Behavioral Contracts: Tips for motivating students

Overview of Research: 

Research states that a behavior contract is one of the easiest and most effective practices that caregivers and teachers can use when helping students reach their goals (George, 2001). Since it is common practice in our society to write goals on paper, writing a behavior contract is something that students and caregivers can create and easily refer back to. According to Miller and Kelly (1994), goal setting produces significant improvements for children and often increases parent satisfaction (Miller and Kelly, 1994). In addition, writing contracts have been found to improve social and academic behavior in children and teens (Howard, Sweeney, McLaughlin 1993). Since each contract should be individualized to the child’s needs, specified behaviors are clearly stated and monitored. Children work on improving the listed behavior for a reward agreed upon both teacher/caregiver and student. The reward motivates the child to work toward their goal. The behavior contract can be used in both the home or school setting (Miller and Kelly (1994).

Who it is appropriate for:

The behavior contract is appropriated for any students who are working towards a goal. For example, students who do not like to write in complete sentences or students who have a resistance toward writing. Also appropriate for students who do not naturally edit their work or use periods/capitals when writing sentences. The behavior contract can be used to increase academic or social performance at home, in school, or with friends during unstructured times.

Steps for Implementation:

  1. Determine developmental and age-appropriate goal for student
  2. Sit down with student and explain what you would like the child to start doing
  3. Ask student what they want to work for
  4. Discuss and negotiate agreement (ex. number of responses needed, prize, system for collecting points)
  5. Write up agreement/contract
  6. Have student and teacher sign and agree on terms
  7. Hang contract in an accessible place to both the teacher and student
  8. Monitor progress daily or weekly, provide encouragement
  9. Give prize when earned or re-adjust goal as needed

Sample Contract:

I _______________________ agree to write five or more sentences when answering an open ended question. I will use a period at the end of a sentence and use a capital when writing the first letter in a sentence. I will check my work to make sure I add a capital and a period. When I write ____________ responses, I will earn _________________. I will be responsible to write a check at the bottom of this page each time my teacher agrees I met my responsibilities listed above.

__________________ ___________

student name     date

__________________                              ____________

teacher name       date

Plans to Judge Success: 

  • Does student meet requirements listed? (For example, does student write five or more sentences on open-ended questions? Does student use capitals when writing a sentence? Does student use proper punctuation (periods, question marks) when writing a sentence?
  • Does student express interest in earning the reward? (Ex. I cannot wait to get my stuffed animal once I write 10 responses.)
  • Is the contracted being monitored? (Does student put check mark or sticker after every successful writing time?)
  • If goal is time sensitive, review progress at the midway point, and every day or week depending on goal.


Allen, L. (1993). Use of Contingency Contracting To Increase On-Task Behavior With Primary Students. Psychology Reports, 72, 905-906.

George, R. (2001). The Behavior Contract: A Tool For Teachers. St. Louis, Missouri: Project Innovation.

Miller, D., Kelley, M. (1994). The Use of Goal Setting and Contingency Contracting For Improving Children’s Homework Performance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 73-84.

New Jersey: Early Intervention Services

What is Early Intervention?

Early Intervention provides services for infants and toddlers (age birth to three years of age) with developmental delays and disabilities. The goal is to provide needed services as early as possible to help individuals mature and reach their fullest potential.

Does Early Intervention differ state to state?

Yes, each state outlines their own early intervention services as well as insurance plans available for families and their children. Grants may differ state to state as well as treatments (such as applied behavior analysis) covered or not covered by insurance companies.

Who is in charge of Early Intervention? 

The Department of Health and more specifically the Division of Family Health Services. Formally (in the 90s), the Department of Education was responsible in New Jersey.

What do New Jersey Early Intervention Services look like?

New Jersey offers Early Intervention Services to New Jersey residents. Some of these services include: assistive technology services/devices; audiology services; developmental intervention; family training, counseling and home visits; health services; nursing services; nutrition services; occupational therapy; psychological services; social work services; speech and language therapy; vision services; and other early intervention services.

The goal of the state is to promote collaboration, provide a family centered approach, and reflect on the best practices for early intervention.

How does Early Intervention work?

The first step when thinking that your child is developing differently is to visit the Early Intervention System (NJEIS) website Although the website is a bit hard to navigate, a parent can make a referral by calling 888-653-4463. A copy of the state flyer is here:

Who provides the services for my child? 

While the state utilizes a lot of different providers, I wanted to highlight two found in the annual county performance report.

1. Progressive Steps is a comprehensive service provider that consists of a team of specialist that provides early intervention throughout the state of New Jersey. The team of occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language therapists, special educators, psychologists, social workers, nurses, child development associates, child development specialists, behavioral specialists, and nutritionists all work together to provide individuals and their families individualized services. These services are performed in the home/natural environment, at school, or in the community. Progressive steps can be reached at 201-525-6199 or on their website:

2. Team Hope is a speech and pediatric therapy center that prides itself in a variety of therapies including: speech/language, feeding, myofunctional therapy, PROMT, sensory integration, occupational, physical, and play therapy, social thinking groups, verbal behavior, and applied behavior analysis. The center assess, evaluates, and provides an individualized program for each person. Team Hope can be reached at 908-375-8237 or at

Does my insurance cover these services? 

It depends. Therapy can be expensive, but New Jersey luckily passed the New Jersey’s Autism Insurance Act which requires insurers to cover the cost of screening and the diagnoses of autism and other developmental disabilities, provide the cost of occupational, speech, and physical therapy as listed in the treatment plan, and  provide behavior interventions treatments founded in applied behavior analysis principles until the age of 21.

Out of pocket expenesives for these programs depend on family income as outlined by the State: State expenses may not cover auditory integration, facilitated communication, cranial sacral therapy, certain medial procedures, and music therapy. Detailed insurance information can be found at:

In addition, grants are given annual to each county since services are organized throughout. Phone numbers for each county can be found at:

I have other questions. Where do I go? 

This post is written to just get you started! Frequently asked questions about Early Interventions Services for New Jersey can be found by clicking on the blue link.

Remember that life is a journey and it is best to know your rights as a parent with a disability. Providing your child with the proper services can be hard, but with proper support, you can move in the right direction and make the best decisions for you and your child. The most important step is to learn what is available and to push through the paperwork needed to get the services promised to you by the state.