top of page

Directions for Use:

  1. Place the chart in a place where it is easily accessible to you and visible to your child.

  2. For every positive behavior you notice:

    • Give your child a labeled praise. Avoid “nice job” or “good girl” and instead be extremely specific about exactly what your child did that earned the happy face.

    • Examples: "Great job putting your toys away!" or "Thank you for helping your bother with his shoelaces!"

    • Place a tally under the happy face 😊 column.

  3. For every negative behavior you notice:

    • Whenever possible, give your child a choices statement.

    • Example 1: (Child is pinching sister) Parent: “.” (Child keeps pinching sister) Parent: “. (holds up two fingers) ☹ on your chart.”

    • Example 2: Parent: “(child ignores) ☹ on your chart.” 

    • If your child doesn’t listen to the choices statement, place a tally under the sad face ☹.

    • Say, “You didn’t listen to me, so you get a sad face on your chart.”

    • Ignore arguing, tears, and tantrums (e.g., no words, turn away, walk to another room, neutral expression).

  4. Add up the tallies on the game chart three times per day (after breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

  5. Include at least 2 happy faces 😊 (with labeled praises) per hour. So, when you total the tally marks, there should be at least 8 happy faces 😊 in each interval (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

  6. Provide a mystery reward if your child has MORE tallies under the happy 😊 than the sad ☹ face column.

Download the Cooperation Chart


Ideas for Rewards:

Rewards should be inexpensive and quick. The best rewards are exciting activities that require only a few minutes of your time and add fun to your day. Small treats and prizes can also be included to provide variety.

  • Edible rewards (cookie, candy, popsicle, crackers, chips)

  • Knick knacks from dollar store/grocery store

  • Games (Tic-Tac-Toe, Uno, Go Fish, Chutes & Ladders, Crazy Eights, Tag, Hide & Seek)

  • Silly activities (act like your favorite zoo animal, three-legged race)

  • Making a card for a loved one

  • Choice of YouTube video to watch

  • Cuddle time with parent

  • Call or FaceTime a friend/loved one

To add mystery to the game, the rewards should be written on slips of paper and put into a bowl or jar for the child to choose from. Feel free to cut out the activities on the attached Rewards Sheet. Discuss the rewards with your child so that only preferred rewards are placed into the bowl or jar. Having mystery rewards avoids the need to come up with a reward on the spot. It also keeps you from negotiating the reward with your child. Mystery rewards in a bowl also add an element of fun and surprise!

Helpful Tips:

  1. Set your child up for success! You may want to rig the chart (i.e., catch them being good more often than misbehaving) so that your child earns a reward for the first few tallies. Ideally, you want your child to access the prize at least 75% of the time so that they are motivated to behave.

  2. Stick with the program! Expect tantrums, tears, and/or frustration when your child gets a sad face or does not win the reward. It is expected that children will be distressed when given negative consequences, particularly in the beginning. The distress is necessary to motivate your child to try harder to avoid sad faces in the future. Realize that behavior may get worse before it gets better and stick with the program. If you continue to use the system, your child will develop better skills for regulating emotions and accepting consequences. Keep in mind that improvement is seldom seen on the day that your child receives the negative consequences. Instead, improvement happens the next day or the day after, when your child realizes that you will follow through with consequences and ignore tantrums. You will know that the program is working when your child chooses to cooperate when given the 2-choices statement.

  3. Ignore negative behavior! If your child reacts badly to a sad face or not receiving a reward, ignore all disruptive behavior. Similarly, if your child pouts about the reward that is drawn from the bowl, use ignoring. Avoid arguing or negotiating about the reward, and do not pull a different reward from the bowl. Calmly say, “I’m sorry that you do not like this prize. If you work hard, you will get another reward after dinner. I hope that you will like that prize better.”  You want to avoid arguing, and you may even want to disengage with your child completely by walking away. Give as little attention as possible to your child’s negative behavior. If you stay consistent, your child will get better at accepting disappointment and will make better decisions in the future when given a 2-choices warning statement.

  4. Invest the time! When you are tired and stressed, you might feel like it takes too much time to give labeled praises, happy faces, and rewards. But, if you give at least 2 happy faces per hour and give your child rewards after each meal, your child will be motivated to behave better. If you timed yourself, you would see that you spend much more time nagging, threatening, and punishing without the chart than you spend on the praise and rewards when using the plan. When done consistently (reward the child 3X per day, give at least 2 Happy Faces per hour), the Cooperation Chart SAVES TIME and ENERGY!

bottom of page