What is a behavior change contract?
Student Behavior contract tend to work best for children in second grade and above, all the way through high school. A student behavior change contract is effective if it can help improve self-monitoring skills. When students play a significant role in its creation, they are more like to abide by the terms.
Rewards have to motivate students sufficiently to make the contract effective. It is not unusual that when a behavior contract template is first introduced, honest disagreements can occur about the interpretation of the terms.
If this happens, teachers need to make sure to clarify the language and meaning of the contract with students. Remember that the driving force behind such a contract is to give students the tools they need to manage their own behaviors.
Children younger than second grade may have difficulty understanding how the contract works and what is expected of them. For younger students, making a behavior contract more visual can help with understanding. Try to integrate elements like stars, graphs or charts.
A behavior contract:
- Clearly sets behavior limits
- Documents offenses to promote discussion
- Focuses on positive behaviors
- Builds positive relationships between involved parties
- Rewards and motivates
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A middle school behavior change contract
A middle school behavior contract will spell out exactly what is expected in order to positively reinforce good behavior in middle school. It is between a teacher, student, parent and anyone else who may be involved in enforcing the plan. Behaviors such as lying, skipping class, or being generally disruptive are fairly common at this age when children are beginning to assert their independence.
Conditions are established within the contract for earning rewards which motivates students to abide by the terms. The rewards are only available on successful completion of the target behaviors.
A high school behavior change contract
In high school, students face the issues of peer pressure and trying to fit in. This can lead to negative and disruptive behavior. They can be willful when it comes to change their behavior but to help them to modify it can make a difference to them socially, academically and emotionally.
A high school behavior contract will stipulate the goals and agreements of all involved parties. Students who agree to sign a high school behavior contract show that they are motivated to improve their behavior. This contract will also contain rewards for successfully completing target behaviors.
An adult behavior change contract
An adult behavior change contract template may be created by employers to address negative behaviors of an employee, such as angry outbursts. A contract may also be drawn up to reinforce positive behaviors a company would like to see in employees.
This is more of an agreement between management and employees in order to achieve a positive outcome all round. Drawing up such a contract is easy when using a behavior contract template for adults.
How do you write a behavioral contract?
When writing a behavior change contract, it is possible to download a behavior change contract template and look at behavior contract examples to make writing it easier and understand more about what needs to be included. It is important to remember that the whole purpose of the contract is to positively reinforce good behavior.
Student behavior contracts specify who will perform the task and receive the agreed upon reward. It includes the task the student must perform and emphasizes the time in which the behavior must be completed. Finally, it highlights to what degree, how frequently, or to what extent the behavior must be performed.
- Prepare in advance
Preparing to write up the contract will involve thinking about which one or two behaviors need to change and what to see in their place. It also involves deciding who monitor the behavior, who will give the reward and when it will be received.
- Negotiate with the student
Negotiate with the student to decide on the behaviors, the expectations and the rewards. The rewards should be meaningful to the student. In addition to tangibles like stickers or tokens that can be traded for larger items, also considered activities the student enjoys, such as more computer time. Rewards should be easy to deliver, inexpensive and yet desirable. Use a variety of different rewards as students can easily get bored with the same old rewards week after week.
- Give it a heading
Give the behavior contract a heading so that everyone can easily understand what it is.
- Explain the purpose
Clearly explain the purpose of the contract in a simple, understandable way. For example, this contract will ensure that Pamela hands in homework every day.
- Outline specific behaviors
The behavior change contract needs to lay out specific behaviors a student struggles with or is working on and then give goals for changing these behaviors. For instance, if a student calls out in class, the goal would be to raise a hand rather than just calling out.
Behavioral definitions will need a description in sufficient detail to prevent disagreements. By providing the negative behavior, the replacement actions, and the result of engaging in the replacement behavior, this leaves no question about what will happen.
- Give measurable and attainable goals
Target behaviors need to be easy to observe and measure. Completion of class assignments is an easy goal to evaluate whereas “not stealing pens from other students” is much more difficult to observe and prove. Goals should be challenging but attainable.
- Decide when and how often to give rewards
A statement should explain the minimum conditions under which the student is able to earn a sticker, point, or some other token for showing appropriate behavior. It should also include a timeline.
For instance, if a student has difficulty remembering to raise a hand before speaking, the contract may include a reward for calling out less than three times a day. Breaking down goals into small manageable steps makes them easier to attain.
- Decide on amount of reinforcement
You will need to decide how many stickers or tokens a student will need before earning a preferred item or activity. Does the student need to earn five stickers every day for a week to earn an extra half an hour on the computer?
- Bonuses and penalties
Bonuses and penalties do not have to be included but they can give students an extra incentive to follow the contract. A bonus may consist of offering an additional “pay-off” for consistently reaching behavioral targets. For example, a week of good behavior could be rewarded with a family movie night at home. Penalties may be given for more serious behavioral problems.
- Areas for signatures
Most student behavior contracts should include spaces for both teachers and students to sign that they agree to adhere to the contract. Additionally, a teacher could include space for other signatures, such as the student’s parents or a school administrator. Everyone involved should sign the contract who will play an active role in encouraging the outcomes.
- Monitor and review
Monitor and review progress with the student as needed. Start with what is working and let the student know that it is possible to renegotiate it if it isn’t working.
- Be patient
You may not see success at first. Behavioral change can be difficult and you need to give the contract time to work.
How can a behavior contract help a student?
A behavior contract can be an effective tool for many reasons. Here are some of the benefits:
- Better communication
Ideally, a student, teacher and parent should be present when setting the goals of a behavior contract. This means everyone is on the same page and communication between school and home improves.
- Clear expectations
The behavior contract spells out what behaviors a student needs to focus on and explains how rewards and consequences work.
If students are included in setting goals and choosing rewards, it can motivate them to start reflecting on their behavior. When they reflect on it, they can become better at monitoring it and regulating it.
- Accountability for actions
With a written agreement in place, there is less opportunity for any confusion. For example, if students say they have forgotten what is in the contract, it is easy to remind them.
- Valuable feedback
Having a contract allows the teacher and student to go over how the day went. Every day a discussion takes place on what was accomplished and what can be improved.
- Flexibility to create or change it at any time
A behavior contract can be drawn up at any time during the school year and changed at any time, too, as long as the student and teacher both agree to the new terms. If it is working well, it can even continue from year to year if everyone agrees.
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