The Reward Chart That Changed Everything In My House

by Ruthi Davis
Originally Published: 

Right when we become fooled into believing that we have mastered a certain tricky stage in our child’s development, a new one smacks us right in the head, resulting in a nasty headache and a need for a new plan. Yes, there is light at the end of the overtired and overly frustrated parenting tunnel.

Parenting has no exact solution or a consistent set of rules that apply to all of us, because we are simply not robots. That’s why the internet is a great way to reveal, discuss, and share our ideas. Regardless of the number of kids you have, their age or gender, you may likely relate to these top 10 parenting phrases echoed around the world:

– “If I could earn a penny for how many times I have to repeat myself, I’d be a millionaire!”

– “Can you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth?”

– “Am I on mute here? Can anyone hear me?”

– “The routine is the same every day. Put your socks on and brush your teeth!”

– “Stop yelling at me when I’m on the phone, unless it’s an emergency.”

– “Watch your tone!”

– “Flush the toilet!”

– “Are you kidding me?”

– “Stop annoying each other!”

– “Can’t we all just get along?”

Truthfully, I knew something had to change, and with four kids ages 4 to 11, I’d been through most parenting gimmicks. These quick fixes didn’t do much for my sanity nor my kids except for a temporary enthusiasm that quickly dissolved into annoyance, resistance, rebellion, and back to the top 10 above.

I needed a plan. And when I found it, everything changed.

This chart was a tried-and-true game-changer in my home (and no, I’m not selling anything).

Mission With Ambition

Before I even attempted a plan, I first needed to determine my objectives””

– How do I want my kids to behave and help out at home?

– Improved and reasonable listening

– Greater self-management

– Better mutual respect and respect for the home

– Proactive chores

– Better understanding of money and less nagging for more “stuff”

– Less heightened voices and more praise/positivity

I’m sure that this list could go on, but these were some of the top needs to turn around the stale vibe. A grouchy mom typically and quickly translates into a grouchy household, so I needed to change with them. As a Type A personality, I also needed to learn how to let go of doing most things my way and allow for the time, space, and messiness that came with engaging the kids to help more around the house.

Truthfully, the kids did want to help cook, do laundry, clean, and have more grown-up responsibilities. They wanted to see me laugh more, be silly, let go a little, and praise a lot — but just like those previously mentioned phrases become set on auto-track, so did my annoyed mood and personal exhaustion in trying to do and be everything to everyone — personally, parentally, and professionally.

I was tired. I needed a change. So naturally, my strategic mind kicked into gear with a game-changing plan — and it was a much different kind of behavior/reward chart.

From Stamps to Champs


Simply stated, if you are looking to incite change among a range of ages, kids will likely respond well to a reliable pattern of expectation, praise, and reward until it all becomes inherent. Over time, the chart will become obsolete when the desired behavior is achieved naturally.

Quite honestly, I believe that this chart served as behavior training not only for my kids, but also — and mostly — for me. I needed to learn how to let go a bit more, praise consistently, and laugh with the kids often.

Parents often, and unintentionally, seem to dwell on a negative pattern of response without even realizing it — the constant use of “no,” speaking in a frustrated tone, or threatening consequences on a constant basis. This unfortunately results in children becoming conditioned to a negative pattern of poor attitudes and constant dissonance — an “I can’t,” “I won’t,” “I don’t want to,” and “I don’t care” mentality — that is an immediate and long-term dead-end that will ultimately destroy valuable confidence and spirit.

How do we flip this around? I developed a weekly stamp reward system that only focuses on praise and reward. I first developed a list of expectations and reviewed them with all of the kids. From home chores to sharing, this list made my objectives clear but could also extend further beyond the list.

Setting Boundaries


It’s also important to set parameters with any change. I made it abundantly clear that “this system is not intended as a competition with your siblings, but only with yourself.” Each child owns his/her sheet that is placed in a visible and high-traffic area (such as the kitchen), with a pencil and fun collection of stamps handy. Other rules included:

– If you cheat and give yourself more stamps when I didn’t ask, you loose two.

– Stamps can only be rewarded by mom and dad.

– “Double Stamp” days are a bonus and may be offered randomly or the day before stamps are counted.

– Rewards will change from week to week.

– Not every task earns a stamp. They are offered by our discretion.

– Each child may have a certain target in behavior to reach that may earn a stamp that others may not.

Reward Basis

Kids hear “reward” and immediately think of money or toys. The best aspect of this system is the mystery at the end of the week. Some of the best prizes can be the intangible ones as a family. Remember to keep the end-of-week prize a mystery each week, judging on the level of individual and collective effort. Here are some basic ideas for rewards, but you can figure it out as you go.

– Earn 10 cents per stamp.

– Buy a useful item for each child.

– Earn a special family event, activity, or outing.

Rapid Results

Admittedly, my preteen welcomed this initiative with a big dose of defiance and resistance, but once I offered her the first few stamps with plenty of praise, she quickly changed her demeanor and was completely hooked. Here are some results from the Stamp Chart at home:

– Kids felt proud to “earn.”

– Kids received more acknowledgement, appreciation, and three rounds of praise (verbal, self-written, and self-stamped).

– Kids worked hard and were acknowledged while also feeling proud to help more. At the same time, I also let go of control and enjoyed more personal time with each child.

– Kids felt proud and happy, and so I felt less annoyed and less stressed.

– I didn’t focus on the negative behavior, and since I only focused on the positive, I also received more of it.

– I didn’t offer a stamp for every effort, and so the flow of proactive behavior became more routine and self-propelled.

– “Double Stamp” days created a boost in performance.

– Individual behavior and school targets for each child were now an active interest.

– Kids listened more, and I remained calm, fun, and happy.

This cyclical effect has a long-lasting impact on confidence, performance, and overall tone of the house. From my 4-year-old helping to set the table and staying in his seat during a meal to my 11-year old working on her positive attitude and proactive approach to school, the goals are unique, changeable, and personal.

Make a Plan

Let’s face it: No parent is perfect, nor is any child. We are all learning, living, and growing together. This chart is not the only way or may not even be the best way for you as it was for me — but the important thing is to start somewhere.

The key is to identify your needs and desires for your children. Be honest. Make a plan.

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