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Behavior Chart Basics

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Behavior charts are a common parenting tool. Here we explore the purpose of a behavior chart along with some cautions regarding its use.

If you find yourself dealing with a child who is displaying a cluster of resistent misbehaviors, a behavior chart may be just the thing your family needs to make the necessary changes. To me, a behavior chart is a means to an end – not a means in and of itself. It is intended to interrupt a negative pattern of behavior and help “reset” the dynamics of a family. The chart itself is not the solution. It is simply a tool. In this post we are going to learn what types of behaviors qualify for a behavior chart and in the following post we will address how you can personalize one for your own family.

Behavior charts are to kids and their families as defibrillators are for cardiac arrest. They get things back on track. If you find that your child has gotten off track in a number of areas and seems to have a heart that is hardened against obedience (i.e. is continually and contentedly outside the “circle of blessing”), a behavior chart is likely in order. Now, a behavior chart is similar to a chore chart in appearance, but not in function. Chore charts identify specific tasks and attach a specific reward to them such as money or treats. In my opinion, rewards for skills and tasks are fine. Rewards for good behavior are not. It leads to an external locus of control – something we want to avoid developing in our kids. We addressed this concept of internal versus external locus of control in our article on the differences between praise and encouragement. As Christian parents, we need to continually be careful that we don’t emphasize behavior over the heart. We want children who genuinely obey from a heart’s desire to do so, not because they are chasing a reward.

Here are a cluster of behaviors that would warrant the use of a behavior chart “reset:”

    • Is un-phased by “normal” parental discipline and consequences
    • Exhibits symptoms of a chronic hard-heart
    • Unwilling to comply with adult instruction
    • Shows disrespect and disregard for others
    • Minimal control over feelings or emotions

(click the image, not the “pin it” button, to print)

These behaviors are just a sampling. Your child may be displaying some or all. What you, the parent, need to ask is, “Are these behaviors chronic, habitual, and unremitting? Have my efforts thus far been unsuccessful?” If so, it is time for a change. In our next post, you will learn how to customize a chart for your particular situation. You can get a head start by viewing our free behavior chart printable here.

. Please note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional counseling. Read our full disclaimer here.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker with a specialization in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.

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