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Behavior Contracts - How to Write Them

Found in: Classroom Management

Behavior contracts are formal written agreements regarding behavior, which are negotiated between a child and a school staff member, parent, or other individual.

These contracts are effective in altering behavior in students of all ages (Mathur et al., 1995; Rutherford and Nelson, 1995). Contracting has contributed significantly to behavioral changes in children and youth who are disruptive, delinquent, or antisocial (Rutherford and Polsgrove, 1981).

The contract should include these things:

  • A clear definition of the behavior the child is expected to exhibit
  • The positive consequences for performing the desired behavior
  • The negative consequences for not performing the desired behavior
  • What the student -- and each adult involved -- is expected to do
  • A plan for maintaining the desired behavior (Schloss and Smith, 1994)

The contract should be in written form with copies for all parties involved.

Following is a sample behavior contract that addresses the issue of limited work accuracy. Adapt the language for the specifics of each student's situation.

Behavior Contract: James Smith

Each week, James will hand in all class work done acceptably in:

  • Reading
  • English
  • Math

Every Friday he will give his Reading, English, and Math teachers a travel card to check YES or NO, telling if the goal was reached.

When James earns three YES checks, the following week he receives these privileges:

  1. James has the privilege of playing at lunch recess.

  2. James has __ hour(s) computer time on Monday.

  3. James goes home at 3:30 p.m. every day on the school bus.

If James does not earn three YES checks, or loses his travel card, or forgets to take his travel card to his teachers on Friday, these consequences occur the following week:

  1. James spends Monday through Friday in noon detention doing school work.

  2. James has no computer time on the next Monday.

  3. James will stay after school until 4:00 p.m. on Friday and take the city bus home if he misses any noon detentions during the week. The school will call James's parents and tell them he will be getting home late.



Adapted from National Education Association's "I Can Do It" Classroom Management training module, developed by California Teachers Association. For more information about this program, contact NEA Teacher Quality at (202) 822-7350.

Copyright © 1999 by the California Teachers Association. Republished with permission.


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