Monday, March 3, 2008

so you want to know about the token system...

well one of the benefits of being married to a marriage and family therapist is that he's got a lot of training in conduct disorders, and such...soo when we were having major issues with nate at school (wouldnt do any work, i mean absolutely nothing at school, homework was a fight, i was usually in tears by the end of it, and he actually had his teacher in tears a few times) he introduced me and his teacher to the token system. after 2 and half months of doing it, nate comes home with his daily report with "excellent" more often than not, but it was a bumpy road to get to this point. here are some of the things that we do:
**EVERYTHING costs tokens: tv, computer, toys, chocolate milk, extra time up, (playing with friends is not something that costs for nate cause he's struggling in this area), buying new toys.
*1/2 hour of tv watching costs 5 tokens, also goes for the computer. if they want an hour it costs 10 tokens...
*15 minutes extra after bedtime (my kids go to bed between 7 and 7:45, kyle at 7, ryan at 7:30, and nate at 7:45) they pay 5 tokens for each 15 minutes extra, but can only ask up to 30 minutes, maximum of 10 tokens.
*chocolate milk costs 5 tokens, apple juice does too (milk and water are free)
*for every 100 tokens they save up they can go and buy a $10 toy. or 10 tokens will get you a $1 toy and so forth.
*if i have to clean up their room it will cost them 10 tokens each. (this one encourages them to work together)
*cookies, sweets, or snacks (not including fruit) cost 3 tokens.
theres more but i think you get the point...
*if nate comes home with an excellent report (all 1's on his daily report that jake made up for the teacher to fill out) he instantly earns 20 tokens (this took about a month to even happen once)
-for ryan its 10, (he's in kindergarten and it's half day so he only gets half)
-for kyle its 5
*if they finish all their food and clean up their plate and put it in the sink= 2 tokens
*if they clean up their room WITHOUT me telling them= 3 tokens
*if they do what is asked of them the FIRST time = 2 tokens
*randomly i give out tokens for nice behavior, or nicely playing with each other, being kind, being helpful, playing quietly, and so forth. i do it randomly because this enforces the good behavior all the time, not just when they want tokens.
now here's the disclaimer: it was HELL the first 2 weeks. kids were complaining that they didn't have to "pay" for everything. but i stuck to it, and now almost going onto our third month of this, we go days without watching tv...yeah you read it right, DAYS WITHOUT TV. i thought i was going to go mad at first, i kept asking the kids if they wanted to pay for tv, or something...but they started to realize that they wanted some things more than others, and for them playing nicely without having to pay for it was better than wasting 5 tokens for half an hour of tv. and now when the tv is on, it sounds "wrong" or something.
now i also have to add that nate was the hardest on me with the system, he just rebelled, said he didnt care that he didnt have tokens, and would just still give me a hard time. he didnt really have much to loose because he wasnt earning anything. but when he noticed that his brothers were able to eat a cookie or ask for chocolate milk, and play with their beloved "star wars troopers" (they cost 10 tokens, but if they all have an excellent day they don't have to pay for it, and they get their max tokens for the school day) after about 3 weeks he would have a "good" day here and there, and now we actually have an average of 3 to 4 excellent days so they've been happily playing with their most favorite toys! okay this is getting long so if you have any more questions just let me know.


The Holloways said...

Ah-ha! BRILLIANT! You have officially been STARRED so I can print this out and FRAME it for use in the next year.... :)

SLO Rober said...

What a great idea! We have a similar thing but much more simplified , to encourage kind behavior to each other. We call them Rober rewards. If they collect enough, I take them to Chuck E. Cheese.

Mindy said...

Verrrry intriguing! I wonder if it would work with my kids. I did think of one question... say one kid paid to watch tv, does the other kid have to leave the room if they don't want to pay to watch too?

The Christensons said...

good question, thankfully my kids all like different things, so the person that is paying for it gets to pick what is being watched,and that usually makes the others loose interest, but if it doesn't you should see how captivated they become with it, it makes for about 30 minutes of absolute silence except for the tv. the funny thing is though after a while nobody really wants to spend their tokens on tv! i love it! (well now i do!)

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing. That is a great system!!!

Jenny said...

I'm totally sticking this in my back pocket for the future - I'm going to need it!

jendoop said...

This system sounds like the perfect thing for our family. WIth a 13 yr old who falls behind on homework, a 7 yr old being mean to her brother and a 6 yr old who is becoming flat out disobedient we need something. We do have a baby, I think adding her to the family has thrown off the family mojo. This could get us all back on track.
I'd really like to know how you stick with it. Would I just be complicating our lives by adding this? And does it lead to the children thinking they should be paid a token for everything? Does it dampen their ability to do good for no reward?
You can email me at if it is easier for you.

Nash said...

I also read screamfree parenting. I try an try to soak it all in, but I still just feel like I don't know what I'm supposed to do.
You have great insight, and wonderful ideas. I saw your blog through kelly's. if you want to see my blog, i will invite

edith said...

This is EXACTLY what we do at our house. And it sounds like you went through what we did to get to a good point. It was crazy at first.
We got this idea from The book by Howard Glasser, Transforming The difficult child, the nurtured heart approach. That book is amazing and I swear it saved our sanity.
Anyway, It's nice to hear about someone else who does this method of reward system and hear that it works for them too! I think it was mostly horrible for use because we were also implementing a new break system with rules that would give my son the way to earn his "sticks" we use the small craft popcicle sticks.

Katie & Bryan said...

I found your site through here:
I love this idea! That gives me hope that this will work for my kiddos. Thank you!

jacki j. said...

Sheesh, I wish I had this when my kids were younger. (I have between the ages of 9 and 20) We tried lots of things and my system changed often. They seem to have grown up responsible and mature inspite of me(lol). Best wishes to you!

Em @ Bunch of Scrap said...

My friend just forwarded me your post. This is excellent! I just made 50 shrinky dink tokens last night and can't wait to get started. Do you have a poster up in your house as to what everything costs or what the rewards are worth?

Purple Quilter Queen said...

You might wonder why I'm commenting on this post from so long ago...well, it's slow here at work today so I've gone back thru and read all of your blogs - I'm almost done with 2008. Anyway, I do your kids get tokens taken away for anything other than you having to clean their room? I'm seriously starting this for my 8 1/2 year old Emma. She is so needing more structure and purpose in her life. The baby (almost 1) seems to be getting to her lately and the green eyed monster has been on an overextended visit if you know what I mean. Thanks V! Jenn
ps - so funny the word verification was "sopayer"!

2sisters said...

Thank you so much for this! It is so much needed at this present moment in my house! Great Tip!

Dauna said...

interesting! I think the kids would like this. DH and i are both mathys and would like them to understand spending money at an early age and I think this is a fantastic introduction!

Heather of4 said...

I don't mean to be rude, but what happened to the days of children doing what they were told, because it was expected. Kids should NOT get something every time they do something they should already be doing. I think our generation are creating children who always expect something for doing something. I have four small children (ages 8-2) and we teach them to work together. Do they get rewarded? Yes, sometimes they do, but I purposely don't reward them every time, so they don't always expect it, like it's their "right". My husband is a school teacher and he agrees that now kids all expect something for doing what they should already be doing. I would highly consider what you really are teaching your children.

Sahara said...

@ Heather -
I think you have a good point. If kids are always rewarded for everything they do, they begin to expect it. However, I noticed that some of the incentives are indeed random, like you said in your post that you sometimes reward your children randomly so that they are on good behavior without always expecting a reward.

This token system to me sounds like it was set up to deal with a difficult child, one where normal methods of teaching good behavior weren't working. One exception I take to your comment is when you said "children doing what they were told, because it was expected." As I recall, the way most often used to teach children what was expected and convince them to actually do it was punishment. When they didn't do as they were told, they were punished. Now, I am ok with punishment - I feel that it does have a place. But there are some children that get to a point (or perhaps never reached the point) where punishment was a good enough incentive for them. In cases like that, you have to try a different incentive. In this case, a reward for doing what supposed to, instead of a punishment for not doing it. As time goes on, you notice that the child with bad behavior begins to see his lack of rewards as a sort of punishment because he is comparing to his siblings.

V and Co. said...

thank you for your continued comments on this post.

@ heather
yes i appreciate your comment on your husband being a sure there are many things he sees in schools.

my husband is a marriage and family therapist, who specializes in adhd and emotionally disturbed children.
the token system was mainly for our child who while my husband was deployed overseas started to become emotionally distressed and was acting out. he was diagnosed with mood disorder and severe anxiety and traces of OCD. his rigidity and mood swings made it very hard for us as a family and for the school your husband can testify, there are some children that sometimes have chemical imbalances (and if you don't believe in that well then i think i'll lose this explanation on you as well) he was placed on medications to help with some of the chemical imbalances, but my husband having a phd in this field, make the request as a family that we needed to help our child in his actions with some strict guidlines, and a lot of stability. that stability was brought on with knowing what everything cost and what the behavior was expected to "sometimes" get rewarded for it...the teachers and principal were on board at school as well, we had to tweak things as things would work and wouldnt work, but please flash forward 2 and half years to now...

my son is now a wonderful child again, he still has his ups and downs and we have no longer needed the token system...we do though pay our children an allowance every week for their jobs. and no they do not include cleaning up after themselves it includes taking care of sheep or cattle, and hard cleaning bathrooms, and mowing lawns.

i don't pay my children for being nice to each other, i don't pay them to clean their room, but i do reward them with kind words and an occasional ice cream or movie outing because, well sometimes i want my kids to feel appreciated for working hard for me as i like to be rewarded with kind words or an outing for all the hard work i do as well.

i hope that explains a little about our choices with our parenting.

sara said...

I realize that this post is a few years old, but am hoping that you'll still receive this comment and perhaps even be able to respond! I adore this idea and I'm going to try to get it rolling in our house this weekend. However, I have a question for you about your son (I think it was Nate?) that didn't really get on board right away because he didn't care... OMG, that is MY KID! How do you deal with a child like that!?

My son will be 6 in a few weeks and I'm scared for his teenage years for myself! I mean, honestly - he already has the behavior (snippy comebacks, biting remarks... he's quite a pro!) of a teenage boy, so I fear it will only get worse. If I tell him that if he makes a bad choice he'll have to deal with the consequences of that choice he shrugs and is like "oh well..." ugh! he's got his brother (who is 18 months younger) saying bad words with him (and we NEVER curse around them, I have been such a stickler about this, so it's SO FRUSTRATING!) and I've tried the whole "ignore it and they'll lose interest" route... and they just get louder like I can't hear! I read in the comment section that your husband specializes in children with ADHD, etc. so I am wondering if you have any pointers from him that might work.

Seriously, I feel at the end of my rope. I have tied that knot and hung on and it's beginning to fray, I fear! I told my husband today that I felt like we needed to find outside help for how to deal with our kids (especially my older son - he was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and I think that some of this might be a byproduct of that, I dunno, I don't want to blame EVERYTHING on SPD and not make him tow the mark, y'know?) but the sad thing is: I don't even know where to go to ask for help. And now I feel like a total loser leaving this super long comment on your blog post that is a few years old that only has a WEE TINY bit to do with what you posted! I'm sorry. Can you tell I'm desperate? ;) If nothing else, whew, this was cathartic! Thank you. And again, I apologize for the length of this comment. (And thank you for all the awesome tutorials.. you have rocked my socks!)

Anonymous said...

I have three kids who are good kids but they have a hard time with whining fighting cleaning rooms ect and think this is going to work for them! I was wondering where u purchased your jars? I know this was a while ago. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I love this idea! I was wondering if you by any chance had a sample of the daily report that was made for the teacher to fill out? My kid is terrible at school, I have to have parent teacher conferences about every week because of his behavior and I think a daily report for the teacher will help me. Thanks!

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