Thursday, January 19, 2012

Token Economies

This is a simple explanation of what a token economy is and how it can work to change your child's behavior. At times consequences can be ineffective with certain children but a reward system can be extremely motivating. You are then working with your child instead of against them. There is a time and a place for consequences but there are times that you can get the behaviors you want without the punishment.

The idea is a child should get a token (poker chip, ticket, penny, sticker, cotton ball) for desired behavior. Then they can turn in their tokens for a bigger prize. This method has helped motivate children to clean their rooms, use the toilet, share, decrease inappropriate language, follow directions and more!!

Important Tips to Remember:

The big prizes must be motivating.
Make sure the number of tokens required for the prize is short enough that it still holds value. Some children can wait a week or a month for a prize and some children can only wait a day and stay focused.
Clearly define the behavior earning the tokens
Be consistent with your plan.
To establish a behavior give a token for each time the behavior happens
To keep an established behavior going varying when you give the token (every time, every 2 times, every 4 times, every 2 times) Varied reward systems are very effective in keeping a behavior going. That is part of why gambling is so addictive.
Once the behavior is firmly established start fading the tokens (every 4 times, every 6 times etc..) Do this gradually so the transition is smooth.
Never take away tokens that were previously earned!! This can kill the motivation of the program.

EX: Every time a child pees on the potty they get a sticker. When they get 5 stickers they get a prize.
EX: Every time the children do a whole activity without anyone crying, arguing or fighting they get a cotton ball in their jar. When the jar is full they get to go on a date with mom or dad.
EX: Every day that a child sleeps in his bed he gets a penny. When he has 5 pennies he and trade them in for a toy from storage.

As you can see it is quite simple but the part that gets difficult is deciding how long a child is willing to work for something and how to effectively fade the prizes without fading the behavior as well. At times having a consult for that part of it can be helpful.

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