Catch Them Being Good: Using a Simple Token Reward System at Home
Brief Introduction: Almost all parents are confronted with difficult behavior from their child every now and then. However, finding a practical solution to the issue is not always as easy as one would expect. Well-meaning professionals may try to advise you to use behavior management techniques using technical language and “jargon” that can be overwhelming and sometimes incomprehensible. However, it is possible to navigate the sea of behavior support confusion by trying something that is straightforward, easy, and fairly successful–“fairly” because the truth of the matter is that nothing works all the time and no one strategies works forever.
One such behavior intervention to try at home is a system for identifying and then recognizing your child’s use of desired behaviors. This behavior modification strategy is typically referred to as a “reinforcement system” in which you reward your child’s use of positive behaviors in order to increase them and decrease the less desirable behaviors. The following information details how to develop a reinforcement or “reward” system” (often called a “token system”) in which your child earns tokens for exhibiting desired behaviors. This system is like the opposite of a “swear word jar” in which one is penalized for using bad language by having to forfeit money (aka “the tokens”) by depositing their own coins/dollars into a jar when one is caught cursing. In this system, the idea is for your child to get “caught” using the good behaviors you want to see. When you catch them doing this, you recognize this desired behavior by placing a token in a container for them. Once a predetermined number of tokens has been earned by the child, this can be celebrated by doing something fun as a family or by awarding your child with a reward.
One of the many benefits of this kind of token system is that it encourages everyone to recognize when children are meeting our expectations, rather than always focusing on correcting them when they fall short. Frequently acknowledging when your child follows the rules and meets your behavior expectations helps us learn to pay more attention to the behaviors we want to see happen again and again (rather than to the behaviors we wish would go away). Another “plus” is that this system is based on the idea of intermittently reinforcing the desired behavior—this means that you don’t have to “catch” them every single time they do something good and put a token in the container. You award the tokens “intermittently”, which allows for the possibility to have day(s) when you might even forget to use the system. The specific steps to follow when setting up this “Catch Them Being Good Token System” are outlined in this article, including how to avoid the most common mistakes and “pitfalls” encountered when setting up this kind of support.