14 answers

Behavior Chart for a Three Year Old

Hi moms,

I want to make a behavior chart for my daughter this summer. I'm thinking of doing a sticker chart where she gets a sticker for good behavior and then a reward after she reaches a goal. My question is the logistics... What's a reasonable goal for a three year old? How many behaviors should I track? I want it to be meaningful but I also don't want it to be so lofty that she never reaches it. Some behaviors I thought would be good for her: Eating vegetables, picking up her toys, listening to Mommy and Daddy, etc. Thoughts?

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Three year-olds live in the moment. I would suggest enjoying the moment with her. A "good job!" from mom is more effective than any chart or stickers.

2 moms found this helpful

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Too young? How about just have fun with her.

3 moms found this helpful

Three behaviors might be good. Honestly, at that age my girls weren't ready for a behavior chart. We started about a year ago when they turned five and it was still a struggle to keep them interested. They're generally well behaved, but just didn't really care if they got stickers or a prize at the end of the week.

So... give it a try, but don't be disappointed if she's still a bit young. Also - you need to make the goals more understandable to a three year old. Eating vegetables is ok, but how about "four bites of vegetable at dinner"? Picking up toys makes sense to me. Unfortunately, listening to Mommy and Daddy doesn't. (well, not when I try to think like a three year old). She's got so much interesting stimula coming at her at all times at this age that she probably things she IS listening to you, but she's naturally distracted so it doesn't seem like she's listening to you. Can you make that goal a bit more specific? "Answer Mommy's questions" or "Come when Daddy calls".

2 moms found this helpful

Three year-olds live in the moment. I would suggest enjoying the moment with her. A "good job!" from mom is more effective than any chart or stickers.

2 moms found this helpful

I do a marble jar for my daughter who is also 3. Everytime she does something positive she gets to put a marble in the jar. It ebbs and flows in how much we use it but she loves putting the marbles in. She counts them out and then drops each one into the jar. I drew a line in marker on the jar and when the marbles reach that we do something special (she got a fish, got to go to a special place, whatever we are thinking about doing or needing we apply it...) This was easier than a chart for us because I could give marbles whenever I felt the need to focus on something positive. I wasn't tied down to rewarding for just those behaviors. I could also use it to say... want to earn a marble¿ It worked for us! I think it is always good to focus on the positive!

1 mom found this helpful

I think at three, a behavior chart is a big, weird concept she is not likely to really understand. When my son was this age, I focused on giving positive feedback when I liked what he was doing and giving corrections when he needed help. Things like cleaning up-- he needed help with at this age, so we made it more of a game than a direction to 'clean up'. When he followed directions from my husband and I, he got a 'thank you for giving me your plate' or 'I liked how you put your shoes by the door, they look nice and tidy'' or 'you put all the dolls in their crib! high five!'... the praise needs to be specific to the action.

When my son was this age, I gave rewards in the moment, and made sure they were not toy rewards, but offering him a 'choice' privilege. For example, when a trip to the grocery store went well "you were so helpful and stayed right with me. Thank you! Would you like to help choose some fruit?" or "We got the room all cleaned up so fast that we have time for a game. Would you like to go pick one out?" What they really want, more than toys, is us, and when we can offer those sorts of 'in the moment' rewards, we teach our children that our good habits do sometimes pay off, thus helping them build an intrinsic sense of motivation. Instead of learning to do the task FOR the reward, they get a sense that doing the task IS the reward in and of itself. The room is clean AND this sometimes means we have time for a bit more fun. The shopping trip gets done so nicely AND because we helped make it happen, we get to choose something yummy. (You could even have her help you pick out veggies she likes as a 'reward' for being good company while you shop.)

For what it's worth, I didn't start any sort of charts for my son until he was 5, and I was needing to find some ways to acknowledge positive behaviors.. this was in order to change some negative behaviors. That's a whole other story, but the end 'reward' is doing something fun as a family, not toys or prizes.

You may also want to do some reading on the long-term effects of external rewards, too. I've found that there are some very definite pluses and minuses to them.... remember, too, if you do decide to use rewards, that you have to stick with it, because you are then teaching them to do something 'for' the prize.... if you take away the prize, they may not be motivated to continue to comply with expectations. Something to consider.:)

1 mom found this helpful

Too young. Just give lots of praise and lots of hugs for a job well done.

Charts never worked for my son.
He just didn't care about them and some goal in the distant future (tomorrow is a mystery to a 3 yr old) was just too nebulous for him to work toward.
Story time was my son's thing.
He always got story time for bedtime but if he was really good he could earn extra story time.
There was nothing he loved more than snuggling up with me to hear me read a story to him.
One time he fell asleep in the middle of a story, so me and Daddy went to bed.
2am child wakes up and doesn't realize so much time has passed so he comes to our room with the book and wants me to finish the story.
He was not happy when I told him it was the middle of the night and too late for more story time.

Well I don' t necessarily think she's too young, it totally depends on her personality. I guess the real question though is what exactly are you trying to accomplish...I mean is there like one thing that she is severely struggling with and you need to modify this behavior b/c it's practically ruining your life? Or you're just trying to teach her good behaviors and have her stick to them?

If it's the former, then I would suggest picking the one major behavior and making a chart that shows each day of the week. Let her put a sticker on the chart each time she models the correct behavior and after a certain number of stickers she gets a small reward...it could even be an extra TV show or a walk to the park or something.

If it's the latter, then I would suggest just doing a big piece of construction paper and putting her name on it or something. Then every time you catch her doing something good, or being helpful or kind or whatever, then she gets a sticker on the chart. Again after a certain number of stickers have her get a small "reward" like the ones I mentioned above.

I would like to add that although I think behavior mod charts are good and can be extremely helpful, it might not be necessary if you're just working on normal 3 y/o behaviors, unless she is particularly stubborn or unfocussed (like more stubborn and/or unfocussed than a normal a 3 y/o), but if you really want to do it, it can't really hurt so go for it and see what happens.

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