No More Behavior Charts. Please.

Original post written by Lauren Baures

Color ticket behavior chart-based discipline is how a five-year-old ends up with more tickets than me.

What is Color Ticket-Based Discipline?

It’s a form of a behavior chart, similar to the color clip system where a clip is moved to a different color depending on a child’s behavior.

If you haven’t heard of this before, here’s how it goes, as per the school handbook:

Each day, tickets are ‘pulled’ during school hours for inappropriate behavior. The next day it starts again and the child starts from scratch (almost).

1st ticket:         GREEN

2nd ticket:       BLUE

3rd ticket:        PINK

4th ticket:        RED

5th ticket:        PURPLE

Although children will start a new day with a GREEN ticket, they still accumulate points each quarter based on how many tickets are pulled.

PINK:               1 point

RED:               2 points

PURPLE:        3 points

When six points are accumulated, a parent/teacher/principal meeting is called. Ten points results in a meeting and possibly a suspension (at the principal’s discretion). More than 14 points result in another meeting and may include suspension.

Anything more than six points are recorded on the student’s record. This record is accessible by school district staff only, and not parents.

This is separate from citations, which are on top of the colored tickets. Citations range from one-to-three points depending on the severity of the behavior.

A Kindergartner Who Constantly Got Tickets

At five-years-old, this child has a hard time sitting still in her seat and not interrupting the teacher. She continued to pull tickets for this behavior. She was so upset at getting tickets, that when she did, she burst into tears. She’d cry and cry. She would continue to cry, but the behavior never got any better.

At home, the parents would reward her if she didn’t get any tickets. Then she turned to lying about getting tickets (parents are only notified when a pink or higher ticket is pulled).  

A day came when the kindergartner received a purple ticket (the day after her mother requested an IEP meeting). She was suspended. The school said, “She has been talking out and getting out of her seat. She left the room without permission and was disrespectful to the teacher. She got out of her seat six more times. She worked ahead on her paper and did not wait for the teacher to tell the class to begin. Lastly, she lied about spitting something out of her mouth. Pretended to do it but didn’t.”

The teacher, Mrs. X, was apparently out in the hall with another child.

While not perfect behavior by any means, here’s what the kindergartner said: “I left the classroom because we were told by the teacher assistant it was wipe time. I went to tell Mrs. X, times up, it’s wipe time; I didn’t want her to miss out.”

(Said kindergartner has permission to eat mints/gum during class to help with a potential pica disorder.)

The kindergartner received a purple ticket, and an equivalent punishment (suspension) as a kid would get for rough-housing causing damage/personal harm. She believed she was doing the right thing by attempting to her include her teacher in wipe time.

I’m no child psychologist, teacher, or behavior expert, but I can see that this system and the way the school is using it doesn’t work.

There are flaws and here’s what I think they are:

  1. Children can receive a suspension or overly harsh punishment for repetitive trivial behavior (such as getting out of their seat).
  2. It’s shameful to children and embarrassing when shown in front of other classmates.
  3. Anything more than six points are recorded on the students’ record that is only accessible by school district employees. How is a parent or guardian meant to reference these events to help change the behavior?
  4. It is negative reinforcement and a constant reminder of bad behavior.
  5. Children become labeled by their color.
  6. Children may not change their behavior; they give up and no longer try.

Kids need discipline, yes, but behavior charts, tickets and/or color charts might not be the best way for every kid.

Feedback from the Outside

Here’s a quote from an article titled, Hey Teachers, Please Stop Using Behavior Charts. Here’s Why” by Wendy Thomas-Russell, an award-winning parenting journalist.

“Each day, Martin said his daughter’s anxiety grew. Within the month, she was ‘begging us to tape her mouth shut to prevent a possible slip-up that could result in her clip being moved down.’ And then it happened: The teacher moved the girl’s color from green down to yellow.

Martin’s daughter came home and told her parents she wanted to kill herself. She was five.”

Nikki Sabiston’s story from Teaching in Progress shares more insights about behavior charts along with some alternative options:

For the kindergartner in question, she was refused an IEP based on the fact her behavior is not bad enough yet and academically fine. Although apparently her behavior was bad enough to get suspended.

She receives an intervention at school, which consists of a thumbs-up/thumbs-down sheet. That sheet contains 20 sections for each part of the day with an opportunity to earn a thumbs up or thumbs down for that part of the day. The long term goal is to steadily increase the number of thumbs up.

Positive reinforcement seems to be working better than a continuously distraught kindergartner who never feels good enough at school. She has since been diagnosed with anxiety.

What This Kindergartner Has to Say about Behavior Charts/Tickets

What do you think about the ticket system at school?

I think they shouldn’t have that for me anymore.


It makes me feel mad at myself. It makes me feel like a failure. It doesn’t make me behave. I don’t want to do bad stuff but it makes me do bad stuff. I got a purple ticket and nobody else got a purple ticket.

If you were a teacher and you had a naughty kid who wouldn’t follow the rules, what would you do as a punishment?

I would make them stay in for five recesses.

Not a laughing matter, but I’m waiting for the day a parent gets a speeding ticket and the child asks the police officer what color it is.

Further reading:

Do School Behavior Charts Cause More Harm Than Good?

Tear Down Your Behavior Chart

The Dark Side of Classroom Behavior Management Charts


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