How to Build an Effective Chart
Superheroes believe in their powers, and their costumes speak visually about their confidence in those powers. But what really makes superheroes spring into action and save the day? It’s not their tights; it’s a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Armed with the same combination, children can leap into action and adventure—and life—with the same confidence as a superhero. The Grace Capes Chart is simply a training program for heroes-to-be.
Setting up the Good Behaviors List
Intrinsic motivation is when your little hero acts based on decisions made from within. Your child is motivated to do something on his own simply because he finds it satisfying. To encourage intrinsic motivation, it is essential to foster an environment that facilitates discovery, and to give your children the freedom to sort things out in their own minds. When setting up his lists on the chart, offer your child a variety of appropriate and achievable challenges that they can choose from. Be sure your child feels that he has a say by letting him be a big part of the process.
Setting up the Rewards List
Extrinsic motivation is when a child does something to please someone else, or for an external reason, such as a reward. It’s sort of like Newton’s third law. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. But as with every science experiment, there is a chance that your hypothesis won’t work as predicted. It may take several attempts to find the right kinds of rewards that motivate your child and obtain the desired result! The final key to the reward system is that it needs constant reinforcement in order for a child to remain motivated. Let him check off “Got it” once he has mastered each challenge and is ready to move on and work on something new.
Reinforcement also means keeping up your end of the deal. Remember that this is no small piece of cake for your child. So set an example and be consistent, persevering, tenacious, if necessary. Let your child know he has done well and that you are proud of him. Taking your responsibility seriously will help your child develop a meaningful connection to the good behaviour you are seeking.
Moving from Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation
Set up your lists in a way that encourages children to learn for themselves. You are aiming to develop self-confidence by moving from an external reward system to an internal one. Preschoolers can often be heard talking themselves through a series of actions that lead to the solution of a problem. Eventually this “talking out loud” becomes an internal monologue, like the character in the book who “hears” his cape talking. You are witnessing the newly developing ability to problem solve; this will become the basis for intrinsic motivation. To know that they can solve a problem motivates most children to accept new and challenging situations, which in turn leads to greater learning.
Keep in mind that children already have a sense of their level of competency, and they will judge their success by their own internal standards. They will have a good idea what will challenge them and when they have earned their reward.
Around every corner is an experience just waiting to surprise and excite growing minds; all children need is some positive direction from you and lots of freedom. Resist hovering over them and jumping in too quickly with unnecessary advice or judgement. You’re giving them both expectations and free will—it’s like handing them a pail but letting them fill it for themselves.
The magic of the Grace Capes adventure is that children’s feelings of accomplishment are the most influential reward of all. If you are doing this the right way, children will give back to you in amazing and unexpected ways; they will spontaneously show respect, selflessness, compassion and empathy—the keystones to growing up to be decent, sane people down the road!—and they will discover the power of self love in the process. Their personal experience that positive beliefs can shape their lives will ignite a positive world view. Good luck!