What is the Contingency Contract and how does it work?

What is the Contingency Contract and how does it work?

Imagine a school classroom in which there is a great disorganization. Some of the boys have attention problems, another lack of motivation and the rest is carried away by the general chaos. The teacher's guidelines are not met and the children are distracted, make noise and do not deliver homework on time. What could we do in such a case? The contingency contract It would be a good technique to use in the classroom.


  • 1 What is the contingency contract?
  • 2 What is positive reinforcement?
  • 3 How to carry out the contingency contract?
  • 4 Benefits of carrying out the contingency contract

What is the contingency contract?

The contingency contract is a agreement It takes place between several parties, usually one or several tutors and the people to tutor. This agreement establishes behavioral expectations that, if fulfilled, will lead to positive reinforcement for the children.

This contingency contract, also called a behavioral contract is based on the techniques of Behavior modification derived from classical conditioning and instrumental and seeks to modify the behavior of children or young people through positive reinforcement, one of the most important bases of this discipline.

What is positive reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is one of the keys to operant conditioning and is based on the addition of a appetitive stimulus as a result of a behavior that you want to establish. A reinforcer should be something that gives the person or specific people pleasure and motivation and can be from something physical, such as chocolate ice cream or a toy to something emotional, such as flattery or motivational words.

To get a positive reinforcement We must know in advance which reinforcers work best for each person. It is not the same thing that would motivate a teenager, such as being able to go out with his friends to the movies, than what could motivate a younger child, like a toy. Not all people have the same tastes and needs, so it will be necessary to inquire in advance to know what could satisfy them the most whenever it is within the possibilities.

In addition, reinforcers must be properly administered, since they only work if they occur immediately and consecutively to the behavior, something that seems easy to do but that is breached very often.

How to carry out the contingency contract?

The contingency contract must remain for written and signed by both parties. It is also very important that it be agreed upon for all the people involved, so that it feels like something fair and not forced. Some of the basic rules for carrying out the contract are:

  • The behaviors we want to achieve must be understood, with a simple and clear style that children and young people can understand. It must be something direct like "doing homework" or "brushing your teeth" and not something abstract like "behaving well."
  • The behaviors we want to achieve must be structured step by step, maintaining simplicity to make it easy for them. For example, instead of stipulating "Pass the entire course without tasting any subject", it would be better to make small advances such as "study for next week's exam"
  • The consequences should be clear, always focusing on the positive reinforcement they will get.
  • Positive reinforcers should be pleasant situations that boys want, in addition to being varied and consistent at the level of behavior to be modified. If small steps are taken, reinforcements may be more moderate than if large steps are taken.
  • It is very important constancy and real commitment at the time of carrying out the positive reinforcements. If the behavior is met, the reinforcement must come close to it and if it is not fulfilled, there must be no reinforcement. A high degree of commitment and systematic It is essential for the children to understand that the contract is something serious that must be carried out to obtain the desired reinforcement. If they perceive that the rules of the contract are not fair and reliable, demotivation will not be taken seriously.

Benefits of carrying out the contingency contract

The contingency contract can be carried out in multiple contexts: from schools to home; This can be an ally to help the development of children and youth whose organizational capacity and motivation are not being adequate.

Carrying out this contract properly can improve the communication and the understanding between the parties, in addition to increasing a motivation that previously was not manifested, since it makes perceive those whose behavior must be modified responsible for their actions, more confident and proud when they get some of the reinforcements thanks to their behavior. If you or someone you know believes that you could benefit in your context using this type of technique, do not hesitate to inform yourself and go to an educational psychology professional to be able to carry it out in the most effective way.