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Children’s Reward Charts – Looking at how they can help disruptive bedtime behaviour.
We will be looking at disruptive bedtime behaviour in children and how using a reward chart can help. Of course children’s rewards charts can be linked to any type of disruptive behaviour. We have just taken sleep issues as an example as this can effect the whole family. The types of disruptive bedtime behaviour may be refusing to go to bed on time. not staying in their own bed during the night, waking other family members up by having tantrums and possibly then struggling to wake up in the morning.
The whole idea of linking rewards to behaviour is quite a mature concept. So make sure your child is old enough to understand properly what behaviour is being discussed. If they don’t understand what you are asking of them it will surely lead to more struggles.
We’ve broken this up into sections, although these can be considered in any order.
The first part of the process is to decide on one specific behaviour which needs to be addressed. It’s important to explain very clearly why this behaviour has become a problem. Your child needs to understand why you think something needs to be done about it. If your child doesn’t recognise the issue and doesn’t understand what needs to change it won’t work.
If your child starts screaming the place down at bedtime it can have a knock-on effect on the whole family. Clearly, your child will become tired and irritable. They may not be able to concentrate at school the next day, they could also be disrupting other children, and your adult time will disappear. Those are all valid reasons to think about addressing the disruptive behaviour.
Assuming there are no underlying medical conditions and this is case of a strong-willed child not wanting to go to bed they will need to understand why their behaviour is causing a problem.
Make the childs reward very specific and allowing the child understand behaviour.
Using this case as an example we would chat about why going to bed at a specific time is important for their health. Why sleep is so important and why we all need to have a certain amount of rest to be at our best. It will be very important they recognise what the specific problem is you wish to tackle. For example: Going to bed at 7 pm and sleeping until an agreed time in the morning may be the target you agree upon. They need to understand that running around at 8 pm screaming or watching TV at 9 pm is not acceptable behaviour and will eventually be bad for their health. Or you may not want them waking the whole house up at 5 am just because they have woken up.
Making the reward chart fun for children is important to keeping them on track.
It is important this whole process is done in a fun and positive way. Your child needs to feel engaged and motivated by the reward, How about spending a craft afternoon making their personal reward chart together? Children love doing craft activities with their parents, so making the chart could be a good starting point. By tackling it this way round they have already taken some responsibility for the chart and shown they understand the specific disruptive behaviour.
The reward chart should allow the child to understand that the target is achievable.
Remember the reward chart is not a bribe. It is showing a positive reaction to acceptable and improving behaviour related to one specific issue. So, if your child is good at school and is kind to someone but refuses to go to bed at 7 pm that doesn’t get a star!
It is a good idea to make the stars or rewards enjoyable, engaging and lots of fun. How about letting your child come up with lots of reward ideas. Together you can decide what rewards they can have. Perhaps,going to bed on time may get one star and a longer bedtime story. Maybe 3 consecutive nights,could be an afternoon in the park to feed the ducks and after one week they can choose their own Snuggle Sac. That way, they know what they can look forward to. By making the rewards cumulative and engaging they will start to associate having parental attention and fun with behaving in a more acceptable and less disruptive way.
Why the use of a reward chart can help you with your child’s sleeping behaviour?
Some parents don’t like the idea of reward charts as they see them as rewarding everyday behaviour. Some consider they promote the need for praise in a child. However, we feel if they are only used to address a very specific behaviour and are used in a positive way for something which is explained well in advance they can be very effective. Remember we are not using this as a bribe!
If the chart is in full view it helps the child to feel proud of their achievements and will be something they will want to show others.
It is, however, very important never to use the reward charts to compare children, and specifically not siblings. This is only as a positive solution to a specific and personal behaviour. It is not about everyday behaviour.
It could be a mistake to use a childrens reward charts as bribery.
The example we are using is all about going to bed, so if your child had a tantrum in the supermarket because you didn’t buy them a toy. It would not be appropriate to offer them a sticker and a reward when they got home if they were quiet! That will just teach them they can get what they want by having a tantrum. Remember children like attention. We are trying to teach acceptable behaviour in a positive way so other unacceptable behaviour needs to not have the same attention. Had as that may be!
Highlight the types of rewards that your child can expect to get.
It’s fun to try and link a special reward to disruptive behaviour. We’ve heard of several families who have successfully used Snuggle Sacs in this bedtime behaviour scenario. Children can have their choice of Snuggle Sac once they learn to go to bed at at the agreed time and wake up refreshed perhaps for a whole week. The Snuggle Sac will continue to strengthen positive associations with bedtime and sleep. Your child will recognise they have got it by being better behaved and going to bed properly. The other benefit is it is completely portable so can be taken on long car journeys, holidays, to relatives or maybe on sleepovers. Like all of us, once a proper routine is established and sleep is restored they won’t want to be disruptive. Positive attention, not feeling tired and rewards are far more fun!