Token Economy System

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by HowMuchLonger, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. HowMuchLonger

    HowMuchLonger New Member

    Has anyone heard of or tried this? It was suggested to me at the ER Friday night and I'm hoping for some input or ideas. At first I laughed and told her it was yet another glorified "sticker chart" but after researching it a bit, I guess it's used quite often in psychiatric and/or correctional settings. I can't say I've tried everything if I really haven't, so I'm going to give it a shot.

    My problem is coming up with a list of DO's. I don't want to make it too easy or too hard to achieve. Should I start small with things like "brush your teeth and you earn one token" (hygiene is a big cause for fighting here)...and then gradually make the token earning behaviours harder such as "full good day at school earns you one token" ? Or should I just put everything and anything that usually causes a problem on the earning list but with the bigger ones such as good day at school earning you 5 or 10 or more tokens?

    The other part is the generic times of day where nothing is really a problem per se, but the behaviours can quickly go downhill. For example, in the evening we're not worrying about getting ready for school, brushing teeth, homework etc...but the other stuff like fighting with brothers, yelling, arguing etc are all possibilities to happen at that time. How do I word that on my token earning list "no fighting with brothers all day" or "no fighting with brothers for 1 hour" or "no instigating fights or arguing" earns you X number of tokens at the end of the day. Basically how long should this list be and should I put every little thing on it that I can come up with or keep it small and manageable to start with.

    Secondly, we are limiting his freedom as of this weekend. He is only allowed to play on our street (one block) so he's in eyesight and earshot. He loves going to the park that is out of our eyesight but not to far (1.5 blocks). Should something like that be on the list of earnings...or should that be a total NO GO until he's built back up some trust.

    I hope these questions make some kind of sense. Thanks for any input
  2. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    Before you get too far down the token economy route, please read the Explosive child. I think it will help you a lot more than a token economy (in my experience).
    Sometimes the rigidity of the token economy only exacerbates rages and meltdowns. Particularly, if the things you are asking for are not achievable most of the time or involve grey areas (be nice to your brother). Plus the token economy thing will drive you crazy, give you arguments about whether he has earned privileges etc. For things that you don't think he can handle right now--going to park etc he just doesn't get to do. Not punishment, just not ready. My 14 year old I wouldn't let go to place to play by himself still for the most part--I know he would find someone to get in trouble with somehow. He is not being punished, just the way it is.

    I wouldnt punish your child for his behavior of the car--Explosive child mantra; he would behave if he could. I would spend the time thinking about ways to defuse confrontation (not going places in the first place, etc) at this point. And think about Risperdal low dose for a while to see if it helps. (see below).

    What we have found (after making all the mistakes in the book, etc) is that for kids like my youngest who tends to be more of a black and white thinker, being very specific and clear and not deviating. For example right now for him (not when he was younger) he does 1/2 reading every night before having TV. No exceptions. We monitor. We write out the list of things he has to do each night on paper--actually write them out -- take shower, read, etc before TV privileges. If we forget something on the list, well we have to forget it that night. This has cut down a lot on arguing. Most psychs have never raised difficult children.

    I also wanted to add that when my youngest first started on Adderall (which was a godsend) he would tend to be very aggressive in the afternoons after it was wearing off. We tried a small dose in the afternoon and that helped, but we then eventually we went to a low dose of Risperdal in the afternoon.
    It cut down on all the rages etc. You can also get a melt in your mouth Risperdal that works really quick and give it on an as needed basis.

    good luck.
  3. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hey there--

    I also feel like the "token economy" is nothing more than a glorified sticker chart....but then, perhaps I've not instituted it correctly...or that kind of stuff just doesn't work for my difficult child...

    At any rate, as you already pointed out, some things are bigger issues than others. Last time I out together a chart - I first organized issues by category.

    IOW - brushing hair, brushing teeth, takings showers....these are all in the "Hygiene" category.
    Doing homework, bringing home good grades, good reports from teachers...these are all in the "School" category

    You get the idea...

    Then there were things in the "No Tolerance" category - these were BIG issues, like hitting, stealing, etc...

    Once you have divided up your "Categories" there are lots of opportunities for your child to earn tokens. Maybe the Hygience Category is worth 10 tokens for completing all tasks....if they do some tasks, they can earn partial credit. Maybe the No Tolerance category is an "All or Nothing" category. 50 tokens for behaving - 0 for not.

    You decide whether to award points daily, weekly, mornings/evenings whatever...

    See how it goes...

    Good luck!
  4. HowMuchLonger

    HowMuchLonger New Member

    pepperidge, we too were unsure as to whether or not to implement it. husband and I have spent most of the day trying to come up with different token earners and rewards for those tokens and it's been difficult. Our difficult child is definitely a black and white thinker so we are trying to be careful to make the earners VERY clear with no room for arguement. ie Brush teeth, dressed for school by 8:30, 20 mins reading at night, 15 mins homework every night. Then the questions arose..well what if he wets the toothbrush, swishes it over this teeth 3 times and says "ok done where's my token", or sits at the table WITH homework but doesn't actually do it for the 15 mins so it's incredibly frustrating.

    I'm wondering too if it's just setting us and him up for failure...but we're desperate and I just want SOME peace...hell at this point if the kid does do the 3 swishes with a wet toothbrush it's better than what we've been getting from him so far and our dental bill is climbing!! I am going to find a copy of The Explosive child and read the heck out of it again. It's been about 5 years since I last held a copy in my hands and at the time we were reading it for difficult child 2 and a lot of it didn't apply to him so I didn't take much from it. We are waiting on the pediatrician's office to open tomorrow to get in there and discuss medication options.

    daisy, my thoughts too...glorified sticker chart. I was hoping the difference here would be that physical "I have these 10 tokens in my hand", than seeing a paper with some stickers on it...I just don't know. I know they used a similar system at the school program he attended and he did seem to "buy into it"...but of course, he buys in when he wants to. For example once he's earned the 20 tokens needed for the yo-yo he wanted by Wed. afternoon...the rest of the week was "screw you i don't need/want your stupid tokens." Only to begin again the next week. I think the categories think makes some sense. At this point we were going to implement very few token earners... and those are the triggers we KNOW for a fact are triggers (sometimes he goes off for no apparent reason). So far we have 9 on there that are reeeally difficult moments in our day. We decided to leave off the grayer "don't fight with brothers" for now until we get the easy ones under control and going smoothly.

    I don't think the token system will dispell the rages, as the rages are clearly NOT coming from "please brush your teeth"...but jsut make daily life a bit easier so when the rages may or may not happen we're not ready to strangle him and have a bit more patience and grace with him. Also, in conjunction with the token system i'm writing up a DOs and DONTs chart he can refer to.. basically all the things we tell him over and over that he seems to forget in the heat of the moment. I know in the midst of a rage he's not going to walk to the list and say "oops can't do that" and stop..but perhaps just seeing it with his eyes every day when he is in a cooperative mood might trigger something. Also something he said in the ER stuck with me that he gets ticked with husband and I always repeating hopefully the list will allow us to cut down on the repetition? crossing fingers at least something works
  5. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Could you add the words "to parental satisfaction" as part of completing the task?
  6. zba189

    zba189 Guest

    In my opinion, token systems work better in a treatment setting and not in a home environment. I'm not trying to dash your hopes though and I honestly feel like you have to try as many of the more simple systems because if you don't you'll have the "whatifs".
    As for the lists, our therapist suggested that when you make lists you change them up at times. The idea being that the yellow sheet of paper with blue writing becomes part of the scenery at your home and after time can be easily ignored. So, she says change the color of them, change where you put them, just do anything that calls attention to them and makes your GFC stop and pay attention to them.
  7. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    OK It will depend a lot on the kid but I have to say we did this with my son when he was about 5. It changed our lives for a time.... looking back I wish we could have done it forever! So let me say how we did it and why I think it worked. We called it our penny system. It worked better than a sticker chart because it was immediate and there were rewards he wanted that meant something to him. So I wore pants every day with two pockets. One was my pennies and one was his. Every time he did stuff well I put a penny in his pennies. If he misbehaved he would lose a penny. And a certain number of pennies earned certain rewards. The rewards were things he had been getting already for the most part... so he had to earn TV time, he had to earn sweets.... a lot of pennies would earn me buying him something but that did not happen very often. The important thing is to come up with things that he wants and is important to him. When we started I rewarded him very liberally for almost anything good that he did..... and would take pennies away only when necessary. It worked magically with my son. I think a lot would depend on the kid but for us it helped keep me consistent, and it helped me keep my cool. If he misbehaved I calmly took a penny. Both my husband and I did this as did our babysitter and the preschool. We started it because we were desperate to do something. I didn't worry about the philosphies of weather it is a good idea or not, I needed something to help get his behavior in line. It created a structure, clear rules and clear consequences and my son responded really really well to that. It was helpful for me who is not naturally a very structured type person. It really was a huge help at the time and it turned things around in our house until he become a teen and then things fell apart.....which was a whole other set of issues.
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Nice to see you, Pepperidge!

    I add toothbrushing and showering to the list because my son doesn't "get it" yet ... even though he has improved immensely since having a girlfriend.

    It's more than a sticker chart with-us. It's more of "give to get." He doesn't brush his teeth, he doesn't get lunch made for him, or TV, or whatever. Usually, I wait until he asks me for something and then I work backward from there. Since he's always asking for something, that makes it easier. )
  9. Star*

    Star* call 911

    I can give you two letters to what I think this whole system is -

    This for our kids does nothing more than aggitate them. Moslty because it says I FAIL. I fail at a lot. They are more about extremely short term goals, rewards and punishments. EXTREMELY. Stickers and stars and tokens don't work. They see it, they want it? They take it. This is not stickers and stars.

    We did every chart, and token system you could think of with our son and NOTHING worked.

    In class the teacher did a GEM system and that seemed to work a little better - at the beginning of the day - each child got 1 rubies, 1diamond, and 1 emerald. Each good thing they did earned them a gem, each demerit they got - cost them a gem. At the end of the day? They could buy trinkets with their gems, or they could BANK their gems for a bigger prize at the end of the week. Once a gem was banked? It couldn't be taken.

    Dude seemed to really LOVE that system. All the kids did - they carried the gems around in their pockets like they had literally struck
    gems - they sparkled and for some reason I have yet to meet a difficult child that didn't dig bling. They could also earn privleges as they moved up higher on the earning scale. Dude got to bring in his walkman to class for 1 diamond, and 2 emeralds. Have no idea why that system worked and nothing else did.

    We tried it at home - and it didn't work - NO COMPETITION. No one to show off to. Not sure how that could be modified to work at home - not even money worked. - Now at 20? Money But he doesn't live here any more.

    Good luck finding a system and a motivator that works.
  10. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    What's helping (at the moment, since NO system has lasted long with Kiddo), is thus: if I get NO calls from school about bad behavior, then on Friday on the way home she gets a McD's sundae or shake. She also gets to decide if I've earned one.
    If she's been good at home for a week (meaning no major tantrums, huffing and whatnot I let slide on this one, throwing or knocking over stuff, hitting, biting, are not acceptable, chores are not included) then I will order a pizza to her liking.
    So far she's earned 3 sundaes and 2 pizzas (would be 4 sundaes, but one week she was either sick or had snow days, and 1.5 days of school doesn't count in my book and she couldn't have eaten it anyway).

    Now I'll grant she also had a major medication change during this time, and that likely was a greater contributor than this system, but it doesn't hurt to have the positive reinforcement and a reminder. This keeps school and home separate, and the goals are short-term.
  11. totiredtofight

    totiredtofight New Member

    my mom tried this method at her house to try to control the chaos of 10 grandchildren (all there for the weekends at the same time ) in age ranges on 15 down to 2. It worked for one weekend and most of the older kids just didn't care if they earned the tokens or not (which could be traded in on Sundays or banked for larger more expensive items ) eventually the younger kids stopped caring for the tokens also. who would have thought that the teenagers wouldn't want to earn tokens for items such as video games,jewelry,ATVs and trips. there was one child who did earn enough tokens in one weekend to earn a new ATV (no idea how he racked up 1000 tokens) would figure it was my difficult child 1 however when it arrived it started it pulled it into the garage where it has been sitting since. tokens were quickly thrown away like all the other star and reward charts that had been tried.( all prizes were purchased in advance for the kiddos instant gratification) which was also a mistake on my moms part since she has 3 other kid size ATVs in storage and lost money on a ticket for the largest prize of a Caribbean cruise (with her and my dad) .. maybe she should have offered the prizes to us parents lol
  12. idohope

    idohope Member

    I have also tried this, with mixed results. Caused huge rages until difficult child "bought into" the system, which she eventually did somewhat. So things definitely got worse with this before they got better. We were instructed that intially to focus on a limited number of behaviors that were relatively easily acheiveable. So we focused on getting to school and bedtime. (Get up 1 point; Eat breakfast 2; brush teeth 3; get dressed 1 etc) so more points for things that difficult child was more resistant to. No points were removed if these things were not done.

    Two important items were Good Attitude and Calm Space, 3 and 5 points respectively. So we could award "good attitude" points whenever someone was being good/helpful/nice. So a really strong focus on the right behavior. And Calm space: if there was a rage difficult child could earn points by handling it appropriately so encouraging difficult child to go to a calm space to get back in control.

    After a couple of months we added in taking away points. Initially for any hitting or hurting others.

    We were also advised to have the kids participate in determing the rewards. This may help to identify things that will motivate them. We did not do TV time. It is complicated with 3 kids. What if one does not earn and the other kid is watching. We have an open concept house and it is too hard to banish a kid from the whole first floor so they do not see the show a sibling is watching. Rewards were time alone with Mom or Dad doing something of the kids choosing; playdates; sleepovers; and we had bigger things that they could bank points for.

    My main problem with the token economy was that husband would not participate and would sometimes actively work against it (giving the kids for free the what they were supposed to be earning with points). So in a two parent household both parents need to be on the same page. Although we have not used the system in a year or so the whiteboard we used for tracking is still in the house and easy child 2 (who is a borderline difficult child) actually askes me pretty regularly if we can re-instate the system. I may do it but I must say it does take a lot of effort to set up and maintain. But I think it would be very effective for easy child 2 so I may do it.