How To Use A Token Economy To Shape Your Childs Behavior

How To Use A Token Economy To Shape Your Childs Behavior



A token economy is​ a​ behavioral modification technique that was first used in​ mental institutions to​ reinforce and​ establish desirable behaviors in​ their patients. Today you can find token economies being used in​ schools, treatment programs, and​ some families have found its usefulness in​ shaping their children's behavior. the​ token economy is​ a​ system in​ which targeted behaviors are reinforced with tokens (secondary reinforcers) and​ are later exchanged for​ rewards (primary reinforcers). Tokens can be in​ the​ form of​ fake money, buttons, poker chips, stickers, etc. While rewards can range anywhere from snacks to​ privileges/activities.

To establish a​ token economy in​ your home first you must identify the​ behaviors you want your children to​ change (desirable behaviors). These behaviors could include completing homework, brushing teeth, coming home on time, completing chores, not arguing, going to​ bed without a​ hassle, etc. You will want to​ limit your focus to​ a​ maximum of​ three or​ four behaviors at​ a​ time in​ order to​ keep things manageable.

Next, decide what you will use for​ tokens. You may want to​ assign different tokens for​ each of​ your children to​ reduce the​ risk of​ taking each other's tokens. You will also want to​ use something that can't be counterfeited.

Primary reinforcers need to​ be identified and​ can include such things as​ snacks, activities, or​ privileges like watching television, playing at​ a​ friends, computer time, etc. Now that the​ desired behaviors are identified, as​ are the​ primary reinforcers, you will need to​ set a​ value for​ each of​ them. That is, when a​ desired behavior occurs how many tokens is​ it​ going to​ be worth. Also, when your child wants to​ exchange the​ tokens they have earned for​ a​ primary reinforcer, there will need to​ be a​ predetermined value placed on the​ primary reinforcer. for​ example, if​ your child goes the​ entire day without fighting with their brother they could earn one or​ two tokens. as​ a​ primary reinforcer you could have playing at​ a​ friends house. it​ could cost them thee tokens. the​ trick is​ striking the​ right balance between what they are earning each day and​ what they will typically expend on primary reinforcers. if​ tokens come to​ easily then the​ primary reinforcers lose their value. While if​ primary reinforcers are priced too high or​ tokens are too difficult to​ earn then your child may give up.

Now that you have they system in​ place you are ready to​ implement it. First, identify three or​ four behaviors you want to​ reinforce. Then list them and​ decide how many tokens each behavior is​ going to​ be worth. You may want to​ put this list on the​ fridge or​ some place where it​ can be easily seen. Next you will identify what will be used as​ primary reinforcers and​ determine how many tokens each will cost. This list should be placed some place easily seen too.

When you catch your children engaging in​ the​ behaviors you have identified, reinforce the​ behavior by providing the​ predetermined number of​ tokens. it​ is​ important to​ couple the​ dispersing of​ tokens with a​ behavioral description of​ what you saw and​ verbal praise. Eventually, you will want to​ move on to​ other behaviors that you want to​ reinforce and​ will rely solely on verbal praise to​ maintain previously established behaviors. the​ reinforcement schedule should transition from a​ continuous schedule of​ reinforcement (1 behavior : 1 token) to​ a​ variable ration schedule of​ reinforcement (3-5 behavior : 1 token). Last you will fade out tokens completely using only praise to​ maintain the​ behavior. You will then focus on other behaviors and​ repeat the​ same pattern.

Your children will need to​ be responsible to​ keep track of​ and​ manage the​ tokens they earn. There will come a​ time when they will want to​ purchase a​ primary reinforcers. They should always pay for​ them before being allowed to​ engage in​ or​ partake of​ primary reinforcers otherwise the​ program loses its credibility. if​ they run out of​ or​ lose their tokens they simply can not purchase a​ primary reinforcer until they have earned enough.

What does this kind of​ a​ reinforcement system do for​ your children? it​ takes away the​ sense of​ entitlement a​ lot of​ kids have today. Instead of​ expecting privileges or​ activities for​ nothing on their part, they now have to​ earn them by the​ acquisition of​ tokens through their good behavior. a​ token economy can help a​ child be more responsible and​ teach them how to​ manage their resources. Something else that it​ does is​ teaches children to​ delay gratification where the​ world teaches them to​ expect and​ desire instant gratification. Lastly, the​ token economy can be used to​ extinguish misbehaviors and​ establish positive behaviors.

A token economy will require some effort on the​ part of​ the​ parent but the​ benefits far outweigh the​ small amount of​ time a​ parent has to​ invest in​ the​ program each day.




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