If you are my personal friend or knew me at my old blog, you can skip this post. However, I’m going to re-write it for my new friends who might find it useful. Today, I’m going to talk about the token system we use at my house.
Every childhood/parenting expert I’ve ever heard has spoken about “currency” when motivating a child. “Find their currency,” they will say. Is it video games? Clothes? Treats at the store? Whatever it is that is most dear to your child is your bargaining chip in parenting. That is the basic theme in their advice. At my house, I had to come up with a system that incorporated all of that but was easy for me to deal with and administer. For me, it’s my token system.
Basically, I “pay” my children in tokens. It is their allowance. When they do their chores. When I’m trying to motivate them. When I catch them being good. Whatever. Anytime I want to give them a little something, I make it uniform by giving them a token (or more) for it.
The tokens had to be something that was cheap and unique to each kid. I landed on popsicle sticks. I painted them in three different colors. Why? So that no kid would ever be tempted to claim a popsicle stick from a sibling’s collection. The problem with actually giving them money is that a) when it’s sitting on the coffee table and child 1 and 2 both claim it’s theirs, I don’t know who to believe and b) if it’s an amount that is significant and they lose it, I’d be really mad. I know I shouldn’t be because it’s “their” money but I know myself well enough to know that I would be mad. If you decide to implement this system at your house, I’d recommend looking around for whatever is cheap and on hand. Poker chips would work too. The actual tokens aren’t that important.
The tokens can be valued at any amount that makes sense to you in your family. At my house, a token is worth about .25 – .33 cents because that’s about how much a silly band costs and those are about the lowest price item I have as a reward.
This system is also a lovely thing to have in place because when you’re at the store and your child has a case of the I-want-itis, you can buy that item they say they want so much. Then you put the token value on it and put it in your “store.” If they lose interest in it and don’t earn it, you can either return it or give it away at the next birthday party they are invited to.
At my house, our “store” opens up about once a week. Usually on Saturdays. Sometimes less if no one has done anything to collect tokens lately. On that day, I open up the store (a big trunk) and the kids count their tokens and go shopping for the items in the store. Everything from silly bands, to individual packs of fruit chews (my kids go crazy for those things), to Bakugan or Zhu Zhu pets. The token amount on each item corresponds to the amount of money I paid for it. $1 = 3 tokens. My favorite thing to put in the store is consumable or intangible items. Fruit chews (which they don’t get in my house unless they buy it in the store) or tickets for an hour on the Wii. Creative things that don’t actually cost me money. For those, I just make up a token value. Enough to make it special but not so much that it’s unattainable to a young kid.
Here is my favorite part of the system. When I ask a child to pick up the family room one time and they don’t do it, I have to do it. Every time I have to do something that they should have taken care of, they have to pay me. If it’s toys in the family room, I pick them up and put them in the store. They have to buy them back. Eureka! It was so beautiful when that occurred to me. Why is it so wonderful? Well, for one, I don’t have to nag them about it. And the other reason is because once something has gone unclaimed in the store for long enough, I can get rid of it because I know it’s not really that important to them after all. Another way they have to pay me for doing their chore is to physically hand me back a token. Since it’s our currency, they have to pay me when they forget to clear their plate at the dinner table and I have to do it for them. As I am clearing the plate, I call the child away from what they are doing to go get a token out of their bucket and pay me with it. That also serves two purposes. The child is interrupted from what they are doing to go get me the token and it’s a little painful if they are saving up for that Bakugan item.
It has been a wonderful addition to my house. It’s suited to all three of my age levels. It allows them to learn about money management in a suitable manner. I recommend you consider it! Tweak it and make it work for your family.