Behavioral Contracting: A Technique for Handling Disruptive Behavior

This behavior management technique involves using behavior contracts to prevent poor behavior.
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Updated on: January 17, 2002
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The Steps of Behavioral Contracting

  1. Identify instances of disruptive behavior.

  2. Specify the number of disruptive behaviors that will be allowed under the contract for a designated period of time, or the length of time the child must go without disruptive behaviors.

  3. Specify your obligations (incentives) when the child's behavior matches or exceeds the contract.

  4. Identify the time when the child will get the incentive.

  5. If needed, specify additional consequences for severely disruptive behaviors; these can include time out.

  6. If needed, specify additional consequences if the child does not meet his or her obligations under the contract (e.g., removal of other privileges).

In a behavioral contract, if you focus on decreasing disruptive behavior, you first identify the instance of disruptive behavior you wish to count and then specify how many occurrences you will allow before it is considered excessive and in violation of the contract. To come up with a fair and reasonable number, consider the child's current level of disruptive behavior. For example, if the daily average of disruptive instances is 12, then selecting a slightly lower number (e.g., 10) as the standard will make it possible for the child to be successful. In the contract, specify when you will provide the agreed-upon incentive, and whether it will be an activity, a tangible item, or a privilege in the class.

If possible, involve parents in providing part or all of the incentive at home when you communicate to them that their child was successful with his or her contract (see Additional Suggestions and Considerations). Again, time-out (removal from the classroom situation) can be used if the child engages in severely disruptive behaviors. Finally, you can specify additional consequences such as loss of recess, loss of video games for one night at home, or loss of a half-hour at bedtime if the child does not meet his or her obligations under the contract. Try to design contracts initially with just positive incentives for achieving the goal.

Additional Suggestions and Considerations

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