Chapter 7: Charts and contracts

Children need to know what is expected, even though they will not always follow instructions. Making charts to keep track of behaviour can be a positive encouragement.

At a time when the difficult child is calm, parents work out details of charts with the child. Keep in mind what is acceptable for you as the parents, while maximising the child’s participation.

Remember to use the We-Together rule. Children want to feel competent and will generally want to participate in a process that helps them achieve that goal. Charts should always display the behaviour as unacceptable, not the child. For example, ‘The Monster Behaviour is Back’.

Visual information is often helpful for children. Charts fall into three categories:

1. WE DO:
This reminds the children of what is expected and must specifically state the behaviour expected. An example of this, is a chart that requires the children to take turns setting the table for dinner. This type of chart must contain the specific items to be placed on the table and the time frame in which it must be done. This gives the child a goal to aim at and makes it easy for the parent to decide if the job has been completed correctly.

2. WE DON’T:
Display inappropriate behaviour and the punishment for this behaviour. An example of this type of chart would be ‘We do not steal’ and if we do we are required to write a note addressed to the person from who we stole. The child knows what is NOT acceptable and what will happen if they do not comply.

This chart is used to assist a child when the unacceptable behaviour is a result of difficult temperament and offers the child a reminder of the correct behaviour and the opportunity to comply. An example of this is a chart which shows the child the correct way to dress for school or how to get ready for bed

While charts are helpful for younger children, using contracts with teenagers is often more effective. Because teenagers usually like their own opinion to be considered, parents can often negotiate a contract that will be acceptable. Negotiate the contract when the teenager is in a ‘good space’, and then follow through on the contract if unacceptable behaviour occurs.