The Downsides To Reward and Behaviour Charts In Schools

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Reward and behaviour charts are a commonly used component of behaviour management programs in mainstream schooling.

Often sticker or ladder based, the child (and their peers) has a visual reminder of where they sit in relation to their level of behaviour for that particular day.

For many kids this process works and helps to keep them on track. However there are more than a few downsides to this type of one-size fits all form of behaviour management.

1. Good kids often fly under the radar.

Obviously, rewards are used to encourage and promote good behaviour. However, a teacher can easily fall into the trap of predominately giving rewards to not-so-well behaved kids on their “good” days, while overlooking the kid who is good every day. This can leave a child feeling unappreciated or invisible. It can also negatively reinforce attention-seeking behaviour.

2. Kids see the chart as a measure of themselves.

For some, a behaviour chart can be a source of anxiety and stress. Kids often can’t separate their behaviour from their being, and some fear being judged as a “bad” kid in front of their peers. After all, no one likes to be made an example of in front of others.

3. Kids sometimes get punished for being kids.

We expect a lot from our children in school. Kids need to move for optimal learning. Sitting for long periods of time can cause reduced attention, fidgeting and chatting. These are far from desirable behaviours in most mainstream classrooms. Other things that can impact ability to concentrate are lack of sleep, poor diet or illness, most of which are out of the child’s control.

4. Rewards and punishments can lose impact over time.

If a child fails to ever receive an award, or conversely, their name is constantly on the ladder for bad behaviour, their motivation to change diminishes. The system becomes tired and the child can stop caring about the consequences.

5. Rewards and punishments just don’t work for some kids.

Certain children, particularly those that American psychologist Ross Greene describes as “challenging”, don’t respond well to motivational behaviour management such as rewards. These kids often lack the skills to regulate their behaviours to meet the expectations of the teacher at a particular time, rendering the reward system impotent.

Behaviour management programs in schools are a necessity to provide structure and consistency to the classroom and playground. However, if your child is being adversely impacted by the system used at your school, it may be a worth talking to the teacher regarding your concerns. Together you may be able to work out an arrangement that fits better with your child’s needs.

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Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.