Using a token economy to encourage good behavior

Last week I posted a picture of our kitchen area and several folks asked about the mason jar/tongue depressor situation. I thought I would share our reward system that we call "Sticks."  It works really well for us and is a great motivator to encourage positive behavior. I’ve posted about our screen time sticks in the past and we’ve implemented a similar method for behavior.

Using a token economy to encourage good behavior

I am a huge fan of using token economies with children. I think it removes parents from the nagging cycle and really helps to solidify house rules and expectations. I love that it encourages and reinforces positive behavior rather than punishing negative behavior, so that it's aspirational rather than punitive. I also find that it keeps my emotional reactivity lower because I've got a bargaining chip that the kids care about. We already use a token economy for screen time using the same jar/stick method. We used to use charts for behavior, but printing out a new chart each week became a chore, and hanging them in the living room was an eyesore. In our new house, I wanted to find a method that didn't require printing . . . that was simple and easy and not completely hideous to have in plain sight.

Easy reward system for kids

To make this system, I bought several mason jars with handles and then labeled them with some cute removeable labels from Martha Stewart. Then I bought some jumbo craft sticks to use as counters. (Okay, that's not entirely true. I bought tongue depressors, not realizing they would come individually wrapped. I recommend the craft sticks. Same size. less work.)

On a sligtly larger jar, I wrote down the behaviors they are working for to earn each stick. For us, we're working on:

Respect
Obedience
Clean room
Manners and voice
Honesty

I would recommend more specific goals for younger kids - things that are easier to understand like "staying in bed at bedtime" and "putting your shoes away."  But we've moved into a stage where I wanted to start working on character all day.

a simple but effective behavioral reward system for kids
Each night, the kids have the opportunity to earn 5 sticks. Once they get to 30, they get a prize. They always know what prize they are working towards and it is usually something I would have bought anyway. We've worked towards earning new school backpacks, Halloween costumes, new PJ's, new watches, new sunglasses, etc. If the kids are begging for something from the store, I will often buy it and tell them they can earn it with sticks.

Since they have to get 30, my kids usually earn a prize a week. I am judicious with giving out sticks - they really have to be mindful of their behavior all day. And for us . . . it REALLY WORKS.  I'd watched these tactics employed in classrooms using marbles and noticed how motivated kids are by arbitrary rewards. All it takes most days is a simple "you're about to lose a stick" threat and my kids are back in line.

Using a token economy to encourage good behavior

So . . . that's our reward system in a nutshell.

Do you have any kind of reward system or discipline chart at home? What do the kids work on? How do you keep track of it? What do you use as rewards?

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