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Charts & Chips - Using A Behavior Modification System With Your Child

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A short-term behavior modification plan can break through a cycle of bad behavior in your child. Think of it as a learning tool to help your child move forward to a new level of social development. Four to six weeks on the plan is usually enough to change one or two specific behavior problems. At the very least, your child will have a clear understanding of your expectations for his behavior, even if he is not yet able to consistently maintain the desirable behavior.

Charts or Chips, Which Should You Use?

A poker chip system is easy and inexpensive. All you need is a box of poker chips and a package of the new disposable food containers. Introduce the plan in a positive way when you show your child the chips and let her personalize her box with markers and glitter. The poker chip system is effective because it encourages immediate consequences for positive and negative behavior.

A chart system is useful when chores or homework are the issues. Use daily stars or stickers for completed tasks with weekly rewards for good performance. Weekend privileges or rewards are clearly dependent on consistently responsible behavior through the week. Charts make sense to kids, and they take pride in a full page of stickers showing their good behavior. Use your word processing software to make a chart, or find some on the Web.

Steps to the Plan

  1. Make a list of desirable behaviors that your child needs to learn.If using a chip system, focus on one or two specific goals for intensive behavior change. Or, make a list of generally desirable behaviors, such as cooperation, honesty, kindness, and responsibility. Then, you decide when to reward the child with a chip when he exhibits these qualities. With a chart system, you can use a longer list of specific tasks or behaviors that earn a sticker.
  2. Make a list of undesirable behaviors that your child may exhibit.You will need this list to clearly identify the specific behaviors that will cause your child to lose chips (fines). This step is optional if you choose to use a chart system, or you wish to start a chip system using only positive reinforcement. Some examples of undesirable behaviors that could be fined are non-compliance with a parent's request, arguing, and tantrums.
  3. Make a list of privileges that your child can earn with chips or stickers.The list needs to include a variety of activities that your child enjoys.
  4. Assign values, in number of chips or stickers, for the identified behaviors and privileges.For the system to work effectively, the rules for behavior and rewards should be presented so that everyone clearly understands the plan. Small rewards, such as an hour of choosing her favorite TV programs, will usually cost one or two chips. The price is higher for larger rewards, such as dinner out with the family at the child's favorite restaurant. With a chart system, you can assign levels for different privileges. Earning all stickers every day for a week deserves a big reward. You keep the chart system motivating when you reward smaller privileges based on the number of stickers earned.
  5. Introduce the system to your child in a positive way.Most kids enjoy a behavioral system because it helps them know what is expected of them in a structured, but fun way. Explain that you want them to learn good behavior and habits, and this is a way to do it. Begin immediately, and reward chips and stickers generously. If your behaviors and privileges are not lining up fairly, or your child begins to manipulate the system, change it at the end of the week.
  6. Be consistent with the system for at least four weeks.If your child changes some behaviors immediately, continue to positively reinforce him for those behaviors, while adding one or two more challenges to his list of rewarded behaviors. After a few weeks on the chip system, take a break and observe your child's progress. You can start back when you recognize a problem. You can use a chart system indefinitely; the beginning of school or summer is a good time to start it.

Printable Charts from the Web

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