he was successful for that day. He was very excited. Fast forward 8 weeks later, through some ups and downs he completed his chart and he had alot of stickers on it!

He did very well and he was able to enjoy the reward of his accomplishment by picking toys from Target and having a day of fun at the mall. Now he sleeps in his bed with no effort, he says his prayers and hops right into bed! Dream come true right!?

Well ever since I posted on my Instagram my success story with our son. I received numerous request for tips and details on what I did. Now I’m going to give you a disclaimer; every child is different and will respond differently. I’m just sharing what has worked for my son and I hope it benefits you and works for your child as well!

Sticker reward charts motivate a child to change a targeted behavior. Children learn what behaviors are acceptable or not based on the consequences they bring. Rewarding your toddler for a positive behavior motivates them to do it repetitively!

Think of it like working a 9-5 job for adults. Sometimes you dont feel like getting up to go to work but receiving a paycheck is great motivation to continue to do so!

Below I will share 8 tips on how reward charts have worked for us.

1.) Be clear about the goal for you and for your child. (“We are making this reward chart for you to stay in bed.”)

2.) Be clear about what the reward will be ahead of time. (“If you successfully complete a week you can choose a toy from Target.”)

*Also toddlers need a reward everyday of some sort. They are not going to wait until the weekend. They dont have enough patience, they need some sort of instant praise. So to counteract that potential issue everyday, Justin would receive a small pack of Annie’s gummies or Justin’s peanut butter cups. (You can choose snacks or treats your child likes.)

3.) Explain to your toddler how many stickers are needed to qualify for a reward prize. Let them know upfront. Explain so they will be motivated to hit that Target.

*Also let them know the end goal is a huge prize reward so that they have something to look forward too. It definitely motivates them!

4.) Make the prize affordable and something that’s not out of your budget or outrageous. Because when the prizes are achievable you can deliver in your promise!

*Nothing is worse to a child than breaking a promise. Dont promise them something grand, outside of your budget. Rewards also have to be achieved within a couple days to a week or your toddler will lose interest and stop working towards the goal. You dont want the stickers to lose meaning, so parents BE CONSISTENT!

5.) Remind your child of what they will be getting to keep them motivated. Show them a picture of the toy they want and say things like “If you keep going you will own this yourself very soon!”

6.) Be consistent and always have stickers available. Dont forget to post stickers on the chart when they succeed. They will lose motivation fast if you arent doing your part. Never run out of stickers because they will also lose motivation if theres nothing for them to stick on the chart when they know they’ve done well.

7.) Have a positive attitude! Never use the sticker chart to punish. When justin would have bad days or times where he was adamant about sleeping with us and I was too tired to fight it, I gave in. Parents we are not perfect. I let him know the next morning that big boys sleep in their beds and he wouldnt receive a sticker or treat for the day. We put a sad face in the stickers place. This impacted him to want to do better. I would then take time to encourage him that he could do it and that he had another try at bedtime.

8.) Rewards are not bribes! Bribery increases bad behavior. bribery is more of an in the moment thing. Your child falls out in Walmart having a tantrum and you offer them sweets in order for them to behave. That’s not the same as the reward chart. Bribery is counterproductive to good behavior. It causes the child to learn “oh all I have to do is throw a tantrum to get sweets from mommy.” Reward charts prevent the negative behavior because you and your toddler have already identified what will earn them a sticker/treat ahead of time, so they are working with you towards a goal. Its not an in the moment let’s try to save the day act like bribes are.

And that’s it! This has worked for us and I hope it works for you and your toddler! I am not an expert on toddlers, I am just sharing what has worked for us! Toddlers will misbehave and have tantrums, it’s all apart of parenting. How we respond is the key! Reward charts help toddlers engage in positive behaviors more frequently.

I hope these tips help you on your journey! We are now using a reward chart for potty training! Comment below and share any tips you may have!


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