Create a Token Economy System to Improve Your Child's Behaviors

Using Rewards to Promote Good Behaviors

Rewarding good behavior with tokens
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A token economy system offers children a token for good behavior. Tokens can later be traded for larger, more tangible rewards.They're one of the most effective ways to reduce behavior problems and to motivate kids to follow the rules.

Although sticker charts work well with preschool-age children, token economy systems work best with older children. Whether you want to get your child to do his chores, follow directions at school, or refrain from hitting when he's angry, reward systems are effective discipline tools.

How Token Economy Systems Work

While you can use a written point system, it's best to physically hand a token to your child whenever he earns one. This provides immediate gratification and reinforces his positive behavior.

Help your child find a way to store his tokens. If your child creates a special jar or box to keep his tokens in, he'll likely be extra motivated to keep earning more.

Then, create an appealing reward menu with a variety of items. Offer items with a wide array of point values so your child can either exchange tokens for smaller rewards right away, or save them up for a larger reward. Build excitement by talking about what your child wants to spend his tokens on.

There are plenty of rewards that don't cost money. They can include things such as picking what to eat for dinner, going to the park, or getting to stay up later. Get your child involved by requesting his input into what rewards he would like to earn.

How to Create a Token Economy System

Keep the reward system simple. Sometimes parents create very complicated systems that are hard for children to understand and difficult for parents to manage.

Choose up to three behaviors to address at one time. Pick a behavior that your child is already doing well, one behavior that needs a little improvement, and one challenging behavior.

Frame the desired behaviors in a positive way. For example instead of saying, “don’t hit your sister” use “keep your hands to yourself.” State what behavior you want to see so you can reward the good behavior with a token.

You may need to break the day down into smaller chunks of time as well. Then, reward your child for behaving before school, in the afternoon, and then again closer to bedtime. For some kids, waiting all day to earn one token can seem impossible and they will lose interest fast.

Troubleshooting Your Token Economy System

Token economy systems often take a bit of trial and error. Perhaps you made the rewards too easy to earn. Or maybe, your child just isn't motivated by the rewards you're offering.

If it isn't working to change your child's behavior, don't give up or get rid of the reward plan altogether. Instead learn strategies to overcome the most common problems with token economy systems. Often, just a few small changes can make a big difference in helping your child change his behavior.

Sometimes, behaviors get a little worse before they get better. Your child may have some difficulty adjusting to any new discipline strategies that you start implementing. So, make sure you give your plan plenty of time before you make any major changes to it.

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