My nephew was about three years old when my sister decided to put him in a day care facility because she was worried about his lack of interaction with other children. Isaiah, my nephew, was spoiled and his behavior needed to change in order for him to cope with his new environment, preschool. We needed his behavior to change and quickly.
My sisters decide to give him a star for every desirable behavior, which I now know to be a token economy. As soon as Isaiah would reach ten stars then he would be able to pick from his treasure chest, which included a toy, activities, or even going to Disneyland. This article will discuss some quick tips in order to run a successful token economy.
What is a Token Economy?
A token economy “is to strengthen clients’ desirable behaviors that occur too frequently and to decrease their undesirable behaviors in a structured treatment environment or educational setting” (Miltenberger, 2008, P. 498). The key to a token economy is to make sure the child receives their token directly after the desirable behavior is achieved. If the token is not received after the target behavior then there is no incentive for the child to continue the behavior.
Defining the Target Behavior
The point of running a token economy is to implement the target behavior in hopes the behavior will be reinforced by the child (Miltenberger 2008).
First, you must identify the target behavior to the child, one of Isaiah’s biggest obstacles was he did not want to potty in the toilet. The preschool he would be attending it was a requirement for the child to be potty trained.
At the time we had Disneyland passes and we would go on a regular basis. If Isaiah wanted to go to Disneyland he would have to go to the bathroom in the toilet all day. To show initiative, Isaiah would have to use the bathroom successfully before we left the house for Disneyland. It was explain to him, if he did not continue to use the restroom the rest of the day, we would leave Disneyland.
You must identify the exact behavior you are looking for in order for the child to fully understand what is expected (Miltenberger 2008).
Identify the Items to use as a Token
The token the child receives must be something the child is able to receive immediately after the target behavior has been reinforced by the child (Miltenberger 2008). The reinforcer must be something the child can control, such as marker to check of good behavior or even stickers to keep track of the desired behavior.
If the child is able to control the action of working towards the goal, this gives a child more incentive to work for the goal. When Isaiah worked on potty training from home, he would have a star chart; every time he went to the bathroom in the toilet he gave himself a star on the chart.
Identify Backup Reinforcers
One of the main reason why a token economy works is because there is a “backup reinforces,” which the child can exchange for their tangible objects (Mitlenberg 2008). In Isaiah’s case, when working from home; if he reached his goal he would receive a prize from his treasure chest, various items, toys, activities, or games bought from the ninety-nine cent store. Backup reinforcers are only available to the child if they purchase the reinforcer from their tokens (Miltenberg 2008).
Deciding on the Appropriate Schedule of Reinforcement
If you are the individual who is reinforcing the behavior then you must develop a schedule of how the reinforcement will be implemented to the child. If the behavior is occurring on a regular pattern then you must define how many times the child displays the behavior in order to receive the reinforcer for their tokens (Miltenberger 2008).
In the case of Isaiah, when he would receive ten stars then he would be able to give those ten stars up for a chance to look into the treasure chest and pick a toy. The reinforcer must be quick for the child to receive the reinforcer and the target behavior to be implemented.
A token economy is not only used by parents, can be used in a classroom or in a marriage. Token economy work well with children because they are constantly in a learning process and we are able to modify their behavior. Simple tips that may help in order to mold their children’s behavior.
MILTENBERGER, R. G. (2008). Behavior modification, principles and procedures. (pp. 497-519). thomas learning Inc.
Boniecki, K. A., & Moore, S. (2003). Breaking the silence: Using a token economy to reinforce classroom participation. Teaching Of Psychology, 30(3), 224-227. doi:10.1207/S15328023TOP3003_05
Nelson, K. G. (2010). Exploration of classroom participation in the presence of a token economy. Journal Of Instructional Psychology, 37(1), 49-56.
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