Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Behavior Modification (a.k.a. The Token Jar)

The token jar is nothing new, lots of parents use this kind of tool with their kids.  We’ve gone with different variations of this over the years, but the premise has always been the same:  good behavior means more tokens earned, bad behavior means no tokens earned.  It’s as simple as that.
But we’ve come along with a little twist, and it’s been working wonderfully. 
Here’s how we do it:
Each child has the opportunity to earn multiple tokens a day, in several different ways.  At lunchtime, dinnertime and bedtime we evaluate behavior.  If the kids were good, with good attitudes and kind hearted behavior they’ll earn a token.  Evaluating throughout the day helps us to stay consistent with them, and helps them to remember that their behavior does matter.
They also are watched all day by this Mom and Dad.  We  love to catch them making good choices and exhibiting self control and behaving in a way that’s decent and kind.  When we do we quickly reward them with extra tokens.
You may have noticed  the small jar with popsicle sticks up there.  That’s our chore chart, so to speak.  Every day each child pulls one green stick, that stick contains their job for the day.  I have three kids who are young, so we’re easing into the daily chore thing.  The sticks are for dishwasher unloading, kitchen sweeping and table clearing.  Each stick chore done right earns a token, each stick chore that has to be done by mom or dad requires the offender to pay out a token.  That’s painful, but effective.  We’ve also got similar sticks for weekly chores.  It’s such a great way to teach them to get housework done, and to instill responsibility.  We do the same for clean rooms too-rooms need to be tidy at the end of the day, whether Mom or Dad do that or not doesn’t matter.  But if Mom or Dad have to do that then each kid looses a token.  This one really works.
Now all this good behavior is great, but a little reward and some incentives go a long way.  We keep this simple, the kids can use their tokens to buy things or rewards.  Ten tokens can be turned into one candy treat when we’re grocery shopping, twenty tokens can be turned into a later bedtime or one dollar, forty tokens can be turned into three dollars or a special outing with Mom or Dad.  As of now, the girls are totally going for candy, and Levi is totally going for the cash.  They love having some options and choices.  They did just recently pool their money to buy a goldfish, who now spends one week in the girls’ room and one in Levi’s, joint custody and all.
We’ve been using this system for a few months now, and I gotta say it’s working really well.  They’re realizing the consequences of their behavior and understanding how their choices affect things.  And, even better, the whining about chores and cleaning has dramatically decreased. 
Bottom line: we’re all very happy.  It’s working for us, and we like it that way.
What kind of behavior tricks have you used for your kids?


  1. Love it! We do chore tickets (that translate into cash). It's solved the asking for stuff at the store. They can save up their chore tickets and make their own choices. I love the idea that if mom or dad has to do the chore they have to give up a token. We haven't done that! We definitely need to add that variable! Thanks.

  2. Great idea! You have tons of great ideas, so much so that I decided to give you an award:

    Have a great day!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. I love your blog! We haven't hit the token-reward stage yet around here, but I'm so glad to have such great ideas for when that time comes. I know it'll be here before I know it.

    On a side note, I've got to be one of John Eldredge's biggest fans. Amazing, amazing.

  4. I LOVE the idea for the daily chores, that is brillant! It changes up from day to day, so the kids get to do different things. I'll be honest, I've toyed with the idea of doing a "jar" for awhile now, but didn't know how well it would work (read: would Mommy follow through with it). But your system seems really doable, I think I'm going to do it!

  5. Looks like you've got a great system!

    My eldest has a 'chore' chart - on my blog it's the 'felt picture chore chart' it's really just things he needs to take care of in the morning...I like your stick method to help out with household chores, I'l have to keep that one in my back pocket! ;)

    We have a cup method that is used for discipline
    ('discipline in a cup' on my blog)

    I've been turning my wheels lately on some way to recognize good behavior as well, because I'd really like to focus on the positive over correcting the negative to improve behavior - thanks for sharing! ;)

  6. love the monogram on the jars. are they stickers? found you through just the right angle. your blog is great! i do like what i see so i am now following you so i don't miss a thing! hope you come by my way sometime~


  7. OMG!!! I have never blogged before but I'm glad I did this time. I'm having behavior issues with my Girl Scout Troop of 13 9-10 year old girls in the fourth grade. We have one consistent disrespectful Girl Scout who has to be told nearly ten times per meeting to please be quiet and listen to the leaders (myself and another mom) and to listen to her peers when they are talking. She plays with whatever is in front of her and will try to get the other girls to pay attention to her. We had all the girls sign a responsibilty contract at the first meeting back on September 10 but it's like they just signed it and then forgot it, especially this one girl. Last week my co-leader and I were trying to come up with some type of behavior modification techniques and we asked the girls what they thought would be appropriate. One girl said the clip system that the teachers use at their school but I don't want Girl Scouts to feel like school so we decided against that one. Another girl suggested a time out chair in another room in my house. That was a possibility. Another said an observation chair which is similar to a time out chair but the girl would still be sitting in view of the rest of the girls so she can see what proper behavior looks like. This is used by the art teacher at their school and it seems to work there. Then the problematic girl, who had been "pick me, pick me" with her hand up the whole time, puts her hand down and decides not to share her idea. I, not realizing that her suggestion was disrespectful and hurtful, told her that it was ok for her to share her idea. She proceeded to tell me and my co-leader "Why don't you let us be kids and just have fun?" I was shocked as were the other girls in the troop and my co-leader and another mom who was there helping with her daughter's badge work. My co-leader asked her if she had been having fun for the past few months and she said that she was but.... I then told her that we put a lot of thought into all the fun activities that the troop does for two hours at my house every single Friday after school. I also told her that Girl Scouts isn't a play date and that if all she wants to do is play with out rules and without learning something worthwhile that she should just have her mom plan playdates for her since that would be a more free environment to do whatever she wanted to do. Then I said that I had to leave the room and that my co-leader and the other mom would run the rest of the meeting. I had to leave to think about what she said and to get away from the situation. So after reading your positive reinforcement behavior techniques I think I have found our troop's solution to the constant chaos. We were using a Kaper chart for weekly troop chores/responsibilities but now I will do the popsicle stick idea to change it up and make it random. I will also use the jar idea to reward the good behavior (like respecting authority, others and paying attention, good manners and being kind and helpful to other-all in the Girl Scout Law by the way!). I will also put down a bigger popsicle stick in bright colors in front of girls who are not being respectful and if they get three big popsicle sticks, they're out- which translates to strikes you're out. That girl would have to sit in the observation chair for the rest of the meeting. It may sound drastic but that is how disruptive and attention seeking this girl is!!! I want the girls who behave and are respectful to be rewarded so they realize that being considerate and respectful is the correct way to behave toward other people. Hopefully, this will turn into a learning experience for all of us in the troop. Thanks, again, for the great ideas from sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida!

  8. How often do you let them buy rewards? Daily, just the weekends?? We just started doing this in my house and I am trying to figure out if we should wait until Friday for them to buy things so they can accumulate lots of tokens throughout the week and b to buy a little something each week, but also save so they can get a bigger reward.


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