Behavior Charts: How to Make Them Work

Parenting- Making Behavior Charts Work

Written by Dr. John Carosso

Sticker charts can be an invaluable resource. Kids love to get stickers, which are inexpensive, highly motivating, and can be used numerous times throughout the day or week. From my professional and personal experience, I have seen first-hand how kids’ eyes light-up when they earn stickers, and the opportunity to cash-in for some later reward.

However, sticker charts have their draw-backs; they can be cumbersome (parents rarely stick with them beyond a few weeks), it can be tough to figure-out how many stickers to give before a reward is provided, and how often should stickers be earned and allocated in the first place? All good questions. So, lets get them answered:

  1. Prior to setting-up a sticker chart, count how many times the problematic behavior is occurring per day (hitting brother). Child would then earn a sticker, for example, once every three hours if he has not hit his brother.
  2. Stickers are ‘cashed-in’ for a reward.
  3. Establish an ‘economy’ whereby child has to earn at least 70% of all possible stickers to earn the ‘top prize’. However, they may earn lesser-valued items for some success.
  4. Keep charts simple; no more than two or three targeted behaviors.
  5. One targeted behavior should be very easy for which to earn a sticker
  6. Children younger than five years need stickers allocated at least two or three times per day, sometimes every hour in the beginning. At that age, stickers need to be cashed-in at least once per day for a reward. Thereafter, rewards can be cashed-in twice a week, moving toward once per week over time.

Children older than 12 tend to prefer ‘point charts’ (child earns points, rather than stickers) that are added to determine if reward is earned). Variations abound and include marbles being placed in a jar when chores are complete; if child earns all seven jars in a week, then a weekly reward is given. Or, a marble in the jar determines if favorite show can be viewed that evening.

Point charts are a highly effective and motivating. Give them a try. Don’t worry if you only stick with it for a few weeks; in fact, you can tell your child that this “contract” (i.e. the sticker chart) is for only a few weeks, until a desired reward is earned; then feel free to take a break for a week or two and regroup. Also, don’t forget to get softer and closer with your child (see prior post, click here). Go buy them their stickers. God bless you and your little ones.

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (, a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh ( and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (