The Barkley method in practice: how to implement a points system encouraging positive behaviour in ADHD children?

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Managing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD ) in children requires a structured, caring approach.

The behaviorist educational method developed by Russel Barkley offers a promising way to support children with ADHD and/or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), aged 5 to 13, in their daily lives.

This method offers parents concrete tools to better understand and manage their child’s behaviors. Among them, we’re going to look in detail at the concept of the “Barkley method chart”, which is in fact multifaceted.

The objectives of the Barkley method

One of the central axes of the Barkley method is the implementation of effective control strategies adapted to the child’s behavior.

The aim is to improve family quality of life over the long term by creating a structured, positive environment.

Parents are thus helped to restore their self-image and that of their child, and to foster peaceful family relationships.

This system brings out the best in every child, sowing the seeds of understanding and cooperation between siblings
This system brings out the best in every child, sowing the seeds of understanding and cooperation between siblings

The benefits of this approach are manifold.

Way of life Hyperactivity unmasked: revealing the potential behind ADHD

In addition to restoring family relationships, the Barkley method also creates an environment conducive to children’s development and positive self-expression.

Setting up a points system: a structured approach

One concrete application of the Barkley method is the creation of a points and rewards system to encourage positive behavior.

The process begins by identifying behaviors that are a source of conflict.

Once this stage has been completed, a token-treasure box or points board can be used to motivate the child.

Image by ARS Corse. The boards feature a points system, with each token earned opening the door to moments of complicity and sharing
Image by ARS Corse. The boards feature a points system, with each token earned opening the door to moments of complicity and sharing

The principle is simple: award tokens or points as rewards for tasks accomplished or positive behavior, which the child can then exchange for privileges.

The magic of the stars meets the visual world of the youngest: a table of tasks/objectives that can be personalized, reflecting the individuality and progress of each child
The magic of the stars meets the visual world of the youngest: a table of tasks/objectives that can be personalized, reflecting the individuality and progress of each child

It’s important to present this system clearly to the child, establishing precise rules and adapting the tasks and rewards to his age and, above all, his abilities.

The location of the privileged rewards table, as in the kitchen, is strategic in maintaining the child's motivation to achieve his or her goals
The location of the privileged rewards table, as in the kitchen, is strategic in maintaining the child’s motivation to achieve his or her goals

Tokens or points should be awarded on completion of the task, accompanied by a smile and congratulations, reinforcing the rewarding nature of the system.

Creating a task board: a structured approach

Designinga task board is a crucial step in implementing the Barkley Method.

The aim is to formulate objectives that are clear and comprehensible to children, while at the same time creating an environment conducive to the acquisition of positive behaviors.

The formulation of tasks plays a central role in this approach.

We recommend opting for generalized formulations.

For example, instead of saying “I let my sister express herself. I don’t make remarks or facial expressions when she speaks”.

A more general formula such as “I respect other people’s speech” is preferred.

This approach encourages a more global understanding of expected behavior, while simplifying communication.

Clarity and simplicity are two pillars of task writing.


Image by ARS Corse. The goal board: an ally in reminding everyone of their commitments, supporting day-to-day operations and creating a serene atmosphere
Image by ARS Corse. The goal board: an ally in reminding everyone of their commitments, supporting day-to-day operations and creating a serene atmosphere

Short, simple sentences are best. This is crucial to maintaining the attention and motivation of children, especially those with ADHD.

Unlike some approaches to non-violent communication, which encourage children to express what they want, such as “walk around the house”, the Barkley Method’s task chart invites them to clearly name the behavior they want to avoid, such as “don’t run around the apartment”.

This precisionavoids any ambiguity and helps the child clearly understand what is expected of him or her.

In short, an effective task chart is based on a clear, concise and precise formulation of expected behaviors. This structured approach helps children better understand and assimilate the rules, while facilitating their commitment to the process of improving their behavior.

Presentation and exchange: keys to adherence to the method

The introduction of a task chart is a change that can raise questions or even provoke resistance amongchildren.

That’s why it’s so important to present the chart to the children anddiscuss the reasons behind it.

Open dialogue helps create a framework that everyone can understand and accept.

By coloring the reward systems together, the family creates a space for exchange that is conducive to everyone's acceptance of this new mode of interaction
By coloring the reward systems together, the family creates a space for exchange that is conducive to everyone’s acceptance of this new mode of interaction

Some children may be reluctant at first.

In such cases, siblings can play a facilitating role. If a child observes that one of his brothers or sisters has embraced the method and is reaping the benefits, this may encourage him to participate . The exemplary effect of siblings is a potential lever for encouraging adherence to the method.

Two young minds discover the joy of contributing, guided by choice and not by obligation. An exploration of freedom at the heart of learning
Two young minds discover the joy of contributing, guided by choice and not by obligation. An exploration of freedom at the heart of learning

It’s also a good idea to present the method as a choice offered to the child, rather than as a constraint. Explaining to the child that he or she has the freedom to choose whether or not to follow this method can prove stimulating. This approach, which respects the child’s autonomy, encourages his or her voluntary commitment to the process.

Incentives work well once the child understands that he or she has something to gain, and that the rewards are attainable. It’s crucial that the child perceives the goals as achievable and that the rewards offered are motivating. This transparency in communication, as well as the child’s involvement in the process, can greatly contribute to the successful implementation of the Barkley method.

Preparing and managing charts: the laminating option

A practical and cost-effective way of managing task and reward privilege charts is to laminate them .

Laminating allows you to write and rewrite on the boards with markers usually dedicated to slates.

This makes keeping track of tasks and rewards easy and fun, while enabling rapid adaptation in the event of changes in routine or objectives.

Children can visualize their progress , and parents can adjust tasks and rewards as they go along.

If you prefer a ready-to-use solution, you can find pre-designed task and reward charts on the market, often accompanied by erasable markers.

Amazon photo.A visual testament to progress, this reward chart emphasizes our strengths and accomplishments, turning our attention to what we've mastered.
Amazon photo.A visual testament to progress, this reward chart emphasizes our strengths and accomplishments, turning our attention to what we’ve mastered.

They are available in a variety of formats and designs, offering a turnkey solution for tracking behavior and rewards.

However, laminating personalized charts remains a highly flexible option, allowing customization according to the specific needs of each child and family.

Evaluation and follow-up: the key to success

Daily assessment of the child’s progress is a crucial element in measuring the impact of the points system.

Not only does it reward the child’s achievements , it also shows him that he can do it. The aim is to boost their self-esteem and encourage them to continue their efforts.

Exploring further: other support horizons

Implementing a points system inspired bythe Barkley method is just one of many support strategies for children with ADHD.

It is part of a more comprehensive approach that may include other behavioral approaches, psychological support and close collaboration with the educational team.

By broadening their perspective, parents and educators pave the way for a better understanding and more appropriate care, ensuring a harmonious family life and continued development of the child.

The Barkley method, with its structured, positive approach, provides a concrete, benevolent response to the challenges posed by ADHD, inviting an ongoing exploration of support options to ensure that every child has an environment conducive to his or her development.

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