A token economy at home

zaleonMarch 3, 2009

Have anyone had experience in applying a token economy to develop and reinforce constructive behavior patterns in their children?

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Not sure what you mean. Could you be a little more specific? Are you talking about giving "tokens" for good behavior that they can exchange for prizes?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 10:25AM
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Hi there bnicebkind
According to Webster's Dictionary, a token economy is a form of operant conditioning that is used in the behavior modification that involves rewarding desirable behaviors with tokens which can be exchanged for items or privileges and punishing undesirable behaviors by taking away tokens.

As I understand it, one first identifies behaviors that need to be changed (e.g. room untidy; clothes lying around, toys lying around, bed not made, homework no done on a daily basis, etc). One then choose a token which are easily dispensed, difficult to counterfeit, and safe to use (e.g. play money, beans, marbles in a jar, pennies, plastic chips), select what is called reinforcers (privileges like playing at a friend, extra time outside/playing with friends, a treat (ice cream, popcorn, etc.), a sleepover, more computer time, a "no-chores" day, etc). Now one decide on the number of tokens that can be earned for exhibiting the target behaviors (the positive of the behavior that need to change, e.g. making up your bed, doing your homework, etc). Also determine the cost of each reinforcer, striking a good match between the price of the reinforcer and the behavior required to earn it.

Now one awards the token earned for a target behavior on a daily basis (remembering to keep careful records), and arrange a time (perhaps once a week?) for children to exchange tokens earned for a reinforcer.

That is a general outline.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 1:27PM
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We actually started this recently in my home. We picked a few behaviors (3-4) per child that we wanted them to work on. We then came up with a rating system. We have a dry erase board hanging in the hall with the behaviors for each child for the week in a separate column. I then help them decide if the earned stars in each column at night.
Each day they can earn 1 star per behavior. At the end of the week we tally the stars and see if they have enough to buy privilages. (we had the kids help us think of privilages they wanted to earn and then I assigned the cost of the privilages)

They usually buy privilages on the weekend. If they don't have enough stars they have to wait until they do have enough stars to buy privilages. Sometimes it happens during the week.

We have not been using it long but it is helping. They are really owning up to their behaviors and thinking about them more since we began the chart. And that is what we wanted.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 4:47PM
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Hi there mom2email
Thanks for writing. Sound very promising, and I have so many questions to ask. How many children is involved, and what are their ages? In which grades are they? Also how did you decide on the value of each privilege?

Really sounds exciting. Did you read up on it before implementing?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 2:17AM
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I did not read up on it....just kind of had some ideas from similar things I did when I was teaching and from watching too many episodes of Supernanny!

We do it for 4 kids. We have a 6yr old, 11 yr old, 12yr old, and 14 yr old.

For the value of each privilage I wanted to make sure it would take a week of hard work to earn the priviledge and based it on that. If they have a bad week they still get to roll over their total stars to the next week so they do not get totally discouraged.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 3:58PM
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Hi to everyone
We are going to implement the token economy for a 6 and 10 year old girls next term. It took a while for me and my wife to agree to the principle, and both decided to get more information on the internet. We are now in the planning stages, and it is exciting to hear about experiences of other families with the token economy. Thank you for responding, and we certainly were able to move forward with the ideas we got from people here. It would be good to regularly exchange experiences. For instance, among the many behaviors, what are the criteria one uses to select the initial ones? How do you phase out and replace behaviors?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 11:16PM
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