[One of 50 articles written and published for Demand Media in 2013. Published version here.]
There are a variety of ways to track behavior, and tracking systems for children are generally intended to aid in behavioral management. This can be for home, school, or long family road trips. Behavior is measured and recorded for the purpose of encouraging positive behavior and discouraging negative behavior. The measurement rules and results are shared in some form with children to deliver clear, fair feedback on what behavior is deemed appropriate. For example, bullying is a behavior to discourage, and some children may need more frequent and intensive feedback to learn it’s unacceptable.
Token economies are a positive behavioral system. They reward positive behavior, while negative behaviors are treated neutrally. Tokens can be anything — star charts, wooden nickels, lego blocks in favorite colors – and these tokens are exchanged for rewards. For example, from the start of each day Jimmy earns a token for every hour he doesn’t throw spitballs at Jenny. If it’s been a bad day, he earns no tokens and no reward. Try again tomorrow. Maybe he does better the next day, but not quite well enough to earn a standard reward. He can trade what he has for a lesser award or attempt to save tokens and earn more to earn a better reward.
Self management systems begin as a collaboration between the student and teacher, or parent and child. In this system, both the adult and child rate the child’s behavior over an agreed timespan, be it 5, 20 or 60 minutes. Points are earned for positive behavior and close agreement in ratings. This encourages the child to behave positively and give an honest self-evaluation. This technique works to promote both better behavior and acknowledgment of mistakes.
Number Line System
This system is useful for providing comparative feedback to groups and individuals at the same time. Children are given clear guidelines on behavior and an understanding of how points are assigned. Points are tracked on a number line for each student and averaged for the group. This setup can also be split into two groups to create a friendly competition between groups for best behavioral points.
This is similar in concept to the number line, but it is presented vertically. Students begin the day at 0 and move clips up and down the line in accordance with their behavior. The students move the clips themselves, providing a tactile dimension to aid recall and reinforce learning. This system is simple enough for young children to grasp, making it ideal for the K-3 set.