Creating a Contingency Contract for Your Child
It's always a good idea for two parties to get an agreement in writing, and that holds true with parents and children too. It is very effective to write down what you expect of your child and what the consequences will be if the child does or does not go with the program. These are called contingency contracts or behavioral contracts, and they provide a good record of what has been agreed to. Once your children have seen it in writing, it's hard for them to deny that they understood it. These contracts provide children with early lessons in contractual agreements and the whole concept of what it means to sign a document and agree to its stipulations.
Creating a contract is also good because it is a positive problem-solving communication. It is an active two-party negotiation in which both sides are interested. This can be used with any child old enough to read and understand what is included in the contract.
Without written agreements, discussions often become forgotten, especially when it is to someone's benefit to do so. Other benefits of such agreements:
It gives the child a sense of justice and control, making him or her more compliant to the agreement and it gives the parent the clear understanding of the plan.
The essential components of a contingency contract are clear, unambiguous statements of (1) the target or problem behaviors, (2) the consequences and currencies for performing (or failing to perform) them, (3) the contingency between the behavior and consequences and (4) the time frame in which the contract will be enforced.
By writing the agreements down with specific currencies and behaviors, the contract can be the final authority, which underscores the importance of stating the terms of the plan so there is no confusion or slipping between the cracks. Signing the contract increases the commitment of the parent and child to fulfill their roles as stated.
Here is an example of a behavioral contract, which you may download by clicking here. (Adobe Acrobat is required).