Toddler behavior management: Creating a behavior chart for a toddler

Is your child having a hard time following the rules? Read here the simple steps to creating a fun and easy behavior chart.
The toddler stage can be a difficult part in the parenting process. At this age, your child is learning through exploration, which would be fine, except they like to explore such things as how much of Mom’s make-up will fit in the toilet, and how pretty their crayon marks are on the living room wall. This can become trying, and implementing discipline at this age is difficult. It isn’t really feasible to restrict them from fun toys, and time-outs aren’t always possible. One method of convincing your child to behave is to create a behavior chart for them. If you keep it reasonable, understandable, and fun for the child it can be an excellent means of behavior management.

The first step to doing this is to make a list of the most common problem areas. At this age, the list may be really long, so you will need to pick just a few of these items for your first chart. You will also want to add a couple of things that are fun to him and are easily accomplished on a daily basis, such as brushing his teeth. This way, even on bad days, he can feel a sense of accomplishment, and this will encourage him to try harder in the future. You will want to pick ten items or less for the chart, and about half of these should be fun rules.

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Toddler behavior management: Creating a behavior chart for a toddler

The next step is to gather all the materials. You will need poster board and markers, and pictures or drawings of the items you will be working on. A child of this age obviously can’t read, so it is important to make it understandable. If brushing teeth is an item on the chart, put a magazine cutout of a child brushing her teeth, or a drawing of a toothbrush. It has to be recognizable, and it is a good idea to let your child help throughout this process. Let them search through magazines with you, and let them glue pictures on the chart. They will feel like they have more control of it, and it won’t be so intimidating when it becomes time to start following it. The same is true for the other rules. For example, if one of the items on the chart will be “being quiet while Mommy is on the phone,” cut out or draw a picture of a telephone.
The chart will focus on good behavior, so the marks will be for times they have followed the rules. How you mark the chart should also be fun for the child. If he loves dinosaurs, use stickers of those. He will want as many dinosaurs on his poster as possible. If she loves hearts, use heart stickers, stamps, or draw hearts on each completion. Using stickers or stamps is the best option, because the child can help mark it each time, which is also fun and just another motivation to earn the marks.

Now is the time to implement the chart. You will need to have a reward for the good behavior. It can be a small daily reward, such as a piece of candy or watching a favorite cartoon. It will need to be something they wouldn’t normally receive, and it should change each day. Another method is to have a weekly reward such as a toy she has been wanting, or a trip to somewhere fun is a good idea. It will need to be discussed in advance what your child is working toward, and remind him often, because he will forget. It is important to always mark achievements, and to not mark the ones that are left undone.

Be lenient, though. While it is important to stick to it, expecting a child of this age to complete each item every day is unreasonable. If they have seven items on their chart, make the rule that they accomplish five each day. If they do more than that, give a bonus reward. If your chart is weekly, make an extra row at the bottom for daily overview. If they did the correct amount for that day, put something different, such as a smiley face. This will help them know that they are receiving it because they were well-behaved all day. Then, at the end of the week, count them with your child. Five days out of seven is a big deal, and should earn the reward.

Once the chart has been implemented for long enough, and following these rules is just normal behavior for him, make a new one, with whatever rules have now become the biggest problem areas. When following the chart, it is also important to continue to implement whatever disciplinary consequences are usually in place when the rules are not followed. They have to understand that acting bad causes bad results, and acting good gets fun or good results.

By involving your child and making it a fun experience, a behavior chart can make following rules seem enjoyable.

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