Many parents think reward charts work well for young children, and they do, but they work well for almost any age, from toddlers to senior citizens. The principles are simple -- find desired rewards and determine behavior one must perform to earn the rewards. For teens, rewards might include going out with friends, use of the car, tickets to a concert or other coveted event and the always desirable cash! The hardest part might be to find rewards your teen wants enough to motivate her to do what you want.
Explain how the reward chart benefits your teen. Say, “This chart will provide you with the opportunity to earn the rewards you want most by behaving in ways I most want. You earn points you can spend, and you decide how to spend the points on things that matter most to you.” When your teen understands, and hopefully agrees to willing participation, move to the negotiation phase.
Hand your teen a pencil and sheet of paper and say, “Please list 10 or more things you would like to earn as a reward for behavior. I will list 10 or more things that I want to see you do to earn points and some things that will deduct points from your reward earnings. Once the lists are completed, we can negotiate point values for the rewards and behaviors.” Sit down and work for 10 to 20 minutes on your list. Realize that nothing is set in stone, and you can change behaviors and rewards as often as required.
Create an additional category of behaviors or chores your teen can do to earn extra points, such as clean the garage, babysit a younger sibling or yard work. Those items might not have a set point value, but vary according to time required, such as 10 points for each hour of babysitting or 15 points for washing and cleaning the car inside and out, and making sure it has a full tank of gas when it’s returned.
Compare the lists and negotiate point values that seem fair to you and your teen. Award five points when your teen works cooperatively with you on a project or five points if she completes her homework by supper time. Deduct five points for fighting with a sibling and 10 points if she is disrespectful to you or your spouse. It should be possible for your teen to earn 10 or more points each day when things go well, without resorting to the extra point category. Assign the number of points your teen needs to earn items on her list. She should be able to earn rewards within a reasonable amount of time if her behavior is acceptable. If it takes her too long to earn rewards, the point system loses its value, so make sure the point values on both ends of the chart motivate your teen to work cooperatively with you.