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How to Create Behavior Contracts

Your Most Challenging Students Require Creative Discipline Solutions


Teacher looks unhappy with student
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Sample Behavior Contract

You know the kids I'm talking about. 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, just children who 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. Thus, you can, slowly but surely, take control and see concrete improvement fast.

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 that "This behavior can not continue. Here is what we need to see from you and here is what you will see in response to your choices in the classroom."

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, too. The student and his/her parents should attend as well.

Focus on 1-2 particular behaviors that you would like to see change. Don't try to change everything at once. Take baby steps toward major improvement so that it feels more "do-able" to the child. Also, the parents will feel less defensive towards you if you make it seem like there's only a little "fine-tuning" to be done. Make it clear that you called this meeting because 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. Convey that "I can't do it without you. We're all in this together."

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. Use quantitative numbers wherever possible. Involve the parents in providing the rewards and consequences, taking much of the pressure of enforcement out of your hands. Constant school-to-home communication will go a long way towards significant progress with this child. 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 to discuss progress and make adjustments to the plan as needed. The follow-up meeting should be in 2-6 weeks, depending upon your assessment of the situation. Let the child know that the group will be meeting again soon to discuss 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 to a "t." When the child makes good behavior choices, heap sincere praise upon him/her. When the child makes not so good choices, do not be apologetic; if needed, pull out the contract and review the terms that were agreed upon. Emphasize the positives that come along with good behavior choices and help the child to get used to new habits of good behavior.

Step 6 - Be Patient And Trust The Plan

Most of all, be patient. Do not give up on this child. While you may feel like pulling your hair out right now, as you see the child grow and develop, you may find this relationship to be one of the most rewarding of your teaching career. Such children often need extra love and positive attention so don't let your frustrations get the best of you.

In Conclusion

You might be surprised at the huge feeling of relief that all involved parties feel just by having an agreed-upon plan. Now that you all know how to proceed, a happy ending is in sight. Use your teacher's intuition to start yourself on a more peaceful and productive path with this child.

Good luck!

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