There is a popular misconception amongst parents that reward charts are tools that are only useful for children with behavioral problems. In fact, all children can benefit from the use of a reward chart since it teaches so many values.
The philosophy behind a rewards chart is fairly straightforward. You draw up a chart with say 10 squares in it. You give the child as star as a reward to place on that chart whenever they complete a task or behavior in an agreed on way. When all 10 squares have been filled the child receives the agreed on reward.
Rewards charts have three components. The reward, the time factor, and the parents consistency.
When developing a rewards chart, the reward needs to be something that the child really wants - notice I said wants and not needs. Needs should always be met, wants should always be earned and that is one of the basic values that all children can learn from a rewards chart.
The reward can be something as simple as a trip to the park or a shopping trip to, well, the sky is almost the limit. I say almost because the second component, time, is also very important. The reward should be agreed on before setting up the chart - this is very important.
The time factor:
Rewards need to be achievable in a reasonable period of time. Setting a reward that will take 12 months to achieve can be counter productive. The reward never appears to be getting closer, especially for young children who have little appreciation of time.
A trip to the park can be a here and now. If you get three stars today we will go to the park tomorrow. A toy can be rewarded from rewards built up over a period time. Generally speaking, four to six weeks should be the maximum although for younger children they could lose focus after only two or three weeks. For much older children - you may be able to negotiate longer time frames.
This is the toughest one of the lot. Parents have to be consistent in the way they issue stars. If a child packs their toys away quickly when asked and you give them a star for their rewards chart, you have to give a star every time they repeat the task.
A trap some parents fall into is looking for reasons to deny that star. If your child has undertaken a task or behavioral issue with the right attitude, don't deny them because they have failed to completely finish that task. By the same token, don't reward a partially finished task. Help them to complete the task by using encouragement and perhaps a little physical help, that is, get down and help them.
If the task has not been completed and the attitude has been wrong, explain to them why they are not getting their star this time. Use the same process if their behavior is not up to your agreed upon standards. Whichever way you approach these issues, be consistent.
Rewards charts can actually turn bad experiences into a lot of fun especially when the child is getting close to receiving their reward. Try to avoid negatives whilst promoting the virtues of their good behavior. If you are not using a rewards chart then try one out - you have a lot to gain and nothing to lose.