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How to Create a Positive Behavioral System in Your Home

Chances are, if you have a school-aged child, your child’s school is currently using a positive behavioral system as part of their school’s behavior management protocol.

Positive behavioral systems look different from school to school. My son’s school uses a cash system where students can earn reward bucks for being safe, responsible, caring, and kind. When a staff member sees a student demonstrate one of these positive behaviors, they can hand out a buck. The reward buck then gets placed into a jar in the classroom and once the class jar is filled, the entire class earns a reward, such as a pajama day, a glow in the dark party, or popsicles.

My son’s school started using a positive behavioral system this school year, and when his school sent home a note explaining the new behavior management framework, I didn’t think much about it.

However, my son thought otherwise and thinks school reward bucks are the greatest thing that ever existed. Every time he receives a buck at school he will proudly tell us about his behavior that earned the buck, and when it is time for the class reward, my little guy is about as excited as he is the night before Christmas. With all this excitement around this reward system, I thought that I should capitalize on this and create a positive behavioral system in our household.

child in front of school

Before I continue with this post, please read this disclaimer. I am not a parenting expert, licensed family therapist, or a professional in any manner. I did, however, work with an outside behavioral management company to create our home reinforcement system. I have permission to share our work. Lastly, I am sharing what is currently working for my children within my household, however I am not saying that you need to do this in your home. We all have our own amazing, unique, and personal parting styles (simply put, you do you.)

With all that said, this is how we implemented a positive behavioral program within our home.

First step: Pick what positive behaviors are important to you.

In order to complete this step, my husband, myself, and my son’s case manager had a family meeting. We came up with a consensus of what characteristics are important to us. We decided to focus on the following behaviors with our kids: being kind, respectful, responsible, and flexible.

Second step: Create definitions for each word.

The words that we chose are vague and could have multiple definitions. To ensure clarity and consistency, we all agreed on our definitions of each word.

Kind: Talking with a calm voice, helping others, following the family plan.

Responsible: Taking care of toys and crafts when you are done with them, taking care of your body, brushing teeth, eating good foods, and washing hands.

Respectful: Following directions, listening to others when they are talking.

Flexible: Changing plans when given new or different information.

Third step: Create a reward.

We decided to hand out plastic chips when our children were exhibiting one of the above behaviors. I wanted each of the chips to be color coded so I could easily find the correct chip for the behavior exhibited. I decided to use poker chips. I then created custom poker chip labels to place on top of the poker chips with the words safe, kind, responsible, respectful, and flexible.

poker chips

Fourth step: Set a number of chips needed for a reward, and create a list of reward options.

We decided that each child had to earn ten chips within the week to earn a reward. Next, we decided that the rewards would change each week. We also decided that the reward could be individual, meaning if one child received ten tokens, however, the other child did not contribute at all, then only one would be able to earn the reward. Lastly, we also wanted to make the rewards things that would happen at home. Some examples we have used as rewards are popsicles, extra time on YouTube, marshmallows, glow stick bath night, and an obstacle course.

Fifth step: Explain the positive behavioral system to your child.

We did this by creating a social story. The story explained that each child will be earning reward chips at home, and that they could earn chips for being kind, respectful, responsible, and flexible. We then asked our children to give us examples of being kind, respectful, responsible, and flexible. We explained that sometimes one child might get a token while the other does not and that’s okay. Lastly, we explained that sometimes they will have enough tokens for a reward, however, sometimes they will not and that they can try again next week.

Sixth step: Implement the positive behavioral system.

For the first week, any time that we saw our children exhibiting one of the specified positive behaviors, we gave them a chip. We wanted to gain momentum and have the children excited about the changes we were implementing. Also, when we handed a child a chip, we explained why they are receiving it. For example, “Thank you for picking up your toys! That was very responsible of you.” When we give a chip, we typically give a high five, a tickle, or play a silly game to positively reinforce the behavior.

Seventh step: Cash the chips in for a reward.

At the end of the week, sit down count all the chips earned during the week. If your child meets the requirement for the reward, then supply the reward. If your child does not meet the requirement, simply say, “Oh well, we can try again next week.”

We have implemented this positive behavioral system for a little over a month now. I love that this behavioral program can be implemented across our children’s day and that it provides a framework but is still very flexible to use. But the most important thing to me is that my children are practicing, learning, and developing how to be kind, responsible, respectful, and flexible human beings.

Do you do use a positive behavioral system in your home? If so how do you make it work?   

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