Thursday, July 28, 2011

Token System

A few summers ago, a sweet friend of mine created a way to reward her children with tokens that were traded in for special rewards. She created a token chart that listed expectations for the summer.  I thought it was fabulous and have been using a version of her token system for about a year now.

We began by deciding what contributions our children need to make so our family can function well.  These are typically things that NEED to be done everyday and they are age appropriate.  We are hoping to develop family unity and encourage responsibility, not laziness and boredom.  (If you desire more information on the heart issue of laziness, I encourage you to view this message from one of our pastors.)   These responsibilities are things that help the family and benefit the individual.  Some examples include making the bed, straightening their room and getting dressed before coming to the breakfast table.  We expect them to brush and floss, water plants, feed the dog, assist with preparing meals, help set the table (they each have their own job but are expected to help siblings with theirs) and unpacking their backpacks, dance or soccer bags when returning home.  These things we call "doing your part", it's just what's expected because you're part of our family and for the most part these are things they are to do without being reminded.

The next part is what they can do to earn tokens.  The name came from money guru Dave Ramsey, who suggests you have your kids work to earn commission, not allowance (a hand-out).  Our commission items are things that if not done, our family can still function, but they are very helpful.  I still have little ones so our  commission items include wiping down lower cabinet doors, cleaning glass doors, wiping down the outside of the fridge, vacuuming a room, filling a grocery bag with weeds or reading 3 books to a sibling.  Each commission item has its own token assignment.  For example, filling a bag with weeds earns 4 tokens while wiping the fridge earns 1 token.  This list will change as the kids become more capable and we have more age-appropriate ideas.  

We also set goals for each child.  If he/she completes a goal, the tokens are predetermined.  These are typically skills to be mastered and not things that are moral issues.  For example, they get tokens for things like mastering addition facts, going potty and staying dry, riding a bike without assistance, beating their time on swim team or learning to tie their shoes.

This is where it gets fun.  The kids get to trade-in their tokens for rewards.  In our home the rewards are money, candy, chocolate milk, 30 minutes of TV time or computer time, video games or crafting time, nails painted or a special lunch out with Mama or Daddy.  Each reward has a different number of tokens it requires.  This is the reason I think this system works.  Our kids are motivated by different things at different times.  My 3-year old didn't want to earn money until the ice cream man came to the pool.  Now when the kids really want a treat they can do something to earn one. Potty training is the bread and butter of my 3-year old's token earnings. My oldest is saving her money for an American Girl doll and every time the catalog comes she wants to do extras or meet goals to earn more tokens.  And my middle one has a sweet tooth the size of Texas so when she runs out of tokens, she's very motivated to fill up again.

So you may be thinking, but what do we use for tokens?  This is the idea I completely stole from my brilliant friend and it's worked well.  We use poker chips my husband won at work for our tokens.  Each child has his/her own magnetic spice container that is displayed on the fridge just above our token chart.  Our Token Chart has the four things mentioned above: Doing Your Part, Goals, Commission Items and Token Redemption.

I'm so excited about revising our Goals section just in time for the new school year.  I'm so proud of my kids and what they have accomplished over this past year.  I hope you have fun implementing a system like this!  Let us know how it goes or if you have good ideas for your family's token system.