How to Create Behavior Contracts

Your Most Challenging Students Require Creative Discipline Solutions

Teacher looks unhappy with student
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Every teacher has at least one challenging student in her class, a child who needs extra structure and incentive to change bad behavior habits. These aren't bad kids; they often just need a little extra support, structure, and discipline.

Behavior contracts can help you mold the behavior of these students so that they no longer disrupt learning in your classroom.

What Is a Behavior Contract?

A behavior contract is an agreement between the teacher, student, and the student's parents that sets limits for student behavior, rewards good choices, and outlines consequences for bad choices. This type of program sends a clear message to the child by communicating with them that their disruptive behavior cannot continue. It lets them know your expectations and what the consequences of their actions, both good and bad, will be. 

Step 1, Customize the Contract

First, make a plan for change. Use this behavior contract form as a guide for the meeting you will soon have with the student and his/her parents. Tailor the form to your particular situation, taking into consideration the personality and preferences of the child you are helping.

Step 2, Set Up A Meeting

Next, hold a meeting with the involved parties. Perhaps your school has an assistant principal in charge of discipline; if so, invite this person to the meeting. The student and his/her parents should attend as well.

Focus on 1 to 2 particular behaviors that you would like to see change. Don't try to change everything at once. Take baby steps toward major improvement and set goals that the student will perceive as achievable. Make it clear that you care about this child and want to see him/her improve in school this year. Emphasize that the parent, student, and teacher are all part of the same team. 

Step 3, Communicate the Consequences

Define the tracking method to be used on a daily basis for monitoring student behavior. Describe the rewards and consequences that correlate with behavior choices. Be very specific and clear in this area and use quantitative explanations whenever possible. Involve the parents in designing a system of rewards and consequences. Make sure that the chosen consequences are truly important to this particular child; you can even ask the child for input which will make him/her buy into the process even further. Have all involved parties sign the agreement and end the meeting on a positive note.

Step 4, Schedule a Follow-Up Meeting

Schedule a follow-up meeting 2 to 6 weeks from your initial meeting to discuss progress and make adjustments to the plan as needed. Let the child know that the group will be meeting again soon to discuss their progress.

Step 5, Be Consistent in the Classroom

In the meantime, be very consistent with this child in the classroom. Stick to the wording of the behavior contract agreement as much as you can. When the child makes good behavior choices, offer praise. When the child makes poor choices, do not be apologetic; if needed, pull out the contract and review the terms that the child agreed upon. Emphasize the positive consequences that can come as a result of good behavior and enforce any negative consequences of the child's bad behavior that you agreed upon in the contract. 

Step 6, Be Patient and Trust the Plan

Most of all, be patient. Do not give up on this child. Misbehaved children often need extra love and positive attention and your investment in their well-being can go a long way. 

In Conclusion

You might be surprised at the huge feeling of relief that all involved parties feel just by having an agreed-upon plan. Use your teacher's intuition to start yourself on a more peaceful and productive path with this child.

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Your Citation
Lewis, Beth. "How to Create Behavior Contracts." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Lewis, Beth. (2020, August 27). How to Create Behavior Contracts. Retrieved from Lewis, Beth. "How to Create Behavior Contracts." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).

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