Long-term studies of work incentives, behavior management programs for children, weight loss and stop smoking plans have all found similar, revealing results:
• Performance and quality of work declines over time because people are thinking only about the incentive or reward, instead of the value of what they are doing.
• If there is a loss of interest in the reward, people become less motivated to do the task.
• The work becomes an unpleasant task that is endured strictly to get the reward.
• People try to take short cuts to find the easiest way to finish the task, rather then challenging themselves to do the best job possible.
Change is short-term. When the incentives are gone, so is the motivation for doing the task.
you might choose to use a behavior chart anyway. If so, here are some suggestions for using behavior charts with fewer negative long-term consequences (although there will always be some):
• Promote internal competitiveness (doing one's best) rather then competing against others. Competition destroys teamwork and damages relationships. This especially applies to siblings.
• Make the tasks challenging, with a chance to learn new things. Explain the task in a way that makes it a meaningful contribution which will improve the family or person.
• Involve the people who will be using the charts in developing the charts. With children, use creative ideas, like gluing pictures of tasks, to make this a fun project.
• Have "rewards" be extra privileges or non-monetary bonuses, such as picking the place for a weekly family outing, having a friend overnight, extra time out on Friday night, choosing a family game or video, or choosing the dinner menu and helping cook it.
• Gradually phase out the chart as children learn new skills are reform habits. Wean children from rewards before they become addictive. Increase internal motivators through descriptive encouragement.
• Use the charts as reminders of agreements, not a record of rewards or payoffs. Focus on the child's accomplishments instead of giving demerits for poor performance.