Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Star Charts

The Star Chart is an age old reward system revered by teachers and often tried by parents, but with very little success.  There are three main challenges to the successful use of a star chart:

The first common reason for its failure is the lack of explanation provided to children.  It doesn’t seem very complex: behave=star, but herein lies the problem.  If children knew how to “behave”, a Star Chart wouldn’t be needed.  “Good behaviour” is far too broad a term for children to cope with; they need specifics.  This leads to the next problem, this time for parents: have you ever sat down and made a list of “good behaviours”?  It is a daunting task, never mind trying to explain that different settings may require modifications of these behaviours.

The final common problem revolves around correct use of the Chart.  Again, it seems very simple: behave=star.  If you have a list of ten behaviours, consider how many times in a day parents would need to be running to the star chart, and I use “running” on purpose because if that star does not go on the chart immediately after the behaviour, the power is lost.  The goal of a Star Chart should not be to get x many stars to get a prize; each star going on that chart should be a mini-reward in itself.  As soon as the focus is on collecting a certain number of stars, the behaviour(s) needed to get there become of second importance.

As simple as this little tool is, it does require a fair amount of thought before it can be implemented.  And as with all things children, there is no one-size-fits-all.