Token Economy {a behaviour modification program for kids}

Token Economy {a behaviour modification program for kids}
The boys are old enough now to really understand reward and consequence.  Some days it feels like all we do is remind and nag them.  Redirection, warnings and time outs are a regular occurrence.  Take your plate to the sink, pick up your toys, share the lego, flush the toilet… how many times do I have to ask you?   Seriously?!?  In an effort to help Darcy and I to focus on and reward the positive behavior we see in our kids, we’ve started a Token Economy
From Wikipedia:
A token economy is a system of behavior modification based on the systematic positive reinforcement of target behavior. The reinforcers are symbols or tokens that can be exchanged for other reinforcers. 
So in short, it’s all about rewarding desired behavior.  The trick is to quickly recognize and reward the positive behavior {no matter how small or insignificant}.  Rewards are never used to bribe a child to accomplish a task and are never taken away for negative behavior.  The child should always associate the Token Economy with positive reinforcement.  I have used this type of behavior mod plan in large childcare settings and with troubled teens in the past.
Here’s how we introduced a Token Economy to our kids {4, 4 and 8 years old} at home:
Token Economy {a behaviour modification program for kids}
We started by stocking up our Token Store.  We purchased reward items that we knew the kids would like to earn.  We assigned token values to each item {ie. a child could purchase a sticker with 5  tokens}. While we were all sitting at dinner we told them that mom and dad were opening up a Token Store.  We were really excited and animated about the whole thing.  
“Check out all of the cool things in our store!!!!”
Token Economy {a behaviour modification program for kids}
We showed them some of the items in the store and told them that the store would be open once a week {Fridays after dinner}.  We explained that they could purchase these rewards with tokens.  Naturally they asked “how do we earn tokens?” 
Token Economy {a behaviour modification program for kids}
Darcy and I had talked about behaviors and tasks that we wanted the kids to focus on.  I created this chart and taped it to our dish washer.  We showed the kids and explained what each behavior/task meant.  We plan on modifying these as the kids improve and mature.  We also showed them the jars {labelled with their names} where they can deposit and store their tokens until the Token Store opens.  
We’ve been using this system for over two weeks and have already seen results.  The little miss said that she really loves earning tokens {she’s a great helper} and Cameron {who was intentionally peeing all over the toilet} earned 4 tokens for wipe/flush/wash hands on the first day!
Keep it positive
Keep it simple ~ our behaviors are a bit abstract, maybe focus on something more specific
Keep the token values of items low ~ we over valued a few things.  You want the kids to be thrilled when they go to shop, not bummed that they don’t have enough tokens for something.
Keep on top of it ~ reward. every. little. thing.  Catch and be attentive to the positive behaviors that you are looking for.
Good luck!


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  1. Kathryn says

    I used something similar with my son when he was younger after seeing it on one of the “Nanny” shows and it works great if you have clear-cut attainable positive goals (like you are using) and my son loved seeing the jar fill up and it made him proud of his accomplishments.

    One thing we did differently, and not something I would recommend for everyone because it is better to reinforce positive behavior that point out negative ones, was a removal of marbles for agreed upon undesirable behavior when getting him to bed at night and getting him up in the morning were a problem and it worked out because he didn’t want to lose any marbles he had earned.

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