The 5 Cs

The 5Cs of Positive Reinforcement™ aren’t features of Smiles & Frowns. They’re the five qualities we found that really helped our rewards chart work better. If we let even one slide, everything else started to suffer.

Some of the Cs are well known. Others, like Collaboration and a game-like sense of Challenge, are our own twists. Either way, bringing them all together gave us something strong to build our features around.

Each of the 5Cs will get a post or two down the road to share what we learned from a parent's perspective, but here is a quick look at each now:

CLARITY:  There should never be any confusion about the expectations you set. So it's hugely important  to be clear at every turn. Even when it comes to results, performance should be easy to see and review. Fuzzy goals and fuzzy responses lead to a fuzzy sense of success.

CONSISTENCY:  The key to a behavior plan that works consistently is creating a strong and stable economy. That is, actions should be expected, and outcomes should be regular and predictable. If values change and shift with the wind, kids don't know what to expect, and the rules start to lose their meaning.

CONSEQUENCE:  Consequence is not a bad thing. In fact, a consequence could be a reward as easily as it could be a penalty. A consequence is simply the result of actions. Clearly defined consequences will be your friend, because they take you out of the role of judge and jury. Consequence helps kids learn to own their behaviors.

COLLABORATION: It takes two to tango – or to tangle. Which is to say that agreements don't work when they're one-sided. So whenever possible, we should look for moments for people to work together. From kids helping to set rewards, to parents and guardians working together to mark behaviors regularly, it's a team effort.

CHALLENGE: It may seem slight to treat it all like a game, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to win. So it's always key to have a system that puts the goals out there, and shows the path to victory. As kids gather their wins and build confidence, there are always new goals to set and new challenges to meet.


As we were working with Smiles & Frowns™ over the years, we certainly thought about other Cs we could add. Compassion? Consideration? Congratulations? But these five we settled on seemed to be the ones that worked for us.

Thoughts? Send them along to Our goal is to keep improving Smiles & Frowns™ so it's the best tool for you!