Friday, 2 September 2011

Positive Reinforcement- Using Reward Charts to Encourage Good Behaviour.

For any of you that have ever studied for a Childcare qualification or a Primary School teaching degree, you would have at some point had to write answers, essays or even do presentations on the "Theorists". These are a group of psychologists who specialized in looking into how children learn and develop. When I was first introduced to this unit of work, I was a bit dubious as to how all these theories really applied to me as a teaching assistant. After all, they were just theories? But the more I read, the more I came to see the evidence of many of these theories in my everyday interactions with the children I was working with, and how these theories could be applied to make me better at my job!

My favourite of all the theorists was Burrhus Frederic Skinner- An American Behaviourist who came up with the phrase "Operant Conditioning". "What's that!?" I hear you say! Well, simply put, it's the theory that children learn through associating good behaviour with reward. Now, when we think of a "Reward", we think of a physical object given to commend something that has been done or accomplished. Some may consider this bribery- which if it is purely the giving of something physical, then yes I suppose it could be seen this way, But Skinner's point was that through Positive Reinforcement (that is; Praise and encouragement etc) as well as a physical reward on occasion, a child learns to ENJOY good behaviour because of the "Boost" of self worth it gives them.

Children learn to associate behaving well with a good feeling (and maybe a little treat, now and again!) More important than the odd treat, is the reaction we have as carers of children when they do something well. This speaks volume to the child and is vital for a healthy development. We need to pay attention and show praise! (A "Well Done", a "Great Job!" a hug, a big smile or even a high five!! It all counts!) The good behaviour eventually becomes more like second nature to them. Not only is the child more willing to complete tasks and behave well, but their self esteem is boosted, they become more confident and secure knowing they are loved and appreciated.

I know thats quite deep for a friday afternoon, but little things like this can be so easily overlooked and they are such an effective parenting/educating/caregiving tool if we are aware of it!

I created two reward charts which are available as downloadable PDFs in my Etsy shop. This means once you get your file via email, it's yours to print to your hearts content! And the kiddies will just love them too! But make sure they get to add their stickers to their charts themselves! It's the best part! Find the charts here.


  1. i'm having a great read. thank your posting.

    Lee Shin

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