Every child has one or more behaviors that parents/teachers would like to change. Whether a child is displaying mild behavioral problems or very serious ones, each child could benefit from a simple behavioral plan to change the unwanted behavior. Behavioral contracts, which is a signed contract between a child and their parents or teachers, helps mold or change the behavior/s of kids that are disrupting either the classroom or the home environment. Typically, the unwanted behaviors comprise one of the following areas: not listening or having to repeat yourself to your child a thousand times a day (ie..will you pick up your room, will you brush your teeth, will you please do what you are told), physical aggression (hitting, throwing things, punching, kicking, or pushing other kids including their siblings), and anger or attitude problems (ie… sighing heavily, rolling of the eyes when you are talking to them, refusal to do what they are told, or talking back). Now there are a vast number of either behavioral problems that are specific to each child, however most unwanted behaviors fall in one of these three categories.
So, how do we change a child’s behavior through a behavioral contract?
A behavioral contract sends the message to the child that whatever particular behavior is written on the behavioral contract is an unwanted behavior that the parents or teachers want changed as soon as possible. First, we need to write up an agreement between you the parent and your child. Pick a particular behavior that you want changed and then write up the consequences for not obeying the rules. For example, lets say that you want your child to quit hitting or pushing his eight-year-old brother every time your head is turned. The behavior is you want physical aggression to stop in your home and if your child can go a week for example without hitting/pushing his older brother than he gets a reward that you determine (ie.. taking him/her to McDonald’s, going to the park, etc…). However, the consequences for not following the behavioral contract is also determined by you and for example you may decide to not let your child watch television or ride his bike for 3 days.
Each behavioral contract is customized to your child and whatever behavior you would like to change. The key to a good behavioral contract is to only pick 1-2 behaviors to change at a time and be consistent in rewarding them for good behavior and consistent for handing out consequences when their behavior is bad. Do not give up on your child, be patient with them. Most likely your child will mess up and make bad choices, but keep with your behavioral plan until you start to see more positive behaviors.