An article written in 2001.
We always tied privileges (like watching TV solely for entertainment) to our kids’ responsibilities. The idea was that when they’d done what they needed to do for the day, they could watch TV or play a computer game or go outside for a boffer sword battle. They didn’t always see the relationship, though, and sometimes whichever child wasn’t permitted to have a certain privilege until he or she finished an assigned task insisted that it was simply unfair.
We ended up with the token system. Various tasks were assigned a value based on how difficult or unpleasant the task was and how long it was expected to take. Various privileges also had token values, based on how limited a particular resource needed for the privilege might be. For instance, a multiplayer game of Starcraft took up the use of at least two PCs, so that cost more tokens than any single-player game or just watching TV.
Our tokens were flat glass marbles that we normally used during roleplaying games as counters. I’ve heard of other people using poker chips in a similar fashion. Different colors had different values: clear purple tokens were worth one point, solid yellow were worth ten points, solid greens were twenty points, etc. Each child had a special container for his or her tokens. We converted plastic boxes that formerly contained brown Basmati rice and then had the kids decorate them so that each one was unique.
Each morning, the kids got their task cards and looked through them. Throughout the day, as they completed a task they traded the card in for the token value of the task on it. When they wanted to use a privilege, they went to an adult and turned in the appropriate tokens to get started.
While we’d already come up with our list of things that need to be done while creating our card system, the token values were subject to adjustment throughout the time we used the system as we got a better idea of the time required for each task. While we had a lot of things on the privilege list, we kept working on that too. We expected that things like a family outing to see a movie would be valuable to the kids, but Katie requested the addition of an hour of total solitude as a privilege. Staying up late was on the list, too, although it was only allowed once a week per child.
The token system actually turned into a discipline tool. Instead of getting angry when one of the kids was disrespectful, they were fined tokens. If they didn’t do one of the things they were expected to do (like getting up on time, remembering to brush their teeth, etc.) it cost them tokens. Of course, if they do something above and beyond what was expected, they got extra tokens as a reward. Since a lack of tokens translated directly to a lack of privileges, it was easier for the kids to see that, for instance, backtalk wasn’t beneficial for anyone.