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Classroom Management: Implement a Behavior Contract

Janelle Cox

We have all had a student or two in every classroom that is challenging. They either are disrespectful to us or other students in the class. Whatever the case may be, it can be quite a struggle to deal with. Many administrators and counselors suggest classroom management ideas like a behavior contract to get the student back on track. While these classroom management ideas may be controversial to some, others feel they are an effective way to alter the child’s behavior. There are many classroom management techniques that teachers use to help eradicate this type of behavior; the light system, modeling, rewarding acceptable behavior, etc., but if none of those strategies work, then a behavior contract is the next logical step to try.

Here are 10 tips to help you create and implement an effective behavior contract for your challenging student. 

1. The Keep it Simple Classroom Management Technique

Create a contract that is simple to follow and easy to understand. Make sure that the words are clearly stated and are comprehensible to the child. Do not make the design busy or too complicated, because the main goal of the contract is to get the child to understand his/her behaviors. A simple and easy-to-follow design is the best way that you can make it effective.

2. Select Specific Behaviors to Focus On

Select no more than two behaviors at a time to focus on, and make sure that you are very specific when writing them out. Do not be vague and say, “Student needs to be more respectful to others in class.” Think about what he/she is doing in class that is disrespectful and write that down on the contract. If the student needs to work on not touching other people, then write that down. If they need to work on talking respectfully to other students, then write that down. The more specific that you are, the more effective the contract will be.

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3. Set Attainable Goals

Set a goal that the student can reach. This means that the goal needs to be easy enough that the student will be able to reach it within a day or one week, not two weeks or a few months. Once they see that they can do it, it will be easier for them to buy into the contract. Only then should you create another attainable goal (that may require a longer time to achieve) for the child if need be.

4. Be Discrete About the Contract

The last thing that you want to do is make the student feel ashamed or embarrassed. While some teachers may think this may help eradicate their behavior, it is never OK to make a child feel bad. Once negative feelings surface, it will only hinder the child from attaining their goals which will eliminate the whole purpose for the contact. Make sure that you are discrete about the contract and keep it to only the adults and teachers that are involved -- as well as the student.

5. Be Consistent

The easiest way to make sure that your contract is effective, is to be consistent with it. This means that the more that you are consistent with sticking to it, the better the chance the child will have to reach his/her goal. As soon as they see that you are not being consistent, they will know that they can get away with the undesired behavior.

6. Collaborate with Student and Parents

In order for the contract to be effective, you should collaborate with the student and their parents. Jot down all of the things that you would like to see in the contract ahead of time, but also take the time to let the parents and child have an input as well. If all parties feel like they had a say in the contract, then it will be more effective. It is also vital that all parties clearly have an understanding of what is expected of the child before anyone signs the contract.

7. Communicate With All the Child’s Teachers

Contracts are deemed more effective when all teachers are made aware of it. If the student goes to gym, art, music, or any other class during the day, then every teacher should be aware of the contract and what is expected of the student. If the undesired behavior happens in another classroom and the student gets away with it, the contract is not effective. Therefore, all teachers need to be made aware of it.

8. Have a Weekly Conference

Behavior contracts are a process, and in order for the child to change, they will need to reflect upon their behavior. Weekly meetings are an effective way for the student to see how their behavior is changing and reflect upon what they have done and need to continue to do in the future.

9. Make It Manageable for All

When developing the contract, make sure the contract is manageable, not only for you, but for the student as well. Teachers are busy managing other students and things in the classroom, and may tend to forget about the contract. Students are busy in the classroom managing their workload and such. So, in order for the contract to be an effective one, it needs to be able to fit into their daily lives. Keep this in mind when created it with the student and parents.

10. Use Positive Reinforcement

An effective way to make sure the student reaches their goals is to use positive reinforcement. Students will work harder when they see they are doing well. Negative reinforcement only hinders the process. The more the student sees their improvement, the harder they will work.

What do you think about behavior contracts? Do you find them to be effective? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. We would love to hear what you have to say.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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