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Contracting with Your Child
Tips for Working with Young Children
Contracting works best with children who are at least three-and-a-half years old. It's not the same as bribing, because a bribe is used to prevent bad behavior, while a contract is used to encourage good behavior.
1. The first step is identifying a change in behavior you want your child to achieve. For example, you want your five-year-old son to begin dressing himself in the morning without being reminded. You've been late to work because of this problem.
2. The next step is for you and your child to agree on a plan to solve this problem. Explain why it is important for you to get to work on time. The two of you may agree that you will set a timer for 10 minutes. If your son gets dressed before the timer goes off, he gets a sticker. After he's collected seven stickers, he can go to the store and get a music tape.
3. Next keep track of your child's performance. Avoid giving in if your child comes close to the goal but doesn't quite make it. It's a good idea to create a chart or other visual reminder of the agreement.
4. The last step comes when your child has achieved the goal. Talk about how the plan worked. Ask if he can get dressed without the reward of stickers now. You may find that your child still wants to use the timer even without the reward.
Contracting teaches your child how to set and achieve goals.
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